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.


The Historical Western Romance or Hunks on Horses by Cher’ley

This blog by Cher’ley Grogg

I did not know there were lyrics, but as soon as the song started my four brothers and I ran to our TV sets. 

 I have loved Westerns since I was a young child around 8 or so. My dad loved Westerns and Real Crime books, so these are what was handed down to me. Zane Grey was my hero. Some of the first TV shows  I watched were Bonanza and Gunsmoke. I knew I never wanted to be a love interest for any of the Cartwright boys because these women were always killed off. Then there was Kitty who stood by Matt year after year without ever getting a ring. A couple of years ago I wrote a short story for Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico and discovered I loved writing Historical Western Romance. I loved writing the strong female character. I can’t wait to see what she will do next. And of course, there are Hunks on Horses.


I found this quote on the blog by Lyn Horner:

 Hunks on Horses Quoting Constance Martin from a 1999 piece she wrote for Romantic Times, “Heroes in these novels seek adventure and are forced to conquer the unknown. They are often loners, slightly uncivilized, and ‘earthy.’ Their heroines are often forced to travel to the frontier by events outside their control. These women must learn to survive in a man’s world, and, by the end of the novel, have conquered their fears with love. In many cases the couple must face a level of personal danger, and, upon surmounting their troubles, are able to forge a strong relationship for the future.”

Del, Me Whiskey 20180317_170250

From the same blog group :

Here are a few of my favorite, but there are many more. On this blog they give a list of books that have Western Jargon. I have several of these reference books.  Do you think the Hunks on Horses used this kind of language? I think of the Hero as being a little more refined than most of the cowboys.

  • A hog-killin’ time – a real good time
  • Ace-high – first class, respected
  • An invite to a dance – could mean shooting at a man’s feet to make him dance
  • As different as whiskey and tea
  • Bad plum – bullet
  • Bellerin’ like a . . . – yelling, howling, complain loudly
  • Bellyaching– complaining (still used today)
  • Belly-up – dead, died; also belly up to the bar (stand up at the bar and drink)
  • Get a wiggle on – hurry
  • Go to blazes – go far away
  • Gol-Darn – softer version of obvious blasphemy
  • Goner – lost, dead

And More reference books for Western Writers

I hI had so much fun with my brothers playing Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, great memories. My poor youngest brother had to be Trigger since he was the next in importance to Roy and Dale. I have a book written by Roy Rogers Jr. and we met him in Arizona. 

***What part did Westerns play in your life? What was the first Western you read? What was the first TV Western you saw?

I have published one Western Novel and I’m working on 3 more Four Moons and Fair Maidens by [Grogg, Cher'ley]

Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores.


Stamp Out Murder”.
 The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren
The JourneyBack 3The Journey Back-One Joy at a Time and the B&W Edition of The Journey Back
Boys Will Be Boys   The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys-An Anthology
 Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico 

All About the Girls 5(3)

 Image may contain: 2 peopleAnd please join me on my Facebook Fan page, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell
Here’s a link to Cher’ley’s WEBSITE

The Waiting Game

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

 The first week after the book is finished. Horrible. Finishing a book feels a bit like having a broken spring. A cartoon clock where the springs go SPROING out the back, twisting like Little Orphan Annie’s ringlets.

mcinnesPost-book dementia has been ignored by the scientific community. Yet it’s a known syndrome, leaving the writer desperate.

Symptoms? Apathy. Refusal to read headlines. Compulsive retreat into mysteries from the sixties—John MacDonald. Helen MacInnes. Waking at three a.m. and staring into darkness, lost without a plot tangle to unravel. Executive function area of brain on unauthorized vacation.

Cures? None known. One wise practitioner advises Tincture of Time. Thyme? What did he say?


Hard runs, uphill both ways. Try to beat your own best thyme. Time?

Locate small child. Ask child about book plot for witch and wizard story, using “Yes And!” for action sequence.

Eat only favorite foods.

Lug contractor-weight trash bag into house; dispose of all but evidentiary (i.e., proof of copyright) drafts of Book. Mild rejoicing at lowered weight of paper in house.

ArtistsCrime-700x700Wait. If mainspring still waving SPROING from shoulder blades, and if finished with Travis McGee, shift to Dick Francis or Ngaio Marsh (Colin Dexter too dark for present frame of mind).

