Who was the woman who wrote “Good Books for Bad Children?” A Search for Ursula Nordstrom

BUTTERS FRONT FACE 1A   Written by Renee Kimball

51Lwshy-xmL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_ Photo Dear GeniusSometimes, when you are researching, you stumble across an article that intrigues you, and if you are like me, you stash it away for another time.

The article that became the start of this post was written by Pamela Paul for the New York Times Sunday Book Review in 2011, and titled The Children’s Authors Who Broke the Rules,  For me, at least,  Paul’s article proved to be well worth keeping.

Paul points out three notable children’s authors who broke the rules of children’s literature:  Maurice Sendak, author and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are’;   Shel Silverstein poet and story teller Where the Sidewalk Ends; and before Sendak and Silverstein, Theodore Geisel (magical Dr. Seuss) The Cat In the Hat and others too numerous to list.  These authors wrote outside the restriction that children’s literature must contain a moral lesson encouraging children to be perfect little adults in the making.  These authors wrote in children’s language, portraying children’s unruly behavior, and children loved them – the literary community was not as welcoming.

Almost as an aside, and close to the article’s end,  Paul commented: “Not surprisingly, Silverstein and Sendak shared the same longtime editor, Ursula Nordstrom of Harper & Row, a woman who once declared it her mission to publish “good books for bad children.”

Which begged the question:  Who was Ursula Nordstrom?

SENDAK WILD THINGS PHOTOUrsula Nordstrom was born in Manhattan, New York, in 1910.   She was the only child of well-known vaudevillians who were some of the beautiful people of New York society.

When Nordstrom was seven, her parents divorced, and she was sent to boarding school—it proved to be a frightening and lonely experience.  Growing up, Nordstrom believed that she was nothing but an “ugly duckling born of beautiful swans.” (Marcus).

After high school, Nordstrom was eligible to attend Bryn Mawr the elite College for Women in Pennsylvania, but her parents enrolled Ursula in business school, The Scudder School for Girls in New York.   After Scudder, in 1936, Nordstrom was hired as a clerk in the textbook department of Harper & Brothers (Publisher).  Harper & Brothers became her home for over 35 years.

Rapidly promoted, she became an assistant in the Boys & Girls section, where, again promoted in 1940, she became editor-in-chief. Nordstrom continued being professionally first in her career.   In 1954 she was the first “woman elected to the Board of Directors of Harper & Brothers (Harper & Roe, HarperCollins Publishers), and in 1960 the first woman vice-president of Harper & Brothers (Marcus).  In 1960, she also wrote a young-adult novel, The Secret Language, published by Harper & Brothers. The novel, her only one, was a telling reference to her lonely years in boarding school.   She remained Editor of the same department until 1978.

Before Nordstrom, children’s literature was simply a way to instruct good behavior –it was resolute and dull — both didactic and pedantic and boring.  Children’s books spoke of perfect children – clean, polite and quiet children.  While a few writers and publishers had stepped out of this tried and true formula, Nordstrom wanted more for children’s literature and she wasn’t afraid to fight for change.

She was also realist and wanted children’s literature to be about “real” children — silly talking, constantly moving, and wonky children – who got dirty and into trouble, real children.  When questioned by long-term educational experts to reveal what she knew about children’s literature, she replied: “Well, I am a former child, and I haven’t forgotten a thing.” (Marcus).

As Editor, Nordstrom made it “. . . her mission to publish “good books for bad children,” and changed the trajectory of children’s literature forever–

Lucky for children, for children’s literature, and lucky for us.

STUART LITTLE COVERDuring her long tenure at Harper & Roe, Nordstrom edited, promoted, and coddled many famous children and young adult authors.  Their work formed the bedrock of children’s literature and are still read and loved today:   “. . .E. B. White’s Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte’s Web (1952), Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon (1947), Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955), Syd Hoff’s Danny and the Dinosaur (1958), Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, (1963), Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy and The Long Secret, Karla Kuskin’s Roar and More (1956), and Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974). (Wikipedia, Paul, Sinkler).

After taking retirement in 1978, she began her own editingDANNY AND THE DINOSAUR PHOTO company within the same Harper department titled Ursula Nordstrom Books.  In 1980 she became a consultant and that same year was the first woman to win the Curtis Benjamin Award for “innovation and creativity in publishing” (Marcus).

