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Many years ago, as a young employee, I thought that at the end of each day, I should have a clean desk. To me, that meant my work was done, I could go home, and the next day I would start anew. What I eventually learned is that work at any job is rarely, if ever, done. The best one can do is stop work at a place in which continuing is possible—the next day, the next month, the next year.

I have come to feel the same way about authoring and publishing my books. There is always more work to do. Over the past few months, I have revisited my three published books, tweaked them, and refreshed the content and covers. The second edition of Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud is now live! It’s up and ready for you to read.

Reviewers of the first edition commented on the messages that this book about Froggy and his critter friends conveys.

Each chapter, a self-contained story, teaches positive virtues: caring, respect, and honesty, through the characters’ observations, musings, and actions.

It easily lends itself to talking about diversity, kindness, acceptance, sharing and protecting nature, and valuing and honoring friendships.

The collection of stories focuses on the central themes of working together, focusing on the positive, and living in the present.

They commented, too, on the mood the book brings forth.

You’ll walk away feeling uplifted, with a spring in your walk and a smile on your face.

It’ll brighten your day, even if you didn’t think you needed it.

Take a Look Inside Amazon for this new edition of Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud. I hope you like what you see—slices of life intended to entertain and inspire families, both the adults and youth.

Now, on to my next job—finalizing second editions of Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal and A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way. This author’s work is never done.

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For someone who is much more adept at creating with words than creating with pictures, I’m learning how much fun it is to match words with pictures. While in the process of updating my three books and branding them with a consistent look and feel, I’m preparing to redo the book cover for my first book, Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal.

In my quest for pictures, I discovered Pixabay.com, which provides “Beautiful Free Images.” I searched combinations of key words such as careers, success, steps, stairs, path, journal, and more. I discovered many, many images from very talented artists that are available for commercial use. My idea is to wrap the entire book cover—front, back, and spine—with an image. I’m considering the three options below. Read More

Rudolph

Tis the season of lights. Whether a flame that miraculously flickers long past the expected time, an antidote that casts out darkness, or a beacon that guides, lights glow—just like Rudolph’s shiny nose. When our own light shines, we, too, sparkle. We radiate. We wear an aura that makes our world a bit brighter.

During this season, let your light shine by dwelling in a happy place. Bask in memories of moments that put a smile on your face, pep in your step, and warmth in your heart.

I will do the same, right here, right now.

Recipient

One morning, I stopped, as I often do, for breakfast. I read a little, collect my thoughts, and scribble a few to-do notes. I eat, I drink, I pay, and I leave. On this day, the check for my breakfast did not arrive. When I asked the waitress for it, she said, “You’re all set.” While placing a tip on the table, she added, “You’re all set with that, too.” A patron at the restaurant gave the waitress money to pay for someone’s breakfast. “I chose you,” the waitress said. That was one delicious start to my day.

On another morning, at a different venue, I purchased coffee to go and later discovered a surprise treat in the bag, something yummy to enjoy with my coffee. I stopped in the next day to say thank-you and pay for this item when I learned that this treat was a freebie. Why? “Because I like your face!” How sweet is that.

“Thank you for coming here today.” That’s the greeting I regularly heard at a client site whenever I arrived to do some work. Before I settled in to tackle a writing project, I was in a happy mood. How nice to hear words of appreciation said with sincerity.

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I am a published author! In 2011, I published my first book, Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: a Journal. In 2014, I published my second book, A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way. In 2017, I published my latest book, Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read. At this rate, book four should be ready in 2020. Yikes! It’s almost time to consider a topic.

In the meantime, I’m going to write a talk that I can deliver to audiences, sharing my experiences authoring, publishing, and promoting my books. What will I say?

That depends on what audiences want to know. For now, I’ll put my imagination to work and think about one member of my audience—you.

Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty

You might like to know that before I started writing about Froggy and his critter friends, I could feel a book percolating. Then on Leap Year day, February 29, 2016, the bubbles surfaced. Froggy has a wart that one day is gone, gone, gone. He wasn’t sure how this happened. Froggy, Flutter By, Orchid, Sweetie B, Bobalong Bird, and their other critter friends would help me to explore and discover healing and wellness.

You might like to know that while writing about Froggy, I was ensconced in a happy place. I sat at the beautiful cherry writer’s desk that my woodworker brother built especially for me. Using a new laptop computer, I wrote in brief stints of maybe an hour or so before starting my workday. From the window at my left, I looked at the changing seasons and let the stories—30 or so slices of life—write themselves.

You might like to know that while writing about Froggy, it occurred to me that, if Mom were still alive, she would be 100 on May 28, 2017. That gave me a goal. Books would be in hand to distribute to family and friends who would gather on that day. I am happy to say, “Mission accomplished.”

A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That

You might like to know about the origins for this book—a combination cookbook, inspiration, and memoir. I called my cousin to wish her well on upcoming surgery. The worrying tone changed when I asked for one of Grandma’s famous recipes. “Let’s start a cookbook,” she suggested. “You send an email to all the cousins, with a copy to me, requesting favorite recipes,” I responded. And so it began.