When people ask, “Oh, great! Have you got a plot for the next one?” do not bite or snap. Tincture of time. Thyme?

Stare blankly at clean writing perch, silent laptop. Feel dim sense of obligation but no remorse, no impetus.

Day fourteen. Hmm. Note lack of interest in umpteenth mystery by sixties author. Put it down unfinished.

francisWake at four with image of character, raising binoculars to see edge of pasture… What’s moving? Yes, what is moving, there in the grass?\ Feel shiver of suspense. Does character realize she’s in danger? Character now sees, just visible in the trees at the edge of the pasture, a pale face, immobile? no, sun glinting off rifle? no, a man wearing camo? no? no, camo. Instead, two men carrying a…wait, no, it’s a…

Feel sub-sonic wave disturb cranial lethargy. Wonder if brain has silently begun constructing options.

Make coffee, turn to laptop.


2018-10-10-helen-currie-foster-gng-coverHelen Currie Foster is the author of the Alice MacDonald Greer mystery series. THE GHOST NEXT DOOR, fifth in the series, was released September 22, 2018.



The Shakespeare Rule for Spoiler Alerts

20160618_183444a (3)

Don’t spoil the ending!

You think, “But the book is over a hundred years old. Everyone must know how it ends by now. Surely, I can talk about it before the new movie version comes out.”

NO! Don’t do it. You’re wrong.

Suppose a book or play has been made into a movie more than once. Suppose the original story was released decades or even centuries ago. At what point do “spoiler alerts” not apply? Does a “spoiler alert” renew itself every time a new cinematic portrayal of the work is released?

pile of covered books
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I think the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ Don’t spoil the ending, even on old works that “everyone” knows. Why? Because the explosive, exponential growth of reading and viewing material makes it impossible for people to have the same kind of cultural literacy that existed a few generations ago.

We’ve gone from three main television stations to hundreds. We’ve gone from best sellers reigning for months, to best sellers being on top of the book charts for a day or two. People will miss things, even great things because of the volume of material available. Also, given the fact that great literature doesn’t spoil like fruit and given the movie industry’s penchant for recycling stories, new generations can and will be introduced to old “classics” when a new movie version is released. To a new generation who weren’t alive when the book was written or when the play was first performed, that movie is new.

abstract analog art camera
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Most of Shakepeare’s plays, Treasure Island, Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Frankenstein, Murder on the Orient Express, and It, to name a few, have all been made into movies more than once. You may think, “How much are we really giving away if we discuss the endings?” If the work portrayed in the movie is a classic in its genre, like Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, and generations of writers have built off of her surprise ending, adapting it to their own works, can we really not discuss the novel’s ending because a new cinematic version is released?

No, we can’t, because each new generation needs a chance to be exposed to the material as if it had been newly released.

For example, recently I sat down at a family party to watch the latest movie adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, featuring Kenneth Branagh as Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Having read the book years ago and having written a short story that borrowed from Christie’s famous ending, I was extremely aware of “who done it,” but was looking forward to seeing if the movie was well done.

Making conversation before the movie, I mentioned the earlier versions of the movie and received in return blank looks. I was surprised to find no one else was familiar with either the book or the previous movies. As I took my seat, I was asked not to spoil the ending. None of the others in the room knew how the story ended.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, published by Agatha Christie in 1926, is frequently cited as having had a significant impact on the mystery genre because of its twist ending. With the spate of mystery novels featuring unreliable narrators right now, am I allowed to discuss how much those books owe to Christie’s Roger Ackroyd? Maybe in a book discussion after everyone reads whatever the book in question is. However, if someone made a new Roger Ackroyd movie for world-wide release tomorrow, a spoiler alert would renew suddenly.

photo of black ceramic male profile statue under grey sky during daytime
Shakespeare: Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

I have noticed that when a new version of Romeo and Juliet is released, it is openly discussed from start to finish without anyone worrying about “spoiling” the story for someone who hasn’t seen or read it. As far as I can tell, Shakespeare is the only exception to the “spoiler alert rule”.

Shakespeare’s works are so much a part of the public consciousness, that people know Romeo and Juliet both die even if they haven’t seen or read the play. So, how old and how well-known does a story have to be to reach this stage? If nearly one hundred years and hundreds of authors influenced, as in the case of Agatha Christie, isn’t sufficient, I’m not sure what is. A work may have to be at least as old and well known as Shakespeare’s plays before no spoiler alerts are required. We could call it the Shakespeare Rule for Spoiler Alerts.