After a long struggle with cancer in 1988, Nordstrom passed away.

Leonard S. Marcus lovingly compiled Nordstrom’s business correspondence and published Dear Genius The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, in 1998. The collection was something that Nordstrom wanted to do but never had the opportunity.

Marcus accomplished the task on her behalf,  and we are grateful he did.  The Nordstrom letters speak for themselves.  Nordstrom referred to her authors as “her geniuses” and treated them as such.  The collection forms a history, an eye-opening view of Nordstrom’s humor, friendships, and reactions to social change throughout her long tenure with Harper & Brothers.  It also reveals the personalities of her beloved authors, their foibles, and personalities.

The publishing world has changed drastically from the one Nordstrom  knew. In the end, it was the perfect setting for her life’s desire which she achieved many times over.

Nordstrom had the gift of recognition – the recognition of undiscovered genius.  Those who have this skill also know the gifted may only need a small push, some understanding, kindness, confidence, and promotion to become the best at whatever they were meant to be.

Nordstrom recognized genius, encouraged it,  fought for it, and because of her desire to “write good books for bad children,”  everyone’s – children’s and adult’s alike– lives are much richer.


the night kitchen


Paul, Pamela. New York Times Sunday Book Review titled The Children’s Authors Who Broke the Rules, September 16, 2011 by Pamela Paul. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/books/review/the-childrens-authors-who-broke-the-rules.html

Marcus, Leonard S. DEAR GENIUS: The Letters of  Ursula Nordstrom. (1998).  Collected and edited by Leonard S. Marcus. HarperCollins Publishers, New York.

Cinkler, Rebecca Pepper. New York Times : Books on the Web. Confessions of a Former Child. (1998) March 22, 1998.  https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/98/03/22/reviews/980322.22sinklet.html?_r=2

Category:Authors edited by Ursula Nordstrom. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ursula_Nordstrom

Referenced photos of children’s books via Amazon.  No financial gain from the use of these photos.   All books may be purchased through Amazon. com.

A former paralegal, Renee Kimball has a master’s degree in criminal justice. Among her interests are reading and writing. She is an active Animal Advocate, fosters and rescues both dogs and cats from shelters, and works with various organizations to find them forever homes.


Book Review:  FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King.

 renee kimball dog photo Written by Renee Kimball

 “From the start . . . I felt that the best fiction was both propulsive and assaultive.  It gets in your face.  Sometimes it shouts in your face.  I have no quarrel with literary fiction, which usually concerns itself with extraordinary people in ordinary situations, but as both a reader and a writer, I’m much more interested by ordinary people in extraordinary situations.  I want to provoke an emotional, even visceral, reaction in my readers.  Making them think as they read is not my deal.” (Full Dark, No Stars. p.365).

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“Stephen King” by Stephanie Lawton licensed under CC BY-SA-2.0, via Flickr

There are some who avoid works by Stephen King.  Literary elitists have shown disdain towards King for years arguing his writing is story-telling for the masses.  This review isn’t about the literary merits of King’s works, or his overwhelming success, or even about the monumental effect King’s life-long dedication to writing has had on the horror genre.  This brief review is a discussion of four novellas which are found in Full Dark, No Stars, released in 2010.

Short stories and novellas are not a new format for King.  King has published very successful short stories and multiple novellas over his 35-year long career.  He has clearly succeeded yet again, with Full Dark, No StarsFull Dark contains a common theme of each novella, a theme that explores the darker human psyche, retribution, revenge, and a sense of twisted justice.  Redemption is not found, but retribution appears in each.  Even evil acts can result in a twisted kind of justice–a black and damaging kind of justice, but justice nonetheless.


The first novella, 1922, is set in Depression era Nebraska.  The story involves a barely solvable working family farm, a life of constant work, brutally harsh and unrelenting.  The wife and mother, Arlette, is a bitter and manipulative character who constantly harps to her husband to sell the farm and a plot of 100 acres that Arlette inherited from her father.  Arlette’s dream is to leave the country life and start again in the city of Omaha.

