Mama Diaries

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Little Engine That Could

Do you all remember that cute childhood story about the blue train that tried to climb a mountain? "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..."

Well, that's exactly what was going on with my little blue car as we climbed the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee.

This past weekend, I took a trip with my kids to Ohio to visit my dad. We drove. Going there was no problem. (It's a 14 hour drive.) Coming home? Well, that was another story. As we got into the mountains of northern Kentucky, my engine light went on. Something was wrong. I didn't get too bent out of shape over it because I thought it might've had something to do with needing an oil change. But then the car started knocking and bucking and stuttering...right when we were going up a steep mountain. I thought for sure it was going to stall right there in the middle of the mountain.

"What's going on?" my daughter asked, her voice rising a few pitches.

"I don't know," I said, navigating to the far right lane. "The engine light is on." 

"Is the car going to blow up?"

"I hope not."

"I don't want to die!"

"I'll do my best to not have that happen."

When the trouble started, we were 5 1/2 hours from our home in Atlanta. I struggled trying to decide if I should find a mechanic in Kentucky or try to get closer to home. I opted for the latter.

We crawled through the mountains, barely faster than 40 miles per hour. First through Kentucky, then Tennessee, and then over some smaller ones in Georgia.  Even the giant semi-trucks flew past us. And of course it rained on top of it. It was the most harrowing ride ever!

I don't know how we made it, but nine hours later, we did. All the way through it, I kept thinking, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can." Just like the Little Engine Who Could.

Apparently, positive thinking helps!

Endnote:  The car is getting repaired now. Something short-circuited in the engine and caused it to not allow enough oil into it. It was in complete "limp mode." It should be better shortly.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Best Time to Set Up a Zipline

Teenagers do the strangest things.

So, the other night, my boy was out with his buddies in the woods. You might wonder what he was doing, because most teenage boys who are out in the woods at 10:00 PM are usually up to no good.

My boy was setting up a zipline–across Johns Creek. We're not talking a tiny rivulet of water. We're talking a significant body of water. When it's rainy season, the water comes up over eight feet high. People have drowned in Johns Creek. (For those who like geography, Johns Creek is a tributary of the Chattahoochee River.)

So, my boy and his friends decided it would be a good idea to string this zipline they had bought at a garage sale for $5.00 (manufacture date: 1972) across the creek in the dark. There are three ways to cross the creek:  Over the bridge (recommended way), through the water (not comfortable, and not recommended during rainy season) or over a very large tree which conveniently fell and formed a bridge to the other side. The boys opted for the latter. I have crossed this log a few times, and let me tell you, you need a really good sense of balance to do it. I can't even imagine crossing this thing in the dark. But somehow the boys did it, zipline in tow.

They secured the zipline so that it went from a tree on one side of the bank to a tree on the other side. After they were done, they tested it. It worked. They had a grand time flying over Johns Creek in the dark.

The next day, I inspected their work. It seemed secure, but there was no way I was ever going to test it. My boy had no trouble, though. I watched as he zipped over the creek.

"Dude," I said. "Why couldn't you do this during daylight hours? Why did you do it in the dark?"

"Because we're adrenaline junkies. It's more of a rush to do it when you can't see what you're doing."

Uh. Okay. I guess they're right about teenagers' brains not being fully developed!

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Impossible Door

I'm back from my vacation in Florida. It was a girl trip–me, my daughter, and her friend. We had a great time, except for one thing:  The sliding bathroom door in our hotel room.

I don't know what was wrong with it, but it wouldn't slide. At least not easily. I was able to open and close it, but not without bracing myself, or using every muscle in my body to do it. And I'm strong. My daughter couldn't get it. Not once.

"I'm stuck!" she'd call from inside. And either me or her friend would have to rescue her. It was ridiculous. But I will give it one thing:  It was the most memorable door ever!

Have you ever had to struggle with a door when you were on vacation? 

Here are some pictures of the beach at Fort Walton, Florida:

Hope you've all been enjoying your summer!


