About Me

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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Author Interview with Margo Dill

Photo provided by Margo Dill

Check out my blog next Tuesday Sept. 3rd. I'll be talking to author and writing instructor Margo Dill about her debut novel Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg. If you have any questions for Margo that you'd like me to ask leave a comment here. You can also follow me on Facebook (Ann Simmons Schwarz) or Twitter (@writer4kidults) and send me your questions there.

From Shakespeare, to Austin, to Lamb

My daughter is currently learning about a period in European history that spans ancient civilizations to the European Renaissance. Since she has to do a book review on a book or novel that takes place within this time frame I thought this would be an ideal time to introduce her to Shakespeare.

This idea was met with scorn. "I don't want to read that," she told me. "I wouldn't understand it. It's written in ye olde weird English speak."

To me her statement sounded like some form or weird English.  But I said, "Okay.What do you think you'd like to read." I knew she was too young for Dante or Chaucer. She's only in seventh grade. Plus if she thinks Shakespeare is written in a form of English that is hard to understand neither of the other authors would appeal to her.

"I know what I want to read and review," she told me with complete confidence. "I want to read Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice."

I really wanted to laugh at this proclamation. I'm sure Jane Austin would have taken exception to the fact a young girl thought she had been around as long as Shakespeare. But I didn't laugh.

"Sorry," I said. "Jane Austin is from a different period in history."

So my daughter got on the computer to do research on what books she should read. I'm not sure how she went about this. But she didn't have any luck.

I went to the library with her the next day and we found two books that she could choose to read that would fit within the right time span of history, The Shakespeare Stealer, by Gary Blackwood and Crispin by Avi. While we were there I looked around for a book that might have some of Shakespeare's plays in a format that she might be able to understand. I had read some abridged versions of his plays when I was around her age and loved it. It made understanding what was happening in his plays so much easier when I was in high school. I found a similar book at our library here and decided to read it myself. It's called Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb.

Little did I know when I listed it on my Goodreads page that this book is considered a classic in children's literature and was probably the same book I'd read as a middle grader. I was also surprised to see that it is the source of quite a lot of controversy among teachers and lovers of Shakespeare.

I'm not a scholar of the bard by any means. I've seen a few of his plays performed and studied Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet in high school. After re-reading it, I can see what some of the concerns would be for this book. First the plays are all abridged versions that are introduced more as short stories than the full plays. The second concern I read about was the language is lost in the translated version. However, that being said this book was originally written and published in 1807. So the prose while easier to understand, for me at least, might not seem that much better to my daughter. After all it was written during Jane Austin's period. Imagine my surprise to have the discussion between me and my daughter come full circle in this way, around Shakespeare. I haven't told her that the book I got for myself was written during the Regency period of history yet. I'm not sure at this point if would really matter to her. But if you are interested in introducing your younger children to Shakespeare in a way that would be easier for them to understand, I don't think having them read Tales from Shakespeare will hurt. Maybe it will get them interested in classic literature and make them want to read something like, oh, I don't know, Sense and Sensibility... ;P

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Getting Out in the Garden to Refresh Your Soul

During the busy months of summer, sometimes going to the nursery or plant store can feel like going to the grocery store. You have your list of supplies you know you need and you go and get them. Sometimes if you go during peak season you get more than you need, like you do when you shop for groceries hungry. Then comes the stress later of getting all that stuff planted before it dies. The joy of gardening in the winter and spring that we anticipated sometimes gets lost along the way.

Me and my mom

 This summer thanks to my mom I was able to remember in the midst of summer the joyful and rejuvenating process that gardening is supposed to be.

Daughter Abby

My little nephew enjoying the choo-choos at Hidden Hill
I went to a wonderful nursery that also has a beautiful sculpture garden. A very large one in fact. Here I was able to wander around and enjoy nature without the pressure of feeling like I needed to buy something. This terrific place is Hidden Hill Nursery, in Utica, IN.

I would highly recommend looking for gems like this in your own community when you feel stressed or bogged down. Being in a garden and out among nature can be a wonderful way to ease tension in your daily life and help refresh your spirit. This beautiful place helped to remind me what gardening is truly meant to be, an act of creating life and beauty with joy. If you are anywhere near Utica, IN., make a point of stopping in and visiting Hidden Hill.