N. M. Cedeño writes short stories and novels that are typically set in Texas. Her stories vary from traditional mystery, to science fiction, to paranormal mystery in genre. Her debut novel, All in Her Head, was published in 2014, followed by her second novel, For the Children’s Sake, in 2015. In 2016, For the Children’s Sake was selected as a finalist for the East Texas Writers Guild Book Award in the Mystery/Thriller category. Most recently, she has begun writing the Bad Vibes Removal Services Series which includes short stories and the novel The Walls Can Talk (2017).

One Step at a time 2

IMGP6507By S. J. Brown

This is part two of my blog “One Step at a Time.” Part one detailed my prep for a section hike on the Appalachian Trail with my daughter so she could cross something off her bucket list. Then I covered the beginning of our journey. This blog covers the final leg of our trip. Hiking Trail

We had arrived at our planned stop for the night much too early. Feeling confident and energized we decided to keep hiking. We proceeded to our next planned stop the Gathland State Park to refill our water bottles. We rested there for a while as local emergency workers tended to a fellow hiker. Once he was safely on his way to the hospital we refilled our water bottles and found the now familiar white hash mark that told us we were still on the trail.

Hiking 3

Over the next four miles we found very few landmarks or scenic views to enjoy. This made that leg of our journey seem very long and tedious. By the time we reached the shelter we were both tired and ready to shed our backpacks for the night. We explored the shelter and decided the loft would be the perfect place to spend the night.


Although neither of us was hungry we decided to have some dinner and hopefully lighten our packs a little. So far the hardest part of the hike was those backpacks. We were surprised when another hiker arrived since we had been alone in the woods most of the day. We chatted with this experienced hiker until nearly dark when we retired to the loft. An hour or so later another hiker wandered in. The two men chatted about hiking in the lower section of the shelter while we lay in our sleeping bags watching the lightning accent the sky.

Our morning started in the Ed Garvey shelter at sunrise. Neither of us slept well yet we were up, had breakfast and on the trail at 7 am. Our new plan was to complete our journey before dark. Thankfully as we left the shelter there was a sign pointing us in the right direction. It would really suck if we retraced our steps from the day before. As we proceeded along the trail we were alone once again with nature.
The heavy fog that engulfed the area prevented us from enjoying the scenic view from the Weverton Cliff. Since we were still miles from our destination we took a break before descending the switchbacks that awaited us. We were grateful to be going downhill, but the thin rock ledge that led us in one direction, then another was a bit nerve racking for us unseasoned hikers.

Our arrival at the section of the trail that joined the C & O canal was a relief. We would be on level ground for a while. But we were confused about which way to proceed. Thanks to a helpful day hiker we headed down the path hopeful that we were going in the right direction.

Hiking 4Once we began encountering more hikers we knew we weren’t far from Harpers Ferry. With a leisurely walk across G Byron Memorial Bridge we were across the Potomac River. Once we crossed into West Virginia we took a break and placed a call to our ride home. Two states down one to go.
By now we were both tired and ready to be done with our hike and those backpacks. The last leg of our journey took us into Virginia via a heavily traveled road. It took us nearly an hour to reach the parking lot where our ride waited. She greeted us with cheers and cold drinks. We had done it, 20 miles 3 states and we did it in a day and a half.

Hiking 5Back at home we were both sore and tired. We enjoyed hot showers and some pizza before spending the rest of the day as couch potatoes. This was a journey I had never considered. We laughed, we complained, we chatted for miles. This was a unique experience I am glad I tackled. Would I do it again? Nope. I look forward to the numerous day hikes that are in my future but I won’t be carrying a tent or sleeping bag for miles again.

Have you ever challenged yourself to do something a little out of your comfort zone?

Thanks for stopping by and letting me share my experience.

Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.
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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.







Rejections are Opportunities

DSCN3932by Neva Bodin

(Published late on the 3rd at my state)

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” This quote by Richard Bach, who wrote “Jonathon Livingston Seagull” is a hopeful one for writers to remember. That novel had multiple rejections on its way to success.

It is so easy to step off the journey of writing that all-American number one best seller we have in our head, after we get to chapter 23 (or before) and realize we still have a ways to go, and a whole lot of editing to do!

