Monday, October 18, 2010

Essay Contest Announced

7th Annual Essay Contest from Be the Star You Are!®

Be the Star You Are!® literacy charity is pleased to announce its 7th Annual Essay Contest sponsored by US Bank running from October 18, 2010-January 18, 2011. Win $100 plus a guest appearance on the nationally syndicated radio program, Be the Star You Are!®, publication in our Star Searcher Express newsletter and at, and an autographed copy of Be the Star You Are!®.

Topic: "How do we create more happiness and abundance in our lives through service to others?"

Tax deductible entry fee donation is $10. For guidelines, visit

Friday, October 15, 2010

Interview with Martha Swirzinski

The holder of a Bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation from Clemson University and a master’s from the University of Maryland in Kinesiology, Martha Swirzinski has more than 15 years of experience working in the field of movement with children. She is also a certified personal fitness trainer. She currently lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia with her husband and two daughters.

You have three books. Leap…Laugh…Plop, Guess…Giggle…Wiggle and Kick…Catch…Buzzz. Can you tell me a bit about them?

These three books offer the ultimate mind/body connection. When children move both their bodies and minds are strengthened. Using entertaining rhymes and charming pictures, these fun and creative books offer multiple ways for your child to move. They also provide mind stimulating activities on each page. Each book brings the joy of movement together with the joy of reading. The pages of these books are filled with laughter, learning, movement and more.

More specifically: Leap…Laugh…Plop works on all of the locomotor skills Guess…Giggle…Wiggle has the children doing creative movement Kick…Catch…Buzzzz addresses the manipulative skills.

Will there be any more in the series?

Yes, as a matter of fact we are working on the fourth now, which will be specifically on the non locomotor skills.

How did you come up with this idea for a series of books?

I teach in a preschool and have my Master’s degree in Kinesiology, so I’ve been involved with children and movement for over 15 years now. I wanted to come up with a way that parents, and teachers could incorporate the specific movement skills necessary for motor and brain development in an easy and fun way. Doing an activity isn’t always easy. Sometimes space, equipment or time may not be available. However, reading a book is fun, easy and doesn’t require much planning.

Tell me about the title of the series and what that means to readers?

The title Movement and More suggests that within the pages of our books I offer not just fantastic rhymes and great pictures but moving, interacting, thinking and socializing. Our books engage the whole child, all of the domains of child development.

You mention "our" books. Who is the other author?

I co-wrote these with Dr. Anita Tieman, a psychologist, who has spent many years working with children. She brings her expertise into the social and emotional aspect of these books.

What is the best way to engage children in storytime?

I believe in getting them to be part of the story. My books get children engaged by moving along to the rhymes but moving can be done with any book.

What is your favorite word and why?

"Serendipitous" because I believe we should all be open to these kinds of moments.

What is your least favorite word and why?

"Can't" because I believe the moment that it comes out of your mouth you are defeated.

What is your personal motto?

"A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference." -Winnie the Pooh

I love that! Lastly, where can readers find your books?

Our website is

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Interview with Harriet Tramer

Harriet Tramer has worked for more than three decades as both a journalist and an instructor. Her latest book, Rounding the Circle of Love, was recently released from Ladybug Press. Read on for Harriet's insights about writing, caregiving, getting published, and more!

What have you learned through your years as a journalist and instructor?

During that period of time, one thing became increasingly more obvious to me. These professions have much in common as they both demand communication skills, something I have long struggled to hone. If you want to succeed in either of these fields, you must deliver a message that resonates with you. But that is only part of the picture. You must also learn to intuit what others are ready to hear. Otherwise, your words might "fall on deaf ears."

Tell us about Rounding the Circle of Love. What was the impetus to write this book?

I was a caregiver for my mother (now deceased) who drew the picture on the cover of my book. And that experience taught me that handling these "responsibilities" can prove very stressful. So, I wanted to write a book that would offer caregivers some guidelines There are no easy answers when it comes to caregiving or anything else in life. But I tried to present suggestions that would make their challenges more manageable.

