Art, Authors, Book Reviews, Writing

Book Review: Flora and the Flamingo

Molly Idle’s Flora and the Flamingo is such an enchanting book – and absolutely wordless.  Now, as a writer – I am a huge fan of words, but this book is an absolute FEAST for the eyes.  My preschooler (who is getting tired of all of the ABC’s and “sound this out” that I’ve been feeding her lately) was thrilled with a book that she could lyricise.

See for yourself –

But I will give a quick warning, however, it is not for the younger babies.  There are wonderful tabs that you pull down to reveal more pictures that young ones will thrill at pulling off the book, thus destroying the masterpiece.

I’ve also become a fan of Molly Idle who was an artist at DreamWorks and has now jumped into children’s book illustrations – you can find her website here.

Blue Boy GainsboroughI am amazed at illustrators and the stories that pictures can make.  Sometimes I will go to a writer’s conference and I’ll hang out in the illustrator panels or spend time in the art galleries.  There is so much that a picture can say, and with each person, it can be a different story. I remember that my 4th grade teacher had us write the story behind Thomas Gainsborough’s Little Blue Boy (see the picture on the left).  I can’t remember the story that I wrote, but I remember looking at the picture and thinking, Who is this? What is his story? Today I think I’ll write the story of why his stomach is poking out and where the missing button went!

(My husband just said, “He ate too many mince pies, and when he was at high tea, his button popped off and hit Aunt Adelaide in the eye!” I’m crying laughing!!!)

I think I’ve thought of some fantastic creative ideas for the long summer that we have looming before us.  I only say looming, because I do NOT want the summer to be a TV festival for my girls!  Any ideas for the pictures I should use?

Creativity, Writing

Tackling Creativity

I’ve been overwhelmed, as usual.  Productive, yes, but not always doing what I wanted to be doing.  Hiding, at times, from creating when I have the precious spare moment, choosing instead to waste it on … whatever.

Then, tonight, as I was searching for a recipe to make chocolate cake without eggs,  (because I had no eggs and because I wanted to feed my face, instead of using the hour when my babes are resting to create) I came across some Mormon Messages.  It reminded me of why I write.  Why I am using my spare time to do what I am doing.


I loved three things that Cassandra said:

  1. She painted about being in the moment, appreciating the now.
  2. She brought her girls into her art studio and encouraged their creativity.
  3. She realized that she had made up an ideal that she thought she had to be – but all she needed to do was be the woman that God made her to be.
Makes me want to “tackle creativity” once again, and the desire for chocolate cake  (with or without eggs) has finally left.
Art, Creativity, Waldron Publishing, Writing

Summer Blues? Hearing “I’m bored” a little too much?

Pirate Image copyright Jana Friel 2011

Encourage the kids in your life to CREATE!

Have them enter the Waldron Publishing Summer Stories Contest –

WHO: All children and youth ages 5-18 are encouraged to enter.

WHAT: Original stories or artwork based on a pirate theme.

WHEN: June 25-August 20th, 2011

WHERE: Find out more at

WHY: Plenty of great reasons:

  • To stop the summer boredom blues.
  • To get kids reading and writing.
  • To develop talents and skills.
  • To build resumes.
  • To give them a chance to learn about the publishing process.
  • To have a chance to win fabulous prizes.
  • To contribute to a children’s charity.
Get writing and drawing today!!!

Homemade Books

A fun homemade gift that I’ve done for a lot of my nieces and nephews has been to create a little book for them.  It takes a little time and creativity, but it’s really fun and the kids love it when the book is all about them.

Here are some examples –

For my daughter (when she was really little), I did a book about the family, so that we could practice names.

For my nephew Simon (who LOVES Star Wars)  I created a little story –

Simon’s Light Saber

A Star Wars Adventure – in a Galaxy quite close

By Aunt Ryss

Once upon a time, in a far away galaxy, Master Yoda, the great Jedi Master felt a disturbance in the force coming from a quiet planet named Earth.

Qui-Gon Jinn was sent to find and train the young boy who was to be Earth’s only hope –

Young Simon “Padawan,”  in whom the force was very strong.

You get the gist.  I filled it full of pictures of Simon rescuing his siblings and pictures from Disneyland’s Star Wars adventure.

Kids at the Disneyland Jedi Training Camp

He loved it and read it so often that it broke apart.

For other nieces and nephews, I’ve cut up pictures from magazines and made little books.   For example, I wrote out Sammy’s name (a letter on each page) and made an acrostic, (S is for smile) and decorated the pages.

For Jack, I made his book about his name and filled it full of poems featuring his name –

Jack be nimble,

Jack be quick,

Jack jump over

the candlestick.

I take each book and laminate it – a hot or cold laminator, or in a pinch, clear packing tape works well.  (These are typically not big books, 4″ x 4″ squares of paper, etc.)

Then I punch a hole in the top corner of each page and I use a loose leaf book ring (you can get a package of 10 or so at an office supply store for under $5) to fasten it together.

Loose-Leaf Book Rings

It’s very easy for little hands to flip.   I also imagine that this would be a great and fairly easy project for kids to work on.

Any ideas on subjects for a book?

  • favorite family songs
  • childhood poems
  • favorite things
  • family stories, traditions, or family lore

Maybe a set of easy readers to teach basic reading words?

  • My cat is big, my dog is red, etc.

Other book making strategies?


Plot – get your characters into trouble.

A friend of mine just asked me to write about writing.  She’s been working on an idea for a while and asked me what to do to help it turn into a story.

Great ideas are FANTASTIC!!!   Often we will have a character, a hero or villain that we are fascinated with.  Maybe we’ve thought of a setting, or a really cool item that the character gets hold of.

But in order for it to go anywhere, you need to ask yourself, what’s next?

Conflict, crisis, and resolution are the three things that make up story – “because in literature, only trouble is interesting” (Burroway, p.31).

I found a really wonderful love story in a book on writing –  (Writing Fiction,  Janet Burroway, 1996, HarperCollins, p.31).

“Jan and Jon meet in college.  Both are beautiful, intelligent, talented, popular, and well adjusted. [They are completely compatible on all levels].  Their parents become fast friends.  They marry on graduating…get rewarding work…have three children, all of whom are healthy, happy, beautiful, intelligent, and popular; the children love and respect their parents…the children succeed in work and marriage.  Jan and Jon die peacefully, of natural causes, at the same moment, at the age of eighty-two and are buried in the same grave.”

I’m sure this story is wonderful for the couple, but really, who would buy it?

It’s hard to do sometimes, but you’ve got to get your characters in trouble.  Add character flaws, an evil foe, a sad twist of events, a huge disappointment.



  • What do people need to know?  Why?
  • How do we introduce our characters?  Are we going to write to describe or show a picture?


  • What happens?
  • Why is this a problem?
  • What power struggles are involved?


  • What brings it all together?
  • How or why will your character face the major problem(s)?


  • How will we solve the problem?
  • What happens to the people when the problem is solved?

This is something that kids love.  I just asked my five year old to help me write a story.

I asked her if we were to write a story about a girl who had to face a monster, what kind of monster would it be?

A vampire

What would the monster do to the girl?

Try to suck her blood out.

What would we do to stop it?

The girl would poke out her eyes.

A little gross, I grant you. But the point is that with a little direction, kids, who are naturally creative, can start making up fun stories from an early age.

More to come on writing with kids soon!