Add some Butter

Have you read Harry Potter?  Twilight?  Hunger Games?

If you’ve answered NO to any of these questions, you’re either lying or my husband.  These popular series have pretty much embedded themselves into popular culture.

There’s few things that will make people stand in i-phone worthy lines like a new J.K Rowling book.

Young adult and children’s literature has grown rapidly in recent years.  The pace is faster, the subjects are more intense; I sometimes wonder if I have the patience to read anything else?

I’m amazed at how YA (Young Adult) authors layer their plots like puff pastries and develop characters that literally talk to you from beyond the pages.  Erin Jade Lange has done just that in her debut novel Butter, released September 4th , 2012.

From Amazon:

A lonely obese boy everyone calls Butter is about to make history. He is going to eat himself to death-live on the Internet-and everyone is invited to watch. When he first makes the announcement online to his classmates, Butter expects pity, insults, and possibly sheer indifference. What he gets are morbid cheerleaders rallying around his deadly plan. Yet as their dark encouragement grows, it begins to feel a lot like popularity. And that feels good. But what happens when Butter reaches his suicide deadline? Can he live with the fallout if he doesnt go through with his plans? With a deft hand, E.J. Lange allows readers to identify with both the bullies and the bullied in this all-consuming look at one teens battle with himself.

 I’ve known about Butter for a while now as Erin and I share a common Beta reader (a friend who proof reads your novels).  I was ecstatic to see her book on the shelves.  Bought it and wasn’t disappointed.  Butter tells a story that is thought provoking and vivid. Amazing job Erin!

Butter’s story, although extreme, unfortunately, is all too common.  Many kids today battle with body image problems and bullying in school is an issue that we cannot ignore.

Most everyone can point back to an awkward phase in their childhood.  In junior high, I was skinny, flat-chested, and ghostly pale.  The braces, bad perm and scoliosis back brace that I wore at night, didn’t help with snagging a prom date either.

My friends called me “the white toothpick” and my non-friends said a lot worse. I laugh about it today but growing up, those words hurt and I had major self-confidence issues.

On the flip-side  in an effort to fit in, I also became a bully.  I once was part of a group of girls who tortured a former friend so badly that she had to move.  Sorry Rachel if you’re out there.  I wish I could say it in person.

Kids are stupid.  I was stupid.  Again, I am sorry.

The point is that bullying is ever so present.  It WILL affect your children and it is up to us, as parents, to be vigilant of it.  Don’t just try to protect your children from it but teach them to fight against it.  Whether you are a victim, the bully, or someone that stands by and does nothing—bullying is wrong. Period.

Reading Butter reminds me of this all-too-important issue. Bravo Erin.  Thank you for tackling such an important issue.

Butter is one of my top reads for teens. I highly recommend adding some Butter to your or your teens library.

More praise for Butter:

– Rubbernecking the train wreck that is Butters last meal makes for an uncomfortably thought-provoking read.

– “A clever, tender and emotional page-turner! author Courtney Summers

– A timely topic with a hefty dose of in-your-face intensity, tempered by the droll sense of humor from an unexpectedly fierce narrator. Butter’s voice is loud, funny and unapologetic. author  Daisy Whitney

Buy your copy of Butter wherever books are sold and visit Erin at www.butterslastmeal.com

 

Have you ever been bullied?  Bullied someone else?  Share with us.

A Little Mystery; A Lot of Heart

I wish I were one of those people that only needed four hours of sleep to function.

I’m not.

In fact, you don’t want to see or hear from me after only 4 hours. It isn’t pretty.

I also wish I were one of those people that could read books fast.  I have a friend who can do that. She basically reads a book a day.  She’s a book agent so I guess that’s helpful.

I read like I run… like I do most things…at my own pace.  Translation: slow.

Which means that I totally appreciate books that don’t waste my precious book-reading-time (which lately I’ve gotten less and less of)

When You Reach Me, did just that…. not waste my time.

I’m not sure if it was the beautiful story or the fact that there weren’t any more pages, but by the end, I was in tears.

One of the best books for middle grade readers out there.  But don’t take my word for it. Rebecca Stead has won the Newbery medal, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction, and the New York Times Notable Book for Children.

From Amazon:

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood.(that’s right, set in NYC—BONUS) They know where its safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.

 But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Mirandas mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think shes too late.

Rebecca Stead unfolds this gift page by page. When You Reach Me is a story about friendship and family, social class and self. I CAN’T RECOMMEND THIS BOOK ENOUGH!!! Make sure you swipe it from your child after their done or just buy a copy for yourself…you won’t be disappointed.

