Do Books Spark Activism in You? Anny’s first panel…

Sorry I’ve been MIA—been prepping for conferences.

I was lucky enough to be asked to speak on a panel at C2E2, Chicago’s Comic Con, about how to use books to spark activism in our kids, our friends, our community, and ourselves.

‘Twas my first time speaking on a panel as a writer. Nervous I was, especially because the moderator declined to give us any talking points or questions in advance, so we had to wing it. Definitely one of those trial by fire experiences.

It had a happy ending. We had a full house, which is rare for the educational panels at the con, and to my utter surprise one of my comments garnered applause.  A short clip of my answer is up on my YouTube channel.

This was the applause getting comment to the above question: Books provide insight into ‘another.’ They let us travel the world so that we can see into others’ hearts—feel their struggles, their joys. They expose us to their beliefs. Through more understanding, we can practice what I call the platinum rule. Help others the way THEY want to be helped, not the way YOU want to be helped. (Throwing money at certain African nations, instead of empowering them on the ground comes to mind as an example.)

I first learned the inaccuracy of the press when I went to China as a kid, before it was westernized at all. It was a traditional Communist country, and therefore something to fear if you believed our government and their press. We were also something they were told to fear, the white devils of democracy.

We weren’t allowed to travel on our own, but instead were escorted by a Communist guide. Mrs. Yung was generous, kind, warm and took excellent care of us. We were mobbed like rock stars everywhere we went because most Chinese had never seen foreigners, let alone American kids. But it was curiosity, not fear, that met us as we traveled around the country. The language barrier prevented much conversation, but their gestures conveyed warmth and friendliness.

What that trip taught me, and hopefully those who met us, was that people are not their government. They are not the propaganda. We have so much more in common than the powers that be want us to believe.

I returned from that trip wishing I could give American students a scholarship to go to China to see for themselves what I’d seen. I was sure it would lead to more unity between our countries. (I felt the same way 3 years later when I went to the Russia.)

But since I can’t send everyone to China, Russia etc., books are the next best thing.

Here’s a short list of graphic novels that shed light on folks you may not know much about. (Because it was a comic con I focused on the graphic format.)

American Born Chinese
Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, No Normal, Vol 1

This list is just a starting point. I’d love to add to this list.

Please send me book titles that sparked empathy and/or action in yourself or someone you know. You can share by replying to this letter, or posting your titles on my Facebook page, or tweeting me.

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.


Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Cobalt Chinese Foo dogs. (At least cobalt has violet tones in it.)

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Hidden Figures, How a Woman’s Creativity Saved NASA


Hidden Figures is hands down the best movie I saw in 2016!

It’s the story of how one woman’s creativity saved not only a man’s life, but also the entire NASA program itself.

Katherine Johnson was one of a handful of African-American women who worked at NASA in the ‘50s. She referred to herself and her female colleagues as ‘virtual computers who wore skirts.’

Katherine says that she was pulled from the ‘colored computer pool’ to work on flight research because she always asked a lot of questions, while the rest of the women just did as they were told.

But it was Katherine’s creative use of geometry that made the all white male division “[forget] to return me to the pool.”

In 1962 John Glenn was slated to become the first American to orbit the earth. Right before launch, Katherine’s supervisor discovered that the fancy new IBM computer had turned our conflicting return longitudes and latitudes. When he shared this info with Glenn, Glenn refused to go up until Katherine had verified which of the computer’s numbers for launch and landing were correct.

Once in orbit Glenn’s heat shield started to fail.  Again Glenn and a panicked NASA supervisor turned to Katherine. She reassured them that her ‘return window’ numbers would get Glenn safely back to earth.

If Katherine’s geometry had been wrong, Glenn would’ve been incinerated upon re-entry.  In addition, his death would’ve most likely given Congress the reason they needed to stop funding NASA.

Fortunately for Glenn, Katherine’s numbers were spot on as usual.

Once Glenn survived, NASA had its eye on the moon, but had no idea how to get there. Katherine was told that she’d have to invent math that didn’t exist yet in order to make it happen. She did just that.

Lest you think I’ve given the whole movie away, I haven’t.  The story is powerful because it’s really about race, sexism, and the few folks on both sides that decided that they were going to move beyond their prejudices and make history.

