Late Bloomer: Author Letty Sustrin

Late Bloomers are guest blog posts at A is for Aging—sharing thoughts and insights from individuals who have launched notable creative efforts in the arts in their Third Age.

Author Letty Sustrin

My life as a “Late Bloomer.” It’s a trip down memory lane, starting in 1938 when my identical twin sister, Sheila, and I were born. My “Baby Sister” as I was born first. I think we had conversations while in mother’s womb—making the decision that we would be elementary school teachers.

By the time we entered Kindergarten our dolls became our students, and we were the “Twin Teachers.” This pattern of teaching and helping others followed us through school and college. Having parents who were avid readers, books became an important part of our lives.

I remember vividly when we were four years old. Our parents took Sheila and I to the Grand Army Plaza Library in Brooklyn. We wanted our own library cards. The librarian looked at this set of skinny twin sisters and asked, “Can you write your name in script? We said “No.” She told our parents that printing our names was not acceptable. They needed a legitimate signature. We went home and practiced with mom. The next weekend found us back at the library, signing our names in script and getting our own library cards.

 

Twin Teachers

After graduation in Early Childhood from Brooklyn we looked for teaching positions. Fortune was with us. We went for an interview and the Principal said, “I think you two will be great teachers. If you’ll take a chance with me, I’ll take a chance and hire both of you as Kindergarten teachers.” Thus began 38 wonderful years teaching side-by-side.

We taught Kindergarten for 18 years, and when the school closed, we both became First Grade Teachers. We were known as being a “Great Team.”

Teachers of the Year

In 1978 Sheila and I were chosen as “Brentwood’s Teachers of the Year.” The award is usually given to only one person. Our administrator asked which one he should nominate. We told him, “We’re a team! It’s double or nothing.” We never had any sibling rivalry—I thank our parents for bringing us up right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We nurtured our students. I like to think we were surrogate mothers to them. Their own mothers had to work full time. To this day I am close to many of our former students. After a certain age, they become your contemporaries and friends.

Retirement

We retired in 1998 as the timing was perfect. It was a hard decision to make and we spent the whole summer at home crying and saying, “What did we do? Why did we retire? How are we going to spend the rest of our lives not teaching children?” It was a very traumatic time. So in September we want back to our old school as volunteers to help the PTA and the students.

Post-retirement writing careers

Sheila and I always enjoyed writing. We were on the staff of all the newspapers at schools we attended. We talked about this, and our longing to be authors. Friends said “You are too old to start writing. You need to travel and relax.” No way! That was just not our style.

First book of the series

 

We pondered what we’d like to write about. We realized—we loved teaching, we loved school, we loved kids. THAT”S WHAT OUR LIVES WERE ALL ABOUT! It was easy to create a title. The first book was, The Teacher Who Would Not Retire.

We were very much into the intergenerational scene and wanted an older, traditional teacher. One that would take care of her students like we did. It took about one and a half years to find a publisher (Blue Marlin Publications).

 

Writing a successful picture book series

Our main character, “Mrs. Belle” became our lucky charm. Children, educators, and seniors fell in love with her. The first book turned into a series! Illustrated by animator/cartoonist Thomas H. Bone III. Mrs. Belle had many escapades with her former pupils. Sheila and I wrote the first five books together.

After Sheila passed away in 2015, I wrote the 6th and final book of the series in her memory, The Teacher Who Would Not Retire Retires! I thought my writing career was over. But I began to find pennies wherever I went, and whenever I felt I needed my sister. I started collecting them.

illustration in The Teacher Who Would Not Retire Retires

Then, one day I went to the cemetery to visit her grave, and as I turned away, there in the front of her grave was an old penny laying in the grass. I started to cry, and when I got home I called my cousin to tell her what happened. She told me to write about it. My publisher agreed I should write the story.

Thus, my new book A Penny from My Sister was born.

New Book: A Penny from My Sister

I am very excited about this new book. It’s about a grandmother whose twin sister passed away in childhood. The grandmother tells her grandchildren of how she would find pennies. The pennies made her feel that her sister was watching over her. It is a sweet book, not sad, but it shows that “memories are forever.” Beautifully illustrated by Peter Catalanotto. With the tragedies due to the Covid-19 virus, I hope my book will help the children and their families cope with losses and remember their loved ones.

Volunteer work in my eighties

I am currently a mentor for kids in the Brentwood schools. We seniors in the group work with children who need attention to give them confidence. During the Covid-19 crisis I’ve been a Pen Pal with my 10 year old student. So that he knows he is thought of and cared about. Life is truly still exciting and fruitful, even at age 81.

Images used with permission of the author.

Late Bloomers defy age stereotypes and help show us the way to tap into our creativity using life experience, energy and positive attitudes.

Find more late bloomers guest posts here.

(For further resources, see books Secrets to Becoming a Late Bloomer: Extraordinary ordinary people on the art of staying creative, alive and aware in mid-life and beyond by Connie Goldman & Richard Mahler; The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life by Gene D. Cohen M.D.; What Should I Do with the Rest of My Life by Bruce Frankel.)

“Creativity keeps us fresh, keeps us alive, keeps us moving forward.”

(Rollo May, psychotherapist and author of Courage to Create.)

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Review: An Old Man and his Penguin

An Old Man and His Penguin. How Dindim made Joao Pereira de Souza an Honorary Penguin. (2020). Written by Alayne Kay Christian and Illustrations by Milanka Reardon. Stamford, TX: Blue Whale Press, an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing.

This delightful picture book is the true story of Joao Pereira de Souza, the penguin he rescued, and how Joao became an “honorary penguin.”

