Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Meet Helena Harper

Helena Harper is a native of England, but she grew up in a household that did things somewhat differently to other English households, because her mother was German (her mother had met her father in Hamburg at the end of WWII, when as a British soldier he had been stationed there). This mixed background has had a profound influence on Helena and her understanding of so-called national divisions and whom we call an 'enemy' and whom we call a 'friend'.

From an early age she loved to read and write, particularly fantasy stories, and later she enjoyed studying foreign languages. At Surrey University she studied German, Russian and International Relations and spent considerable periods of time in Germany, Austria and Russia as part of the course. After university she went into banking, but soon realised that was a big mistake. “I felt like I was being suffocated,” she says of the experience.

She then spent a year teaching languages at a private school in London, and enjoyed it so much she decided she would get properly trained. She did a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at Exeter University and then started her career as a modern languages teacher, a career which has lasted twenty years. During that time she has continued to write, concentrating primarily on fantasy stories for young children. However, in the past few years she has also discovered the joys of writing poetry for adults, and her first two books are poetry collections: It's a Teacher's Life...! and Family and More – Enemies or Friends?, which have been inspired by her professional and personal life.

Helena is now a private tutor and translator. She is continuing to write children's stories, and illustrations for her first children's picture book are now being done. Her aim is to see the book in print before the year is out. Many people ask Helena why she likes to write. She feels she can best express it like this:

The blank page calls,

the heart responds,

imagination spreads wide its wings

and launches into infinity...

Fingers dance,

words flow,

the page fills,

the soul takes flight

and the spirit sings.

Copyright © Helena Harper

I asked Helena some questions. so we could get to know her better.

  1. Can you tell us a little about yourself? (i.e. Pets? Where you live? Special interests of hobbies?)

I live in the UK, quite near London, in a county called Surrey. I was born in this county and – apart from periods spent abroad when studying my foreign languages – have always lived here. Although it's very much 'communter' country and very densely populated, there are still lovely pockets of countryside and quaint, historical villages. I'm within easy travelling distance of one of the neighbouring counties, Hampshire, and the village of Chawton, where Jane Austen lived for the latter part of her life. I love Jane Austen's stories – don't you?

Besides reading and writing, I enjoy walking, playing tennis, doing Pilates, dancing and spending time with my niece and nephew.

  1. What inspired you to write your book? My book “It's a Teacher's Life...!” is based on my own experiences as a teacher and came about after I'd written some poems whilst on a retreat, including one for the cook who was producing some wonderful meals for us. It reminded me of one of the cooks at the school where I worked and I thought I could adapt the poem for her and then I started to think of other 'school' poems I could write about.

  1. Do you have a favorite poem, if so tell us why? No, I can't say I have a favorite. They are all so close to my heart.

  1. Tell us a little about your writing schedule. What do you find most difficult, easiest? I have to fit my writing around my tutoring and other commitments. I write whenever I find some time to write, which could be any time of the day. The easiest thing is coming up with an idea, the most difficult thing is then sorting out the details of the story.

  1. What are your future writing plans? I hope to get my second collection of poems, Family and More – Enemies or Friends?, which at present is an ebook, published as a paperback, and the illustrations for my first children's picture book are being done at the moment. I have another picture book that I would like illustrated after that and I will be looking for suitable publishers.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Art of Science by Ransom Noble


Janie Hunter’s plans for seventh grade (including weekly jam sessions, Art Club, volleyball, and maybe Pom Squad) change when she qualifies for a special science program. Even when her grades drop, her mom doesn’t allow Janie to drop the special program.

Life becomes complicated with trying to find a balance between her popular friends and the bright kids in her classes, her academic classes and her love of art, and friends and classmates who won’t get along. The biggest surprise comes when she discovers she may be able to combine science and art.


Janie Hunter begins seventh grade looking forward to doing activities that she enjoys. Her mother has other ideas, she thinks it's time for Janie to start preparing for college and Art club isn't a part of that plan. When Janie qualifies to get into Argonauts, a special after school science club she has to find a way to make her mom happy and do the things she loves.

When Janie’s dropping grades and her first dance come to her mother’s attention, Mom intends to steer her in the ‘right’ direction.

To make matters worse, a boy at school threatens to make her miserable, though his motives aren't clear. Janie just wants everyone to get along, but even her friends can’t manage that.


Sophia met Janie outside the school. “Mom says we’re to be home right away, Janie.”

I’m on my way.”

I’m driving us. Get in the car.”

Janie grimaced. “I’ll walk.”

