Am I Doing What’s Needed?

I’ve been struggling with the best way to help move our country forward in light of recent events. Am I doing enough? Am I doing what’s needed?  In the end I always come back to the same conclusion I’ve had for years. FOCUS ON THE KIDS.

So in that spirit, The Patronuses* are launching our next campaign, #LendAHandLikeKamalaKhan, tonight! (For those of you who don’t know, Kamala Khan, is the first Pakistani-American, Muslim Ms. Marvel.)

I’m co-hosting an event for the The Comics Education Outreach program. CEO is a non-profit tax deductible group that’s devoted to getting educators to view comics/graphic novels as an integral part of their school’s curriculum—no different than regular non-graphic textbooks/books.

Their first initiative is their Lending Library, which puts graphic novels and comics into the hands of students in need. The library link will take you to their Amazon Wish list. If you can buy a book and send it to them, thank you! If you already have the book and want to donate it, let me know so I can get it to them.

The library will create classroom kits that focus on issues of social change/justice and then loan these kits out to schools in need.  Topics such as civil rights, or gender equality, or what it’s like being different can be shared with kids who otherwise would have no access to these books, and maybe even these discussions.

Though I believe wholeheartedly in CEO’s mission, sometimes I’m frustrated I can’t do more the way a J.K. Rowling can, or a Warren Buffet. But it’s said that a thousand mile journey starts with the first step, and through the Patronuses, and SCBWI (The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) who’s sponsoring the event, I am taking some first steps.

What steps are you taking to make your world a better place?

Please share your efforts with me, whether it’s with your own kid’s soccer team, or something for a colleague, or helping refugees, whatever it is, I want to know. MORE THAN THAT, I WANT TO SPREAD THE WORD, AND HELP YOU IF I CAN. So please respond to this letter, or post something on my FB page, or tweet me.

If you’d like to help CEO, please spread the word to your friends by sharing this letter, or posting some info and the library wish list link to your social media channels using the hashtag: #LendAHandLikeKamalaKhan. More info about our campaign can be found on The Patronuses FB page.

*The Patronuses are the Chicago Community Chapter of the non-profit Harry Potter Alliance. http://www.thehpalliance.org/what_we_do

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

#CreativityEmpowers
#AcceptanceEncourages

Purple Passion of the Fortnight:
Ok, so it’s not purple, but it makes the point. 🙂


Posted in Acceptance, Empowerment, Inspired Creativity by with no comments yet.

Hidden Figures, How a Woman’s Creativity Saved NASA

KatherineJohnsonQuote

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.

#CreativityEmpowers

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

purplemath


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

HOW TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH IN SPACE & WRITE A POEM ABOUT IT

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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!

purpletoothpaste


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

Using Creativity to Encourage Grrl Power

a-mighty-girl-logo

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:

PAGE 1
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):

zita-page

–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
Princeless
Lumberjanes
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

purplebatgirlcostume

 


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

Do You Know How To Use Fear? I’m Still Learning.

“But you must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good {love} and evil {fear} will follow on that act. {Power} must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”
The Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin
 
Sometimes I want to give my reptilian brain, the oldest part of our brains, a lobotomy. With no lions or tigers to face down, it feels useless. So it injects fear into all sorts of situations where it doesn’t belong, and makes them ten times worse.
 
If there’s one skill I wish I’d learned as a kid, it’s how to use fear properly. Being scared when confronted by a bear while hiking in the woods is appropriate. Suing a stranger because you’re scared of being broke, or getting your colleague fired because you’re scared they’ll take your job is not ok. Yet it happens everyday.

grizzly-bear

What if we were taught from birth to slow down? What if the golden rule required us to question our actions, to identify whether we were motivated by fear (evil) or love (good), and to act only if the answer was love?
 
For the wizards in Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea, it’s not enough to learn how to control your magic; you must learn how and when to use it as well. This is because abusing magic upsets the natural order of things. When that order, known as The Equilibrium, is disturbed, bad things happen.

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Despite being trained to do otherwise, Ged, a powerful young wizard hero, lets his pride and hate unleash a shadow creature that destroys everything that stands between it and killing him.
 
Ged flees from the shadow until he discovers he must face it in order to stop it. Along the way he learns to use magic appropriately, even if it serves others’ needs instead of his own.
 
Books like The Wizard of Earthsea remind us that it’s important to disengage our autopilot, so that we act, rather than react.
 
