Hi gang! Gael here. Well, I have something special to share with you today. Let me introduce you to my sister, who has just become the third published author in the family (after me, then Eric). I don't know if you know this, but I come from a big Irish family of four sisters and we're all very close (and very different!). I'm the oldest (read: Boss of the World and Self-Appointed Protector of the Youngers whether they liked/needed it or not). My sister, Shana, is second-born (read: Diplomat, Peacekeeper, The Responsible One, and as I recall, the One Foley Girl Who Kept Her Room Clean Without Having To Be Yelled At during childhood, lol).
Well, Shana's debut book is a charming children's book for Ages 6-8, and its release is perfectly timed for the Autumn. If you love visiting Harvest Farm Festivals at this time of year, you're going to get a serious case of the warm fuzzies sharing this one with your kids.
Rosco the Rascal Visits the Pumpkin Patch is a chapter book for 6-8 year olds (Paperback, 130 pages) about a playful, oversized dog and his human family--especially the kids, Mandy and James. Shana describes Rosco like this:
"Although he is purebred German Shepherd, I like to say that Rosco is also a mix of several things: he's one part curious child, one part troublemaking puppy, one part loyal companion, one part junk-yard-dog, and one part hero."
Gael: So, Shan, why don't you go ahead and tell the folks a little about yourself? :)
I am originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but have lived in Southern California for 19 years. I have a wonderful husband, and I’m a stay-at-home-mother of two terrific school-aged children, a girl and a boy. We have a German Shepherd, named Rugger, who is (no surprise, here) the inspiration behind the Rosco character in the book.
I attended the University of Pittsburgh, and earned my Bachelor of Arts in English Writing in 1994. I tried my hand at journalism for a short time after college, then moved to the West Coast by way of a three-week-long road trip across the United States in 1995, when I needed to stretch my wings a bit.
In no time, I had settled in San Diego, and soon went back to school to train as a graphic designer. I went on to work in website design for nearly a decade, before retiring to stay home with my children full-time.
I truly love being a stay-at-home mom and feel very fortunate to be able to do so. But I always wanted to venture back to writing (a job I could do from home, where I didn’t have to change my situation or my children’s routine). And this time, I wanted to try my hand at fiction.
Eventually, I set my mind to doing just that. But I kept putting it away because I was too busy, either with my kids’ play dates and birthday parties, or as room mom for my son’s classroom, or because of all of the other things that mothers do everyday that cause us to shelf the things that we want to do for ourselves.
More importantly, I just plain couldn’t figure out how I could finish it. “Where was the plot going? What sort of moral lesson could this story teach? I’m stuck.” That happened again and again. I thought I’d never be able to publish it anyway, either.
But ten years into motherhood, two years after starting it, I finally finished and published it, my first children's book. My family: my sister Gael and her husband Eric, especially, and my parents, husband and children, all gave me loads of encouragement. I finally found the drive to make it happen, no matter how many setbacks I’d encounter (and boy, did I encounter setbacks!). And so it did, it happened!
Gael: I knew you could do it, Shan!!! So, tell them about the book.
Shana: The title of my book is Rosco The Rascal Visits The Pumpkin Patch. It is aimed at kids ages 6-8, but 4-5 year olds will understand it if a parent reads it to them. And my 10-year-old daughter assured me that it her age group would also enjoy it.
It takes place all in one day, at a farm, at the end of September, when the leaves are turning colors and the air is still warm. A family of four and their German Shepherd, Rosco, visit a farm to see the cornfields and scarecrows, feed the animals at the petting zoo, take a pony ride, follow clues on a scavenger hunt, and choose their pumpkin out of the pumpkin patch. It’s a yearly trip full of fun and tradition. The day progresses and the family has enjoyed many of the farm’s activities. Brother and sister duo, James and Mandy, who are ten and seven, are excited because their parents finally agree to allow them to explore the corn maze alone! They will take their dog, Rosco, and stick with one another, but they don’t have to take their parents!
Things go well until often-rascally Rosco forgets his orders to stay close to the kids, and runs off, mindlessly chasing a rabbit and disappearing into the maze. The kids must search for him, and later, they do find him. But they learn that Rosco has been protectively comforting an injured, lost, little boy whom he found out in the maze alone. The kids attempt to help the boy out of the maze to find his parents, when they encounter two other boys, still deep inside the maze, who are wearing Halloween masks, and scaring and picking on other children. James and Mandy are now faced with standing up to the bullies. With their trusted and able dog’s help, they do just that.
The book spends time exploring each of the family’s characters, not only the children and the dog, but also Mom and Dad and their quirky and entertaining qualities. The story takes the reader through a whole day of fun at the pumpkin patch, examining the family’s traditions, from details about carving pumpkins for Halloween, to their home life with Rosco. It’s a quick read and a sometimes funny look at family life.