One workshop leader said he edited everything eleven times after writing it. That is work.

And hearing our work needs work is so disheartening. It’s like heading down a merry path full of birdsong, and running smack into an unending 50 feet high concrete wall. It seems too big a hurdle. But one that we can get through, by chiseling out one brick, or word, at a time. Perseverance is an attribute all writers need. I stand by another “p” word: procrastination. Doesn’t get me anything but frustration, but it seems to be hard to shake for me.

We need to treat rejections and critique’s as our opportunity to write better. To be more creative, to break out of our preconceived notions of what we can do, to realize our creator thinks we can do better. However, we may feel wounded instead. That’s okay. Feelings will come without permission. But feelings aren’t always right.

We need to talk to our negative feelings, and talk them into being positive feelings. If our first work needs work, great. Now we have an opportunity to be even better.

Many, many great novels, movies, etc. were rejected multiple times before becoming huge successes. Perhaps, they wouldn’t have been as successful if not for those rejections.

And remember, publishers can be wrong.



What Have We Been Up To?

And now for a look at what Writing Wranglers and Warriors have been up to lately:


KP Gresham writes about . . . chicken diapers.

“Then I got to thinking. In a different Hardscrabble Homecoming book, a character (and I do mean character) has a pet chicken (which integral to the story). I’d heard stories of a writer who did, indeed, diaper her chicken and keep it inside as a house pet. So what the heck. I looked up “Diapered Chickens.”


Wildlife photographer SJ Brown writes about hiking the Appalachian Trail.

“Guided by a series of white hash marks we wandered into the woods and left civilization behind and began to enjoy the tranquility of the trail. This leg of our journey had the most elevation and would be the most challenging for both of us. As the rain subsided we longed to reach our first peak and the well deserved rest we had promised ourselves. We had heard stories of snakes and bears along the trail but encountered neither. We did get a glimpse of a coyote and maybe a fox.”


Cher’ley Grogg discusses reasons for blogging. Squirrels and alligators might or might not be among them.

“It is hard to get the first blog out, but over time it gets much easier. My reason for blogging and for creating Writing Wrangler and Warriors was mostly geared toward number 8. We average 18 bloggers, so if each blogger reads, comments and shares each blog just think of the coverage we get.”

CHESS, by Stevie Turner

Stevie Turner writes about bonds formed around a chess board.

“It was my lot in life to raise a hyperactive son.  Luckily my trials and tribulations are all over now as Leon is 36, but when he was a boy I tried to help him focus his mind and concentrate by engaging him in a game that my father had taught me.  This game is excellent for getting small boys to sit still…”


Cole Smith looks at life, work, and priorities.

“A few nights ago, I was walking my wire fox terrier, Arty (Full name: Slarty Barkfast, for all you Douglas Adams fans). I was thinking of the deadlines looming this month and the next, and fretting a little. Can I meet them? And if so, will I arrive with my sanity intact?”


Neva Bodin looks for a way to hold on to ideas without running the car into a mailbox.

“Does anyone else have a mind that jumps from one story possibility to another? Or to suddenly knowing what should be added to or done with a scene while in the midst of another task or driving the car? It is very frustrating for me, because the brilliant insight/thought is gone by the time I have a notebook and pen.”

RUNNER’S (CONTACT) HIGH, by Joshua S. Robinson

Joshua S. Robinson discusses the links between running, writing, and building community.

“I wanted them all to succeed. I hoped the ones trying to make certain times would do so, and that the ones just trying to finish would cross the line proudly. Every runner out there was participating as an individual, with his or her own goals and motivations. Yet there was still a sense of community, of camaraderie. Even among strangers, they all understood one another.”


Renee Kimball offers a look at three novellas by prolific writer Stephen King

“Full 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.


Noreen Cedeño discusses how she creates characters outside her own experience.

“Part of my job in writing fiction is to create fully formed, believable characters that people can recognize, identify with, or at least be able to envision as a functional being. The more types of people I can imagine, the wider will be my casts of characters. So how do I improve and increase my casts of characters? I have to improve my knowledge of humanity as a whole by increasing my knowledge of the unique individuals whose quirks and personality extremes exemplify the wide variations in human behavior. I have to read.”