**Note: I totally understand that I’m doing a book review on a novel published in 2010.  When You Reach Me is not hot off the presses and the fact that it is a totally awesome book of awesomness is not a news flash.  Just to let everyone know I am currently reading Rebecca Stead’s new book: Liar & Spy.  I hope it doesn’t take me until next year to review it for you.

My first!

Do you remember your first?

Depends on what I’m talking about right? Okay, let me rephrase that!

Do you remember that first when you really accomplished something?

That first promotion..

That first race or competition…

That first time you baked a pie that didn’t resemble a burnt tire…

Big or small, those “win” that you’ll never forget because you worked hard for them. You invested your time and energy into them. And you were never quite sure if they would ever be more than just a labor of love?

I’ve done a couple of things in my life that Im proud of and this is one of them.  I am happy to share with you one of my firsts….

My first book published:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rapunzel-Prince-Hopscotch-Twisty-Tales/dp/1445116308/ref=pd_luc_wl_03_03_t_lh

Rapunzel and the Prince of Pop is part of Franklin Watts Twisted Tales, a wonderful series taking well-loved fairy tales and adding a unique twist to spur the imagination of today’s young readers.

Amazon brief:

In this new tale the Prince of Pop is driving through the forest when he hears a stunning voice singingnone other than Rapunzel! The only problem is she’s locked in a tower by a witch can he free her and make Rapunzel into his next big pop star?

As a mother, I love reading those familiar stories of my youth.  It’s like currying up under a blanket with a glass of milk and chocolate chip cookies (if I had time to do that and didn’t have to run 5 miles to burn off the cookies afterward, but I digress)

Children will enjoy the modern take on old stories, which are fun, playful and entertaining.

I love the series and am proud to be a part of it.  The book comes out in the UK, April of 2013 but I hope to do book readings in Spain and the States as well.  Stay tune….

Oh, and thank you.  Thank you  for sharing in this moment with me.  Firsts are so much more special when you share them with loved ones.

P.S. And if you are so inclined thank you for pre-ordering the book

Be Part of the Movement

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesnt matter whether youre the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, youd better be running.”

― Christopher McDougall, Born to Run

 

Several years ago, the Spaniard picked up a copy of Born to Run.  A wonderful story about a hidden tribe of super runners in Mexico, but more importantly the catalyst for the barefoot movement.

By now you’ve probably seen them, the five-fingered shoes, the minimalist sports sneakers, even those purest that trot around Central Park barefoot. (crazy!)

Five years ago, it was just a notion and now its a movement.  So what’s next?   Answer: Barefoot shoes for children.

Before children are born you hope you have those “big issue” talks with your spouse or partner.  How are we going to raise our child?  Will we encourage or instigate? Will we mandate healthy eating?  What age will we introduce religion, if any? What kind of footwear should we use?

Not a topic on your list?  It should be.

3 Reasons you should let your baby go barefoot:

  1. A barefoot foot is a happy foot: “Children with the healthiest and most supple feet are those who habitually go barefoot,” according to Dr. Lynn T. Staheli and a growing number of other pediatric orthopedists. Dr. Lynn’s study of developing nations show that non-shoe-wearers have better flexibility and mobility, stronger feet, fewer deformities, and less complaints than those who wear shoes regularly.
  2. Less foot deformities and muscular unbalances: According to leading experts, shoes are the major cause of flatfoot & fallen arches (due to arch supports & cast-like nature of shoes) bunions & hallux valgus (due to improper weight distribution in shoes) microbial infections like athletes foot & toenail fungus & pseudomonas hammer toe (due to cramped toe boxes in shoes) knee arthritis (due to elevated shoe heels) blisters, corns & calluses (due to friction inside shoes)
  3. Promotes a natural stride and gives children an extra advantage with some sports: certainly sports like gymnastics,dancing, and martial arts are helped by increased balance and flexibility.  Running, however, has been the most popular sport to advocate the barefoot movement. There are countless sites and books promoting the practice but the simple fact is: a stronger, more balanced foot promotes a healthier stride. This equals to less injuries.  Plain and simple.

Companies such as Robeez and Preschoolians  have pioneered this effort to keep hard sole shoes off of our babies feet but soft sole shoes are still harder to find.

I encourage you to investigate more.  Our feet are often neglected,  yet they do such an important job.  In our efforts to give the very best to our children, we should be thinking about their health and well-being from head to toe.

