“Let us read and let us dance – two amusements that will never do any harm to the world.” – Voltaire #booklove #read #dance #amwriting #amreadingTweet
Author Jessica McCann on TikTok
If you enjoy brief, bookish videos, follow Jessica McCann on TikTok.
Posts include a series of videos in which I read #firstlines from my all-time favorite historical novels. Others include book trailers , writing tips, and other fun reading-related topics. All are only a couple minutes or less. @JMcCannWriter
Words from Nature
The connection between today’s children and the nature world gets further eroded each year. The Lost Words is a big, beautiful book of poems and artwork created to celebrate the wonder and reinforce the importance of everyday nature in all our lives.
Here’s a summary from the publisher: “In 2007, when a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary — widely used in schools around the world — was published, a sharp-eyed reader soon noticed that around forty common words concerning nature had been dropped. Apparently they were no longer being used enough by children to merit their place in the dictionary. The list of these “lost words” included acorn, adder, bluebell, dandelion, fern, heron, kingfisher, newt, otter, and willow. Among the words taking their place were attachment, blog, broadband, bullet-point, cut-and-paste, and voicemail.”
In response, nature writer Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris created a “spell book” meant to be read aloud. They sought “to summon these words again into the voices, stories, and dreams of children and adults alike.”
The brief video below shows off the gorgeous artwork of The Lost Words (though it doesn’t truly do it justice!). This a book with heft that is sure to become a family heirloom. I highly recommend buying this special book for all the children in your life.*
* If you decide to purchase from Bookshop.org, a portion of the sale will support indie bookstores and authors, including me.
Giving Thanks Every Day
“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson #grateful #historicalfiction #histnov #justread #readingcommunity #givingthanksTweet
Halloween Book Fun
Giving out books to trick-or-treaters has been a fun way to share my love of reading with children. I stumbled upon the idea years ago when Googling creative ways to donate books. California mom and author Rebecca Morgan founded “Books for Treats” in 2001 to “feeds kids’ minds, not their cavities.”
I don’t object to giving out Halloween candy. (Truth be told, it’s possible I’ve eaten as much of it as I’ve handed out over the years.) But I do champion literacy and the mental health benefits of reading books.
Only about 1 in 3 fourth-graders in the United States are proficient in reading, according to a report by Save the Children. If children can’t read at grade level by fourth grade, they’re unlikely to ever catch up. A key part of the problem is that many children don’t have access to books in their homes or family members who read to them.
To combat those facts, we give books at Halloween. My husband was skeptical at first. In his defense, I tend to go overboard when it comes to books. So, I conceded it might be possible that children would not be thrilled with getting books, and we stocked up on plenty of candy as a back-up.
As it turns out, books-for-treats was a huge success.
The kiddos love it, and they remember. Many run up the driveway saying, “This is the book house!” Often, they take their time going through the baskets to find just the right book, while parents laugh and say, “Just pick one!” Every now and then, a child simply can’t decide and will slip two books into their pumpkin bucket or pillowcase. I smile and look the other way.
Teenage trick-or-treaters are some of the biggest fans; they’re both grateful and suspicious. “I can just take this?” Every year, we buy more books than the year before. We always run out before the night ends.
Giving books for treats at Halloween is a fun way to improve child literacy. And the kiddos love it. #booksfortreats #authorsforliterarcy #readingcommunityTweet
If you’re still not convinced this is the Best. Idea. Ever, check out this CNN article highlighting a neurobiological study of the benefits of books and detriments of screen time on a preschool child’s development. The brain scans are startling. Kids need books.
There are many ways to stock up on books without breaking the bank. Here are few ideas:
- Thin out your own book collection of board books, early readers and young adult books that your children have outgrown and no longer want. One year, we gave out Manga graciously donated by my daughter who was moving overseas. The kids went bananas.
- Used-book stores often have large selections of kids’ books in clearance for $1 each. One year, we bought comic books (50 cents apiece) at Bookmans, an indie bookstore in Arizona. When the bookseller learned we were going to give them away to trick-or-treaters, they gave us a 10 percent discount to boot. Library sales are another great source for inexpensive books.
- If you prefer to give out new books, The Dollar Store often has ones that fit the bill. You can also order inexpensive books from Oriental Trading Company, like this set of 10 nursery rhyme readers for about $6.