09-19-2018 WWW RENEE KIMBALL PIXABAY CC0rodent-3229592_640The husband, Wilfred “Wilf,” verbally dominated and hen-pecked, is the browbeaten beleaguered husband whose only desire is to stay on his land.  Wilf tells Henry, their only child, of Arlette’s plan.  Wilf then convinces Henry to help him murder Arlette.  Wilf intones that if Henry does not help with this, then they will be forced to leave the farm, and Henry will never see his girlfriend, who lives on a close by, ever again.  Henry, a meek and obedient boy, resists but finally agrees to help with the murder of his mother.

As Arlette’s demands to sell increase, Wilf and Henry determine it is the time for murder.  It is a clumsy and brutal murder; both father and son are deeply shaken afterwards.   Arlette’s murder becomes the prelude to the story that evolves into a twisted tale of backwoods justice and supernatural interference.  Their deed results into the ultimate destruction of both father and son.  The darker psyche of Wilf bobs and weaves throughout the tale, and in the end, destruction follows. (Spoiler:  If you have a phobia against rats, you may not want to read this dark tale).


09-19-2018 WWW RENEE KIMBALL Semi double truck trailerBig Driver is the second story in the collection.  The main character, Tess, is a resourceful and successful mystery writer.  She is the author of a “cozy” mysteries series and well known for her work in that type of genre.  To ensure a little extra for retirement, Tess travels and gives readings of her books.  She receives an invitation to read in a small-town library not too far from her home, and readily accepts.  After reading, she takes a shortcut home on the advice of her hostess, the local librarian.

Things become dangerous when she has a flat tire in an isolated and abandoned area.  When a seemingly well-intentioned good Samaritan stops to change her tire, instead of helping her, Tess is beaten and raped.  Left for dead, Tess awakes to find herself in a culvert along with several decomposing female bodies.  Pulling herself together, she leaves the area on foot and begins walking towards her home.  She reaches her home and begins to plans her revenge.

Tess shows both sharp intelligence and quiet bravery, and no one portrays a woman’s strength better than King.   Tess is a force who leaves the reader applauding her quiet inner strength and problem solving skills.  When she meets up with her rapist/ would be killer, Tess achieves her revenge on a much larger scale than she imagined.


While King’s Tess is resourceful and brave, the third novella, Fair Extension, is written from the perspective of a male, Streeter, who is a bitter and unlikable character.

“Faust” by Harry Clarke. (Project Gutenberg Open Library System) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Streeter, suffers from incurable cancer secretly blames his bad health, career, marriage, and lack of income, on the twisted idea that if he had not promoted and helped his best friend, Tom Goodhugh, through high school, Streeter would have had all the successes that Tom enjoys –money and success and a perfect family.  Streeter believes that Tom should suffer the trials and tribulations Streeter has endured, after all, it is only fair.

Late on evening on his way home, Streeter takes an unplanned detour to a kind of roadside market.  He had seen a sign reading “FAIR EXTENSION,” and became curious.  A lone man named George Elvid, sits at the table with the sign.  When Street asks what kind of “extensions” Elvid offers, Elvid responds all kinds but the type of extension depends upon the requestor.  All extensions are tailored made and could be anything–credit extensions, love potions, to corrective eyesight.  A Faustian trade ensues, and Streeter exchanges the extension of his life for the life of his best friend, Tom.

The Streeter story is a black tale of harbored grudges and selfishness.  As Tom experiences horrific setbacks and death, he is slowly physically and mentally broken.  As this is happening to Tom, Streeter becomes healthy and rich.  In the end, Streeter remains unrepentant by his part in Tom’s tragic decline.  FAIR EXTENSION fails to arouse the reader’s sympathy, and there is no retribution, rather, it is a tale of cruelty and Jealousy.


The fourth and last story, A Good Marriage, is thought-provoking and believable.  The main character is a stay-at-home wife, Darcy, whose children have gone to college and left to start their lives. Darcy has been married to the same man, Bob Anderson, (who she believes she knows well), for over 25 years.  She thinks she is living the American dream, or a semblance there of – not perfect, but predictable.  Then, by sheer accident, she trips over a misaligned carton in the garage.  Darcy then realizes that the man that she believes she knows as well as herself, has a double life and is a serial killer.

09-19-2018 WWW RENEE KIMBALL Wedding_ringsOnce Darcy does her research and confirms her suspicions, she realizes that there has not been a killing for 16 years.  She attempts to come to grips with what she knows for certain.  Her husband, Bob, intuits that she knows about his secret life realizing that the carton has been moved.  Bob confronts Darcy, and manages to convince her that it is all up to her what happens. But that as long as she keeps quiet, he will suppress his killing urges, he then promises he won’t kill again.