Monday, June 18, 2018

Power Washing the Boys

First of all, congratulations to Virginia, Cammie, and Liz who are the winners of the giveaway of my upcoming book, Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China. Thanks to all who entered!

Now for the story:

The other day, my husband decided it would be a good idea to power wash the driveway, the sidewalk, the porch, and anything he could reach. I don't know why he thought this was a good idea, because it was 95 degrees outside. The last thing I'd want to do is heavy work in the heat!

Somehow he convinced my son, Bubba, to join him. By the time they were done, they were both disgusting, sweaty messes.

When they were finished, they came into the house.

I took one look at them. "I think you missed a couple of things."

"We didn't miss anything," they said.

"Yeah, you did. Yourselves. You both are in dire need of a power wash!"

So they each marched into a shower and power washed themselves.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Giveaway and Saga of a Snail

Before I begin, I'd like to let you all know that I'm doing a giveaway of my upcoming book, Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China. The publisher has three extra review copies, and we thought it would be fun to give you a chance to win one. This is open to US residents only. If you are interested, please say so in the comments below. The winners will be selected on Monday, June 18th. If you are selected, I will contact you for your email address, which I will give to the publisher. The book will come directly from the publisher. Good luck!

Now for the story:  Some of you who are friends with me on Facebook may have seen the photo of a snail crawling up my back door. We had affectionately named this snail, Gary. Here he is:

Gary was a very messy house guest. He left trails of snail poop all over the door. When he disappeared for a day, we thought he was gone. But he wasn't. He reappeared leaving more trails of snail poop. Quite frankly, I was getting tired of cleaning up after Gary. My husband decided he'd had enough, too. He peeled the snail off the top of the door and relocated him under a bush. 

But poor Gary didn't fare so well. If you are a sensitive soul, you may not want to read the rest of this story. Our ferocious cat, Bootsy, decided to take matters into his own paws. Bootsy is a critter killer. He kills anything he can find:  frogs, chipmunks, birds, cock roaches (which we don't mind). . . and snails. We found poor Gary's shell in pieces, deposited outside the back door. We are quite certain that Bootsy is the guilty party. Guess Bootsy didn't like the poop on the window, either! 

One more thing I heard about which I thought was interesting:  Do you remember how I told you that my son had to get a permit to sell lemonade at his stand? Lots of kids get fined if they don't. Well, Country Time Lemonade is taking a stand to raise money to pay lemonade stand fines. It's called Legal-Ade. Kids can get help here. 


Monday, June 4, 2018

Special Guests: Stephanie Robinson and Jessica Haight, Co-Authors of the DMS Series

Today I have two very special guests:  Stephanie Robinson and Jessica Haight, the co-authors of the DMS Series. Their newest book, Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library was recently released. They are here to tell you a little about it.

The Talking Library is so imaginative with many Alice In Wonderland-like qualities. What inspired you to write the book?

When we decided to start The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow we had a plan to write a series. We began Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library right after we’d finished the first book. The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow has a general theme around The Wizard of Oz, so we thought it would be fun to have each book in the series loosely based on a classic children’s story. Alice and Wonderland fit well with our ideas for the storyline in Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library.

That's clever. I'll have to re-read the Secret Files of Fairday Morrow and look for the Wizard of Oz similarities.

Talk about the writing process. How did the two of you work together to write this story?

We collaborate using the Google Drive and Google Docs. It’s a fantastic way to write together and keep projects organized. Our writing is done on the cloud, so we have flexibility to work on our projects any time and from any place that has the internet. We’ll chat on the phone, discuss a chapter, and then pick away at three chapters we keep up in the “queue”. One is almost finished, one is in the middle, and one we’re just beginning- this makes for smooth chapter transitions, and it’s easy to see where you are in the story.

Google Drive is great for sharing files. You two have done a terrific job of making the collaboration work.

What did you enjoy most about writing it?