Have you read other stories that address using fear properly?  If so, please share them with me by commenting upon this letter, or post on my Facebook page, or tweet me.

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

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: A glow-in-the-dark purple magic wand! Oh, I want one!!

purple-magic-wand


Posted in EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Empowerment, Inspired Creativity, Self-Acceptance, World Building-Fictional Lands by with no comments yet.

Do You Welcome Inspiration Into Your Life?

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

My Muse can be a slippery gal.  Sometimes when I need her the most, she’s off vacationing in Paris or Hawaii.  (I wouldn’t mind if she’d take me with her!) 

I’m not sure what triggers her to leave–maybe a challenge that seems overwhelming or painful, or maybe she just wants to smell the gardenias or eat some French pastries.  All I know is that when I need her, it’d be nice to be able to cut her vacation short.  Thanks to my friend, writer/teacher Sarah Aronson, I now have a way to invite my Muse back.

Sarah invites inspiration into her life everyday by being open to what her world has to offer her.

What that means in practical terms is that she completely unplugs from the virtual world and takes a walk in the real world.  For her that usually means her neighborhood, or along the shore of Lake Michigan. While walking she’s present, using all of her senses to take in what’s coming at her so she doesn’t miss any ‘gifts.’

For example, on one of her walks she tripped over a harmonica. She asked herself, “What is the world saying to me?” Should I listen to some harmonica music, or does this character I’m wrestling with play a harmonica to call her minions (hopefully the blue and yellow kind), or calm her troubled child, or does it mean I should call  this friend of mine that I’ve not spoken to for a while? Maybe it means all three. 

Sarah says that “Inspiration is always there. Welcome it in, and the answers will come to you.”

The next time your boss, or your child, who can feel like a boss sometimes, throws a challenge your way consider connecting to your Muse via actively engaging in the real world around you.  I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the help you receive.

Please post stories about the gifts you’ve received while opening to your world by replying to this letter, or posting to my Facebook page.

If you need more creative writing inspiration, sign up for Sarah’s weekly newsletters.

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Purple Passion of the Fortnight

Destination of the Fortnight: The Present


Posted in EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Imagination, Inspired Creativity by with no comments yet.

How Can You Use Your Imagination To Make The Rest Of Us Care?

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

Imagine that you’ve decided to become a doctor.  You’re good in school and work hard, but your parents tell you it’ll never happen because they can’t afford the education you need.  One day a strange man shows up and tells your parents that he’ll make you a doctor.  All you have to do is work for a few hours after school on his boat.  You’re terrified to leave your family, but they tell you it’s for your own good.  And you really want to be a doctor!
You wake up your first morning with the man scared, but also excited about your future.  Instead of taking you to school, the man puts you on his boat.  Day after day, you do back breaking work in the sun, wondering when school will start.  It never does.  The man lied to your parents.  He bought you for cheap so you could be his slave. Oh, and you’re only eight years old.

This is not the beginning of my latest novel, but rather a daily occurrence in Ghana.
Surprised?  So was my friend Lori Dillon when an Oprah show profiled the Right To Be Free Organization (RTBF) that both rescues these kids, and prevents more kids from becoming enslaved.

In response, Lori founded the U.S. branch of Right To Be Free, and started to encounter a struggle of her own.  Namely, how do you get the rest of us to care enough to donate to your cause? Especially when there are so many causes that hit closer to home?

For Lori it meant figuring out a way to get the rest of us to walk a mile in a young Ghanian slave’s feet.  (Many of them don’t have shoes.)  To do this, she had to get creative.  First off believing that she had to use “imagery to convey truth,” Lori, along with her fifteen year old daughter, went to Ghana to film a rescue mission.  The film tugs at heartstrings to be sure, but sometimes that isn’t enough to stir action.

Sometimes you need to take a cue from branding land and come up with a clever and catchy campaign.  Thus the 5 For Freedom Campaign was born.
Give $5, tell 5 friends, which these days takes 5 seconds, and that’s it.

But it’s not really it.  Because Lori knows that she has to keep coming up with new, and even more creative ways to keep our hearts and wallets open.

Which leads me to my big question…how have you used your imagination to further a cause you believe in?

And if you’ve any innovative ideas of your own that can help Lori further Right To Be Free, please respond to this email or post them on my Facebook page!

Then sit back and imagine the smile on the face of the next child RTBF saves!