–Take a peek at this brief book trailer video on YouTube!  

–Find a discussion of language related to the word “old” at the bottom of this post.

Joao was a retired bricklayer living by the ocean in Brazil. One day when Joao was walking on the beach he found a penguin who was covered in oil and near death.

Joao took the penguin home and called him Dindim. Day after day he gently cleaned Dindim and fed him sardines. Dindim grew strong and healthy. Every morning he liked getting a shower. He and Joao would splash in the surf and swim in the ocean together.

Young readers will be charmed by the details included by author Alayne Kay Christian. Dindim became part of the family. He would nap in a fishing net hammock surrounded by Joao’s dog and chickens. He followed Joao everywhere he went. The people in the town became used to seeing them together.

Joao loved Dindim like a son and Dindim loved Joao as if he were another penguin.”

Joao was worried that Dindim needed penguin friends so he took Dindim to an island—but Dindim swam back to Joao.

The friends continued to stroll the coastline together, swim together, and fish together until one day Dindim disappeared. Joao was sad to see his friend go but hoped he would find penguin friends. The villagers said the penguin will not come back—but months later Dindim did come back. He walked right up to Joao. Dindim was thin from his journey. Joao fed him and made him fat and strong again.

Dindim would go in and out of Joao’s house as he pleased and liked to cool down in Joao’s shower. The two of them walked through the village together and people enjoyed seeing them. Dindim would give Joao penguin kisses. Beautiful art by Milanka Reardon adds so much to the delightful story.

Then one day Dindim was gone.

Joao wondered if he would ever see his friend again—but Dindim did return. Now each year in June, Dindim returns to be with his friend. He leaves again each year in February.

No one is sure where Dindim goes when each year. Some think that he may be making the 5000-mile round trip to Patagonia in South Argentina where penguins go to breed! Dindim is tagged, so one thing is sure–it is the same penguin who returns each year to his honorary penguin friend.

Children and adults alike will warm to this true story of a compassionate human/animal bond, stewardship, and an environmental message. Sign up today for the author’s November–Random Acts of Kindness Challenge. Click here. Prizes for writers and readers!

Purchase An Old Man and his Penguin.

Book reviewed by Sandra McGuire R.N., Ed.D. (Photos used with permission of the author.)

     A brief discussion of language related to “old”—

Author Alayne Kay Christian: “Even though the title ‘Old Man’ is a bit of a stereotype or might be viewed as negative by some, next to a young penguin, that’s what he is. However, I think Joao stands out in a way that will tweak attitudes and help nip ageism in the bud.”

A is for Aging—Lindsey McDivitt: “Old Man” doesn’t bother me at all. To be honest, I feel a bit frustrated with terms like “young at heart” and those similar. I believe we use them to avoid the fact of being old, and all because of ageism and the stigma associated with old in our society. “Old” is not a bad word. To be old is a testament to survival. Old can go along with many positive, happy and satisfied attributes. No doubt both Joao and late blooming author Alayne Kay Christian will agree.

This picture book shows kids a delightful example of an old person enjoying life and making a difference in the life of one little penguin. Personally I believe we need to take back the word “old,” own it, and challenge the negative connotations.

From author and activist Ashton Applewhite: (on ageism and age stereotypes)

“A good place to start is by jettisoning some language. “The elderly”? Yuck, partly because I’ve never heard anyone use the word to describe themselves. Also because “elderly” comes paired with “the,” which implies membership in some homogenous group. “Seniors”? Ugh. “Elders” works in some cultures but feels alien to me, and I don’t like the way it implies that people deserve respect simply by virtue of their age; children, too, deserve respect.

Since the only unobjectionable term used to describe older people is “older people,” I’ve shortened the term to “olders” and use it, along with “youngers,” as a noun. It’s clear and value-neutral, and it emphasizes that age is a continuum. There is no old/young divide. We’re always older than some people and younger than others.”

Excerpt from This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite.

     ***What are YOUR thoughts on language around being old or older? Please consider sharing in the comments.

Find Ashton’s informative and highly readable book here. Read more of the excerpt at Bioneers.

For more perfect picture book reviews & recommendations visit Susanna Hill’s Website.

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Late Bloomer: Author Carol Coven Grannick

     Late Bloomers are guest blog posts at A is for Aging—sharing thoughts and insights from individuals who have launched notable creative efforts in the arts in their Third Age.

RE-PLANTING MY WRITING LIFE

by Carol Coven Grannick

I’m thrilled to be seventy-one and welcoming my first children’s book into the world! REENI’S TURN, a middle grade novel in verse, is the result of a major “re-planting” of myself as a writer.

I’d spent much of my adult life writing poetry, creative nonfiction, essays and, as a clinical social worker, scholarly and clinical papers. But I didn’t have a direction. Two major changes planted seeds for my rest-of-my-life love of, and devotion to, writing for children.

Then I discovered Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism, and left my glass-half-empty tendencies behind. I practiced and integrated the methods of Seligman and other researchers. This changed my clinical practice, teaching and life. Emotional resilience became a foundational tool in my children’s writer’s toolbox.

In 1994 I was six years into motherhood—reading classics and new picture books to our son. I began volunteering at his school’s library and discovered picture books and middle grade novels I’d never known existed. I wrote “The Inside Ballerina” in 1999 about a young dancer who discovers that her shyness, rather than her round body size, is her obstacle to performing.

