The Chapter Book Challenge: Five Benefits of Joining

A challenge to write one chapter book in one month? I thought it was an awesome idea. Here was a way to motivate myself to finally finish a story I had been writing. So I joined.

Little did I know that not only would I get the story done, but I would gain so many other benefits along the way.


These benefits include:

1. The support of the chapter book group

There is an excellent Facebook group. It didn’t matter what writing challenge or question I posted, someone was there to offer either an answer or some support.

2. Inspiration from others in the group

I read about these people with so many obstacles in their lives, yet they were still able to get their writing done. If they can do it, then so can I.

3. Wonderful guest posts

I learned everything from how to use weather in writing to using social media to help your writing.

4. Confidence building

I have always been intimidated to write anything beyond a picture book. But if I can write a chapter book once, then I can do it again. And if I don’t get my middle grade novel done before next year’s challenge, then I will work on it then.

5. Seeing others from all stages participating

I blog as someone who has not yet had a children’s book published. I found others who are like me, and seeing their journey inspires me to continue on my path.


I hope to see you next year at the chapter book challenge.

Looking for Books with Bicultural or Biracial Characters

I am on the lookout for books that feature main characters who are of mixed race or culture. I am particularly interested in ones where the mixture is Chinese/Caucasian. There is only one I have found so far that features a little girl whose mother is Chinese and whose father is Caucasian. But it is brilliant.

“Shanghai Messenger” written by Andrea Cheng and illustrated by Ed Young tells the tale of an eleven-year-old who is invited to go to China by her relatives. May (Mei) is a little wary at first, asking many questions about her possible experience. For example, she wonders if people will stare at her in China, because she is half Chinese. But May agrees to go, and the story takes us through her preparation, her journey, and then back home.

A series of small vignettes brings life to the story. The author does an excellent job of contrasting the Chinese and American cultures. She also does a good job of bringing to life what it is like in China, and how it is to experience life there as a foreigner.

May is the “Shanghai Messenger” of the title, sent to bridge the gap between her American and Chinese families. Although she is originally nervous about meeting her relatives in China, she does end up finding her place among her welcoming Chinese family.

Questions about her identity are a small part of the story and are handled very well. In America everyone thinks she is Chinese, she states. And in China they all stare at her as well. “I guess Max [her brother] and I are half and half everywhere in the world,” she concludes.

If you find any good books where the main character is of mixed race or culture, please let me know.

Princess Role Models

I am not a fan of the current “princess” craze.  I’d rather my daughter spend time with “Cinder Edna” instead of Cinderella. And I think she could learn a lot more from the original tale of “The Little Mermaid”, rather than the movie version.

The princesses in the following books also make better role models.

“Princess Pigsty” by Cornelia Funke is about Princess Isabella, who does not want to live the typical princess life anymore. So she throws her crown away. Her father demands that she retrieve the crown. When she refuses, he banishes her, first to the kitchen, then to the pigsty, which is precisely what she wants.

My daughter made me read this book to her over and over again, telling me how much she enjoyed it. Then instead of me asking her what her favourite part was, she asked me mine. I confess that the author made working in a pigsty sound rather romantic, so I told her that was mine. But she showed me the page where the king tells his daughter that he loves her no matter who she is, which was the whole point of the book.

“The Apple-Pip Princess” by Jane Ray actually choked me up.  It’s a lovely story about a king with three daughters whose kingdom has become rundown after the death of the queen. The king must decide who will rule after his death, so he asks all three of them to do something that will make him proud. The two eldest decide on trying to build the tallest towers, but the youngest does something completely different. When it comes to the part of how the youngest has unexpectedly transformed the kingdom, well that’s the part that made me cry.

Although my daughter enjoys “The Apple-Pip Princess”, she doesn’t like it as much as “Princess Pigsty”. This is because the queen and mother have passed away in the former book, and she does not like to think about the death of anyone’s mother.

How about you? What princess books do you like to read to your children?

You never know what book is going to be a hit with a child

The other day my daughter brought home a non fiction book about hamsters. After I had read it to her, she informed me that she wanted to have a hamster. I said that I wasn’t sure she could, as her father is allergic to cats and dogs.

She decided instead to use her imagination. My daughter pretended that her stuffed mice were hamsters. Then she created cages for them. And she really did a wonderful job. She shredded up paper, following the directions in the book. She even cleaned the cages and the water and food bowl, because that was what it said she should do in the book. And she also made them droppings out of paper, making sure to clean them up so that her hamsters would be happy.

I was surprised and delighted to what lengths she went to make sure that her toy hamsters were happy. But what surprised me even more was that this book inspired such creative play. And I have to say that she makes a very responsible caretaker.

It just goes to show that you never know what book is going to be a hit for a child. Exposing them to many different types of books is a good idea.

Was there any book that unexpectedly led your child into some creative play?

Three Tips on how not to become Overwhelmed by Social Media: Interview with Carol Bremner

Last week, Carol Bremner talked about three social media platforms that writers should consider using. This week, she will give us some tips on how not to become overwhelmed.

Read on for her three tips.


Is there any way that people can simplify their life when using social media? How do you keep from getting overwhelmed from all that is out there?

1. The best way is to limit yourself with a timer.  Also, I find that if I try to do Facebook during the day,  then I might end up getting caught up in it and taking too much time, so I usually save that for the evening. Whatever works for you and doesn’t take up a lot of your time.

2. You can also use things like Hootsuite or other programs that allow you to post to more than one social media network at a time.

3. I recommend that at the beginning you start with just one social media platform. And then just spend your time on that one first, see how you like it. If you don’t like it, try something else. And you’ll find once you are active on a few different ones, there’ll be one that you are more comfortable with.


I especially like the advice of using just one social media platform, because there is a huge learning curve involved. If you try to do them all at once, you are going to definitely be spending more time at it than you would like.

This concludes our interview with Carol Bremner of “Motivated to Learn”. Thank you to Carol for sharing her expertise. For more information on Carol, go to her website.