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: Ghanian students whose school had the good taste to make their uniforms purple!

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: Ghanian students whose school had the good taste to make their uniforms purple!

Destination of the Fortnight: Ghana at sunset

Destination of the Fortnight: Ghana at sunset

EinsteinQuote


Posted in Imagination, Inspired Creativity, Thinking Outside The Box by with 1 comment.

How To See In The Dark, or Move Past Your Limitations

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

Imagine that the sun set one day and never rose again.  That your nights took over your days, kind of like winter in Alaska. (Though they do have a couple hours of light each day.)  That you had to relearn how to do everything you took for granted before like brushing your teeth, or going to the grocery store.  This is what happened to my buddy, writer Beth Finke, the day her eyes stopped working.

What I admire about Beth is the way she uses her imagination to see in the dark. For example, putting toothpaste on a toothbrush when you can’t see it is impossible. (Try it. I have and can’t do it.) So Beth just squirts the paste in her mouth, and then brushes her teeth. Sounds simple, but not sure I would’ve thought of it.

Besides being a writer herself, Beth teaches  memoir-writing courses for senior citizens. Because Beth wants everyone to be able to read their assignments and get critiqued in every class, she limits their in-class reading to 500 words and five minutes.

Humans being what they are, her students would set the timer to ten minutes or whatever to increase their moment in the sun.  Beth caught on to what they were doing and put rubber cement on the ‘five’ so she always knew where it was on the timer.

Still, sometimes the people who read at the beginning would get more critique time.  She noticed some students would always sit next to her in order to go first.

To fix that problem she decided to give each of them a braille Scrabble letter so they’d go in alphabetical order, instead of by where they sat. Again she picked up on people grabbing the beginning letters of the alphabet to try to get more time, so now she often starts with ‘z’ or some other letter to discourage that behavior.

Because of her ingenuity, as well as her wisdom, Beth’s classes always fill up.

For more ideas on how to see in the dark, and overcome your own limitations, check out Beth’s Safe and Sound Blog.

How have you used your imagination to overcome your limitations?
Share with me via a comment on my blog, or a post on my Facebook page.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight

Purple Passion of the Fortnight

NightChicagoSkyline

Destination of the Fortnight: Chicago, setting for Beth’s adventures

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Posted in EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges, Imagination, Inspired Creativity and tagged , , by with 4 comments.

WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

It all started when Will decided to make his grand entrance exceedingly early–three months before his due date. 

Having not waited until he was fully ‘cooked,’ meant Will had to spend five months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). A harrowing experience for Will, but maybe even more so for his parents, Brittany and Scott. (Around 60% of parents whose babies have long NICU stays  are at risk for Post-Traumatic Stress.) Well-meaning caregivers focused on Will’s survival, but didn’t have time to educate his parents on what was happening, or how to handle a fragile preemie, so often Britt and Scott were left out of their son’s care altogether. 

As the months dragged on, Britt imagined a world where parents were an equal and active member of their baby’s health care team.  She and Scott shared her idea with docs, nurses, caseworkers, parents, everyone involved in the NICU process to see what they’d have to do to turn Britt’s dream into a reality.  What they discovered was that there was a name for what they wanted to bring into the NICU: Family Integrated Care. 

Turns out FICare had been around a while.  A pilot program at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto revealed a simple truth: babies/children not only survived more often, but thrived when health care became a family affair. To make Family Integrated Care a reality in her backyard, the Bay Area , she and Scott founded Will’s Way Foundation.

Right now Will’s Way devotes money and energy to supporting families with babies in the NICU. As Britt put it: “We try to give parents one moment to feel normal.”  Will’s Way accomplishes that by providing “milestone meals” to parents, such as when a baby reaches a goal weight, or gets off oxygen, dinner at a local restaurant to get them out of the hospital, and in one case, threw a wedding dinner for a couple who got married while their baby was still in the NICU.

The foundation also addresses basic needs of NICU parents, such as giving gas cards to lessen the expense of their commutes, grocery cards to help them feed their families, and support for the siblings of the sick babies.

And there’s more on the horizon such as using technology to teach parents what they need to know in order to actively care for their baby in the NICU and beyond.
Currently Will’s Way helps about 6 NICU families per week.

Will’s Way’s mission is to make FICare the norm in the NICU first, and then hopefully the paradigm for all hospital patients.