The Talking Library was super fun to write. There’s lots of literary magic, and many of the scenes were inspired by situations that occurred while we were promoting The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow, so that makes it special. We are very good at drawing story ideas from our personal experiences. Plus, it’s super fun to create stories with a friend.

Creating stories with a friend does sound like a lot of fun!

How did you come up with all the riddles that needed to be solved?

Jessica thinks in rhymes and both she and Stephanie love words and stories. Writing riddle clues with literary references was fun and challenging. Luckily, Jess gets a lot of practice writing riddles for Fairday’s book blog each week.

I love the riddles on your blog. They're cute!

Will there be more adventures for Fairday Morrow and her friends?

The next case in the DMS files is Fairday Morrow and the Master’s Emporium. 

Awesome! Sounds like fun, and I can't wait to read it!

Describe your earliest memories of writing.

Jess: There is story I wrote in 6th grade that I won a “Young Authors” award for. I remember the cardboard cover had a pegasus and a rainbow, but can’t recall the story. I wish I could! That is my earliest memory of completing a writing project. 

Stephanie: My first memory of writing has to do with getting in trouble in first grade for writing my paper the wrong way.  I wrote starting at the bottom right hand corner and make my way left and then up- so the opposite of how we write in America. I didn’t understand that there was a right way to write and and wrong way, and I remember my teacher reprimanding me and having to go back and redo the assignment the correct way. Although this memory has stayed with me because I was embarrassed and ashamed, it didn’t deter me from wanting to put stories on paper. I loved storytelling and writing in general. In 4th grade I created a picture book about my cat, Kitty Calico, and her adventures at an amusement park. I even did the illustrations (and drawing isn’t my strong suit). My mom had the story for a long time, though I am not sure where it is now.

I wrote a story that involved unicorns and rainbows when I was eight. Must be something about those two things that makes young girls want to write about them. Congrats on the Young Authors Award! And the story about writing the wrong way is funny - you were just flexing your creative muscles! 

What were your favorite books when you were kids?

Jess: My favorite children’s book is Frederick by Leo Lionni. I also adored fairy tales and Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes. My first chapter book ( I still have the original) was Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary.

Stephanie: After taking a while to learn to read, I became a big fan. I tended to get hooked on an author and read all of their books. Some of my favorites were: Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Shel Silverstein, and all of the Nancy Drew books.

I don't believe I've ever read Ellen Tebbits. I'll have to check it out. The others listed are all great books!

What do you do when you're not writing or promoting your books?

Jess: I enjoy nature photography, meditative drawing, spending quality time with my cats, and working in my garden.

Stephanie: I love to travel and hope to one day see all 50 states. Only 4 states left- Hawaii, Alaska, Louisiana, and Alabama. I also spend a lot of time getting lost in books!

Those all sound like good, restful activities! Stephanie, you're making great progress on visiting all the states. That's on my bucket list, too! 

What advice would you give to new writers?

Jess: First and foremost, finish your story to your satisfaction. Hire professional editors to polish your words. Believe in yourself, and love the process of your work. Protecting creative space is the key.

Stephanie: Don’t be afraid of rejection. As a writer, you will need to build tough skin. Because reading is subjective there will be people who love and dislike what you write. That is okay- be open to criticism, but believe in yourself and know that there are a lot of different types of readers out there. Everyone gets rejected. Make sure to dust yourself off when it happens and put yourself back out there.

Great advice from both of you!

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Jess: I would want to fly.

Stephanie: Invisibility. This would come in very handy when I want to run a few quick errands.

I think I'd want to fly AND be invisible! :)

Thanks so much for being guests on my blog!

Blurb for the Talking Library: Fairday Morrow had no clue that moving from Manhattan to the small town of Ashpot, Connecticut, would lead to an unsolved mystery. Her parents’ dream of renovating a crumbling Victorian, called the Begonia House, into a bed and breakfast had seemed like treachery at the time. But Fairday found out that her new house kept secrets, and once inside its twisted front gates, anything was possible. When mysterious notes start showing up warning that a librarian is in trouble and a bookworm is eating words, Fairday thinks the Begonia House has more skeletons in its closets. What happens to stories when their words get eaten?