“It’s a Cricket story, Mom,” said my ten year-old son. I sent it in and it was published in a 2001 Cricket issue. My journey solidified. I embarked on years of learning, practicing, revising and submitting. I received massive numbers of rejections and an acceptance here and there. A poem, a couple of stories and lots of articles and posts as a columnist and guest blogger.

I also continued my private practice as a clinical social worker, specializing in helping people create accepting, comfortable, and healthful relationships with food, their bodies, and themselves.

But the content of my first story never left me, and in 2008-9, I drafted what would become REENI’S TURN. I wanted to address the underrepresented issues of young children dieting and stereotyped fat characters in middle grade literature. I wanted to write a story about a young tween struggling with lifelong shyness and self-consciousness. Her decision to perform a solo and her growing, changing body complicate her journey.

I continued to work on other projects, but kept REENI’S TURN alive. Many dozens—of revisions and submissions later, I put the draft away for a period of time. I stopped submitting and focused purely on my writing. It was a journey-changing experience. You can read about that here.

In 2013, I pulled REENI out, tweaked it again, and sent it to the Katherine Paterson Competition at VCFA/Hunger Mountain, with author Katherine Applegate judging. As a Finalist, the story caught an agent’s interest. This turn on my journey lasted almost two years, with six massive revisions, half a year of consideration by an acquisitions committee, and a difficult and communication-challenged experience.

That experience knocked me down for longer than anything else had. But my belief in the book, encouragement from supportive colleagues and an Honorable Mention from the 2018 Sydney Taylor Manuscript Competition committee led me to revise REENI’S TURN to the shorter, simpler story I had always wanted it to be.

In one last round of agent submissions, I researched small traditional publishers and found Fitzroy Books, the middle grade literary imprint at Regal House Publishers. Not yet hearing from all the agents who had requested full manuscripts, I decided to go with the offer from Fitzroy Books to publish REENI’S TURN.

That night in 1999 was pivotal for me. I did not think about my age, but what I loved—the children’s work I was reading. Writing for children is what I wanted to do.

I’ve been asked, and I’ve wondered: Is there age discrimination in the field? There is age discrimination in the world. But if we accept it and don’t work to challenge it, we cut off our own passions and possible opportunities of a lifetime.

I have been busy, busy, busy with promotion of REENI’S TURN, just published September 13, 2020!

But I’ve also recently signed with a wonderful, perfect-match agent—Joyce Sweeney of The Seymour Agency. She will hopefully shepherd my picture books and early childhood poetry into the world.

I write for the love of it. I write to translate what I experience, think and feel. And I write to hopefully impact the lives of children.

 

Am I a “late bloomer?” Maybe. But I think of myself as someone who has always been growing and blooming, discovering new turns on the journey. I guess you could call me a perennial.

And as Martin Sheen’s character says in the Netflix show Grace and Frankie—about blossoming into an award-winning community theatre role in his 70s: “I just hope I haven’t peaked too soon!”

Carol Coven Grannick’s debut novel in verse, REENI’S TURN (paperback) is available at indiebound.com, Amazon, and other links at https://carolcovengrannick.com  Carol’s short fiction and poetry is forthcoming in Cricket, Ladybug, Babybug, Highlights, and Hello. She is a columnist for the SCBWI-IL Prairie Wind, Cynthia Leitich Smith’s award-winning Cynsations blog and the GROG Blog, and a frequent guest blogger. Carol has received a Ragdale Foundation Writer’s Residency and an Illinois Arts Council Grant for past work on REENI’S TURN.

Late Bloomers defy age stereotypes and help show us the way to tap into our creativity using life experience, energy and positive attitudes.

“Creativity keeps us fresh, keeps us alive, keeps us moving forward.”

(Rollo May, psychotherapist and author of Courage to Create.)

*Find more late bloomers guest posts here.

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Truth and Honor: The President Ford Story

Truth & Honor: The President Ford Story

By Lindsey McDivitt; illustrated by Matt Faulkner

Sleeping Bear Press; July 2020. Ages 6-10

 

My second picture book biography was published recently and I’d love to tell you a bit about it, beginning with the all-important question—

Why share President Gerald R. Ford’s story with today’s kids?

I’ve spoken with parents and teachers challenged by today’s political climate when talking with young people about the upcoming presidential election.

–How to discuss the desirable qualities of an American president and leader of the free world?

–How to focus on values such as honesty, integrity and caring for others?

This picture book biography offers an opportunity to talk about these questions using a true story with engaging text and beautiful illustrations.

I was just a teen in 1974 when Gerald R. Ford became president. But I well remember the relief of his presidency after Watergate—so much tension and so many lies from President Nixon and others in his administration.

President Ford’s openness was a much needed antidote, instilling renewed confidence in a caring government. One “of the people, by the people, for the people.”*

Also, Truth and Honor: The President Ford Story shows a long life well-lived. I’m always drawn to people who meet challenges in late life that their earlier experiences prepared them for.

—Take a quick peek at a one minute book trailer video!

 

My research—

I read extensively about Gerald Ford’s presidency to gain a clear idea of his personal qualities. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids provided invaluable resources and I was honored to speak with his son Mike Ford. As president, vice president and longtime congressman from western Michigan, Gerald Ford’s sterling character stood out.

Terrific quotes dot the text:

     “I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our Government but civilization itself.”

Gerald R. Ford, Jr.

Remarks upon being sworn in as President of the United States,

August 9, 1974.

     I was surprised to learn Gerald Ford voted consistently for civil rights and voting rights legislation, often in opposition to his party. He cared about citizens of all colors. He supported immigrants. The Vietnam War was ending during his time as president and he organized the rescue of refugees from South Vietnam.