What was your inspiration for this book?
I love the holidays, and I love the traditions that go along with them and with each season of the year. I love to look at them through a child’s eyes. As a parent, and the purchaser of the children’s books in our house, I like buying holiday-themed ones, even if they are very short or mostly illustrations. Because my kids will read them during the given season each year, then I will pack the books away with the holiday decorations, and unpack them again the following year. And voila, when the boxes are unpacked and those old books come out, the books are magically ‘new’ again!
Each of my children will have either grown just enough in that one year, that they often have forgotten the story until they read it again; or they’ve grown so far in their reading level that year, that they can now read by themselves, a book that the previous year had to be read to them. So it feels like a whole new book to them. Talk about getting your money’s worth.
Eventually these titles become favorites of ours, because they become part of our traditions. The act of snuggling up together in the evenings, reading a handful of our favorite stories set in the current season; this becomes a cherished activity.
So as I thought about what sort of book I’d really like to write, I realized, I wanted to write one of these! Something that I myself would want to buy for my children: a seasonal or holiday story that could be enjoyed again and again. This was also true because although we visit our local library frequently, the seasonal books in the children’s section are always the most popular during certain times of the year, and are usually already checked out before we can get our hands on them. So buying these kinds of books makes good sense to me. And so did writing these kinds of books.
I decided that for the first one, it would be about the activities that we regularly schedule into our lives each Fall, apple picking and pumpkin-choosing at a local farm, things that make us jump in a car on a weekend and drive a long distance. For instance, to ‘see the leaves’, ride a hay wagon, get lost in a corn maze, pet some baby goats, set our kids down on a big pile of pumpkins while we snap photos of them.
I knew that a story about regular kids doing these kinds of neat things so common to the average middle class family, would strike a chord with the readers that I would attempt to reach. That it would strike a chord with both the kids reading them and the adults who ultimately purchase the books that their children read. This book really is meant to be enjoyable to the child as well as to the adult who might read it to a child, or sneak a peak at it before the child sticks his or her own bookmark in it.
And I knew, that while there are plenty of great picture books about Autumn and Halloween, there are not as many chapter books for independent reading about this particular season. And certainly none that I could find, that capture enough of these types of real experiences that I wanted to see recorded for posterity (or at least for my own kids!). We all love to take our kids out to the pumpkin patch each Fall and we want them to remember what it was like, when they get older. That’s really how I started writing this book.
Equal to this motivation, was something entirely different and more of a simple realization one day. This was simply that our dog was hilarious. The personality that he was revealing as he grew from puppyhood into older puppyhood and ‘young adulthood’ was full of hysterical little side notes.
Rugger, our German Shepherd, whom the Rosco The Rascal character is entirely based upon, came into our lives almost three years ago. He was the first dog that my husband and I ever had as adults, and he was my children’s first pet. He was 8 months old when we brought him home. So we did not have to paper train him or protect him like you’d have to protect a little puppy. He was already a big, lively, fantastic dog that loved kids and never showed aggression toward us. He had been raised very well. He made us feel very safe. And as he grew, there was no denying it: he was also a sweet, extremely loyal, highly intelligent beast.
But yes, he was also hilarious! He would play and run off with toys, trying to entice us to chase him, with the tail wagging and the ears back. He knew he was supposed to drop the toy and give it back so we could throw it again, but he preferred it if you chased him for it. He would chew up the oddest things, like my car’s license plate and our barbecue, which wasn’t so hilarious. Or chew up store-bought toys, even the toughest ones meant to withstand any amount of jaw strength, in under an hour. We always had ‘another crazy dog story’ to share with friends, however short or long.
So Rugger provided great material for a story. Kids love dogs. Dogs love kids. Dogs can be funny, placed in various circumstances. But dogs can also teach us things about loyalty, honor, patience, friendship, the list goes on. So he became the basis of what I’d start to write about. He served several wonderful purposes. (I guess it’s easy to see why so many books for children feature dogs!)
I put these two things together, and eventually, I had the beginnings of a story line. After a lot of long days and late nights writing, I had some solid human characters too, taking a littlte inspiration from my own children and other children that I knew, and then fictionalizing from there.
Gael: What's next for you - and for Rosco?
Shana: Right now I’m writing the next book in the series, called Rosco The Rascal In The Land of Snow. There will be sled riding, snowmen, hot chocolate and icicles, all kinds of wintertime fun! Look for it in January, 2015.
I plan to write many more Rosco books, each with a different theme, whether it’s seasonal or holiday, or simply the everyday things in a child’s life if I run out of holidays! I’m very excited to get to work on those! Plans, plans, plans!