Want to change your world?  Britt’s advice is to “share your idea with others.  Allow your idea to change and become what it needs to be, then own it and continue to grow it.  There are a lot of ideas out there.  The key is to see it through.”

Using their imaginations and will, Britt and Scott are changing the NICU experience for the parents that have come after them.

“Imagine a world where….” finish the sentence and share your idea, and what you will, or are doing to make that word a reality with all of us on my FB page, or reply to this post.
#EmpowerGirlsOfAllAges

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: A diaper cake.

Purple Passion of the Fortnight: A diaper cake.

Destination of the Fortnight: One of my favorite museums is in Will's backyard, The Exploratorium in San Francisco, CA

Destination of the Fortnight: One of my favorite museums is in Will’s backyard, The Exploratorium in San Francisco, CA

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Posted in Imagination, Inspired Creativity, Thinking Outside The Box, Uncategorized by with 1 comment.

Use Your Imagination to Increase your Influence

A Slice of AnnyWorld:

MAKE YOUR MARK: to have an important effect on something (Or someone)

Unfortunately in this country, many girls are raised to be afraid, very afraid, to make their mark.
 
Maybe because before you make your mark, you may fail–a lot. (Walt Disney went bankrupt three times, and got fired a lot before Mickey helped him make his mark. Your teacher may have gotten bad feedback on some of her lesson plans before she was able to make a great one, and leave her mark on you.)
 
Stepping out on that limb takes courage, and you won’t bother unless you’re driven by something dear to your heart.  Your imagination can reveal the  things that are worth the risk to you.
 
My buddy Eti Berland is a librarian/teacher at the Blitstein Institute.  She decided that she wanted to make her mark this year by helping her students discover their hidden inner gifts, a lost engineer, or wandering poet, or absent minded mathematician, or ?  Once they embraced these forgotten talents, they could use them to leave many marks.  (Not bruises…but achievements.) 🙂

Thus, she proclaimed the theme for the 2014-15 school year to be “make your mark and see where it takes you.”  This line is a quote from Peter Reynolds’ picture book, The Dot. The book encourages its readers to be brave by trying something new, especially something they think they can’t do, and see what happens.  
To start the year off right, Eti turned her library into a safe, creative space where students were encouraged to explore themselves through dot-making, poetry and other International Dot Day activities.  In addition, playing together encouraged the girls to express their beliefs, dreams, and fears–allowing them to see all that they had in common. Thus one of Eti’s first marks on the year was building a closer knit community.

To further inspire her students to boldly go where they hadn’t before,(Star Trek motto), she used “Celebridots.” These dots expressed the faculty’s thoughts about making their own marks, and allowed them to put their spin on the theme and dot making. It also put them out on the same limb with the girls.

Here’s Eti’s Celebridot, which expresses her joy about being on the Newbery Committee this year, and the fun she had attending the ALA (American Library Association) Summer Conference 2014 as a committee member. (The Newbery Awards are The Oscar Awards for kid’s books. And like the Oscars do for movies, The Newbery influences what gets read, including bringing visibility to books that may have been overlooked. As I write, Eti’s committee is selecting this year’s winners now.  For a librarian, is there a bigger mark one can make?)
Eti Dot
I hope Eti will keep us posted on her students’ discoveries, as well as her own, and the marks they all leave due to their new paths.

As for me, these letters represent some of my dots. I also intend to make my mark this year as a children’s fantasy writer.  A writer who provokes girls to dig out their inner imaginations, and claim their power, so they can use these gifts to change their own stories, and inspire those around them to do the same. 

And let me tell you, making my mark on children through writing was not something I saw coming!

Which is why I want to share two things I’ve learned about making your mark:
1) It doesn’t always manifest the way you think it will.  For ex. You discover you love dance, but you don’t have a dancer’s body.  You’re bummed until you realize you can design costumes for dancers, or lighting, or you are great at math so you can handle the dance company’s budget!
2) Don’t judge a dot/mark by its size.  (I can be guilty of this.)  Every mark matters. And we leave marks wherever we go, whether we realize it or not.

Describe some marks you’ve left recently.

Polka-Dot-Pajama-Party-29-600x780

PURPLE PASSION OF THE FORTNIGHT

anny:TorontoStrange and Beautiful

DESTINATION OF THE FORTNIGHT: UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, CITY OF PETER REYNOLDS’ BIRTH, ALSO SITE OF BACK COVER PHOTO FOR MY FIRST CD.

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