DIY Halloween Décor – Old, Spooky Books
In a related note on my obsession with books, check out this photo gallery highlighting a fun DIY project. I hate throwing away books, but sometimes they get outdated or worn out. Other times, the books are of such low quality, I am not comfortable donating them. My solution is to repurpose them in fun ways, like making books look old and spooky for Halloween décor. Scroll down for simple instructions.
- Tear the covers off paperback books. Paint covers of hardbound books – I used red; when it was dry, I dabbed on burnt umber with a scrunched paper-towel to make it look aged.
- Pour left-over coffee into a 9”x13” glass pan. Dip books one at time into the coffee. You can either submerge the entire book, or just the edges; it depends on how old and wrinkled you want them to become.
- Fan out the pages and shape the books however you’d like.
- Set them outside in the sun to dry, or arrange in front of a fan. Flip the books periodically to make sure all sides get air. It can take a few days to dry thoroughly, depending on how deeply you submerged them.
- I also created fake book titles in spooky fonts, make-believe potions and creepy graphics to cut and paste into the books. I dipped the printouts into the coffee and set them on a cookie rack to dry (move quickly when dipping the paper, so it doesn’t get too soggy and fall apart).
- Have fun decorating them with Halloween doodads, if you want. I used plastic spiders and ping-pong balls painted like eyeballs. Brush on Modge Podge or Elmer’s glue to help secure pages and décor.
Writing to Grab the Reader
Historical novelist and creative nonfiction author Jessica McCann answers two questions from aspiring writers in this four-minute video.
- How do you write an opening line that will grab readers?
- There are so many entertainment options out there today. Do you think it’s getting harder to catch the attention of readers?
Newsletter about Reading, Writing and Life
I’ve launched an email newsletter and monthly giveaway to shine a spotlight on reading, writing and life. It will feature content that isn’t on my website (so be sure to subscribe even if you follow my blog), highlighting interesting books and articles, writing tips and inspiration, motivational quotes and ideas, and more. Plus, every month one newsletter subscriber name will be drawn to win something fun and bookish (like a bookstore gift card, signed paperback, audiobook, journal, etc.).
Go to the newsletter sign-up page and enter giveaway by clicking here!
(You can also earn bonus entries for the monthly giveaway by using the Rafflecopter form on the sign up page to share this with others.)
Writing Deadlines and Goals
Historical novelist and creative nonfiction author Jessica McCann answers two questions from aspiring writers in this five-minute video.
- You said when you’re writing a book, you should take time to get it right. But how do you take your time when you’re on a deadline?
- Do you set daily word count goals to get your book written?
Writing Research and Fieldtrips
Published author Jessica McCann spoke online with high school students about her writing and research process. The students were awesome and asked several great questions. In the coming weeks, this blog will feature video segments from the class. In this first post, McCann talks about how technological advances during her career has made book research much easier; yet, she stresses how also getting offline and away from technology can improve your writing in different ways.
Garden Library DIY
This crafty do-it-yourself project has been months in the making. I’d been aching to improve the dreadful view outside my home office window for a couple years. Inspiration for a garden library DIY project finally struck early in 2020.
I began stopping my car and hopping out to rescue stray bricks and busted pavers from curbs, gutters, sidewalks and embankments. These orphans would become my garden books. A busted, stained shipping-pallet and a weather-worn lattice would be reincarnated as trellis bookshelves. Splashes of old paint would be mixed from buckets left in the garage by the previous homeowner. A little money was invested in a fresh box of wood screws, a few drought-resistant plants and vines, and a couple other decorative touches.
I just had to wait out the summer heat to begin assembling the pieces. So, I waited. And I waited.
The mercury in Phoenix exceeded 100 degrees for nearly five months in 2020. Fifty-three of those days, the temperate was more than 110 (pulverizing the 33-day record set in 2011). This was just one more aberration among the many that made 2020 a painfully-weird year.
At the end of October, I stopped waiting for the crispness of fall weather. The mid-90s would have to be cool enough. I needed to get outside – hammering, sanding, drilling, painting, planting and sweating my COVID-lockdown, presidential-election stress away. It was just what I needed.
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” – Cicero #brickbooks #DIY #booknerd #writingcommunityTweet
I hope you enjoy the before, during and after photos. This remains a work in progress, though I already love my new view! My husband is happy I had fun with the project. My son thinks I’m weird. What do you think?