Gael: How can people get in touch with you?
Shana: My website address is www.shanagorian.com. There you'll find some activities for kids, related to the story. The site is new and I’ve got plenty of content to add. (Never enough time in the day!) But it shows you around my world a bit (and Rosco’s World, with more to come on that section!) I’d love to hear from readers. My email address is email@example.com. Thanks for reading!
Gael: Thanks for coming and doing a little interview with us, Shana! Hugs and best of luck to you and Rosco the Rascal! And thanks, blog friends, for reading.
Did you know that March is National Reading Month? It all started to coincide with Dr. Seuss's birthday on March 2nd. Now March has become a favorite month for reading challenges and read-a-thons of all kinds, for adults and kids alike.
You can create your own March reading challenge simply by setting a number of books you'd like to read in the month and assembling your TBR (to be read) pile. If you need some suggestions on children's books to try, a good place to look is BookAdventure.com.
Click on the Find a Book button and you can enter in the parameters of what sort of book you want to find, including grade level and a wide range of subjects. It will then do a search for you, and you can export your list to an Excel sheet. Ok that might sound a little obsessive, but if you have them all on one sheet, then you set up a system of gold star stickers, rewards, or what-have-you as the kids (ok, or the adults, lol) finish each book on the list.
Another fun aspect of Book Adventure is that readers have submitted multiple choice quizzes that you can take after you're finished reading the book to test your reading comprehension. For example, here's a Sample Quiz about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. So you get the idea.
Reading is supposed to be FUN, and with Common Core coming in and tossing out some of the great classics of literature in favor of teaching kids to read things like product inserts, manuals, and EPA reports, it's never been more important (in my opinion--G. speaking here!) to foster the love of independent reading. National Reading Month is a perfect opportunity to create empowering reading habits.
And speaking of empowering...
The Lammily Doll is all the buzz this week. Have you heard about this? Pretty neat. Right now, she's a crowd-funding project with the doll's designer raising the funds to order the first batch of these dolls from a manufacturer. The great thing about Lammily is that she is designed as a type of Barbie doll - but with realistic proportions of the average American female. This would be a great gift for a school-age girl to help foster a healthy body image. Lammily's my kind of girl! Check it out.
YES, WE WENT THERE. I am talking about the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival, forsooth! And a merry time was had by all. Even better, we got to go with E's mom and dad, who were visiting us from out of town. Here are a couple of photos from the highlights of our day. :)
Let the other ladies crowd around the handsome knights. I wanted to get my picture taken with the Fool. Birds of a feather, doncha know! So here's me and Skidmark. I suspect the Village Idiot may be smarter than all the knights put together, anyway. Rather than risking getting a lance in the eye, all he has to do for his job is sit there making fun of passersby. Huzzah!
It was a great day and we had really nice weather, too, so we were lucky. It wasn't too hot for the most part. If I can figure out how to work my new HD video camera, I'll upload the vid we took of the medieval parade. Hmm, after such a fun time, don't be too surprised if our next series down the road turns out to be a medieval fantasy of some sort! Time will tell. ;)
Summer may be winding down, but there's still time to wax nostalgic over that old summer ritual of going to camp. (Also known as Mom's Vacation from Summer Break, haha.) For experienced summer camp-goers, maybe you've already started thinking about what you'd like to try next summer.
Did you go to camp this summer? Not every kid loves the idea. I know it can be scary to go away to a strange place where you don't know anyone and you're not sure what to expect. Maybe the friends you'd like to hang out with aren't going there with you. But it's great to get out of your same-old, same-old routine and try some sort of a new adventure.
These days there are sooo many kinds of camps kids can go to it's amazing. If I were a kid, I have no idea what I would pick! Just right here in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA (go Pirates) kids can choose anything from Science Camp (different than Inventors' Camp!) to Performing Arts Camp for the budding stage stars, to camps for particular sports (football camp, soccer camp, etc), to spiritual themed camps to help you grow in your faith.
There are service camps where you go with a group of kids to help build houses for the poor or help a town rebuild after tornadoes or that kind of thing--even Camp Cadet for kids who want to find out what it's like to be a cop! Oh, and there's also Zoo Camp for the animal lovers. There are Arts and Craft Camps, Cooking Camp for teens interested in a career as a chef, and one of the funnest-sounding ones (to me), Outdoor Adventure camps that have stuff like kayaking, ziplines, and rock climbing.
A couple of my best memories from camp were swimming the horses across a pond on a hot summer day. Horse camp version of lake swimming. The campers would have our bathing suits on for this day, because the highlight would be riding the horses bareback into the water.