Stuck on Oliver Jeffers

Ever try to solve a problem by throwing more things at it?

Every day, if you’re like me.

In Oliver Jefferss picture book Stuck, this is what Floyd tries to do when he gets his kite trapped in a tree.

Oliver Jeffers, international picture books sensation, has done several picture books that I own and recommend:

But Stuck (for ages 3 and up) might be my favorite among them. It’s a laugh out loud story that you won’t mind reading to your children once, twice, or ten times a night.  And if you are a push over like me, you know you will…..

So you want to write a Picture Book?

(As mothers or fathers:) How many times have you picked up one of your children’s picture books, sat on the bed to read it to them, and thought, “hell, I could write this.”

It’s basically a cute bear, a huggable rabbit, or a goodnight moon….keep it under 500 words and voila!

Who knows, maybe you have a FANTASTIC and ORIGINAL idea that no one else has come up with yet?

But writing a Picture Book is a lot harder than it sounds. There are a ton of rules and publishing (like anything else) follows trends.  What was once in favor now, might not be “sellable” tomorrow.

For instance, try just TRY to sell your Teen Vampire Love Story or your S&M Romance Novel?  Publishers and the market, as a whole, are just sick sick sick of them.

Querying agents and publishers takes a lot of time. How do you know if what you’ve written is ready to send?

Infographic by: www.grammarcheck.net

Where NOT to wear white.

In my pre-baby days, I traveled the world as a journalist producing country branding reports. These are some of my adventures…

Wearing white shoes after Labor Day, wearing a white dress to a wedding, wearing anything light colored at a kid’s spaghetti party—there are a few places where wearing white just doesn’t fly.  I have another one….but we’ll eventually get to that.

One of the scariest parts about living in a developing country is driving in said developing country.  Nine times out of ten, traffic regulations are viewed as simply suggestions, and annoying ones at that…

When it comes to transportation, there are a few fundamental rules I’ve learned:

1. Always hire a driver with his OWN car (he will care more if he totals it)

2. Make sure the seat belts work.

3. Develop a thick skin or the number of white-knuckle moments you will experience will probably kill you before a car accident will.

I’ve been in a number of near fatal moments (sorry mom, shocker I didn’t tell you about these before now).

But there was one that really stands out.

We were doing a project in Morocco.  We started out in the sleepy capital of Rabat and then moved to Casablanca to research the private sector.

Casablanca is similar to any big, commercial city.  Forget your romantic fantasy with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman; this city rivals any European metropolitan.

It has great restaurants, fantastic shops, and fabulous tourist sites. It’s the commercial and economic hub of the country, full of busy people who want to get to their destinations….fast.

Our driver, God bless him, was very young and eager.  I hated to be late and he always tried to make sure I wasn’t.  I adored him because I never had to call him to find out where he was. He was always waiting.  He took pride in being early “just in case”.

It was a day like any other day, but something was off.  Our printer didn’t work, my trainee and translator wasn’t feeling great and barely willed herself to get dressed for our meeting, and our driver was late.

“Where are you?” I asked him over the phone.

“Sorry, the traffic is terrible.  There was an accident,” he explained.

“Okay, please, get here as soon as you can,” I begged.

He skidded to a stop 10 minutes later, we jumped in, and I gave him the address.

Unfortunately the location we needed was on the other side of the accident zone, which had made our driver late in the first place.

“I know a short cut,” he told us. “If we take the tunnel, we’ll just be 5 minutes out of our way.

“Okay,” I said.  And off we went.

The tunnel was a long passageway cutting underground through a busy intersection above.  It was four lanes, dark and long.  There was a sharp curve in the middle of it which would normally dictate traffic to slow down….normally.

As we made the curve, skidding on practically two tires (like everyone else), we felt the engine puttering.  The motor puffed and all of a sudden we stopped.

In his rush to reach us, my driver had forgotten to stop at the gas station.  We weren’t going anywhere.

Before I could open my mouth, my driver said, “wait here, I’ll get more.”

A second later, he jumped from the car, flagged the first truck and hitched a ride.

Was this really happening? 

My journalist (Jerome) turned around from the front passenger seat and asked, “What are we going to do?”

It took me two seconds of listening to the traffic wiz by us barely skidding to the next lane to avoid a crash to say, “Everyone out of the car.”

There was a little walkway on each side of the tunnel.  If we pressed ourselves against the wall, we could barely get ourselves off the road….kind of.

“We need to get out of here,” I announced.