Exhibit at Gerald R. Ford Museum

That well-worn joke about Ford’s clumsiness? It was triggered by one slip down the wet steps of Air Force One. Jerry, a former college football player, was actually our most athletic president!

And, did you know? Gerald Ford was actually born Leslie King Junior!

My story decisions—engaging young people

I began with Ford as president, and I ended with him at that same desk “piled high with problems.” I knew I wanted to end with this quote:

     “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.”

          President Gerald R. Ford, August 9, 1974.

   In between I showed what shaped Jerry Ford growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Young people can connect with his experiences as a child, teen and young adult. It felt important to shine a spotlight on how the values of hard work, honesty and compassion were instilled.

It is challenging to condense all the research on a complex life into a non-fiction picture book of perhaps 1500 words! Lyrical language is also important—it must be a pleasing read-aloud for both adults and children.

     Of course, gorgeous artwork by award winning illustrator Matt Faulkner contributes greatly to engaging young people!

I knew kids would like the dramatic WW II scene where Jerry almost slid off the ship’s deck into the sea, saving himself at the last second! And of course, the Ford family dog named “Liberty.” Also, Jerry had a stutter as a child—making him very reluctant to be called on in class. I learned recently that meant a lot to one child reader.

Figurative language spices up the text!

Adding similes and metaphors to Truth and Honor added “color.” Gerald Ford was the only president to grow up in Michigan, the Great Lake state. Fortunately I’d lived in Michigan and enjoyed a research trip to Grand Rapids.

Examples of Michigan related figurative language includes–

“The desire for the American Dream flowed through the school as strongly as the Grand River flowed through town.”

And…“He became known for working with the Democrats, bridging the gap the way the Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan’s peninsulas.”

 

***There are Free Resources for Truth and Honor: The President Ford Story

–An extensive free teacher’s guide with lessons around reading comprehension, writing, language and social studies, and more. (Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press–at the page, click on “download now.”)

–Also, eight videos of myself and illustrator Matt Faulkner speaking about our processes of creating the text and artwork. (Produced by the Gerald R. Ford Foundation. Each about 10 minutes long.) Illustrations by Matt Faulkner used here with permission.

–A letter to young readers from the four children of Gerald R. Ford is in the back of the book, along with a timeline of his life.

***Truth and Honor: The President Ford Story is available wherever books are sold. Please click here for options.

NOTE: Covid times are tough times for promoting new books. Please consider:

–writing a review of the book on Amazon or Goodreads

–sharing the cover image & your comments on social media

–asking your local library to order the book

Thank you and stay well! Lindsey

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The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

show cover of book The Oldest StudentThe Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

By Rita Lorraine Hubbard; illustrated by Caldecott Honor Winner Oge More

Schwarz and Wade Books; 2020. (Ages 6-10)

 

We know that Mary Walker lived through twenty-six presidents. That her precious Bible waited 101 years before she was able to read it. That she learned to read at the age of 116. There’s little doubt this intriguing picture book about her life will impress young readers with the possibilities of later life.

illustration by Oge Mora in The Oldest Student

Art by Oge More

Overview:

In 1848, Mary Walker was born into slavery. At age 15, she was freed, and by age 20, she was married and had her first child. By age 68, she had worked numerous jobs, including cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and selling sandwiches to raise money for her church. At 114, she was the last remaining member of her family. And at 116, she learned to read.

From Rita Lorraine Hubbard and rising star Oge More comes the inspirational story of Mary Walker, a woman whose long life spanned from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, and who—with perseverance and dedication—proved that you’re never too old to learn.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read has garnered starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly.

illustration in The Oldest Student

Art by Oge More

Read more–

For more on this lovely story certain to provoke conversation with kids about aging please read author Beth Anderson’s blog review here.

Child-friendly book activities like this are included in Beth’s post.

illustration in The Oldest Student

Art by Oge More

Interview: Choose an older person you know such as a grandparent. Write down 5 questions you’d like to ask them about what life was like when they were a child. Report back or write what you learned about their life. How does it compare to your life?

Beth also has a post with some background from the author of The Oldest Student, Rita Lorraine Hubbard, at this link.

Learn more about Beth Anderson:

Read her Late Bloomer guest post at A is for Aging. 

Beth’s second book, LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT: ELIZABETH JENNINGS FIGHTS FOR STREETCAR RIGHTS released Jannuary 2020 from Calkins Creek Books. Kirkus Reviews gave it a star!

Art by E.B. Lewis

Thank you Beth!

Please come back to “A is for Aging” for more:

Positive Aging picture books

and posts by Late Blooming writers.

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Late Bloomer guest post: Angela Verges

Late Bloomers are guest blog posts at A is for Aging—sharing thoughts and insights from individuals who have launched notable creative efforts in the arts in their Third Age.

Dear Diary

by author Angela Verges

 

 

Dear Diary

Today is New Year’s Eve and I am at my great-grandmother’s house in Alabama. They light firecrackers here…

That was the beginning of the first entry in my new diary in 1976 and I was ten-years old. As a young child that diary whet my appetite for writing. I continued to journal throughout middle school, high school, and periodically during college.

In my early adult years, I filled journals with words, organized thoughts, and ramblings, only to tuck them away on a shelf or in a storage tote. Eventually I realized I needed to stop being a curator of words, collecting them as a child collects stuffed animals. It was time to assemble them into a polished manuscript.

I always enjoyed reading picture books to my children when they were young. After many readings I believed, “a picture book shouldn’t be that hard to write. They don’t contain very many words.” Ha, to be young and naive. I had not yet learned about the rhythm of a story, the rule of three, nor the significance of page turns. Fewer words do not equate easy.