Back quote:
“Remember to consider all angles. Just as shadows are revealed by light, truth lies betwixt the lines.”

My Review: In this second book of the Fairday Morrow Series, eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow and her friends (the DMS squad) have to figure out why words are suddenly missing from their favorite stories. The search takes them deep into the walls of the mysterious Begonia House where they discover the Talking Library. Using their riddle-solving skills, they must discover the identity of the bookworm who has been eating the words and stop more books from being altered.

The Talking Library is a very imaginative book. Many of the fantasy aspects are reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. With poisonous punctuation characters and a shadowy rook, the world building is this story is unique and fascinating. Readers will also enjoy the sprinkling of illustrations throughout the book. It's a good, quick read for middle grade kids who enjoy mysteries.





Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson are co-authors of the Fairday Morrow series. They met freshman year of high school in English class, where they discovered they liked the same books. Their friendship grew, and over the years they went on to work as servers together, go to the same college for a short time, and they even became roommates for a while. Many books were discussed, but none were ever written. Now, after the release of their first middle grade novel, The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow, Stephanie and Jess are continuing to build suspense in book 2: Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

Stuck in a Tree

First, I'd like to thank my awesome friend, Tara Tyler, for the shout out on her blog. You rock, Tara!

Now for the story:

My fourteen-year-old son thought it was a good idea to climb the maple tree in the front yard. He wasn't happy getting to the middle of the tree. Oh, no. He had to go as high as possible.

"You know, cats get stuck doing things like that," I shouted up.

He laughed it off. "Yeah. But I'm not a cat."

Uh huh.

After he had spent about five minutes swaying in the breeze up there, he decided it was time to come down. Except he had a little trouble.

"I'm stuck," he admitted after several attempts to find a descent route.

I analyzed the situation. "If you shimmy down like a fireman's pole, you can probably get your foot into the next fork."

Apparently, that suggestion was too terrifying. "You need to get the ladder, Mom,"

I sighed then fetched the step ladder and brought it out. It wasn't nearly tall enough.

"Get the painter's ladder."

Let me tell you how heavy the painter's ladder is. I can barely lift the thing. And I'm pretty strong for a middle-aged woman. Anyway, I dragged the darn thing out, and then spent the next five minutes trying to figure out how to open it up and brace it against the tree. I got it opened, but bracing it safely against the tree for him to get down was not possible.

"Dude, I don't know what to say. You're either going to have to figure this out, or we're going to call the fire department." 

He tried the shimmy thing. But his foot got caught on a smaller branch. He put his weight on it and promptly snapped it off.  It was a terrifying slide down to the before-mentioned fork. 

Somehow, he managed to get out of that tree. But not without some scratches, bumps, and pain to his man-parts.

I think he learned his lesson.     

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Organic Dirt

Before I begin, I want to take a moment to help spread the word about my author friend, C. Lee McKenzie's new book, Some Very Messy Medieval Magic. She lost her husband two days after the book was released, and hasn't been able to market it. So, I'm giving her a hand. I would have included a review, but I'm still in the middle of reading it. I can tell you that I'm enjoying it and that it's well-written! I'm sure she'd appreciate a few sales!

Here's the scoop on the book:


By C. Lee McKenzie

Pete’s stuck in medieval England!

Pete and his friend Weasel thought they’d closed the Time Lock. But a young page from medieval times, Peter of Bramwell, goes missing. His absence during a critical moment will forever alter history unless he’s found.

There’s only one solution - fledgling wizard Pete must take the page’s place. Accompanied by Weasel and Fanon, Pete’s alligator familiar, they travel to 1173 England.

But what if the page remains lost - will Pete know what to do when the critical moment arrives? Toss in a grumpy Fanon, the duke’s curious niece, a talking horse, and the Circle of Stones and Pete realizes he’s in over his young wizard head yet again...