In writing the book, I relied not only upon my background as a caregiver. I also brought into play my journalistic "skills" as I interviewed people with expertise in different fields and molded their comments into an approachable document.

How did you first discover your love for writing?

I could point to any eureka moment when I first discovered my love for writing. It is just something that has always been part of me. I am not driven to write by some inner compulsion. Rather, I do it as a matter of course like I get up in the morning and get dressed.

What is your writing routine? Do you write every day? Do you have a certain time or place you write?

When I am being disciplined, I write early in the morning, starting at 4 am. But I must confess that more often than not, the Internet wins out over my best intentions. Turning it on, I become lost in a tumble of on line newspapers that somehow seem more welcoming than the empty page I would face if I started writing, for example, an essay.

Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self about your writing life? What is your biggest advice for kids and teens just starting out?

If I could magically go into a time machine and tell my younger self what I have learned over the years about writing, my advise would be sorely outdated. These days everything must be crisp and concise. Eloquence and erudition often lose out in the race to make every word count. And things are moving more and more in that direction, with Twitter and other means of communicating demanding you say more with less. A sign of the times: There are even novels weaved together from text messages.

What do you hope readers take away from Rounding the Circle of Love?

My major message to caregivers: You can accomplish things you had always figured were out of your realm. Caregivers have to be a jack of all trades - companion, nurse, financial adviser. And more often than not, they rise to the occasion by excelling at things at a broad breadth of things.

What was the journey to publication like for you?

It was much easier than I ever expected it would be. The internet worked its wonders and I found a publisher - Ladybug Press of Sonora, California - in no time.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Caregiving can be a positive experience that helps you gain self-confidence as you see yourself making a major difference in somebody else's life and discover your hidden talents. But it can also be very depleting if you do not become your own caregiver along the way.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

How to Convince Your Parents That Your "Worthless" Major is Worth Something

Guest Post by Tim Handorf

When I was an undergraduate, I knew from the very beginning I wanted to study English. Most of my friends were tepid in their own choices, and changed majors several times before settling with subjects like Economics or Psychology. Others wanted to study something else but were influenced by their parents to study a major that would provide more immediate material gains.

When I told my parents my intentions to study English, my father deadpanned, "That's all?" I asked him what he meant by that, and he responded, "Why not minor in English and study something else more useful, like Business?" I was taken aback. I didn't know how, exactly, to respond to his question.

Of course, in a way, he was absolutely right. Studying literature or creative writing for its own sake doesn't result in obvious job prospects. Eventually, however, I formed a coherent enough argument favoring my choice of study, that even my parents -- a very traditional bunch -- eventually supported me wholeheartedly.

One thing to remember when you decide to throw your lot in with literature or writing is that chances are, you won't become a world-famous novelist. At the same time, however, no one goes or should go into a university literature or writing program with the idea that pursuing fame and fortune is our natural next step.

We do it because we do care about the written word. We understand that taking in the world and its details and expressing it clearly, thoughtfully, even creatively, using our own signature mark, is meaningful, even if we don't eventually do it to earn our daily bread. That is not to say that we cannot always dream. And the carefully study of letters is a necessary first step in finding our own voice. We cannot, after all, pen something extraordinary without knowing what has come before.

To counter the old folks' assumptions that paying a lot of money for a college degree only to end up as a starving artist is quite easy. What I did was throw at them some of the latest research. Parents love research. For example, take Daniel H. Pink's book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. Pink, a former speechwriter for Al Gore, who now writes for several leading publications analyzing future trends in business and technology, argues that we are now moving beyond the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. By this he means that those who have developed the capacities for empathy, creativity, and are able to take information and discern some meaning from it will be most successful. And are these tasks not exactly what a degree in English or Creative Writing prepares us for?

So if your parents, friends, or even you yourself are struggling to figure out the purpose behind a course of study in literature, rest assured that you will have a host of opportunities, even if you don't end up writing fiction or poetry for a living. If you can synthesize information, if you can communicate it clearly and inventively, then the future is yours.

By-line: This guest post is contributed by Tim Handorf, who writes on the topics of online colleges and universities. He welcomes your comments at his email: