Monday, December 17, 2012

Remembering Childhood


By Susan Berger

Well...Tis the season. I love the holidays. I love the lights and the songs and the feelings of good will and anticipation.
I do not love the tension, the anxiety of trying to do everything right and on time. Of finding the perfect present. The illusion that there needs to be more money. I wish I never felt those things, but I do sometimes.

Twenty years when my children were young and I was a harried mother, I wrote this poem:

The Carols are caroled. The gingerbread's made.

The turkey's not bought yet. The bills are half paid.

The kids are both fighting. The gifts are not wrapped

It's six days till Christmas and we are all zapped!

 I want back my childhood, the joy and delight,

The magic and wonder of Christmas Eve night.

It's odd being grown and the mother of two.

What quality time? I'm just running a zoo!
Oh I wish that a Fairy was sitting right here,

She would just wave her wand and make Christmas appear.

She'd sparkle the gifts and then light up the tree.

And I'd look, and I'd marvel, and I would be free.

Still, at night, when I gaze at each young sleeping face,

I know that, for me, there is no other place.

So I cling to bright moments and take them for proof

That reindeer still land, in our dreams, on the roof.

I think at this time of year we. as writers, need to remember our childhood. Or as William Goldman, author of The Princess Bride, might have put it:

Childhood: The Good Parts Version.
 We need to remember a time when the world was full of wonder. We need to remember the magic. How it felt to believe.
I still remember joyous anticipation I felt as a child when the TV news anchor reported Santa had been sighted.

I remember lying in my bed tense with excitement staring up at my neighbors peaked snow covered roof, sure I would spot the sleigh and those tinkling belled reindeer any moment.

My believing memories fuel my writing. I want to play in my writing with other believers in a world when anything is possible.

Have you got a special believing memory you can share with us?

I hope so. Happy Holidays. These last two pictures are from this year's Gingerbread House Decorating Party, one of my favorite Christmas traditions now in its 31st year.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hanukkah Reads from Hilde’s Hacienda!

by Hilde Garcia

It’s the second night of Hannukah and there’s still plenty of time to find good Hannukah books and order online!

With over night shipping at your fingertips, you’ll be able to get your books by the 8th night before the sun dips.

Here are the tried and true favorites at my house.
Here’s hoping they are for you, whether they are to gift or for your little mouse.


1. This is the Dreidel by Abby Levine
This story is told in the style of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. Each page builds on the next as it tells Max’s story of how he celebrates Hanukkah. It also includes a mini dictionary of some Hanukkah terms.

2. On the First Night of Chanukah by Cecily Kaiser
We all remember the familiar song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Well this book introduces the eight nights of Hanukkah. And on the fifth night instead of 5 Golden Rings, we get 5 Chocolate Gelt. Yummy.

3. Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah by Susan L. Roth
This very soothing song encompasses a very popular melody, O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree and tells the young reader about lighting candles for eight days. The illustrations are beautiful, done by ???

4. I Have a Little Dreidel by Maxim Baum
This is a great songbook, where you sing the dreidel song as you read it. This book has ten verses to describe an entire Hanukkah experiences as well as a recipe and how to play the dreidel game. It even has the sheet music at the very end to play the dreidel song yourself.

1. A Chanukkah Guest by Eric A. Kimmel
Poor Bubbe Brayna! Her eyesight isn't very good and she ends up sharing her latkes with a very hairy guest, a bear. This story will certainly make you laugh!

2. Mrs Greenberg’s Messy Hanukkah by Linda Glaser
Rachel doesn't feel like it will be Hanukkah without her neighbor Mrs. Greenberg or any latkes. Her parents are too busy with errands so she devises a plan. And what a messy plan it is. Rachels good sentiments in the end teach her parents a great lesson and brings happiness to Mrs. Greenberg for Hanukkah.

3. The Magic Dreidels, A Hanukkah Story by Eric A. Kimmel
A great story about the consequences of our actions that will have your child rooting for Jacob all the way. And who wouldn't want magic dreidels that make latkes?

4. Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat, A Hanukkah Story by Naomi Howland
This is told in the spirit of Tomie dePaola’s, Strega Nona. It includes a recipe and the origins of the holiday too.

3rd - 5th GRADE
1. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel
This is one of my favorite stories. It’s a great story about how Hershel outwits the goblins to restore Hanukkah to the neighboring village of Ostropol. It shows that our greatest weapon is not strength but intelligence.

2. Zigazak, A Magical Hanukkah Night by Eric Kimmel
A marvelous story of how the Rabbi of Brisk rids the town of two pesky Hanukkah devils that were ruining the town’s celebration. This book has great potential for interactiveness as my children love to repeat zigazak all throughout the story. It also exemplifies for young readers how you can solve problems with your wits and not your fist.

3. Hanukkah, Shmanukkah! by Esmé Raji Codell
A fabulous retelling of Scrooge’s tale. The Rabbi of Hannukah Past arrives to transport Scroogemacher “to hotzeplotz and back to see that Hanukah is nothing to sneeze at.”

4. Hanukkah by Miriam Chaikin
A historical account told simply but honestly about King Atiochus’ hatred for the Hews. This book gives dates, facts and beautiful illustrations by Ellen Weiss that are akin to historical depictions with just the right touch of color to catch a young reader’s interest. We learn in this book that Hanukkah means to dedicate.

1. The Eight Nights of Hanukkah by Judy Nayer
This storybook not only includes the story of Hanukkah  as it is told by one family, but gives you many Hanukkah activities and traditions that you can share with your children. Each night in the book is interspersed with an activity. Among the activities are how to make a dreidel, latkes and Hanukkah cards. It tells you of the history and meaning of the holiday. It shares with you the song and the prayer for the candles. Children can make Star of David picture frames and a Maccabee shields. There is also a Hanukkah memory game you can create as well as a gelt holder for all those chocolate coins.

No matter what you celebrate, have a safe and happy season of holidays and may you have light in everything you do and that you leave a magic sparkles everywhere you go.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dispatch #4 - FFR: Fiction Fusion Reaction

Foreign Correspondent in Disguise
by Lupe Fernandez

In October, thanks to my various confidential contacts, I attended Family Day at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory here in Northern California. Formerly a Navy air station, the Lawrence Livermore Lab was founded in 1952 by physicist Ernest Lawrence for "strengthening the United States’ security through development and application of world-class science and technology..."

The Sun
One facility that intrigued me was the National Ignition Facility. No, it's not used to develop a better cigarette lighter, but to create a self-sustaining nuclear fusion reaction - the power of the sun.

Official Sticker
Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed on the lab property, so this foreign correspondent had to smuggle out a technical drawing.

Top Secret Diagram of NIF Device
The design of the NIF brought to mind the various elements required to be targeted to create literary chain reaction.

The Lawrence Livermore Lab has yet to create a fusion reaction, imitating the nuclear furnace of the stars. But the writer must target various elements toward a common goal of creating a manuscript, and then, if a literary chain-reaction occurs, a successful novel.
Hypothetical Literary Fusion Diagram
As the NIF calibrates and tests its lasers to fuse hydrogen atoms into helium atoms, thus liberating energy, what other artistic beams must the writer aim, calibrate, test, dismantle, fund, construction, calculate and ponder to fuse such different literary elements into a a stellar novel?

This writer would like to think X. Xxxxx and X. Xxxxxxxx (names obfuscated for national security) for allowing me access to the lab.