Release date – May 15, 2018
Juvenile Fiction - Fantasy & Magic/Boys & Men
$13.95 Print ISBN 9781939844460
$3.99 EBook ISBN 9781939844477

C. Lee McKenzie has a background in Linguistics and Inter-Cultural Communication, but these days her greatest passion is writing for young readers. When she’s not writing she’s hiking or traveling or practicing yoga or asking a lot questions about things she still doesn’t understand.

Barnes & Noble

Now for the story:

The other day, I was doing some gardening. I bought a bag of "organic" soil. As I poured it in the container, some spilled out. My nosy German Shepherd, Schultz, had to see what was going on. He sniffed the dirt and decided it smelled so good, he had to eat it.

"Schultz!" I hollered. "Cut it out!" I wasn't sure if eating dirt would make him sick, but I didn't want to risk it.

He trotted off and I cleaned up the dirt before he could eat more.

A little while later, the dog was standing next to the container where I had planted the flowers in the organic soil. Do you know what he was doing? Eating the dirt!

I had never seen him eat dirt, so there must've been something extra special about organic soil. Makes me wonder what's in it!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Scaring Away the Ghosts

My kids are convinced our house is haunted. I have to admit, sometimes I wonder. We've had shutters open by themselves, loud knocking on doors when nobody is around, and a sense of seeing something out of the corner of our eyes when nothing is there.

My daughter decided to do something about it. The other day she came home with this:

"What the heck is that?" I asked. I was concerned it might be some kind of drug.

"Sage," she answered.

"And what exactly are you going to do with it?"

"Burn it. Sage gets rid of ghosts."


So, the girl lit an end of it on fire and walked around the house, letting the smoke fill the air.

Let me tell you, that thing stunk!

I couldn't believe how bad it smelled after her little ritual.

"Well," I said. "I don't think anything is going to live here now. Including us!"

(I'm happy to report that we haven't had any more strange occurrences. So maybe it worked.)

Do you believe in ghosts? Do you think sage gets rid of them?   

Monday, May 7, 2018

A Spoonful of Sugar

Before I begin this post, I want to take the time to thank all of you for being here and being so supportive. I'm always amazed by how many of you visit the blogs where I am a guest and leave such thoughtful comments. You're awesome and I appreciate every one of you!

Now for the story:

The other day, I decided to make chocolate chip cookies. The recipe I have makes four dozen. I didn't want four dozen. So I split the recipe. Everything went fine until I came to the sugar part. For some reason, my brain turned off and I dumped in the amount of brown sugar and white sugar the recipe called for, which ended up being about two cups: twice the amount I should've put in.

Fortunately, I realized my mistake before it was completely mixed into the batter. I tried to scoop out half of the sugar, but inevitably, there was more sugar than there should've been.

I baked the cookies anyway.

When they were done, they looked slightly different. The extra sugar gave them a shiny glaze. Hmmm, I thought. I wonder if they're edible.

I tried one. It was actually good.

My kids smelled the cookies and ran into the kitchen to get some.

They thought they were good, too.

"Mom these are the best cookies you've ever made!" my daughter said. 

Isn't it funny how sometimes a mistake ends up improving something? Have you ever unintentionally messed something up to discover that your mistake improved it?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Speedy Gonzales

In our neighborhood, there is a policeman who sits in his parked car for hours, waiting to catch speeders or people who roll through stop signs. (I was once a victim when I failed to make a complete stop at the sign. Now I'm very careful, because I know he's watching.)

Anyway, it seems that it's not only motorists that he watches, but cyclists. I don't know if this story is true, because I wasn't there to see it, but my son claims it is. He told me that his buddy got stopped by this policeman for riding too fast on his bicycle. The speed limit is 25 miles an hour. This kid was going almost 35 miles an hour. The policeman turned on his lights and followed the boy until he stopped.

I can imagine the conversation:

Policeman:  "Do you know you're riding too fast, son?"

Boy:  "No, sir. How fast was I going?"

