Saturday, October 25, 2014

Zombies in the Real World?

(Zombie walk Pittsburgh 29 Oct 2006CC BY-SA 3.0view termsOriginal work by MissDeeCS; Original uploader at en.wikipedia was PNG crusade bot; The PNG crusade bot automatically converted this image to the more efficient en:PNGformat. The image was previously uploaded as "Zombie894.gif". - This is my own photo. Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here.)

As Halloween approaches, zombie images and events appear. My own town is hosting a Zombie Walk tonight!

Zombies are the walking dead, beings who seem alive and yet are not, controlled by some supernatural force. Which leads us to the question, "Are zombies real?"

That's the question that children's non-fiction author Rebecca L. Johnson asks to begin her book, Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead.

In this award-winning book, Johnson tells us how fungus "invades" a fly to support itself and turns the fly into a mechanically-moving, vacant creature. Johnson also explains how parasites and worms do their work to make "zombies" out of other living beings.

Johnson's science background draws her to write about topics like this, making them interesting and accurate for young readers. Many of the zombie discoveries occurred when scientists noticed something and continued to observe. Johnson writes in her author's note for this book: "Nature has no shortage of wonders. Scientists are finding new ones all the time. Even as I finished this book, a new zombie maker was discovered that infects honeybees. Who knows how many more are out there, just waiting to be found?"

Be ever watchful and have a happy Halloween!

Here's a classic from the Kingston Trio, "Zombie Jamboree"

Monday, October 13, 2014

Many Ways to Tell a Story

Today South Dakota celebrates Native American Day, as it has since 1990. Communities across the state commemorate this day in different ways, including with storytelling.

I was privileged recently to hear and see Lakota Kevin Locke , who told stories orally, with his flute,

and with his hoop dancing. In each case, he talked about all people being one and challenged each of us to be a bridge of understanding from one person to another. With 28 hoops, he created an eagle, a globe, a flower, a ladder, and a whirl of color!

He demonstrated his message of the importance of each individual by removing a hoop from one of his formations. The formation collapsed. 

This kind of storytelling--hoop dancing--takes a lot of energy! Kevin does it with such joy and grace, it is a pleasure to watch.  See him in this performance from last year:

What other kinds of storytelling have you experienced? Which ones are most meaningful to you?

(photos copyright 2014, Jane Heitman Healy)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dappled Things of Fall

We're enjoying fall! These last couple of weeks have given us sunny, warm days and cool nights. The word "dappled" has come to mind as I see lawns dappled with dropped leaves...

Day lily leaves dappled with yellow...

Leaves themselves mottled with decay...

fruit dappled with ripeness and insect spots...

and sky dappled with clouds and green and yellow leaves.

All of that reminded me of Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem, which you can hear here:

Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;       
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:        
                  Praise him.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Autumn Leaves

Well, actually, autumn is not leaving, it's just on the cusp of arriving. It is, however, the time of year when we think about leaves turning color and dropping for us to rake or mulch.

Leaves here are giving us hints of color--a few flashes of yellow amid the green--that will peak in a week or two.

Otherwise, I don't give leaves much thought. Do you?

Someone who has given leaves a lot of thought is poet and author Laura Purdie Salas. Her award-winning book A Leaf Can Be..., explores the many ways leaves function in nature. Leaves can be cups, bathtubs, or lunch!

Easy for small children to understand, the book includes a glossary and information for older children (and adults!) to learn more about the science of leaves. The illustrations by Violeta Dibija of Moldova give the book a soft, fantasy look. 

Take a look at the book (I borrowed this copy from the library), and you will think of leaves in new ways year 'round!

As autumn advances, enjoy Eric Clapton's version of the classic song "Autumn Leaves"

(all photos copyright 2014, Jane Heitman Healy)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back to School! Are you a Smartypants?

It's back to school time around here, which reminded me of one of my favorite books about school, Smartypants (Pete in School), written and illustrated by Maira Kalman. Released in 2003, I've read it many times since and love the humor and absurdity. I also adore the snarky side comments Kalman includes in her illustrations.

This book is for everyone who has had that "don't call on me" moment. Avoid eye contact! But when Pete comes to school (forbidden, of course!), he can answer every single question! As a student, are you really going to let a dog get the better of you intellectually? I think not.

My library is featuring back-to-school books in their displays:

Another of my back-to-school favorites is First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. I won't go into details, but I will tell you that there's a surprise ending. Horn Book has a list of good back-to-school books here.

What's your favorite book about school? Make it a great school year, everyone!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

It's Peach Season!

Yes! It is time to celebrate the season of abundant produce, and particularly peaches! We are so fortunate that a local hardware store trucks in lugs each year from Western Colorado. This year's load (or lode, as I think of it) comes from Black Bear Orchards in Palisade. Yes, we got a whole lug. No, that is not too much for two people--at least not the two people at our house. 