Like a character in a story, as I learned, I grew, and I transformed. I was a consistent writer. I contributed to a parenting blog for my city’s local newspaper, and later created my own blog.

While picture books are my first love, it’s not where I first published. My writing took a turn I didn’t see coming. It was the birth of my book Menopause Ain’t No Joke. A hot flash and an appearance on stage, caused me to “warm up” to the idea of this book.

At the nudging of my mother, I participated in a pageant for women 50 years old and older (no swimsuit required). Contestants were required to perform a talent. I’m a big fan of humor, and a great deal of my collection of words and phrases included situations I found funny. I chose to perform comedy.

Since the pageant’s focus was mature women and their families, that was my approach for the comedy. Menopause Ain’t No Joke was the title of the two-minute performance, which later became my book title and a turning point in my writing career. The book is a collection of my personal essays related to parenting, fitness, and faith, topped with menopause, and sprinkled with humor.

 

One of my favorite memories with my son, is a conversation we had while riding in the car together when he was around fourteen years old. He was going through puberty while I was experiencing menopause. He was excited about this new stage in his life, his voice was getting deeper and his facial features were changing.

Sitting in the passenger seat, my son pulled the sun visor down, flipped the mirror up, and rubbed his chin. In his deep voice he said, “Ma, my mustache is growing.”

I glanced over at him and said, “So is mine son, so is mine.”

Now 54 years old, I understand what my mother meant when she said, “some things take time, enjoy each stage in life.” I enjoy sharing stories, making people laugh, and encouraging others to use humor as a stress relief.

Flip open my book Menopause Ain’t No Joke Blending Faith and Humor in Perfectly Imperfect Situations, and you will find stories of hair growth, hair loss, eating disasters and more.

Along my writing journey there were days of writing while sitting on hard plastic bleachers in a gymnasium, as my son played basketball.

There were also evenings spent sitting on metal bleachers, near the 50-yard line as my other son played high school football. Beads of sweat bubbled to the surface of my forehead as I sat with my spiral notebook and ink pen just in case a story idea hit me.

I was determined to write between the cracks of parenting, wherever I could find a block of time. I’d write, rewrite, enter contests, then engage in more research than writing, but not moving forward. I was stuck. I didn’t want to give up on writing for children, instead I took a detour and worked on a project in a different genre, non-fiction inspirational.

 

There are still spiral notebooks filled with stories started from writing challenges, waiting for me to rework. I remain engaged with my children’s writing friends and our local SCBWI chapter (Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators).

If there is one piece of advice, I would give a fellow late bloomer, it would be to follow your passion. Do what you love doing and enjoy each step of the process. It’s easier to nourish your creativity when you love what you’re doing. Journaling is a process I continue to use to stimulate creativity.

Recently, I’ve started another Gratitude Journal. Here’s my latest entry.

June 2020

I am grateful for

…lazy days, sitting in the sunshine and daydreaming

…opportunities to share stories with others

….healthy enough to enjoy all of the above

It’s never too late to bloom where you are planted.

 

For more about this Michigan author’s book & humorous presentations visit her website. Follow her on social media:

Instagram – writermama223

Facebook – Angela.Verges

All photos provided by the author and used with permission.

Late Bloomers defy age stereotypes and help show us the way to tap into our creativity using life experience, energy and positive attitudes.

“Creativity keeps us fresh, keeps us alive, keeps us moving forward.”

(Rollo May, psychotherapist and author of Courage to Create.)

Find more late bloomers guest posts here

(For further resources, see books Secrets to Becoming a Late Bloomer: Extraordinary ordinary people on the art of staying creative, alive and aware in mid-life and beyond by Connie Goldman & Richard Mahler; The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life by Gene D. Cohen M.D.; What Should I Do with the Rest of My Life by Bruce Frankel.)

 

 

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Interview of Sandra McGuire Ph.D. at A is for Aging

I’m pleased to share a brief interview of Dr. Sandra L. McGuire, who has been an invaluable advisor to this blog and website at A is for Aging, B is for Books for a number of years.

Dr. McGuire created the resource Growing Up and Growing Older: Books for Young Readers Book List and she is dedicated to updating this important list annually.

How did you become interested in ageism affecting children?

Years ago in my graduate program it was noted that ageism was pervasive in society. Growing up in a 4-generation family, ageism was a new concept to me. I had been surrounded by older adults who were active, capable, and valued members of their family and community.

I wondered—what is this ageism?

What really troubled me was that ageist attitudes started as early as preschool children, became more negative as the child grew older, and became difficult to change by the time the child reached middle school.

Knowing these attitudes started early, it made sense to start with young children to form more positive attitudes about aging. Children needed help to see what aging could be for them—the older adult they could be potentially.

What was your motivation for beginning your book list?

My doctoral research focused on promoting positive attitudes about aging with preschool children. It used a curriculum that incorporated early children’s literature with positive portrayals of aging.

The books were a great success, and that was the motivation to start the Growing Up and Growing Older: Books for Young Readers booklist. I’m now motivated to keep the booklist updated and available free online. It is available at http://library.lmunet.edu/booklist, in the Educational Resources Information Center, and has been recently added to the Old School Anti-Ageism Clearinghouse under TOOLS.

Can you please share your personal criteria for selecting books to include on the booklist?

I strive to select books that to help combat ageism. Books are selected that have positive, meaningful, realistic portrayals of aging and help children see what old age can be for them.

 

What are your favorite type of picture books?

