New Ebook Released: “Thanks! 100 Wonderful Ways to Appreciate Volunteers”

I’m so pleased to announce that the new version of Thanks: 100 Wonderful Ways to Appreciate Volunteers is now available on Amazon. This ebook is a handbook full of concrete suggestions for any volunteer manager or leader who needs creative, thoughtful ways to show their gratitude for the hard work volunteers provide.

I’ve been on both sides of the volunteer-organization relationship, and effective gratitude truly stands out to me as an essential piece. It’s not optional.

In 2013, the Independent Sector calculated that the average value of a volunteer hour is worth $22.55. Many non-profit organizations could not begin to pay volunteers that rate for all the work they do. But these same organizations are constantly looking for ways to show volunteers they are valued and appreciated.

It is so hard to find the right volunteer for the task at hand. So organizations look for ways to keep excellent volunteers engaged and to let volunteers know they are valued. One of the best ways to show volunteers they are valued is to frequently utilize their expertise and skills. People love to feel needed.

Another way is to learn who they are as people. In Thanks!, many of the ideas I’ve offered are based upon knowing the personal preferences of the volunteers who donate their time and efforts. Knowing how the volunteers prefer to work, what is motivating their choice to volunteer, and how they prefer to be recognized are key aspects of developing a strong relationship between your organization and your invaluable volunteers.

Gratitude goes a long way and this book offers a hearty list of 100 unique ways to say thanks. What is the best way you’ve ever been thanked for volunteering?

Good Book Trailers

I love the idea of book trailers and hope one day I’ll have one for my as-yet-unpublished books. In the meantime, I’m very proud to share the excellent book trailer for Defective, a book written by my Pennwriters critique group partner Susan Sofayov.

I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but this trailer had me move the book higher in my giant “To Read” pile.

Check it out here and let me know if you’ve read the book.

 

The Goldfinch and other books

Writers need to read books. Here are some I’ve read because they won awards.

“…It’s a joke, the Fabritius. It has a joke at its heart. And that’s what all the very greatest masters do. Rembrandt. Velázquez. Late Titian. They make jokes. They amuse themselves. They build up the illusion, the trick—but, step closer? it falls apart into brushstrokes. Abstract, unearthly. A different and much deeper sort of beauty altogether. The thing and yet not the thing.”


I just finished reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It seems to be either a love it or hate it kind of book, based on the Goodreads reviews I’ve seen. I’m glad I read it, because for awhile I was lost in the beauty of the writing. At other points I was pulled out and really interested in the cause-and-effect scenarios Tartt constructed. I rushed to finish the book, which to me took too long, but in the end I was impressed by her skillful development of a wide variety of characters and worlds.

I do try to pick up award-winning adult fiction books now and then, though most take a long time to read. But earlier this year I did enjoy McBride’s The Good Lord Bird. It’s historical fiction and covers the events leading up to the John Brown raid, an event in time rife with what-ifs and could-have-beens. Also, I love going to Harper’s Ferry and am still terrified by the wax museum. I think a lot of people were terrified by John Brown, so it it’s only natural his wax figure scared me so badly.

I guess if I want to write something that will get noticed, I should put a bird in the title? Unfortunately the middle grade novel I’m sending to agents and the one I just finished for NaNoWriMo have nothing to do with birds. Hmmm. Maybe I should think about this.

I can’t end this post about books that win awards without mentioning the first National Book Award winner that I read because it was a National Book Award winner. I still struggle to describe this book, but I can say the characters and the world have lingered with me many years after I finished turning the last page.

Did you read any of these books? Thoughts?

Creative science writing

creative science writing

Inspiration from nature

Creative science writing, not exactly science fiction but fiction based in fact, is one of my favorite kinds of writing. Recently I finished a fun story about a worm who saves a compost pile. Lots of creative science writing in that tale.

And earlier this year my middle son asked me to write a story about a certain type of bee he invented. I was delighted with his character but struggled to come up with a story. So this week I grabbed a large stack of non-fiction children’s books about bees from the library. I have learned so much amazing detail about the lives of bees. There is fodder there for at least three different kinds of stories and maybe two decent poems. I have big dreams for this creative science tale, like middle grade novel or maybe even graphic novel length. If only I could draw!