So please read the book Hidden Figures, or go see the movie, or both. You’ll come out of it encouraged, empowered and ready to create something of your own. And who knows? Your creation just might be the thing that takes us to Mars, or saves an endangered species in the ocean, or adds beauty to the wall of a museum.
Would love to know what you thought of the movie/book. Please let me know by replying to this letter, or post your comments on my Facebook page, or tweet me.

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.


Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Thank God Katherine is better at math than I am!


Posted in Creativity, EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Inspired Creativity, Thinking Outside The Box, Uncategorized by with no comments yet.

Using Our Imaginations to Create Social Change


Creativity Can Encourage and Empower Us All.

The above mantra grew out of my response to recent events.

Truthfully, I’ve known it all along.

I was born wanting to inspire, provoke, and empower myself and others through the arts.

But my family saw a different future for me. They pushed me into politics, wanting me to be the first female President of the U.S. I tried that route for a while, but discovered quickly that I could help a lot more people through my music and writing than I could through policy and politics.

So I hopped on the artistic roller coaster and never looked back. Well, I do look back on occasion when I get a bad review or another rejection, but I never get off the ride.

Though politics didn’t agree with me, my family’s notion that one should support the causes they believe in every way they can, i.e. money or time or both, did resonate. I’ve been volunteering since I was 10 yrs old. In fact I think volunteering is one of my best skills.

Imagine my delight when days after I’d found my mantra I discovered the non-profit Harry Potter Alliance whose values include believing in magic and my personal favorite: Fantasy is not only an escape from our world, but an invitation to go deeper into it.

HPA’s mission is to turn fans into heroes by engaging them in fan activism.  The idea is to harness the passion fans have for certain characters like Neville Longbottom, a shy awkward Harry Potter classmate who became a badass when his back was against a wall, and direct them to fight like Neville for causes such as net neutrality and the electoral college vote. The Neville campaign page gives sample scripts of what to say on the phone to congress humans, where to find phone numbers, and info on the cause etc.

Within a day or two of discovering HPA, I started The Patronuses. The Chicago community chapter of HPA.

FYI: A patronus is an silvery white animal spirit that holds a magical concentration of happiness and hope, which protects against the dementors, those that would suck the happiness and hope right out of you.

We are barely a few weeks old, but already have a mission statement:
The Patronuses fuse the powers of imagination and fan activism together to support and/or create campaigns designed to bring positive change in areas such as diversity, acceptance and education.

I’m overjoyed to finally marry my two loves, imagination and activism, in such a direct way!

We are already discussing our first campaign, which will probably revolve around partnering with Comic Education Outreach to use comics and graphic novels to teach the skill of acceptance perhaps using Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, as our role model/fandom base. (Tho HPA grew out of Harry Potter fandom, any fandom is welcome. There are already campaigns using The Hunger Games, some Marvel Cinematic Characters, as well as Potter campaigns.)

As our journey unfolds I’ll continue to fill you in, hoping one or more of our campaigns strikes your fancy and you’ll join us. You can help as much as you want. The key is to have fun and be of service at the same time.

There is no limit to what we can do if we do it together.

To be kept in the loop, please email us at so we can add you to our Patronuses list. Feel free to include a cause or two you would like to support and/or a character or two that you feel would be a good symbol/role model for a cause. You can also leave your suggestions by replying to this letter, or posting on my Facebook page, or tweet me.

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:

My very own amethyst wand


Posted in Creativity, EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Empowerment, Imagination, Thinking Outside The Box by with 2 comments.



Saturn prances around
Like he’s the only game in town
His rings on display
Make girls swoon in his wake
Ladies beware
This boy is full of hot air
So just walk on by
This peacock’s not worth your time
–Anny Rusk
There’s a new poetry book out about space and aliens called Watcher of the Skies. (Published by the small British company The Emma Press.) It’s for kids aged 8-108.
Inside its pages poets muse about all aspects of space such as how astronauts brush their teeth (You don’t want morning breath if an alien drops by for tea.), how planets talk, and how to make a cosmic cupcake. (Recipe included.)
At the back of the book editor Rachel Piercey encourages readers to write their own space poems using prompts and examples from the anthology. My poem was inspired by the How Planets Talk prompt.
Example: “Write your own cosmic recipe for another kind of food, for example Star Stew or Moon Muffins. Try to include some relevant ingredients – so if it’s Star Stew, you might have hydrogen, helium and mouldy old light.
Where will you serve your food, on what, and to whom? Let your imagination run riot!”
Please, please write a space poem and share it with me by leaving it in a comment below, or post it on my Facebook page, or tweet me. 
Creativity Can Encourage & Empower Us All!
FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Of course the cool astronauts brush their teeth with purple toothpaste!