Mike Staton watches Hurricane Florence through the eyes of friends living in its path.

“I’m writing this Friday morning in Henderson, Nevada where I live. Five years ago I lived in Wilmington, North Carolina and worked as a weekly newspaper reporter at the Duplin Times in Duplin County’s courthouse city, Kenansville. I sat down at my laptop and took a look Facebook, and what I saw shocked me.”

TALKING DIRTY, by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Abbie Johnson Taylor discusses how she creates real characters and real life in her writing.

“How about belching? I’m going to be vain one more time and give you an example from a short story I wrote several years ago that hasn’t yet been published. It’s called “Living Vicariously,” and it’s about a Catholic family dealing with issues related to religion. In one scene, a teen-aged girl who has lied about attending confirmation classes, is eating dinner with her father in a pizza joint. She’s drinking Dr. Pepper, and she says she doesn’t want to be a nun because she doesn’t want to give up the beverage. Then, she belches for emphasis. Again, I’m showing you her character.”

Chicken Diapers, Pinterest and Research

K.P. Gresham Cropped Color Portrait  Written by Kathy Gresham

Sometimes my descriptions of a scene, idea, character, etc. can use a little pictorial help. For me, I find Pinterest can be a great resource to help me get the picture in my mind “just right”. Other times, I’ve used it to store ideas for future writing, motivate me when I need a new idea, and in a few cases, to prove a theory of a book I’m working on.

I have a couple of manuscripts in the drawer (that’s a writer’s way of talking about finished manuscripts that you haven’t sent out to any agents or editors YET}. Two of them are fun little murder mysteries that take place in a small Illinois town called Hardscrabble. The title on my Pinterest account for this series is Hardscrabble Homecoming. I have a Pinterest board for each of my series: “Chicago Cubs” supports my 2016 novel, Three Days at Wrigley Field. “Preachers Murders” has scenes, jokes, ideas from my Pastor Matt Hayden Mystery Series. There are boards for future book ideas as well. “Ada’s Story” is where I keep all my visual material on the book I’m writing about a reformed Hitler youth who has devoted her life to making sure the world never sees another Hitler. Only she doesn’t get it quite right. I’ve also got a Board that supports my “Writing Whimsies”—little nuggets about writing. Some make me smile. Some make me think. Some just get me back in the chair.

Since I was at the dentist this week, it reminded me that I had a dentist in one of my Hardscrabble Homecoming books. I decided to check out a few graphs of the procedure done in the book. Then I got to thinking. In a different Hardscrabble Homecoming book, a character (and I do mean character) has a pet chicken (which integral to the story). I’d heard stories of a writer who did, indeed, diaper her chicken and keep it inside as a house pet. So what the heck. I looked up “Diapered Chickens”. Today I actually put these photos up on my board.

First, I needed to know what a chicken diaper was. Then I needed to prove to myself (and my readers) this wasn’t a half-cocked idea. (Sorry.) Some chickens are considered house pets and wear diapers.

I really do enjoy researching stuff for my books. The more creative, the better. If chuckles ensue, that’s the best. Thank you, Pinterest for helping me research my books! If you’re interested in checking out my Pinterest boards, here’s the link.