Sophia rolled her eyes. “Don’t be difficult.”

I’m not difficult.” Janie got in the car with her sister. “You don’t have to rub it in all the time. You got your license last month.”

I don’t mean it that way, Janie. I’m just wondering why Mom wanted us home so fast.”

Wait …” Janie paused, completely shocked for a moment.

Doesn’t Mom have to work?”

Sophia shook her head. “I guess not. She just called the school to tell me to pick you up. We’re supposed to go directly home. I don’t know what’s going on either.”

Janie’s fingers traced the raised patterns on the cover of the book sitting in her lap. What could this be about? She and Sophia didn’t speak again on the drive. When Sophia pulled the car in the driveway, Janie realized she was missing the first Art Club meeting. Too late now; she hoped the teacher would allow her to join next time.

Sophia and Janie walked in the house, dropping their book bags by the door. “Mom? Dad?” Sophia called.

We’re in the dining room,” her mother called back. “Please join us, girls.”

Four wineglasses sat on the table, filled with white grape juice, Mom’s favorite family celebration drink. Janie and Sophia sat in their usual seats. “What’s the big deal, Mom? Did you get a promotion?”asked Janie.

No, guess again.” Mom’s smile was bursting with happiness.

Janie didn’t remember the last time she smiled like that.



Janie’s heart pounded. “What did I do?” It had to be something good, or Mom wouldn’t be smiling, right?

You got into Argonauts at school.” Mom’s smile grew larger.

I’m so proud of you, honey.”

What?” Janie hadn’t heard of such a thing before.

Mom explained, “It’s a special program at school. On Wednesdays, you’ll stay after school for two hours with some other very smart children, and you get to do exciting science stuff. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Let me remember: They said you’ll be studying chemistry, physics, electronics and robotics. It will prepare you for the future.”

Janie didn’t say anything. Why did everything have to be working toward the future? At thirteen, college seemed far away to Janie.

Wow. Congratulations, Janie,” Sophia said quietly.

Yes, congratulations, Janie,” her dad added.

You’ll get all the information about it tomorrow.”

But volleyball meets on Wednesdays!”

Her mother continued like she never heard her. Most likely, she didn’t. “And Dad will be able to pick you up afterwards. Isn’t this wonderful?” Mom smiled down at Janie.

But what if I don’t want to quit volleyball?”

This is going to help you get into college, Janie. This is important. You can play volleyball on the weekends or next summer.”

Janie gulped down some grape juice.

And we’re going out to dinner to celebrate.”

Janie sat quietly the rest of the evening. The decision had been made. She thought her dad must not have mentioned Art Club yet, since her mother didn’t add that to the lecture.

Facts Sheet for The Art of Science

Title: The Art of Science

Author: Ransom Noble

Illustrator: Stephen Macquignon

Category: Young Adult

ISBN 10: 0-9818685-4-1

ISBN 13: 978-0-9818685-4-7

Pub Date: April 2009

Price: $12.99

Pages: 87

Publisher: 4RV Publishing, LLC

Language: English

Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches

Shipping Weight: 8 ounces

Web sites:

Find Ransom Noble at http://ransomnoble.wordpress.com

Find Stephen Macquignon at http://scketch2color.multiply.com

Visit 4RV Publishing at http://4rvpublishingllc.com

Media Contact:

Ransom Noble

Monday, June 15, 2009

Meet Ransom Noble

An early love of reading and the
sciences led Ransom into writing and a
career in mechanical engineering.
Believing determination can help
one attain any goal, she constantly sets new goals for herself
and encourages others in their quests
for knowledge.
She can often be found with her
husband and their friends listening
to music or playing games (every kind).

Her work includes "Qui's Contract,"
a short story that appeared in Ruins
Metropolis, June 2008 and The Art of
Science, April 2009 by 4RV Publishing.

I asked Ransom some questions about her writing.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? (i.e. Pets? Where you live? Special interests of hobbies?) I live in Des Moines with my husband and baby girl (10 weeks). The only pets I can claim are my plants, and though they have names, they're barely hanging on most of the time. I just don't have the knack of them. I enjoy yoga and knitting as hobbies.

  • What inspired you to write this story?

I was in a class at the time at the Children's Institute of Literature. I talked with my mentor about several ideas before deciding to write this one. I felt closer to the characters in this one than my mentor's favorite idea of mine, so I wrote this one. Sometimes it's what you feel capable of doing at the time, and you might be able to do more next time. We grow as writers with each story we tell.