For those interested in a Fall garden, now is the time to start planting one. If you don't want to start from seed then broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage transplants can be put out, just remember to water on hot days. Although, if you've been enjoying a mild, wet summer, this probably won't be an issue. If you prefer to start your garden from seed, spinach, lettuce, and kale can be planted, along with parsnips and rutabaga. Check with your local master gardener or extension agent to be sure of your planting zone. Or you can check the Farmer's Almanac or USDA page online. If you live in a more northern climate your window of opportunity for planting some of these things might be coming to a close.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Guest Post by Abby Schwarz: They have always been here!

Since people first began sharing stories they have always acknowleadged the existance of beings beyond their comprehension. Some hunted for them, others worshiped their presence, and some even feared them as micheivous or decitful beings.

 Wait you ask, what am I talking about? Is it spirits, gods, ZOMBIES!!! But let me calm your nerves. No it is not any of these. It is... is... is... (dramatic pause)! Oops sorry guys can't tell you yet, because it wouldn't be as mysterious or dramatic if I did.

Anyway, over the millenia people have said " Oh I found one!" There are whole websites devoted to finding these beings. Or some are devoted to finding and capturing these beings. They say "Oh we won't harm them just tell us if you find anything." Really they want to cage up these beings and disect them to see what makes them work. Guys and girls those people are crazy! Most people say they are just what they're made to be stories. Others say they are here and watching us....

      What do you believe?
                                      Do you believe in Fairies?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Novel-Mom Reviews on Summer Kid Movies

Navigating through all the family movies that can come out over the summer months can feel like going on safari through a tropical forest.

You want to see most of them, but you don't want to feel like you wasted your money either. Hopefully a review of some of the many movies that came out this season will help.

I didn't make it to all the kid movies that were out this summer. (Monsters U was actually one I missed. Though my kids saw it and seemed to like it. My daughter's review of it was this, "You think Sully and Mike started off as friends, but you would be wrong.")  I haven't made it to Planes yet. But I did see Turbo, Despicable Me 2, Smurfs 2, and Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. Below I list my reviews of these kid movies for those of you out there who aren't quite ready to let summer go, or just want to see a good movie with your kids to celebrate surviving the beginning of the school year.

Turbo- When I saw the previews for this movie it didn't stick with me. But my mom and kids wanted to go see this movie about a snail. So I went. I have to say it is a good movie. Turbo the snail dreams of being an Indy 500 racing snail. But, unfortunately, he is only super speedy in his own mind. When a freak accident changes this he is given the chance to fulfill his dreams and help some new friends at the same time. It took me a few minutes to really get into the story. But once the action really starts and Turbo begins to come into his own you find yourself cheering for him all the way. I will warn you though, at the end of this movie you may find yourself seriously craving tacos for dinner. (4/5 stars)

Despicable Me 2- Of the summer kids movies I saw this year this one was my favorite. This movie was laugh-out-loud funny. I think it was just as good as the first and the characters that are introduced are hilarious. Of course the minions steal the screen when they're on it. Gru gets promoted to save the world because of his villainous past. He also gets a partner, a new experience for him. I can't write anymore about this movie without giving away some spoilers. Again, seeing this movie made me crave Mexican food. And I saw it the very next day after watching Turbo. (5/5 stars)

Smurfs 2- I loved the Smurfs growing up as a kid, and I enjoyed the first movie. So did my kids. It was full of plenty of laughs for all of us. I would say as a sequel this one did a pretty good job. While I still didn't like it quite as much as the first one I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Smurf humor. The story premise was interesting, and there were some new characters that I really liked. The one thing I didn't like about it was Neil Patrick Harris's character, Patrick. Part of the plot revolves around his angst over his biological father's abandonment. While anyone can sympathize with this, Patrick is just plain mean throughout most of the movie. Most of this is directed at the stepfather who raised him, who is one of the new characters introduced in the movie, and one of the more likable humans. Still, by the end of the movie he manages to gain some much needed perspective and the movie has a happy ending for everyone--well except maybe Gargamel. (3/5 stars)

Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters- Overall I found this movie to be a bit of a let down for two reasons. First, it followed the story line of the actual book even less than the first movie did. Second, even if you've never read the book and could care less about doing so, the final showdown between the good and bad guys was weak. Maybe a good reason why Hollywood should craft movies based on books more like the actual stories, instead of trying to write their own. If you have kids in the 8/9 or up age range this is still a decent movie on its own despite the mediocrity of the ending. There is plenty of adventure and humor that would appeal to kids and it might even peak the interest of a reluctant reader to check out the series. I wouldn't recommend it for kids below the age of 8, as there are monsters in it that might be a little too scary for them. My star rating on a scale of 1 to 5 is 2.5.

