Put on Your Literacy Apron

I was the recipient of a hand made apron as a door prize at the White County Creative Writers Conference. I've decided to call it my literacy apron. This adorable design is a great gift for a writer, and it would also be a perfect gift for a teacher or a librarian. The big lower pocket has ample room for a note pad, pen, and voice recorder to keep any ideas from slipping away. Or maybe I'll fill mine up with paperbacks so I'll have one handy all the time.

Apron or no apron, writers, teachers, and librarians are all about promoting literacy. In spite of our best intentions, 14% of the U.S. population can't read.

It's no secret that people who read have an advantage. According to DoSomething.org, reading can be a life-changer. The site lists many facts about illiteracy, such as:

1.  2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Over 70% of America's inmates cannot read above a 4th grade level.

2.  Students who don't read proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to drop out of school.

3.  Nearly 85% of the juveniles who face trial in the court system are functionally illiterate, proving there is a close relationship between illiteracy and crime.

4.  More than 60% of all inmates are functionally illiterate.

5. Teenage girls between the ages of 16 to 19 who live in poverty and have below average literacy skills are 6 times more likely to have children out of wedlock than girls their age who read proficiently.

There are holidays in every month of the year to remind us of the importance of literacy. August 9 was National Book Lovers' Day. September 6 was National Read a Book Day. Today is International Literacy Day.

Any day would be a good day to put on your literacy apron and help someone learn to read.


A Writing Conference and New Friends

Yesterday I attended the 2017 White County Creative Writers Conference, and I came away with inspiration, writing tips, and new friends. The group sponsors this annual event in Searcy, Arkansas, but this was the first time I have been able to attend. The speakers were awesome.

Dr. Frank W. Brown spoke on memoir writing. He has compiled the memories of growing up in Searcy into a memoir so his children and grandchildren will someday have a chance to know the things they may not be interested in asking about or listening to while they are young.

Peggy Archer is an author of several children's books. She did an outstanding presentation on "show, don't tell". This is a great reminder for writers of any age group. Peggy did an additional presentation on poetry.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter led a session on how to avoid rejections and red lines from publishers. This is the kind of information all writers are on the edge of their seats to hear. Shannon writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has published numerous books.

In addition to all the knowledge I gained, I also took home an honorable mention for a short story. Dot Hatfield made my day when she called my name.

I went to the conference solo, and I had not met anyone else who was attending. No worries, writers love to get acquainted. I didn't get photos of all the writers I met, but I'm happy to be able to count some of them as new friends. Shirley and Mary Lee, I hope to see you at the next conference.


I'm Immune

Just in case marketers want to know, I've become immune. This list of phrases was taken from some promotional emails I read today. None of them gave me the sense of urgency they were intended to convey. An email that begins with these words does not entice me to buy the product. All I want to do is roll my eyes.

  • Today only
  • Last chance
  • Last day
  • 24 hours only
  • Time's almost up
  • Last call
  • Final hours
  • Ends tonight
  • Jump on it
  • For one day only
  • Flash sale
  • Minutes left
  • Hurry
  • Gone in a flash

One reason my immunity has developed is because so many of the promotions sound the same. Another reason is because none of them are true. The sale that is 'today only' keeps coming back around so often it seems like it must be part of the Groundhog Day movie.

Don't get me wrong. I love a good sale, but I have my doubts about items that are marketed in this way. These promotions would be more effective if buyers weren't inundated with so much hype. I'm reminded of the parent who never follows through with children. The parent yells and threatens, but nothing ever happens.

My advice to marketers is to stop yelling at consumers. Tell me what your terms are. If something special is going on, by all means inform me, but I tend to stop listening when you say the same thing over and over again. But that's just me. ๐Ÿ˜‰





People don't like to talk about it. Many cover up symptoms in shame, trying to handle the downward spiral on their own. One in four women will be affected in their lifetime, and men are not exempt, either.

Depression needs treatment. It's a serious illness. Read about my firsthand experience with depression here. My guest post is on the Dreaming Big Publications blog today.


Books and Kids

Books and kids go together like macaroni and cheese or milk and cookies. I've never met a child who had no interest in a good story.

As a classroom teacher, I read aloud every day to my class. It was a time the students looked forward to and didn't want to miss. I enjoyed seeing them captivated by the story. They loved humor. They loved books that evoked emotion. There was always a collective 'awwww' when reading time was over and the chapter ended with a cliffhanger. They wanted more.

I no longer have my own classroom, but sometimes I'm invited to classrooms to read to students. This is a preschool class I'm sharing a book with. These kids aren't readers yet, but they will be soon. Reading aloud to students promotes readiness skills.

If you've never volunteered to read aloud to a classroom, maybe it's something you'd like to try. Or if your schedule makes it impossible, perhaps you could donate a book to a classroom. Any teacher I know would be delighted with either effort.

Today would be a good day to read aloud. Age doesn't matter much. The younger you start reading to a child, the better. If your child is older, find a high interest book, then read aloud a chapter every night at bedtime. Good things will happen. Kids and books are magical.



What's Your State Reading?

For the past 16 years the Arkansas library system has promoted a statewide reading program called "If All Arkansas Read the Same Book". The selections are made each fall and the year-long activities culminate with a book tour by the author.

Cassie Dandridge Selleck's The Pecan Man is the chosen title for 2016-17. This summer has been a busy book tour time for Ms. Selleck. She has visited libraries and book clubs in cities across the state and has often managed to fit more than one stop into her day.

When Ms. Selleck gave a presentation at my hometown library, I was on the front row, literally. She was also gracious enough to allow me to have a photo with her. This one is the latest addition to the author photo collection board in my office. 

I'm always intrigued to hear from and to get to know the person behind a book. I enjoyed The Pecan Man for many reasons, one being the authentic Southern voice of Ora Lee Beckworth, the story's narrator.

Cassie Dandridge Selleck has a second book, What Matters in Mayhew, and it's now in my to-be-read queue. The sequel to The Pecan Man is in progress, and I'm looking forward to it, as well.

I commend the Arkansas library system for their worthwhile reading program, and I hope it is continued. I'd be interested to know how other states promote reading and authors in their libraries. 
What's your state reading?



Those Blooming Azaleas

Like most southerners, I love my azaleas. I have one section of red ones and another of white ones. The red group is in full bloom, but the whites are lagging a bit behind. As I checked on their progress today, I noticed the lacy, snow white blossoms are not alone. Placed strategically here and there in the midst of the white blooms are a few stray pink flowers. Huh?

Is this the equivalent of a person trying a new hair color? I didn't know flowers had the option of changing their minds like this. Has a flowering shrub ever had a mid-life crisis? Whatever the azaleas are up to, I think I'd better keep an eye on them.

Azaleas are a type of shrub classified in a large group that includes blueberry bushes. If my azaleas get any crazy ideas next year, I hope they decide to produce blueberries.