  • Do you have a favorite character, if so tell us why?

I think in some way all of them are dear to me. I like Katya's spunk (Janie's best friend), so if I had to choose one, it'd probably be her.

  • Tell us a little about your writing schedule. What do you find most difficult, easiest?

Right now I find it most difficult to find a schedule. I work through my daughter's feedings and we're just managing. Usually I can manage to catch up on my things in the evening when my husband returns home.

  • What are your future writing plans?

Other than getting back to a regular schedule? I have a couple novels in mind, just seeing which one speaks to me first to get written. I also finished one last November for NaNoWriMo, but it needs some good editing/rewriting work before it's ready to go anywhere.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Road Trip into The Past

Ken Mansfield, his wife, Connie, and Moses, his van, take a road trip into the past. Ken had an amazing career full of highs and lows. Retracing his steps in a road trip into the past made him think about the people he knew and some of the highlights and disasters of his life. I found the description of selling and producing records very informative. The stories he had to tell about being on the road with the stars were worth the price of admission.

The deeper element to the story is that at a certain point many of us ask why are we here, and more importantly who are we? Ken has found a deep relationship with his God. He was looking for that same relationship with himself. His talks with God were very illuminating. Believing that God is showing him the way wasn't the total answer, he still had to come to terms with who he is. I found it fascinating that visiting all the places of the past didn't do the trick until he realized that they were past. The future is the only thing we can change and going into it having shucked off the highs and lows of our past makes it a much more accessible adventure. It allowed Ken at the end to become a whole person.

Published by Thomas Nelson

Available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Between-Wyomings-iPod-Open-Road/dp/1595551654/

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Meet Angelina Jellybean by Crystalee Calderwood

Angelina wants to eat nothing but jellybeans. Year round, from Easter to Christmas, she asks for her favorite treat. But a strange even teaches Angelina that there's such a thing as too much of a good thing.

With colorful, delightful illustrations by Stephen Macquignon, Angelina is sure to win over hearts of young picky eaters everywhere.

Where to buy:



Crystalee's Links

Blog: http://www.crystaleecalderwood.blogspot.com
Website: http://www.crystallcalderwoood.bravehost.com

Monday, June 1, 2009

Meet Crystalee Calderwood

Crystalee Calderwood's first love was reading. She could read before she entered kindergarten. Writing was naturally the next step. For many years Crystalee focused on poetry. It helped her get through her rocky teen years, and she honed her skills as an English major at Penn State, Altoona. In 2006, Crystalee got accepted into the MFA program of her dreams at Chatham University if Pittsburgh, PA. At Chatham, Crystalee began to think maybe poetry was no longer for her. "It felt like they were putting me into a box," she says. "Everything was about 'Is this going to sell?' I was expected to write like everyone else, and I felt like I couldn't please anyone."

During her very first semester, Crystalee took a class called the Craft of Writing for Children and Adolescents. Writing for kids wasn's an instant passion for her. In fact, it took a picture book writing class a year later to seal the deal. Crystalee picked up writing for children as one of her emphases, but also continued in the poetry program. Crystalee is now a graduate of Chatham University and the author of her first picture book, Angelina Jellybean. She is a full time literacy*AmericaCorps member who teaches computer skills to job seeking adults. She is currently working on two YA novels and a handful of picture books.

I asked Crystalee some questions about her writing.

When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I used to write short stories way back in first grade. I’ve been reading even longer, since before I started school, so I only felt it was natural for me to write. I wrote poetry for many years. It wasn’t until I went to grad school to get my MFA in Creative Writing that I discovered writing for children. That was in 2006. I ended up with a dual emphasis in poetry and writing for children and adolescents. I am amazed at how far I have come along with my writing since then.

How do you get the ideas for your picture books?

Well, I live and experience life, first of all. I get most of my ideas from things I’ve seen, experienced or heard. I also try to interact with children. I spent a year as a volunteer reading to children in daycares across Pittsburgh. In that year, I learned more about what children like than I had learned in my entire life. I also love to read children’s books. I’m always asking myself if I can write something better than or different than the kinds of books that are out there. I’m not interested in writing books that copy a current trend, unless I can put my own spin on that trend.

Do you experiment with other genres as well?

Yes, I do. I started out writing poetry. I have also experimented with flash fiction. But nothing makes me happier than writing for children. I’m really a big kid at heart, and I write the kinds of books I would have liked to read when I was younger. I have also recently completed a young adult novel in verse, and I’m very excited to break into the YA market was well.