Bob explains Darcy is the reason he took a break from killing, being with her has allowed him to suppress and ignore his need to kill.  Bob also says that it can all start up again if she doesn’t keep quiet and if she turns him in, then the children’s lives will be ruined and Darcy will suffer the consequences and will be ostracized by the very people she believes to be her friends.

Several years go by with both partners ignoring their shared secret and no killings.  But Darcy, never feels at ease and in limbo.  Darcy is ashamed and feels responsible because she knows she is the only one that can reveal the truth and bring Bob to justice.

09-19-18 WWW Renee Kimball WinderStairs
“Winder stairs” by Martin2Reid, licensed under CC SA-BY-3.0 via Wikipedia

Finally, Darcy stages and then succeeds in killing Bob.  When a bit too tipsy from an evening celebration, Darcy manages to push Bob down a flight of stairs.   Darcy is cleared of any foul play, but she knows there will be someone knocking on the door sooner or later who knows she staged Bob’s murder.  And the day did come, and someone came knocking, but it wasn’t who she expected.

There is retribution in the end, and a good dose of twisted justice, but you have to read the book.

You will enjoy this collection; it is something that will make you think, even if that is not King’s aim, and may even surprise you.  One can never really know what they might do if pushed to the absolute edge.

Happy Reading . . .


From the Afterword:

09-19-2018 WWW RENEE KIMBALL FULL DARK NO STARS COVER AMAZON 51yWkuyIu5L._SX273_BO1,204,203,200_
Via Amazon

I have tried my best in Full Dark, No Stars to record what people might do, and how they might behave, under certain dire circumstances. The people in these stories are not without hope, but they acknowledge that even our fondest hopes (and our fondest wishes for our fellowmen and the society in which we live) may sometimes be vain. Often, even. But I think they also say that nobility most fully resides not in success but in trying to do the right thing…and that when we fail to do that, or willfully turn away from the challenge, hell follows.” (Stephen King).

“Stephen King has proven himself to be one of the finest chroniclers of the dark side of the human psyche over the 35 years of his successful career. While literary snobs sometimes cock a snoot at his mainstream appeal, there is no doubt that on his day he can spin as compelling a yarn as anyone . . . These tense tales delve into the dark heart of a knitting society and a serial killer’s last stand.” Doug Johnstone. Independent. November 14, 2010.


King, Stephen.  FULL DARK, NO STARS, 2010Simon & Schuster, New York., New York.

Kirkus Review.  “Deals with the darkest recesses of the human soul. . .” Kirkus Review. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/stephen-king/full-dark-no-stars/ Nov 10, 2010.

Johnstone, Doug. Independent. November 14, 2010.  https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/full-dark-no-stars-by-stephen-king-2130460.html.


Image of semi double truck licensed via Wikipedia under CC0
Image of wedding rings via Pixabay under CC0
Image of rat via Pixabay under CC0


A former paralegal, Renee Kimball has a master’s degree in criminal justice. Among her interests are reading and writing. She is an active Animal Advocate, fosters and rescues both dogs and cats from shelters, and works with various organizations to find them forever homes.


A Dick Francis Race to the Finish

helen-currie-foster-hotxsinc Written by Helen Currie Foster

 Dick Francis wrote over 40 international best-selling mystery thrillers touching the world of horse racing. He won celebrity status as a British jockey, even serving as the Queen Mother’s jockey. In World War II he served in the RAF, flying Spitfires and hurricanes.

2018-08-23 HELEN FOSTER WWW- WIKI - pd - Steeplechase_(1257926029)
By Paul Holloway from Leeds, United Kingdom (Steeplechase) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
Many fans will recognize that he often uses a particular formula. The formula includes a young male protagonist with an offbeat background and some sort of hole in his soul, who winds up solving a murder. Let’s take just three examples: foreign service officer Peter Darwin in Comeback, movie director Thomas Lyon in Wild Horses, and architect/restorer of old buildings Lee Morris in Decider.

Each book uses first-person narrative.

Each man worries about something missing in his life. The young diplomat longs for love. The movie director fears he lacks the courage to take risks and make a movie his way. The architect fears his marriage no longer contains love, but knows he can’t leave his six children.