Definitely books where the illustrations are non-stereotypic, and those that show older adults playing a vital role in the story. Favorites include intergenerational learning and intergenerational friendships.

I like picture books that portray older adults in diverse roles like leaders, workers, volunteers, artists, teachers and caregivers. Biographical books that illustrate growing up and growing older are important also.

 

Is there a type of picture book with older adults that you avoid including in your book list?

Books are not included that focus on the devastating d’s of death, dying, disease, disability, decline, dependence, dementia, and depression. These are not synonymous with aging and can occur across the lifespan.

Those issues are also important, but separate book lists can address them. And frankly, too often published picture books conflate aging with dying, dementia and the other d’s.

It’s very important for children to not equate growing older with the above. We are all growing older every day and research tells us that most of us actually grow happier in old age.

Have you noticed an increase in accurate and positive portrayals of aging in picture book over the years?

Yes and no. I’ve been maintaining the book list for over 30 years. Trying to locate literature for the book list is challenging, time consuming, and often frustrating.  Publications and guides that showcase children’s books often do not have a separate section on older adults.

A publication guide might have a listing for “family” and under that listing you can find grandfathers, grandmothers and other older adult family members. These are not the only roles for older adults.

What do we need to see more of—with regards to older adults in books for children?

The variety of roles older adults play still needs to be better represented in this literature. Being a grandparent is not the only role for children to aspire to as older adults. More books need to portray older adults in the variety of roles they are playing in society.

More intergenerational learning and intergenerational friendships with folks other than grandparents would be great. 

 

Any thoughts regarding what might boost awareness of how aging is portrayed in children’s books?

It remains difficult to find publication guides that include an “intergenerational” listing for locating books. Adding “aging” or “growing older” as categories would help too.

With the start of the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education* Award for Best Children’s Literature on Aging in 2008 there has been some increased awareness of publishers and authors on how aging is presented in early children’s literature. However, the award is not well known and information on this award not easy to locate.

An award from nationally visible platform would be helpful. This A is for Aging, B is for Books blog and website are great resources and much appreciated.

*Formerly the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.

What is your biggest frustration?

My biggest frustration is that we have not made more progress in combating ageism. Everyone is aging and ageism affects everyone. We need to do more to prevent and counteract ageism with young children. By combating ageism we can help ensure that aging does not define the person, but that the person defines aging.

Can you recommend any anti-ageism resources for us?

GSA is now offering free access to Ageism First Aid.” It’s an online multi-module course to help change common misconceptions and myths about aging, promote knowledge about aging, and combat ageism.

It is available for free from April 1 through July 1, 2020. The first two modules are great for everyone. The third is more for professionals in the field. GSA (Gerontological Society of America) is coordinating the national Reframing Aging initiative.

Sandra McGuire welcomes your questions and comments. Please email her directly at smcguire at utk dot edu

     Thanks very much for taking the time to answer my questions Dr. McGuire! And more importantly for mentoring me in my efforts at A is for Aging, B is for Books. With enormous gratitude, Lindsey

–Please note: Book cover images shown in this post are new on Dr. McGuire’s Growing Up and Growing Older: Books for Young Readers book list in 2020 and are recommended.

Another resource for these troubled times is the children’s lit list of Coretta Scott King Book Awards. It’s so important to talk with kids about race relations.

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Two Picture Books Celebrate Late Life

 

Two picture books celebrating late life. Two picture books pushing ageism out of the shadows in kidlit. Two picture books I wish I’d written!

Hats off to

The Truth about Grandparents by Elina Ellis (Little, Brown & Co.; September 2019).

This picture book was originally published in Britain as The Truth about Old People.

 

 

 

AND—also Grandparents by Chema Heras; illustrated by Rosa Osuna (Greystone Kids). These are two important books, definitely about more than grandparents and grandkids. Here we have picture books that tackle myths and age stereotypes with humor!

Both books begin with the visible physical changes to our bodies that come with age. This makes it relatively easy to open conversations with kids around our society’s misconceptions about just what olders can do.

Grandparents is a sly delight first published in Spanish and translated into English by Elisa Amado. (It’s available May 5, 2020.)We see grandfather excited about a dance in town, but grandmother hedges, responding with multiple reasons she is no longer attractive enough to attend dances.

When told she is “as pretty as the sun,” she replies, “That’s not true. I am as ugly as a chicken with no feathers.” Grandfather pushes with ever more imaginative compliments and gradually softens her resistance. Their flirty word play is romantic and amusing.

Rosa Osuna’s illustrations beautifully convey their longtime love. She inserted tiny sketches that them in their younger days and skillfully conveys the joy found in mundane moments of togetherness. Both the author and illustrator of Grandparents live in Spain and the Spanish edition called Abuelos, won the prestigious Premi Llibreter de Narrativa Album Il-lustrat in 2003.

Editor Patricia Aldana’s imprint with Greystone Kids brings books from around the world to English-speakers everywhere. She discovered this lovely book in El Salvador at a Saturday morning library at the San Jacinto market when a young girl declared it her favorite book. (Here’s the back story.) I love that the publisher tags the book with a curriculum connection to healthy behaviors.

 

In The Truth about Grandparents Ukrainian/British Elina Ellis uses her art to directly contradict her text, thus challenging common myths about older adults.

For example, the text states, “I’ve been hearing lots of strange things about old people. Some people say they are NOT MUCH FUN. They say grandparents are SLOW…and CLUMSY…”

 

In reality the grandma and grandpa are having far too much fun. Yoga and dancing are shown, and a little romance. Yay! Smooch.