There were little arguments.  Honks from the other cars told us that sooner or later someone was going to hit us if nothing more then to teach us that this tunnel wasn’t a parking lot.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been in a more dingy soot covered environment.  There was little ventilation and a ton of fumes, which had us coughing all the way to the exit. For the sake of my poor moms heart, I will just say we had a couple of close calls but obviously we made it.

Once we reached the top, I surveyed myself and my team.  Yep, everyone alive and in one piece, a bit dirty but nothing a short bathroom stop wouldn’t fix.

“Call the Minister’s office and see if they’ll wait 15 more minutes,” I instructed Jerome.  “Well catch a cab. We look presentable enough, I think we can still do the meeting.”

“Can we?” Jerome asked and spun Leticia around.  She was wearing an all white suit.  Well it was an all white. Now it was half white and half black.  Oil stains; soot, and general grime now stained her entire backside. She looked like some took a black magic marker and started to fill her in.

Needless to say, we rescheduled our meetings, waited for our driver and then went to have a drink. Sometimes you just need to toast to a “we’re still alive” day.

So I think we can all add to our LIST of unacceptable places to wear white: dingy tunnels in Morocco.  Glad I could help.

Any crazy traffic stories which could rival that one?  Next I will tell you about when my mom and I hit a cow in the highway.

How to say Goodnight in Armenian

In my pre-baby days, I traveled the world as a journalist producing country branding reports.  These are some of my adventures…

When the Minister of Agriculture invites you to dinner to “try the very best of his country” you go.

My teammates and myself were on assignment in Yerevan, Armenia and we had just finished our fifth interview within the government.

The dinner invitation was translated to us by interpreter as the 80-year-old Minister didn’t speak a word of English.

Free food and wine?? I didn’t really care if he spoke at all.  I was in!

We were picked up that evening in a private car, whisked away to a place outside the city and shuffled into a beautiful venue with outside seating surrounding a center stage.

We were a party of twelve: my team of three, the Minister, his entourage, and two bodyguards.  I guess the wheat and peach business can get pretty violent and you can’t be too careful around fig picking season.   Already I saw food placed on the table.

The Minister sat beside me and began to communicate by shoveling food onto my plate.  I had purposely staved myself that day so I accepted everything the Minister offered.  This also included every type of wine that the country produced.

I’m not sure when the entertainment started but suddenly a sequined clad couple began belting out 80’s hits, karaoke style.  Classics such as  “Cumin I lean” and “Girlz Just Wanna Huffin” were sung through thick accents and shameful creative liberty.

Plate after plate came and by the sixth course, I began to slur my request that we stop soon.

“What? This was just the appetizer,” said the Minister’s Chief of Staff.

It was a blur from there.  Seriously I couldn’t see very well.

I know there was meat and something green but can’t tell you much more. The only thing I can remember was that suddenly the singers had back up dancers.  Four life sized Teletubbies started dancing and singing in the background. I could only stare.

When we were finally allowed to leave, I could barely put one foot in front of the other so I didn’t notice that we had played musical cars.

I was now in the back seat of the Minister’s car with one of my colleagues.  For all I knew our other friend was left for dead back at the restaurant.   The Chief of Staff was doubling as the driver so that he could translate and the Minister rode up front.

The Minister played with the radio and found a salsa station.  Sure, that made sense. “Turn up the music!” I screamed.

Roberto was Brazilian and due to the fact that liquor had now replaced water as the greatest substance in my body, we were soon doing the shoulder samba in the back seat.

I guess the Minister felt a little left out because when I made the dumbass comment that it was too bad he wasn’t back here with us, the car screeched to a stop in the middle of the highway.

A door slam later and I was soon making room for grandpa in the back.

Now crammed in the middle, I had no choice but to continue our little fiesta.

For a man in his twilight years, he was surprisingly handsy.  My lap soon became a pair of make-shift bongos and the Minister tapped away contently to the beat.

“We go to club,” announced the Chief of Staff still driving.

“No, we need to go back to the hotel,” I told him. “We have a bunch of meetings. Very early. We need to sleep.”

“Cancel meetings. We go to club. Minister say so,” argued the Chief of Staff.

Crap.  What do I say now?

Nothing. I threw up and won the argument.  Twenty minutes later, we pulled into the hotel.

That’s right ladies, looking for a way to bow out (I never said gracefully) at the end of the night??  A little vomit does the trick every time.

Anyway good ways you got out of continuting the party?  It doesnt have to involve throwing up or Armenia?