Francis uses his own jockey experience for horse racing features in each book, though these three protagonists do not race professionally. The foreign service officer, finding himself back in the small English racing village where he grew up, draws on childhood memories of the personalities and scandals of the village’s trainers and owners to find a murderer. The movie director, who grew too tall to race professionally, races real jockeys in his film to convince them he knows what he’s doing, and to persuade the producer to let him create the “wild horses” scene that caps the movie. The architect still owns shares in a decrepit racetrack owned by his vindictive father, who horribly abused the architect’s dead mother, and a cast of cruel and dysfunctional relatives who mistrust the architect. After an uphill fight the architect rebuilds both his family connections and the falling-down racetrack.

Each book depends on meticulous research on arcane subjects. Francis knows how to feed us this information without making us drink from a fire hose. With the diplomat, we try to determine who had both opportunity and skill to kill horses in a vet clinic without being caught—upholstery needles hidden in horse feed, the wrong anesthetic, the wrong blood plasma electrolytes during surgery. With the director, we see his cinematographic skill as he develops the climactic scene he has imagined, a scene revealing the solution to the long-ago death of a horse-trainer’s wife. We stand with him on the beach, filming as Norse horses led by one woman on horseback, her veils streaming, race along the dunes at dawn. With the architect, we determine who blew up the old racetrack stadium, why the proposed plans for a new stadium are bogus, and how to save the racing season with circus tents.

Of course, along the way, we worry with each protagonist. Will the diplomat find love with the bishop’s daughter? Will the director gain confidence enough to make the movie he believes in? Will the architect repair not only the racetrack, but his marriage? Plus, tension builds because in each book the protagonist’s determination to solve a murder imperils himself and/or those he cherishes.

In addition—and it reflects Francis’s genius in character development—Francis aficionados will recognize a recurrent scene in which the protagonist, viciously attacked, turns the other cheek (figuratively) instead of fighting back. This can perplex and frustrate the reader, who longs for revenge and the hero’s vindication. Francis makes us wait. The diplomat, slugged by a vicious horse trainer, backs off and drives away, seemingly cowed. The architect, beaten up by his own estranged family members, doesn’t retaliate. The movie director, after a first knife attack intended to scare him off the movie set, dons a home-made knife-proof vest and keeps filming, knowing he’s inviting further attack.

I think Francis ultimately uses these episodes for two reasons. First, he contrasts the villains’ nefarious motives with the protagonist’s disciplined determination to finish the job, to find the murderer. But the episodes are structural as well: the reader finally understands the protagonist must refuse to fight back specifically so he can maintain his disguise, conceal his knowledge, and succeed in solving the murder. These books aren’t police procedurals. The amateur sleuth protagonists can’t rely on police authority to win. These cheek-turning scenes demonstrate discipline and—ultimately—a gritty desire to win.  The thriller component comes as the protagonist’s desire to win also imperils him or his family.

By the time we’re identifying with the off-beat character (our first-person narrator), wallowing in the wealth of meticulous arcane research around the subplots, and turning pages rapidly to see the narrator safely escape peril—we’re pretty sure this formula works.


Helen Currie Foster is the author of the Alice MacDonald Greer mystery seriesGHOST CAVE, GHOST DOG, GHOST LETTER, and GHOST DAGGER. She earned a BA from Wellesley College, an MA from the University of Texas, and a JD from the University of Michigan.

Having grown up in Texas surrounded by books and storytelling, she taught high school English and later became a prize-winning feature writer for a small Michigan weekly. Following a career of more than thirty years as an environmental lawyer, the character Alice and her stories suddenly appeared in Foster’s life. In her writing, Foster explores the interaction between history and the present and the reasons we tell the stories we do.

Married with two children, she lives north of Dripping Springs, Texas, supervised by three burros. She works in Austin, and she’s active with the Hays County Master Naturalists and the board of Austin Shakespeare.


What’s In a Name?

By S. J. Brown

On the day each of us was born our parents gave us a special name they pondered over for weeks or even months. Parents have been known to name their children after friends or relatives, places, objects, and myths. Many people who aren’t fond of their given name will use their middle name or a nick name. But does it really matter?
Let’s think about this, would Hulk Hogan have been taken seriously if he used his given name Terry Jean Bollette? How popular would dear Abby’s column be if it was called Dear Pauline?