You might like to know that a few recipes trickled in. Then a few more arrived. I forwarded all arriving emails so that the cousins and others could see how this project was taking shape. More recipes arrived as well as requests to include Larry’s Potato Latkes (pancakes), Aunt Jeanette’s Stuffed Cabbage, Mom’s Chocolate Sponge Cake, Grandma’s special Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie. Stories accompanied the recipes and the requests—heartwarming remembrances of cooks and kitchens that continue to nourish and sustain.

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An excerpt from Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud by Judith Ellison Shenouda

When all is well and good in Froggy’s world, there’s a sense of light—light weight, light load, light mood, light head, and light heart.

Froggy stretches and straightens all fours and jumps higher and higher. As if on a springboard and becoming weightless, up, up, up Froggy goes and then gently lands, this time on the lanky, long, lush, green grass growing from terra firma, swaying to and fro, right next to Froggy’s watering hole.

With all the leaps and bounds, Froggy seeks nourishment. A teeny, tiny bug and a wayward ant are just enough to satisfy his hunger and yet maintain a lithe Froggy physique.

During this particular day, Froggy feels especially playful. After all, today is the summer solstice and the sun rises early and sets late. This is a day of light, more light, and more light still. On this day, the hot sun with a powerful, strong beam feels so, so good drying Froggy’s damp, soggy back.

Venturing from the pond, the thick, silky grass tickles Froggy’s toes and legs and tummy, making Froggy laugh and laugh and laugh again. “Croak, croak, croak. Ha, ha, ha.”

“How my critter friends amuse me, day in and day out. Let me explain.”

For Froggy’s explanation and more slices of life well lived, read Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud, available at Create Space, Amazon, and other online stores. There’s fun, inspiration, and wisdom on every page.

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A word cloud of sweet talk you’ll read in Froggy’s World of Plenty

On February 29, 2016, Leap Year Day, I started a story here about Froggy. I added a another blog entry about Froggy and his critter friends, and then I added another, and then I added yet another. Along the way, while writing and imagining the critters’ perfect world of plenty, I set a goal. On May 28, 2017, Froggy’s story would be a book that I could distribute at a gathering to honor my dear mother on what would have been her 100th birthday. That wonderful day has now come and gone. Family and friends have their books in hand.

Here is a slice of life just for you from Living Well in Froggy’s World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud.

A hobby makes one limber, lively, and lovely

The critters all had hobbies, activities that brought them pleasure and joy.

Some of the hobbies were physical. Anty Annie, believe it or not, was into body building. She would position each limb, assume a perfect posture, and pose.

Bumbler B and Sweetie B often listened to the birdsongs around them, and they would whirl and twirl and dance, dance, dance.

Flutter By was crafty, indeed. She loved fabrics, textures, and colors, and could she ever sew and knit caps, capes, and other wearable art.

Fuzzy Chick Chick loved teaching Baby Chick Chick how to decorate egg shells with squares and diamonds, dots and lines, and curls and swirls.

Mama Orchid and daughter Minnie O loved to collect and categorize. They had samples of every type of orchid around. They could identify even the minutest details of their pedigree.

Mr. Tree was deeply into genealogy. He meticulously observed the roots and scrupulously studied the origins of his many critter friends. Read More

bookclub

Are you a member of a book club? If so, you may wonder if your book club is representative of the many, many book clubs that thrive in so many venues and so many communities throughout the U.S. and the world. If you are not yet fortunate enough to be part of a book club, you might have wondered what exactly occurs.

To book club members who are curious about other clubs, to book club wannabes, and, especially, to members of the Nonfiction Book Club I’m attending tomorrow, here’s a sneak preview of what to expect.

Our book club protocol

In our book club, members arrive promptly, since the room typically is full with 20 or so serious readers gathered around a large conference table in our town’s library. Club membership is exclusive, only in the sense that we are serious readers. We each attend voluntarily and welcome whoever walks in the door. Often first-timers become regulars.

We select our books for the coming year in December, and, at each month’s meeting, the library provides copies of the book for the following month, which we check out and begin to read. Club members take turns leading the discussion and do so willingly (or with a gentle nudge). Each month’s leader brings a unique, personal style to the table. What all share is a commitment to creating an atmosphere that is respectful. We talk and we listen. We explore many facets of a book and we learn.

Our book for this month is The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan. It will be my pleasure (truly!) to lead tomorrow’s discussion, since I loved, loved, loved this book.

Here’s what I have in mind:

Greet everyone who walks in the door—the regulars and the newbies. Be sure that everyone has a nametag, a copy of the year’s schedule, and “Talking About Nonfiction Books”—a discussion sheet that club members assembled over time.

Kick off the discussion with a brief introduction (my name, length of time with the book club, interests, and so forth) and ask others to do the same. As part of their introductions, ask them to share a few aspects of the book that they want to discuss.

With pencil (yes, always a pencil with an eraser) in hand, I circle items on the discussion sheet that we should cover during our time together and scribble notes. For me, this sheet, with everyone’s input noted, guides the give-and-take that ensues.

I then let people talk. Let them ask. Let them discuss. Let them argue (amicably). The task is to simply herd the cats.

My two cents

Every now and then, I throw in my two cents. Read More