Policeman:  "35 in a 25."

Boy:  "Cool!"

Policeman:  "Not cool. I'm giving you a $50 speeding ticket."

Boy:  "Dude..."

Policeman:  "That's 'sir' to you."

Boy:  "But, I don't even have a driver's license."

Policeman:  "If you keep driving like that, you'll never get one."  *hands ticket to the boy* "Pay it, or I'll see you in court."

Have you ever heard of a cyclist getting a ticket (adult or child) for going faster than the speed limit?

Before I go, I want to let you know that I'm a guest on Kitty Cat at the Library Blog talking about my upcoming book, Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China. Please stop by to learn about it and my writing process. 


Monday, April 16, 2018

Creative Vaping

For those of you who have no idea what vaping is, let me educate you. It's "smoking" electronic, or e-cigarettes. It's a big thing for teens and young people. In Georgia, where I live, there are Vape Shops everywhere. You can get these e-cigarettes in all kinds of flavors. That's part of what makes it attractive to these people. Unfortunately, it's not safe. There are cancer-causing chemicals in these things.

My teenage son came home from school the other day and told me about a kid who got in trouble because he was vaping. "He put the liquid in a flash-drive and smoked it," he said.

I've heard of using pipes, but not flash-drives. I looked this up online. I wanted to see if this kid was being creative, or if others were doing it, too.

What my son was talking about is called, juuling. People vape through a device that looks like a flash-drive, but it's not. It's very small. They can conceal it in their pockets, take a hit, and blow the "smoke" into their arm. Kids are doing this in the classroom.

Something else parents need to worry about!

Have you ever heard of vaping? If you are a teacher, have you had problems with this in your classrooms?

If you'd like to watch a video on it, click here.    

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Guest Author: Corrina Austin

Today, I have a very special guest on my blog:  author, Corrina Austin. Her book, Corners, was recently released. When I read it, I thought it was such an excellent book. I asked if she would be willing to come on and answer some questions about it, and she obliged. 


Everyone needs their own special corner...

It’s 1969 and ten-year-old Davy is in a predicament. With two weeks remaining of the summer holidays, he’s expelled from the public pool for sneaking into the deep end and almost drowning. How will he break the news to his hard-working single mother? She’s at the diner all day, Davy has no friends, and he’s too young to stay by himself.

The answer lies in his rescuer, mysterious thirteen-year-old Ellis Wynn. Visiting her Grammy for the summer, Ellis offers to babysit Davy. She teaches him about “corners”–forgotten or neglected areas fixed up special. Together, the kids tackle several “corners” and Davy learns what it means to bring joy to others. 

Available in eBook format or print

My review:

The summer of '69 was a memorable one for Davy. He was ten years old. That's when he met thirteen-year-old Ellis, the girl who rescued him from the deep end of a pool. The two spent the last weeks of summer vacation together after Ellis offered to babysit Davy while his single mom worked. Their days were spent fixing up neglected corners. Cleaning up and beautifying them did a lot of good not just for Davy and Ellis, but for others in the story.

Corners is told by Davy, alternating as the adult David sharing the story with his ten-year-old son, Will, and the fourth-grade Davy. It has a nostalgic feel, as it paints the picture of a more laid-back time–old diners, grandmothers baking in the kitchen, and kids playing outside. Those who grew up in the time will recognize the songs mentioned and the movie, The Incredible Mr. Limpet. The author does a great job of giving readers a sense of what it was like to live in the summer of '69.

The beauty of the story is not in the action, but in the depth of the characters. The relationships between the characters are well-fleshed out and heartwarming. Corners is considered a middle grade book, and certainly it would appeal to kids that age who are interested in coming-of-age stories that are relationship-driven, but it is also a story that adults would enjoy–especially those who grew up during the '60s and '70s. Highly recommended.  - 5 Star Review

Now, without further ado, here is the interview:

1.     What inspired you to write Corners?

My Dutch heritage means that corners are in my blood. The Dutch love their beautified corners in their homes and gardens. My parents’ house and yard are filled with them and that has definitely influenced me. I have been a “corner” designer myself since I was child. I always had to share a room with my sister as I was growing up and I was desperate for a space of my own. I would pester my mom to give up a little corner of the house somewhere for my writing and drawing. There were four kids, so privacy was hard to come by. A writer needs a special spot to call her own. I did then and I do now. 