And for those of you who like to read the books before they get made into movies, I'll include this link from Buzz Feed. I added it on to a previous post, but it applies just as much for this one.

14 Books to Read Before They Hit the Big Screen

In the coming weeks, check out my blog for author interviews, gardening tips and projects for fall and winter, and more book and movie reviews. Be sure to follow me on twitter at writer4kidults, or sign up by email for updates on my latest posts.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My To-Be-Read Pile is so Huge I May Live Forever

My To-Be-Read Pile

Okay, so I might have a little bit of a book fetish. My son told me a year ago that I couldn't buy anymore books until I got through my existing pile. My pile was smaller then. What can I say? Christmas happened. And he didn't say I couldn't check out library books during that period. After the Christmas before last came and went he just gave up. My daughter doesn't even try to keep up.

Husband's pile

I think my ever growing pile started to make my husband feel a little competitive. He gestured to his a few months ago and challenged, "I think my pile might have yours beat." I just laughed at him.

So today I finally decided to face my book addiction. For thirty minutes or more I went through all the bookcases in the house collecting books I hadn't read. I carefully piled them by size on top of my desk. I was hoping just to make one tall stack. I soon realized it would be a safety hazard to do that. So I broke it down into two stacks. I even sat my e-reader next to the pile. Ebooks count after all. In fact, they've helped feed my addiction because they don't require shelf space and are sometimes less expensive. Sometimes, they're even FREE. (Imagine me sucking in air here in excitement)

Finding all my books was harder than I expected and after I took the picture and started putting them all back in their various bookshelves I discovered I'd missed a couple.

Goodreads, libraries, e-readers, they've all fed my book addiction until is now seems like its rampaging beyond my control. I need to learn to read faster. So I've begun reading multiple books at one time. I also tell myself whenever I enter my favorite bookstore (Joseph-Beth), or the public library, I can't get anything. Then I see the bargain books section. Or Goodreads sends me an update on new releases for my favorite authors (don't ask who they are, that list would be too long) and I look it up on my library. Yep, most of the time they have it. And if it isn't in the physical library its on the KY Unbound library website. Is there no mercy???

I keep telling myself and others that reading is important for my job. How can I learn to write better if I don't read, A LOT? Heh. I think I've got that part of my job requirement covered.

For those of you in the same boat here is more pressure. Hollywood keeps turning those books you've been meaning to read into movies. And friends and librarians post lists or put up displays of some of these books so you can read them before the movies come out. Good grief.


All of these sounded good and will probably be added to my want to read list.

What about you? Do you have a book fetish and if so what feeds it?

Oh, and if you choose to accept the challenge to read all 14 books listed on buzzfeed, let me know and tell me how it went.

I'd love for you to follow my blog and share in my love err--uh--I mean pain.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Where does time go, Percy Jackson, and other summer musings...

Mine and my daughter's fairy garden

Where has summer gone?

My son's hotwheels garden

Today the newest Percy Jackson movie Sea of Monsters came out. When I first started seeing the previews for it I thought, "Hmmm, looking forward to that, but not what comes right after."

For those of you without kids or who don't read a lot of children's fiction, Percy Jackson is a series written by Rick Riordan about a young demi-god. The stories are fun, full of adventure, and the characters are great. If you have a hard time getting into the mindset of a middle grader then this is a great series to read. I would also recommend listening to the audio books to actually help you hear the voice of this character.

A boy and his dog enjoying staying up late

But I digress. Probably because I don't want summer to be nearly over. I know some parents are a little relieved when school starts back. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them. I say unfortunately because it would be much easier for me if I could be. Instead I tend to feel older and sad that my playmates, err, children had to go back to work and the real world.

Abby as Belle in Beauty and the Beast Jr.

As a writer I get to stay home and make-up my own schedule.

So having them around to do research with, (i.e. imaginative and essential role play and dress-up games) makes my job all that much more fun. Hey, I write for children. I'm allowed to be youthful this way. I have to be for my work's sake. Don't judge me. : P

Now they have to grow up a little bit more by starting third grade and seventh grade. I get to ride that wonderful emotional roller coaster known as puberty again with my seventh grader. (yeah)

Next week I will have to pull up my own big girl pants for them and let them go back to school with a smile, a hug, and a wave. SIGH. At least I'll still have my cat and my dogs to play with.

And our turtle, Ted. I wonder how Ted would feel about wearing a tutu???