How would using the scientific name for animals change your perception of them? Isa Eutamias as cute as a chipmunk?

SJBrown Chipmunk

Could you image calling our national symbol, Haliaeetus leucocephalus ?

SJBrown Bald Eagle

How about having Meleagris gallopavo for Thanksgiving dinner?

SJBrown Turkey

Do you think you would watch a Geococcyx californianus cartoon?

SJBrown Road Runner

I am often asked about my name. Once you say it a few times it doesn’t sound odd. It is a form of my given name. Why not just use my name? It’s not a bad name, just very popular among my generation. Early in my wildlife photography career I switched to using my initials in an attempt to get my work looked at and considered for publication.

S J Brown Photo vertical

Most publishers then and several now believe a woman couldn’t get the kinds of wildlife they were looking for. The train of thought here is that only a man would get close enough to capture the a bear, or alligator photograph that would captivate their audience.

Most photo submissions are done over the internet and don’t require any real interaction between me and the publishers that purchase my work. That means the majority of publishers assume I am a man when they review my work. Yes the check is made out to MR. S. J. Brown, but the bank will cash it for me.

Have you ever considered changing your name? Has someone’s name caused you to make assumptions about them?

Thanks for stopping by

Find me on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the Birds I See, Clancy’s Cat Nap. Bennie the Butterfly and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com.



We Need You!

Keri De DeoPost written by Keri De Deo


The United States seems to be in crisis. According to the CDC, suicide rates have increased 30% since 1999. There were 45,000 suicides in 2016 alone! Naturally, we hear mostly about celebrities and public figures. There also seems to be a snowball effect. According to CNN, “suicide contagion” is a real phenomenon: when there’s one suicide, more follow. We put our celebrities on a pedestal, thinking they have it all. When they fall, we’re devastated. My mother said it best, “If you have money, fame, and love, but you’re still depressed, what hope do the rest of us have?”

But celebrities are just people. Like the rest of us, they have hopes and dreams. They have good days and bad, and they fail. We just don’t always see those failures, except if it’s a huge failure, then we see it on overdrive on the 24-hour news stations. But we haven’t seen their struggles to get to their height of fame. We don’t see the hours of acting classes they took—the number of roles they failed to get. The jobs they took just to pay rent. We only see the finished product.

Greatest ShowmanRecently, I fell in love with the movie The Greatest Showman. Have you seen it? It stars Hugh Jackman, who sings many of the songs himself. My favorite song from the movie is “This is Me” sung by Keala Settle. (She plays the bearded lady in the movie.) I love that song, and it makes me cry every time I hear it. I wish I had her voice. I heard an interview with Keala, and she talked about the practice she put into the song before she could sing it without crying. That made me feel better.

Anyway, my point is that everyone stumbles and falls while they’re climbing to success. The same holds true for writing: how many drafts did it take for George R.R. Martin to write Game of Thrones? How many hours did he spend writing the backstory and developing Westeros for his books? We can only guess because he doesn’t talk about that in any of the interviews I’ve read. What we do know is that he began writing Game of Thrones in 1991, and it was released in 1996. That timeline demonstrates how long it takes from creation to publication. He didn’t start discussing the HBO show until 2007—16 years later!

My point is that success takes time, and it may not look like anything you expected. Mostly, you just have to hang on and take each day one by one. I remind myself of this every day. Like Anthony Bourdain, I suffer from depression. I also suffer from anxiety, which cripples me several days a week. But every day, I find a reason to get out of bed, and I find a way to get work done. Some days, I struggle to just feed the dogs, but on other days, I get through my entire to-do list. I work hard to make it through each day: I take my meds, I get out of bed, I look forward to the future, and take each day as it comes. And that’s what it takes.

If you find it hard to make it through each day, get help. Get in touch with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. Or talk to your doctor. Get help because we need you, and we want you to be happy.


~ Keri De Deo is author of the novel Nothing but a Song and owner of Witty Owl Consulting.


Paths Not Taken

IMGP6507By S. J. Brown

All of our lives are filled with choices. Those choices often leave us to wonder about the paths we chose not to take. Looking back there were a lot of paths I didn’t take. After spending 2 years in Cosmetology school. I decided cosmetology wasn’t the path I wanted to take. That was a good decision on my part.