I did not know that about Dutch people. If I ever visit their part of the world, I'll have to pay attention to the corners they create! And yes, I agree, writers need a special spot to call their own.

2.     How did you come up with your characters?

I had 31 years of elementary school teaching experience as well as 4 children of my own, so there was much to draw from. I don’t claim to “know it all,” but I have learned a few things about kids and how they feel, think, and interpret the world. More than this, I am lucky enough to remember clearly how it feels to be a kid. Aside from this general kind of knowledge about childhood, my characters really just unfolded on their own as I wrote.

Your characters have a very natural feel. Everything about their relationships flows. Your experience with children and people must've really helped a lot.

3.     What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

The whole appeal of writing (for me) is to make connections with others on a level that can’t happen in “regular” conversations. Inspiring people to make contact with memories they otherwise would have forgotten, opening doors to new perspectives, engaging emotions…all of those things bring great satisfaction to me. The most enjoyable thing for me personally was the time travel. A lot of the details of daily life in the 1960’s resurfaced for me when I was writing, and I loved seeing them all again.

You did a great job bringing that time period to life. It certainly brought back a lot of memories for me!

4.     What do you hope your readers will come away with after reading this book?

I have always believed that positive changes do not have to be big in order to have influence. When individual people focus on creating beauty and kindness in their own little corners, there is a chain effect that can have a huge impact on the larger world. I wanted to write something that would reflect this belief.

That's a beautiful message, and it's very clear in your book. 

5.     What were your favorite song(s) and movie(s) from this time period (60's and 70's)?

I loved singing along to Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” in the car--and the Hollies’ “Air That I Breathe.” I preferred the poetic and the melancholy even back then.

My favourite movie of the time was “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” starring Don Knotts. It was the story of a nerdy man who wanted more than anything to be a fish—and not only did he get his wish, but he became a war hero! I watched it every time it came on TV. I loved writing about that movie in Corners. I wish I could’ve used some of the lines from that movie as well as some of the song lyrics of the day…but copyright prevented it.

It's been ages since I've seen "The Incredible Mr. Limpet." It was such a fun movie! I thought it was great that you chose that one to be part of your story.

6.     Have you ever made your own corner?

Many times! My first corner was a little plot of earth Mom gave me at the edge of the yard when I was nine. I planted hills of watermelons and kept minnows in the pond feature, which was a tin can buried up to the top in dirt. I also planted a couple seedling trees in there. One of them is a giant tree now. My parents still live there and it shades the back part of the yard. It also became the cemetery plot for a baby robin I nursed for a week…I still get teary thinking of that bird.

I chuckled reading about your "pond feature." Sounds like something I would've done when I was a kid. Sorry about the robin. I'm sure it would thank you for the lovely resting place you gave it.

7.     What would your perfect corner be like?

It would be a little shed or cabin near my house with hydro and heat. It would need to be big enough for a comfy chair or loveseat, have big windows and lots of light, and counter space for my painting (which is another interest of mine). Of course, there would be endless tea supplies. It would have window boxes overflowing with summer blooms…and it would be very quiet and tidy.

That sounds fabulous! You paint, too? You're so talented!

8.     What do you do when you're not writing or promoting your books?

I retired in 2015 from teaching, although I will be going back to do a bit of supply work. I  sing alto in a fantastic Community Choir called “Choral Connection.” I paint landscapes (mostly in oils), play my piano (not very well) and hike three seasons of the year (winter isn’t one of them). I love to travel. Last September, I went to Ireland! I enjoy hanging out with my family and my most beautiful in all the world Golden Retriever. Her name is Cobi.