I remember how amazing it was when I felt myself start to float in the deep water, hanging on tight to the horse's mane as he started to swim. I could feel the animal's enormous strength in a different way as those powerful legs began kicking when the horse couldn't touch the bottom anymore. You had to be careful not to get kicked! Then the horse would come clambering up on the opposite side of the little lake, and both horse and rider would be nice and cooled off.
Another favorite memory was getting out for a trail ride before dawn on Sunday morning to a beautiful hilltop where we had our sunrise worship service. My other favorite memory was when the kids built a maze out of haybales in the loft inside the gigantic barn. You would crawl through it on your hands and knees, and along the way you'd meet dozens of adorable fluffy little kittens who lived in the loft (at least before they were old enough to go out into the world beyond). Of course, no farm can function without a goodly number of cats to keep the mice out of the grain!
Happy memories. :) I'm sure things are different there in some ways nowadays, since that was a long time ago, but I was so pleased to find that Faith Ranch Camp is still going strong today. Take a look! (Promotional video from their youtube channel, or see http://www.faithranch.org/)
E went to camp in Upstate New York at a camp where his dad and his grandfather before him had both gone as boys. Neat, huh? He told me he went when he was twelve and he was amazed to see an old photograph on the wall there that his grandfather was in when he was twelve and a camper there!
Unfortunately, he can't remember the name of the place, lol, but it had the normal camp activities of hiking, archery, canoeing, arts and crafts, songs, and of course, practical jokes and scary stories around the campfire. Just thinking of such things makes it even harder to say goodbye to summer! Oh, well, it's almost back to school time, but why rush it? *smiles*
E here... One of the paradoxes of Victorian society was how sentimental the Victorians could be (See Figure 1!) in their art, books, and music, and yet at the same time, how restrained they were in their personal relationships.
This was the age of the "stiff upper lip." To "express yourself" or share your feelings with the world the way people do in our time would have been considered shockingly vulgar.
Victorian people pride themselves on being dutiful and responsible, and you were viewed as lacking in those areas if you were overly emotional. So no matter how you actually felt, the correct way to behave was generally to hide it and just appear to be calm, cool, and even-steven.
So while they covered every surface with cupids and tassels, flowers and curlicues, these folk prided themselves on maintaining a detached emotional state all of the time, no matter what the circumstances. Here's a perfect example of the stoic Victorian. A poor British officer serving in Africa during Victorian times awakens to find he is inexplicably missing a leg. No worries...
Some think this restrained demeanor was a product or the new repressive public schools. Even when facing difficult times, tragedies, or even great moments of joy, the Victorians always tried to appear dignified. This even carried over into the arena of LOVE.
I know, kids. Ewwww! Yuck! Love! Gross!
I thought I would devote a little time to two ways that the emotionally stilted Victorian couples actually could manage to express their feelings without having to come out and say it--by using the Victorian language of flowers and fans.
The Victorians used different flowers to convey certain messages for them. A very sophisticated flower language developed over the course of the early Victorian period.
For example, if a Victorian dandy was smitten with a lovely young lady, he could send her an acacia flower to let her know that she has a secret admirer. She would spend many sleepless nights trying to figure out who sent such lovely flowers to her. If she is clever enough to figure it out, she could send him either back an ambrosia flower which carries the message that she is interested in him as well, or she could send a striped carnation which all Victorians knew meant take a hike crusty dude :(
All this communicated without ever having to confront the other person face to face. And we thought we had it easy sending texts and emails!
Roses, of course, have been a symbol of love for centuries, but the Victorians assigned meaning to each of the colors.
Blue Roses - means you have fallen hopelessly in love at first sight.
Red Roses - means you have found your one true love. There will never be another.
Red and White mixed - means we will always be together.
Yellow Roses - means that I have once loved you, but now it is slowly withering away.
Black Roses - means you are in love NO MORE!
I suspect there were lots of times when someone got mixed up on the specific meaning and made a fool of themselves. Ha Ha!
The Victorian FAN language was another way a lady could communicate her feelings to a gentleman without ever having to say the words--and risk being overheard by her parent or chaperone, who would surely not approve of her sending such messages.
A fan placed close to a lady's heart means that she is interested. (Of course, the guy has to be looking at her to get the message!) A fan held above the left ear means she is not interested. If she starts fanning herself very slowly, she is indicating that she is already taken. An open fan held in the left hand would send him the signal that she would like to get to know him better, while an open fan held in the right hand means you are too forward, back off.
Seems a little confusing to me :/
I for one am glad I never had to learn the complicated language of flowers or the subtle language of the fan. I just walked straight up to "G" and asked her to dance with me a couple of decades ago. She has been foolish enough to hide her eyes behind an open fan ever since. [Hints on Fan Language here! http://delval.rscds.us/fan.html]