Posted in Creativity, Imagination, Inspired Creativity, Uncategorized, World Building-Fictional Lands by with no comments yet.

Using Creativity to Encourage Grrl Power


All of the stories I’m working on have one thing in common: they feature strong female protagonists. My aim is to empower girls, and the guys around them (Think #HeForShe ) of all ages through my writing.

My first finished project is my fictional, science-based graphic novel story for tweens, Hidden Heroes. Think the movie Inside Out starring Estrogen as a superhero, and Samantha, the girl Estrogen has to turn into a woman. Think a story, not a textbook, on the beginning stages of female puberty.

Facts I had to learn about graphic novels before I could attempt to write one:

–GNs are comics, but usually much longer, and don’t have tons of issues. They can be a series though—think Zita Spacrgirl, a trilogy, or Hereville, trilogy.

–Graphic novel text is written for the illustrator, NOT the reader.

–The text is written in script form. From Hidden Heroes:

SPLASH PAGE: (This means only one panel for the whole page.)
Estrogen and Antibody come around the bend in a vein, cruising on the blood stream. Estrogen is in an inner tube. Antibody is swimming. Estrogen is wearing a one-piece bathing suit. Antibody resembles a friendly Mammalian sea creature. (This is the panel description that the illustrator needs, but won’t end up in the published book. BTW: Things like captions and dialogue do end up in book.)

Caption: Inside Samanthaland, Estrogen and Antibody are riding the blood slide around Ovarian Island.
Estrogen: Wheeeeee!
Antibody: Owamp!

–A typical graphic novel as 4-7 panels per page.
This is an example page from Zita Spacegirl (6 panels):


–Because a picture tells a 1000 words, your words can’t repeat what’s going on in the panel illustration, but rather, need to show what’s not going on…think dialogue, sound effects etc.

–GNs ask readers to engage with its story on two levels: Language and pictures. This means kids are using two parts of their brains to comprehend what they are reading. Schools are noticing a significant increase in test scores when kids can study complex topics, like the Constitution, using a graphic novel instead of a regular textbook. (Check out my buds at: The Comics Education Offensive to learn more about it!)

This is the advantage of doing a science-based story as a graphic novel…accessibility and deeper comprehension.

If you haven’t read a graphic novel yet, try one out. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.

Some suggestions of fictional graphic novels with strong female characters for tweens:
Zita Spacegirl
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword
Find these and other suggestions at the A Mighty Girl site.

A list of posts on  graphic novels for older girls, aka women, can be found in this Huff Post page.

Which graphic novels have you enjoyed and why? Send me your answer by replying to this letter, or post it on my Facebook page, or tweet me. 

FYI: Please share this letter with others you think would enjoy it.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Batgirl costume



Posted in Creativity, EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Empowerment, Girls, Inspired Creativity, Uncategorized by with no comments yet.


A Slice of AnnyWorld:

I admire my buddy Lorraine Watson.  She walked away from the safe tech world when she realized her life was not of her own making.

Her discomfort pushed her to discover, and then embrace, her own unique light.

Turns out that Lorraine’s being enjoys leading others along a similar path of self-discovery.  In that spirit, she launched a company called FOLLOW YOUR LIGHT.

But years before that, her being leaked out in creative ways that she didn’t always recognize at the time.  Take this example: When she used to regularly babysit her nephew, Lorraine would take him to a local tourist spot called Heritage Park, which depicted early 20th century life.

Every time they went, Lorraine encouraged her nephew to let his intuition, his inner voice, chart their path through the park.  The result was a different adventure, a different story, on every visit. 

I suspect her nephew retained much more of what he learned because his inner compass dictated when and how he picked up the information. As an added bonus, the adventures were much more fun for all of them.

For Lorraine it became a truth that she now shares with others: Following your own inner light guides you to make the best decisions for yourself.

In addition, it reminds her to “Let go of control, and fall into collaboration.”  in this case collaboration with your own being, or the beings of those around you.

Imagine what your next adventure could be like if you let your inner self, or your kids’ intuition, guide you instead of what a guidebook or museum map tells you to do? Perhaps you allow your kids to set the schedule for a Sat or Sun. family day, or allow them to do their homework in whatever order speaks to them that night?