Your interests are very similar to mine! I'm a musician, and I love travelling and hiking. A kindred spirit! Your trip to Ireland sounds wonderful! I bet you have some great photos and memories from it!

9.     Are you working on a new book?

Yes! It also has a child protagonist, but it’s much darker than Corners. He is the survivor of a terrible trauma and the book is the story of how he tries to make his way back from it. It’s been difficult to write, but I think it’s framing in well. I have about 250 pages so far.

I'd love to read it when it gets published. Best of luck writing it!

10.  Where is one place you'd like to visit that you haven't been before?

I am longing to visit Paris…and that might happen this summer! I would also love to go to New York City. I am not much of a city person, but I think a few days in the Big Apple would be an amazing adventure.

Paris is nice. I've  been there several times. Each time I find something new. I haven't stayed in New York City -driven through it on my way to the airport, but that's it. That would be an adventure!

Thanks for stopping by and chatting. It was great having you as a guest!

Corrina Austin is a retired elementary school teacher, living in beautiful South-Western Ontario, Canada. She has Bachelor’s degrees in both English and Education. Corrina has published several short stories and essays and was twice the recipient of grants for a novel in progress from the Ontario Arts Council. “Corners” was inspired by her experiences as a child growing up in the 1960’s and contains many artifacts from her memories of those times. To get to know her better, check out her blog at You can also visit her on Twitter (@corrinaaustin), Instagram (readingcorners) and via her author page on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Something Different

The other day, as I was roaming around the blogosphere, I landed at Susan-Swiderski's blog. She was answering a bunch of different questions that had to to with writing. I thought I'd take the time to answer them on my blog, so y'all might know a little more about me as a writer.

So here we go:

1. What are you working on right now? I'm revising book two of my Bubba and Squirt Series. (Book 1:  Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China is being published by Dancing Lemur Press and will be released September 4, 2018.) There's no guarantee that I'll get a book 2 deal. It all depends on how book 1 does. But I want to be ready, just in case. (Book 2 is Bubba and Squirt's Mayan Treasure.)

2. How is it different from others in the genre? I think the closest comparison is the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne. That's for a slightly younger crowd. This one is a step up, and it takes place in the present - not the past as many of the Magic Tree House books do. My emphasis is on learning the language, history, and culture of the country Bubba and Squirt visits.

3. What experiences have influenced you? I've done a lot of travelling. One of the things I most enjoy is learning about the country I've visited. Writing these Bubba and Squirt books is a way to bring that experience to kids and teach them about other people and cultures.

4. Why do I write what I do? It's fun.

5. How does your writing process work? I'm a plotter. I write outlines and figure out the general path of the story. Sometimes I'll come up with subplots as I go, and then I weave them into the story. And sometimes things end up going a little differently than planned. But I still know what the problem is, and how it's going to be solved. If I don't create an outline, I get hopelessly lost and don't finish the project.

6. What is the hardest part about writing? Revising. It takes forever! I can stare at a sentence twenty minutes and rewrite it fifty times and still not be happy with it. Getting the right words with the right flow can be challenging.

7. What would you like to try as a writer that you haven't tried yet? Maybe writing horror stories. That's way outside of what I write. But I did an anthology contest that explored a darker side of writing, and I actually enjoyed it.

8. Who are the authors I admire? Rick Riordan, Kate DiCamillo, John Green

9. What scares you? As an author, I'd say putting my work out there, and having the majority of  people not like it. It hasn't happened yet, and I hope it never does. But when you put something out for the public to scrutinize, you're opening yourself up to criticism. That's scary.

Schultz says falling satellite debris  is scary. He wore this tin foil hat for protection when the Chinese satellite fell down on Sunday. Fortunately, it didn't land anywhere near us. Schultz was relieved!

If you're a writer, what's the scariest thing for you?

In case you haven't had enough interview-reading material, you can go here  and read my interview with The Children's Book Reviewer. I'm talking about my newest book, Don't Feed the Elephant.