Images from My Pet Chicken



Weep, Explode, or Quote Chaucer

 Written by MK Waller [ This post originally began with a rant. I have since removed it. I was frustrated to the max when I posted–because after I finished the post, more slings and arrows of outrageous fortune came flying at me. However, I’ve calmed down to a simmer and so no longer need to share the rant. I will note that the post is one long block of text because my paragraphs got lost. Twice. But I’ve calmed down. [Oh! Look! The paragraphs are back!]   Dear Readers,   I accidentally posted a test post.   I wrote a test post because WordPress is introducing a new method of posting–they say it’s “modern”–and I was trying to figure out how to perform a certain function for a friend who asked me because she couldn’t figure it out.  
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I didn’t choose to use the “modern” way. I used  it because when I tried to use the Old Fashioned, Sensible way, the “modern” way popped up. I didn’t ask to use it, I didn’t ask to test it, I just GOT it.   I thought I had figured out how to do what I wanted to do, but obviously I hadn’t, because I clicked something I thought I understood, and there it was–posted for all to see.   One really neat aspect of this “modern” way of posting–in case you’re not sure, the continued use of quotation marks stands for I am being sarcastic because if I don’t, I will weep, explode, and/or type words that would cause WordPress to delete my blog because I have it registered as friendly to families*.   As I was saying before I digressed, one really neat feature is that most commands are hidden behind one little plus sign way up in the left corner. No more comprehensive toolbar (or it might be a task bar) at the top like the original WP Admin has, no more abbreviated toolbar at the top (like the second generation “improved posting experience” has), just a *#&!(^ plus sign in an out-of-the-way place where it won’t attract attention, especially the attention of bloggers who want to know where all the stuff on the old toolbar has disappeared to.
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Pilcrow, inexpertly but sincerely rendered
  Another neat feature–when you’ve pre-scheduled a post and then want to go back in and edit the pre-scheduled post, it takes three clicks to get to the draft format so you can make changes. It used to take no clicks at all.   If I’m wrong about the three clicks, I will admit my error. When I tried it, it took three clicks.   I pre-scheduled the test post so I could experiment with the commands–those I could find–and then, I thought, unscheduled it. But oh, silly me, I guess I didn’t unschedule it, because when I went back in to confirm that I knew how it worked–whoosh–there went the post, out into cyperspace, where it will live forever. I guess I didn’t know how it worked.   A third invaluable feature–under the little plus, there’s a pilcrow–the symbol that means start a new paragraph. About that, I will say no more.   Back when WP introduced the “improved posting experience,” there was a place users could tell WP what they thought. We were invited to tell them. A whole bunch of us did. Some people thought it was peachy keen. Others thought it was wretched and said so.   I remember saying I thought they were rolling out a new version just because they could. I’d never said that to anyone, but having already said so many things they didn’t take seriously, I figured I might as well insult them as not. They responded that I surely knew my accusation wasn’t true.  
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I didn’t bother to be ashamed of my outburst because other people burst worse than I did.   To all of us rabblerousers, WP said we were stodgy and set in our ways and didn’t want to learn something new. As far as I’m concerned, WP should have apologized for that. Some of us threatened to move our blogs to Blogger or another service. After a while, WP stopped responding to our remarks. The roused rabble continued remarking. One in particular noted several times that WP had stopped responding.   There may be a place for users to tell WP what they think of the “modern” way of posting, but so far I haven’t found it.** I suspect they learned their lesson the first time.   I don’t know if our input was responsible, but WP kept the original posting “experience” as an alternative to the “improved” one. The original page has more words and therefore is more flexible than the newer experiences. It also has more links to other functions, so fewer clicks are needed to navigate the site.   Some of the rabble suggested WP created the “improved” (second) version to make it easier for new users. To that I say–LET THEM READ THE ******* SCREEN. Like READ the WORDS.
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Riding to Canterbury
  Oh oh oh! Look look look! When I previewed this post, it appeared as one long paragraph. Just one more thing. So I opened a second screen and copied and pasted the post into it. And what should appear but the message,
It’s the classic WordPress editor and it’s a block! Drop the editor right in.
I see no advantage to the blocks.
(And I would like to drop the editor right in.)
In addition, the toolbar appeared at the top. When you click the little plus, one of the choices is Classic. Maybe this means WP Admin will remain. As in, They learned their lesson.
I guess the Classic was there the first time I clicked the plus. I guess I should have read all the box. If I hadn’t been jangled by the little plus, I might have.
Just so you’ll know: I’ve used the “improved experience.” It’s okay, if you want just the basics. If you want to do anything more, or to find out something you don’t know, you’ll have to take a circuitous route.
I also appreciate that WordPress offers this service free of charge. I pay for extra features, and that’s fine with me. However, I would like basic features to work.
Let me be clear: WordPress malfunctions, large or small, are not important.   As many scientists observe, global warming is important.
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Reading a scroll
  As Spencer Tracy observed, plumbing is important.   But right now, WordPress’ messing with my posting “experience” has brought me to the verge of apoplexy.   The “modern” experience, by the way, is called Gutenberg, a most inappropriate name.   Because believe me, folks, if Johann Gutenberg has invented this, we would still be using scrolls.  


*I don’t know a lot of those words, but I will use the ones I know, and if I need more,  I’ll find more on the Internet. The Internet is not family friendly. I learned most of the words I know by studying Chaucer. **But I’m going to keep looking.


Another test: this is a test ddd kkk ggg