On our next visit to the Art Institute or the Museum of Science and Industry, I’m gonna ask Madu to lead me around.  Can’t wait to see where we go!

Can you suggest other ways we can encourage our kids, and ourselves, to follow our inner compass to create amazing adventures?

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: Maple Leaves

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: Maple Leaves


Destination of the Fortnight: Heritage Park, Calgary, Canada


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How Objectivity Breeds Success

A Slice of AnnyWorld:


I’ve been so busy revisioning my novel that time slipped away from me this week.

As I sat down to dash this missive off so I wouldn’t miss my own deadline, I realized that the exercise that took me away from you is what I wanted to share with you in this letter.

I had the privilege of participating in an all-day workshop with the renowned literary agent, Donald Maass.  He suggested that in order to make our books page turners, we had to infuse every page with micro-tension. (Here’s a definition of micro-tension.)
Micro-tension’s sole object is to trigger an uncertainty of some kind in the reader so she’ll read on to relieve her own uneasiness.

This is easier written than done. :-), especially when most writers see tension in their stories  that isn’t there.

That’s because when we’re in the emotional flow of our our stories, it’s impossible to stand back and see what’s actually on the page.

Donald Maass knows this, so he built detachment into his exercise–objectively revise/revision what you’ve written by reading it out of order.  This forces you to ONLY see what’s on the page, nothing more. Use a random number generator, which you can find for free here, to put your pages into a random sequence.

Reading out of order doesn’t allow things like weak dialogue or lame word choices to hide in our blind spots.  Sometimes all a page needs is an added phrase, or a deletion of a detail to pull the reader/listener out of her seat and into your world.

Though this exercise was created for writers, its usefulness extends far beyond those of us who are writing a book or story, etc. Imagine a lawyer using this exercise to strengthen her closing argument, or an entrepreneur using it to craft an inspiring business plan that results in their idea being funded.  A parent can use it to convince their daughter to do something, or not to do something.

Being able to craft a powerful message can help you in whatever you do.
Try this exercise out, and let me know what happens!

Purple Passion of the Fortnight

Purple Passion of the Fortnight


Destination of the Fortnight: New York City, home of The Donald Maass Literary Agency


Posted in Creativity, Imagination, Thinking Outside The Box by with no comments yet.

Practical Creativity: To-Do Lists Made Fantastic!

My buddy Bonnie seems to have more hours in her day than the rest of us!  She balances a full-time job with parenting her son Wally, being a wifey to Craig, ice skating and playing the flute in a band.  Just writing that sentence made me tired. 🙂

But she wasn’t always this productive. Like many of us, she uses a to-do list to get the most out of her days, and like many of us, her to-do list often became an albatross around her neck.  She’d stare at it and either get overwhelmed, or uninspired, by what she had to accomplish.  And so would her son Wally. (She has him make his own to-do list for every weekend.)

Then it struck her…fun, novel stuff should be as valued as chores, practicing piano or whatever. So she started adding items to her list like get a Starbucks coffee, or get a mani/pedi.  Wally’s list might include things like go to Dunkin’ Donuts, or play soccer for an hour mixed in with make your bed, and do your math.

To make their to-do lists even more exciting, Bonnie and Wally use different colors for certain items on their lists, and sometimes use pictures, such as a soccer ball to symbolize soccer practice, instead of words to remind them of what they’d like to accomplish.

Now they both look forward to checking off the items on their lists, and as a result, enjoy fun, balanced, productive days.

Bonnie whipped this list up on the spot.  Notice the coffee doodle by Starbucks stop.

Bonnie whipped this list up on the spot. Notice the coffee doodle by Starbucks item.

So the next time you make a to-do list, think of Bonnie and create a fantastically fun one.  Then send me a pic of it so I can post it!

Purple Passion of the Fortnight.  I'd love to drink tea or coffee out of this cup!

Purple Passion of the fortnight. I’d love to drink tea or coffee out of this cup!

Destination of the Fortnight: Big Island of Hawaii..I've been but Bonnie wants to go.  Maybe she can sunbathe with the chap in the photo!

Destination of the Fortnight: Big Island of Hawaii. Bonnie’s pick–she’s never been and is dying to go. Maybe she can sunbathe with the chap in the photo when she gets there!



Posted in Creativity, Imagination, Thinking Outside The Box, Uncategorized by with no comments yet.