This year's poem for peach season is a haiku: 

slices of sunshine
slide gentle juice down my throat,
cozy taste of home.

See last year's peach season poem here.

What flavors do you savor this season? Here, everything's peachy!
(photos by Jane Heitman Healy, c 2014)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Summer Romance

James Gillray [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons) See * for more information about this artwork.

As spring turns into summer, the weather warms up and so do hearts, making June a traditional month for weddings. Happy Anniversary to everyone who got married in June! Happy Wedding Day to those getting married this month!

With that in mind, I thought you would like to meet my friend Rose Zediker, romance novelist, from southeastern South Dakota.  I was pleased to meet her at a local writers conference several years ago and saw her recently at a book signing with other area authors, Sara Whitley (below left) and Mary Connealy (below center).

Q: Hi, Rose! You are getting a good track record for your romance novels! Congratulations! What led you to write that genre?
Rose: I always enjoyed reading romance novels, especially inspirational romance. The more romance novels I read, my imagination started sparking story ideas until I finally sat down and wrote one of my own.

 Q: You write both contemporary and historical. Which do you prefer, and how does the research differ?
Rose: I had a lot of fun writing the historical romance novels, but I prefer contemporary. There are less character restrictions, especially for heroines in contemporary novels since women have a more active role in society than they did one hundred years ago.  I research everything on historical novels, settings, names, clothing, household furnishings/architecture, laws. Research for my contemporaries consists of occupations and setting if I place the story in an unfamiliar town/state.

 Q: Some of your novels are set in South Dakota, our home state. Was the setting hard to sell to big city editors?
Rose: Absolutely not! The line of books I write for, Heartsong Presents, prefers smaller towns to larger cities. Because they publish four books a month, they need a variety of settings.

Q: I love hearing that, Rose, because sometimes we think novels should be set in some exotic locale, not right here at home.  Speaking of home, does the romance in your writing spill over into your personal life or does the romance in your personal life spill over into your writing? 
Rose: The romance in my stories doesn't mirror my real life at all! My husband and I have been married for thirty two years and our romantic gestures tend to be 'small' scale, like carrying the full laundry basket upstairs for me, than the big grand gestures found in most romance stories. To be honest, our romantic gestures have always been on the smaller, daily living scale.

 Q: That’s probably true of most couples, and it’s what sustains relationships—the daily caring. Besides daily caring, you are a daily writer, and I think you are one of the most disciplined people I know. You set goals and often exceed them. Would you tell us a bit about your regimen?
Rose: Since I work a full time job, I have to treat my writing like a part time job so I devote at least ten hours a week to my writing. That’s less than two hours a day! So it’s very doable. Sometimes, I use thirty minutes of my lunch hour to work on a project otherwise I work on my manuscripts from seven to eight in the evenings.

Basically, I set monthly goals then break those goals down to daily goals. Goals should be obtainable. If they’re not, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated which usually results in giving up. I know my limitations. I can’t write an 80,000 word book in a month so I’d never set that as a monthly goal.

I also place a huge importance on my writing career so I don’t allow my social calendar to fill up and crowd out my writing time. I’ve learned to say no volunteer projects unless they are near and dear to my heart.

 Q: Your discipline sets a good example for the rest of us! What romance authors, living or dead, inspire you?
Rose: Melody Carlson inspires me because she writes all types of inspirational romance and also books for children and teens.

 Q: I haven’t read anything by her. Thanks for the tip. What should we be watching for from you?
Rose: I have another historical coming out on August 1, Sweet on the Cowgirl. It’s available for preorder now. I signed a contract for a rodeo themed four book series. The first one will release in 2015.

Q: That’s exciting! Congratulations! Where can we follow you online?
Rose: I’m part of a group blog. My blog is: My author page on Facebook is under Author Rose Ross Zediker.
Thanks for having me on your blog today, Jane!

Thank you, Rose! Best wishes as you keep those love stories going!

* "Harmony before Matrimony", an October 25th 1805 caricature by James Gillray depicting a musical courtship. The woman plays a harp, and the man and woman sing together from "Duets de l'Amour". On the table, a book is open to Ovid (who would not have been considered suitable as reading-matter for girls or unmarried women in 1805). The hanging floral wall decorations include torches of Hymen (the ancient Roman god of weddings) on the left, and the bow and quiver of arrows of Cupid on the right. An oval-wall painting shows Cupid having dropped his bow and arrows, and shooting at a pair of cooing doves with a blunderbuss! At the left are two goldfish in a bowl, above a heart-shaped imitation-antique vase with a female sphinx decoration. Two cats do not appear to be influenced by the musical harmony, and are quarreling on top of music scores left on the floor.