 

 

 

 

And rollercoasters, skateboards and roller-skates!

 

But I must admit that the latter two make me a tad uncomfortable. There are definitely speedy older adults, and no doubt there are a few grandmas and grandpas roller-skating and skateboarding, it seems those may not be the best examples. Am I wrong?

 

I REALLY like that olders’ alleged fear of technology is debunked here. Are there some older adults who are not tech savvy? Of course. But painting all with the same brush is stereotyping.

Parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians can certainly use these books to jump start some terrific discussions about the vast diversity kids observe in older adults. Think about asking children:

  • Do you think all Grandmas and Grandpas are the same?
  • What kind of fun do you have with your grandma and grandpa?
  • How are they different from other kids’ grandparents?
  • Do they have some special skills they might teach you?
  • Do you think they enjoy being with each other?

—Check out the thought provoking picture book Meena for another title highlighting assumptions about aging. Read more.

—Please think about supporting your independent bookstore in this challenging economic time. Feel free to use this Indie Bound link to find one near you.

Lastly, I’m so pleased to share that my own picture book Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story (Sleeping Bear Press.)has been nominated for an award from the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education. Every two years AGHE gives an award for “the positive portrayal of older adults in books for kids.”

 

When making selections for their award AGHE considers:

  • Portrayal of meaningful aging
  • Portrayal of positive intergenerational relations
  • Diversity e.g, gender, race, ethnicity, disability
  • Appeal
  • Realism of story line

By the way, Gwen Frostic’s early environmental efforts make Nature’s Friend a great title to use for Earth Day 2020.

Stay well everyone! Warm wishes.

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Late Bloomer: Paulette Bochnig Sharkey

Late Bloomers are guest blog posts at A is for Aging—sharing thoughts and insights from individuals who have launched notable creative efforts in the arts in their Third Age.

Today’s post is by children’s author Paulette Bochnig Sharkey.

I’m a rule-follower, always have been. I color inside the lines. I follow recipes exactly. When I play the piano, I stick to the notes on the sheet music, without improvisation. When I write, I carefully attend to word count.

With all that worry about following rules, it took me a while to find my creative side. And it took me a while longer to let others see it. Classic late bloomer behavior.

 

I went directly from undergraduate to graduate school, earned a master’s degree in library science, and became a university reference librarian. The job fit me well. I loved solving bibliographic mysteries, researching esoteric topics, decoding complex journal citations. My natural attention to detail paid big dividends. Looking back, I can see that—especially in those pre-Internet days—the work also required a big dollop of creative thinking to find the information patrons asked me for.

I started writing for publication in the late 1980s. I was living in Reno, Nevada, having fun staying home with my young daughter. Every two weeks, the bookmobile parked at a nearby shopping center and we checked out as many picture books as we could carry. I became fascinated by the minimalism of the picture book form. I wanted to write one. I dabbled, but didn’t get far.

I had better luck with the nonfiction articles I wrote for children during that time, making dozens of sales to magazines like Highlights and Cricket.

Years passed. I retired and became a volunteer pianist in assisted-living and memory-care facilities in my community, something I’ve been doing now for fifteen years. Instead of the classical music I grew up studying, I play mostly World War II–era songs for the residents. Stories unfold around me as they respond to this music of their youth. I created a blog to share my volunteer pianist experiences. I’m still blogging. It’s what really got me writing again.

And I still wanted to write that picture book …

So in February 2017, I signed up for Writer’s Digest University’s “Writing the Picture Book,” and completed a draft of what turned into my debut, A Doll for Grandma: A Story about Alzheimer’s Disease (Beaming Books, May 2020. Illustrator Samantha Woo). Inspiration for the story came from my volunteer work with memory-care residents and from caring for family members with dementia.

But of course before the debut came the rejections from editors and agents, about ten of them. I entered A Doll for Grandma in contests, too, and often made the list of finalists but never won. My critique group helped me refine and revise, and I paid a couple of picture book experts for feedback.

But getting older has made it easier to give myself permission to view rules as merely suggestions.

Then in October 2018, while I was in Alaska awaiting the birth of my first grandchild, I received a book offer. I was 65 years old.

 

Developing my writing voice has been a process reminiscent of developing my distinct touch at the piano, an instrument I’ve played since the age of seven. My piano touch has to do not only with my technique, including the particular way I strike the keys, but also with interpretive elements like phrasing and expression. Put it all together and you get my sound, different from other pianists. People say they know it’s me at the piano even before they come around the corner and see me.

It was the piano that gave me a way into the story I tell in A Doll for Grandma. The piano has provided inspiration for several of my other manuscripts, too, including a picture book biography of Clara Schumann, a 19th century pianist who was definitely not a rule-follower.

Getting older has meant accepting that certain things probably aren’t going to happen for me. For example, despite a year of jazz piano lessons, I still can’t improvise.

But getting older has made it easier to give myself permission to view rules as merely suggestions. At least sometimes.

And with age has come better understanding of my own needs. Some people thrive on chaos. I am not one of them. Quiet and calm nourish my creativity and let me hear my own voice.

My grandson and my first book offer arrived together, forever linked. Two joys of my Third Age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bio

Paulette lives with her husband in the college town of East Lansing, Michigan. When life there gets too hectic, and household chores get in the way of creativity, she heads to Lake Michigan to reflect and recharge.

 

 

 

To order A Doll for Grandma: paulettesharkey.com/books/

website: PauletteSharkey.com

piano blog: PauletteSharkey.com/piano-blog/

twitter: @PBSharkey

Late Bloomers defy age stereotypes and help show us the way to tap into our creativity using life experience, energy and positive attitudes.