Following along science-and-nature inspired creative writing,  I have rediscovered the most amazing book that I bought for my boys but selfishly I am now claiming for my own. The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination (A Poetry Speaks Experience). Seriously. Even if you claim you don’t like poetry, you must get this book.

What’s a book, story or poem that you love that is an example of creative science writing?

Recipe for Success: Working Mom Tips

As a contributor to 30SecondMom, I have connected with interesting, motivated and funny moms across the country. These moms also offer some really excellent working mom tips, and as a working mom myself, I often find my balance shifts day to day, hour to hour.

That’s why I’m proud to share this interview with fellow 30Second Mom and author Marci Fair as she launches her book TILT – 7 Solutions To Be A Guilt-Free Working Mom as a part of my Recipe for Success feature. Marci is a wife, mom of four & friend who has worked in real estate for over twenty years. She founded kares4kids.com, which has served over 15,000 children since 2005.

working mom balance

TILT by Marci Fair

What is TILT?

TILT-7 Solutions To Be A Guilt-Free Working Mom is a practical parenting guide brimming with real life suggestions, tips, and advice for working mothers. It encourages them, as they help their children reach for their goals and dreams, to continue to reach for their own. It is filled with over 70 quotes from the author’s children, over 100 practical guilt-free tips and the wisdom of over 80 other amazing working mothers.

Was writing TILT self-motivated? 

As a working mom of four, I had to find my own meaning and peace within the chaos I had created. And balance was not an option. So, I TILTed instead.

I wrote TILT to cut through the commotion of my day-to-day life and find solutions that worked for our family. As I learned how to incorporate these ideas into our life, I found the answers I wanted to enjoy my mom-journey.

With so many of my mom friends also struggling with mom guilt, I wanted to share my best ideas with them on how to overcome that painful problem.

What are your favorite parts of TILT? 

I have many parts that I really like about TILT – the funny Mom Quizzes, the silly children’s quotes (70+!), and the Guilt-free Tips at the end of each chapter. I also really appreciate the 86 ideas from other moms included in TILT.

As I have matured, I have also realized how much I still need to learn. So I asked other women to share their own hard-earned mom wisdom in TILT as well, to make it an even richer book for the reader.

What was your favorite part of the process?

I have been working on this “heart-project” to write TILT for many years now. It was very challenging for me to put all the parts and pieces together. I had it edited over, and over, and over again to make it the best that I could.

As it’s “construction” was challenging, I would say the most rewarding part for me has been after its publication, to hear and see how amazingly well-received it has been. I am so thankful that it has only “5” Star reviews on Amazon so far (40) and delighted when a mom tells me how much it has helped her in her life. The strength of the feedback and the conversations with the moms are my favorite parts!

Get your copy of TILT!

 

Favorite Bedtime Books

I recently joined the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators and my first few meetings have me thinking about my favorite bedtime books. I have a quite a few. In fact many of my favorite bedtime books have no words! But instead of making a list of which books I love, I am actually going to discuss a style of book that I don’t really care for from the perspective of a parent at bedtime: the list book.

I don’t mind these books during middle of the day quiet time, car trips, in waiting rooms, etc. But I do mind their lack of plot, story arc, characters, and most importantly the lack of an ending. At bedtime, I need stories to end. That’s one main reason the Can You See What I See and Where’s Waldo books – while fun!- are not approved bedtime reading, at least with me.

Reasonable Bedtime Book

a good bedtime book

An example of a good list book

Some list books are great. For example, Richard Scarry produces the absolute best and manages to incorporate a gentle, funny storyline that guides readers through his adorably illustrated pages.

Here’s an inside spread from The Best Word Book Ever. I love breakfast, so I chose this particular page showing Kenny Bear waking up and enjoying a hearty meal to start the day. Delightful!

Scarry’s other books, especially Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, do a nice job of combining huge lists of recognizable objects and easy words for children to learn with an entertaining and light-hearted storyline. If I were so inclined to write a list book, this would be the style I’d choose.