I have worked as a short order cook and a waitress. Although I admit I like food and eat it daily. However working with food was another path I didn’t take, another good choice on my part.

SJBrown Sparrow

In the field there is always a path not taken that could be the perfect place to spot a fox, bear, or even a wolf. But that path could also be a waste of time.

SJBrown Wolf

This weekend I have traveled before. I hope to be sitting down with a publisher to convince him to publish “ Suburban Sisters”, a book I co authored with my big sister.

Cover, Intro EctThe last time I sat down face to face with someone in hopes of being published she loved my work, but she thought it should be made into a text book. By her estimation that would take about 30 days. I decided following that path wasn’t right for me or the book.

We all have paths we chose not to take. Hopefully the paths we did chose lead us to fun adventures and happy memories. . Feel free to share your path stories.

Find me on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the Birds I See, Clancy’s Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com.

Thanks for stopping by





Welcome Spring

IMGP6487By S. J. Brown

Spring has finally arrived here in West Virginia. I no longer need to travel South to find warm weather and baby critters to photograph.

SJBrown 6 Crocus


No more hats gloves and 3 layers of clothes. Although my early morning excursions still include a hooded sweatshirt. Critters are more active this time of year that makes them easier to find. Birds are arriving in their summer home and building nests. Mammals are taking care of their newborns and reptiles are on the move heading for their mates and nesting sites.

SJBrown 1 Mama SquirrelHorseshoe crabs are waiting for the new moon in May to signal them to come ashore and lay their eggs. We also make the annual trip to the Delaware shore. This time we are taking our granddaughter with us to flip Horseshoe crabs. She loves the outdoors and has also been bitten by the photography bug. However this will be a new experience for her she will actually be touching wild critters.

SJBrown 3 Horseshoe CrabWhen you flip a horseshoe crab you get to immediately see that you have helped. Almost the instant their claws touch the sand they begin advancing toward the water. Although this is an annual event for us each year is a bit different. In addition to our original location we added another beach and a refuge to our Delaware trips.

SJBrown 4 Bald Eagle

In the coming weeks I will be visiting a favorite location in Maryland. I will be zooming in on waterfowl and their babies.

SJBrown 5 Duckling

I will also be out planting trees along watersheds in the area along with a number of other volunteers. I have begun planting my veggie garden and lots of flowers are popping up all over the yard. Yes I plan to add a few more.

Spring is my favorite time of year with fall coming in a close second. What is your favorite time of year?

As a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the Birds I See, Clancy’s Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com.






 How do we define a senior season individual? We usually immediately think of gray hair, wrinkled skin, stooped bodies, slow minds, forgetfulness, dentures, and canes.

Typical statements by seniors are:

My life is almost over

            I am too old to cook, clean, drive, exercise, etc.

            All my friends have died

            I feel so alone

 Or we do know those in their senior season who are thriving, surviving, and striving toward their goals and dreams.

Here are some interesting facts about famous authors who achieved their goals in their senior years. Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing in her mid-forties when she was working as a columnist and a freelance writer. She took all her years of growing up and published Little House in the Big Woods at the age of 64.

Penelope Fitzgerald graduated from Oxford and launched her literary career in 1975, at the age of 58. By the age of 61, she published her first book and two later won the Booker Prize for her book, Offshore.

 At the age of 70, John Howell started writing full time. He won honorable mention in a short story competition for Writer’s Digest in 2012. Since then he has four published books.

When he was 66 years old, Frank McCourt published his first book, Angela’s Ashes.

 Diana Athill is the oldest category winning author in the history of the Costa Book Awards. At the age of 91, she won the Biography Award for her memoir Somewhere Towards the End.

 At the age of 70, Mary Wesley’s first published novel was Jumping the Queue, published in 1983.

The conclusion I came to in researching and writing this article is that our age is only a chronological number and it is what we do with the days in our lives that truly matters. I encourage everyone to follow your dream, do not let age or any other factors slow you down.







Making it better

SJBROWN author picBy S J Brown

Each of us in our own way tries to make the world a little better. Writer’s help people escape their daily woes and immerse themselves in another place and time, making the world a little better.

SJBrown1I know a number of teachers that don’t end their connection with their students when the bell rings. They run after school programs, and tutor students. They go to work early and stay late with each student they guide they are making the world a better place.