“Creativity keeps us fresh, keeps us alive, keeps us moving forward.”

(Rollo May, psychotherapist and author of Courage to Create.)

Find more late bloomers guest posts here.  (For further resources, see books Secrets to Becoming a Late Bloomer: Extraordinary ordinary people on the art of staying creative, alive and aware in mid-life and beyond by Connie Goldman & Richard Mahler; The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life by Gene D. Cohen M.D.; What Should I Do with the Rest of My Life by Bruce Frankel.)

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Top Ten reasons to read “A Map into the World”

In this beautiful new picture book “A Map into the World” we see warm friendships blossom across multiple generations, and across cultures. Author Kao Kalia Yang gives us insights into a Hmong-American family and Seo Kim‘s lovely illustrations complement her words. (Carolrhoda Books; 2019)

Below are my top ten reasons to read A Map into the World:

  1. What is most striking is that four generations are clearly delineated—the children, their parents, Paj Ntaub’s grandmother, Tais Tais—who gardens and actively assists with child care, and also their older neighbors Bob and Ruth. Here to be older is not simply “old.” All too often in picture books that is the case—“old” encompasses multiple generations.

 

  1. The author and illustrator adeptly show us a young child’s perspective of events. Paj Ntaub watches her world through the lens of the big living room window, trying to make sense of what she sees. We see the progression of four distinct seasons along with her observations of events. And from her low vantage point drawing on the sidewalk she overhears her mother and Bob talking.

  1. Growth and aging and death are shared as normal and natural. Paj Ntaub’s tiny twin brothers grow older in both the text and the lush illustrations by Seo Kim. Alongside this passing of time, Ruth’s death is gently shared and the sadness acknowledged. But to be older is not equated with death. Grandmother Tais Tais continues to help the young family in home and garden. Bob grieves, but also responds to their efforts to engage him.

 

  1. The young family reaches out in friendship and support to their older neighbor Bob as he grieves his partner of 60 years. Many people avoid mortality and sadness in discomfort, but this family shows us the way. Yet—the child does not “fix” the older adult.

  1. Paj Ntaub offers gifts of nature—first to her baby brothers—a golden gingko leaf, a ball of fresh snow, fragrant lilac flowers. Then later to their neighbor Bob, in the form of colorful chalk pictures on the sidewalk.

 

  1. We gain insights into a modern Hmong-American family as a valuable part of their community, along with hints at their ancient culture such as the beautiful story cloth.

  1. Childish observations and fun details will capture kids’ imagination. “They were like puppies, their tongues licking everything,” says Paj Ntaub about her infant brothers. And she names her worm “Annette.”

 

  1. The big sister grows visibly in responsibility for her baby brothers. At first her mother cautions her with regard to her interactions, but soon she is urged to help out, “Don’t let them eat the flowers Paj Ntaub.”

  1. This beautiful picture book doesn’t end with death and grief, but rather with hope for Bob’s reentry into his community, and the world. Too many picture books with older characters focus on illness, forgetfulness and decline. Growing old is often confused with disease and death.

 

  1. This book is based on truth. The author’s family maintains an ongoing friendship with their neighbor. She dedicated A Map into the World “For Bob, who loved Ruth.” Here we have a powerful message about community, inter-generational friendship, and longevity.

Editor Carol Hinz, author Kao Kalia Yang and Bob. Photo by Shaina Olmanson.

I’m grateful for this lovely book. In part because it shows the possibility of happiness after loss late in life. And because how we portray growing older does matter, even in picture books.

Researcher Sheree Kwong See at the University of Alberta says “We’ve been able to show that even young children have beliefs about older people’s abilities. We’re seeing what we could call ageism by about age three.”

photo by Shaina Olmanson. Used with permission.

The reality of aging is that there’s considerable heterogeneity; older people differ,” says Kwong See. “They differ a lot, and that is a more complicated story to portray, but it is the truth.”

Kwong See would like to see people be as proactive about quelling ageism as they are about issues like racism and sexism… intervention needs to start early to combat the negative stereotypes and to avoid the cycle people go through from being the perpetrator to being the target.” Read more about ageism and children.

Bob & Kao Kalia Yang at the book launch. Photo by Shaina Olmanson.

Ageism impacts our health and longevity, from an early age. Check out this fascinating research about the power of our beliefs about aging. And how it matters even for children.

Author Kao Kalia Yang of Minnesota, is also the author of award winning The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir and The Song Poet for adults. More picture books forthcoming in 2020.

A little Hmong-American History—

“The name “Hmong,” (pronounced “Mong”) translates as “Free People.”…In 1976, under the auspices of world relief organizations, the first Hmong refugee families came from Laos and Thailand to the United States, settling in California, Oregon, Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Colorado, with other Southeast Asian immigrants…”

Excerpt. Read more from Dia’s Story Cloth: The Hmong People’s Journey of Freedom by Dia Cha (Lee & Low Books, 1996)

Program from my daughter’s grade school, Randolph Heights, in St. Paul MN some years ago. Their Hmong New Year celebration featured a fashion show and music—it was a fabulous way to bridge cultures. Blessings on teachers!

Images used with permission. Thank you to Lerner Books, and editors Carol Hinz and Shaina Olmanson. I reviewed an ebook provided by the publisher at my request.

Find great picture book reviews every Friday at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

Find other picture books at A is for Aging about community and neighborly inter-generational friendships:  Mrs. Katz and Tush; Meena; Last Stop on Market Street; Harry and Walter; Mr. George Baker,

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