Ridiculous Bedtime Books

Here are two examples of list books that drive me crazy:

children's bedtime book about cars

Don’t touch the flaps.

not my favorite bedtime book about cars

Sparkle no substance.

In the first book by Fisher-Price, we get to see toys in action in a little town. There’s barely any text but there are lots of flaps to lift, pull and tear. My kids do rip the flaps and then cry and beg me to repair them but later they pick at the tape and tear them again. Also, struggling to open the flaps prolongs the agony of reading this list book at bedtime. (And I absolutely cannot help my child lift the flaps or they freak out because they want to do it themselves!!)

The second book is irritating to me from the perspective of an aspiring writer. Some publishing company out there (more than one, truthfully) churns out these books and sells them to kids and grandparents who can’t resist the sparkle and cashes checks. While many writers I know work hard to get their excellent writing  recognized. And writers like me wonder if there is any hope for a good storybook in today’s market.

My favorite bedtime books don’t just keep kids busy and they don’t push learning shapes, colors and numbers on kids – but there is a place for those kinds of books. Just not at bedtime.

Truly, my favorite bedtime books capture the imagination but also speak to what a child really knows and feels in their world. It’s an art and it’s magic and it sends them off to sleep and dream, while I head off to write and dream!

Are there books you absolutely won’t read to your child at bedtime?

 

 

 

Grumpy Kids? Not these Kindergarteners!

This post originally appeared in June 2012. 

Kindergarten Thank You Notes

At the end of May, I read The Bumpy, Grumpy Road to two kindergarten classes here in Pittsburgh. At first they laughed with delight when they saw Dylan, a little boy, driving a car. They were impressed! But then Dylan started to use grumpy words. In each of the classes, a child called out, “The sky is getting darker!” They were worried for Dylan. One girl even shook her head when Dylan shouted at his brothers.

I continued reading and we got to the page where Dylan sees the first sign. In each of the classes again, a child called out “That stop sign says “Sorry!” They watched with relief and amazement as the sky brightened and the road got smoother with every good choice Dylan made. At the end, they were beaming and laughing again.

Those children traveled the bumpy road with Dylan and sped down the smooth one with him when he learned that he can choose his words and attitude.

I love the fact that not only did I get to share my book with two wonderful classrooms, but that one class of children decided to make their own books! These thank you notes are actually small booklets complete with author’s names and a few pages inside with words and illustrations! Is there a future writer in this class? Possibly!

These thank you notes are the first I received from children, but I hope not the last. Of course the best thank you came from Dylan the night I read him the story, and he cried and said “That’s me, Mommy. Sometimes I am on the bumpy road and don’t know how to get off.” I’ll never forget that moment and hopefully the children who heard this story will remember they, too, can choose which road to drive!

Review for “The Bumpy, Grumpy Road”

Is there anything nicer than a great review from a expert in the field of dealing with emotions? 

I’m lucky enough to be part of an amazing group of women as a contributor to  30 Second Mom. I found many other moms running their own businesses, writing books and dealing with grumpy kids! Dr. Christina Hibbert, a psychologist focusing on women’s health, postpartum health, and parenting issues. Her post on handling whining really hit home with me.  She was kind enough to review a copy of The Bumpy, Grumpy Road and sent me her thoughts:

The Bumpy, Grumpy Road is an adorable book that will help children of all ages learn to navigate feelings of anger, frustration, sibling rivalry, and plain old grumpiness. It not only entertains, it teaches practical skills children can apply to help them overcome their “big feelings” and find their way back to the “smooth path” of sharing, caring, and feeling happy again. I will read the book to my younger kids. I particularly loved your “signs”–what a great way to teach kids how to stop and change their behavior. A really great idea!”

Thanks Dr. Hibbert!

 

BookGoodies profiles “My Food Notebook”


Authors trying to spread the word about their new book should check out BookGoodies! They’ve profiled My Food Notebook, but there is so much more on their website including podcasts, giveaways writing challenges and more.