Anyone who has met me, read one of my blogs or checked out my website site knows, like most wildlife photographers I feel a connection with nature. I try to do my part of make the world a little better. At home I grow my own veggies, compost, buy reusable products, and recycle.

SJBrown3 All of my paper and cardboard waste goes to a local nonprofit that recycles it and uses the money in local schools. I buy potted Christmas trees instead of a cut one and gladly share information on being more environmental friendly with friends and neighbors.

When I clean out my linen closet the sheets, towels, and blankets go to the local humane society. Once we were settled in our home Jay and I realized we had too much furniture. Instead of taking these items to the dump or selling them at a yard sale I listed them for free on a local website. When I remodeled my office I had several sliding glass doors that a gentleman from the area was thrilled to get. I am constantly finding ways to keep things out of the landfill.

SJBrown4Away from home I work with a number of other volunteers planting trees along stream beds. I do presentations for children and adults about wildlife, sharing my love of nature. I am a member of a local gardeners exchange group. There we exchange ideas, information and plants making our little corner of the world a better place.

Occasionally I will take friends or family members out into the field with me giving them a little different perspective on the natural world. I tag monarch Butterflies and take part in citizen science projects.

SJBrown2I buy books from fellow West Virginia writers whenever I can. My little purchase wouldn’t make a difference to Stephen King, but certainly counts to them. I have begun writing book reviews as a way of helping my fellow authors get a little more exposure.
There are so many ways each of us can make things a little better for another person, a critter, or even the world we all share. Take a minute or two and share with me how you accomplish this I am always open to new ideas.

Thanks for stopping by.

As a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the birds I see, Clancys Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com.

Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367

Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure. sjbrown.pictures@gmail.com

Visit my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com to view more of my images

The Best Books You Never Read

IMGP6507By S J Brown

The world is filled with unfinished manuscripts. They are stuffed in drawers, stored in a computer file, or sitting on a desktop waiting to be completed. Many years ago I joined a writers group. I admit some members were working on works that apparently weren’t that memorable since I don’t remember all of them.

SJ BRown 2

Then there are those few that stuck with me. One I know was a very well written manuscript. The text introduced me to another way of life among the pine trees of New Jersey. The author did a fabulous job setting the scene with few words.

Every word had a purpose and as a reader I felt I had been there with the little girls as they ran through the trees giggling. I could feel the fabric of their worn homemade cotton dresses. Their fear of the booming voice of their mother brought back memories from my childhood.
The author wasn’t sure she would ever publish it, but she was enjoying working on it. Sadly, “Ode to a Pine Tree” was never published, the author passed away before completing it.

SJ Brown 1Another member of our little group was working on a murder mystery set in 1965. As a retired lawyer he wanted input on the legal aspects of the manuscript. His attention to detail was astounding. Nothing and I mean nothing was included in book unless it was around in 1965. He researched everything from food, to cars, to hairstyles, to furniture and more.

SJ Brown 3One of the main characters was Native American and his beliefs played into the story. His lawyer was a down on his luck lawyer that believed his client was innocent. Proving that would be one of the biggest challenges of his career.
Within the story the author scattered tiny details. These details would come together in a surprise ending. Since the author moved out of the area before this book was published. I may never know if it was published. I do know it isn’t available on Amazon under the working title “The Crooked Knife”.

SJ Brown 4Unless you are a member of my family I am sure you have never read “Alice.” This is a book my mother worked on for years. Her chapters were hand written on a series of yellow legal pads. Mom passed away before her book was completed.
She wanted her manuscript to be a trip down memory lane for family. Although I did take on the task of placing Moms works on a typewritten page, and getting it printed, it has never been made public. My sisters and I decided to honor Moms wishes and print a limited number of copies for each of Moms siblings and of course a copy for each of her girls.

SJ Brown 5

Like many authors I have more than one manuscript in the works. Hopefully I will be releasing one of them in the near future. Meanwhile I am putting the finishing touches on another.

Do you have a project or two that has been percolating for a while? Maybe it is time to pull those pages out of the drawer, or open the file and make sure your book isn’t one that no one will ever read.

Thanks for stopping by.
Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sj.brown.3367
Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure. sjbrown.pictures@gmail.com
Visit my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com to view more of my images or purchase one of my books.

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