Interview with ‘The Little Firefly’ picture book author Sheri Fink

Nice review/interview for aspiring writers or kidlit readers.

henryherz.com

Sheri Fink is a #1 best-selling, award-winning children’s author, creator of “The Whimsical World of Sheri Fink” children’s brand, and an international speaker. Sheri writes books that inspire and delight children while planting seeds of self-esteem.

Her children’s book series received the 2013 Gold Mom’s Choice Award for excellence in family friendly entertainment. Sheri was recently selected by CBS Los Angeles as one of the top three authors in her local area, a distinction she shares with Dean Koontz.

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For what age audience do you write?

I write for children ages 2-10. The majority of my books are children’s picture books written for 5-10 year olds. I have one book for children ages 2-5 that takes them on an alphabet adventure through the garden.

Tell us about your latest book.

The ‘Little Firefly’ is an enchanting tale about a late-blooming firefly who can’t wait to be all grown up. When…

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http://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/

I just found out that a story of mine will be published in Hippocampus Magazine. It is a fun literary journal with a growing readership currently seeking submissions! Got a memoir or creative nonfiction piece? Like reading creative nonfiction? Submit or read using the link! http://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/

Enjoy.

Mindfulness in the Schools…for Teachers and Kids!

Lately, I have been seeing a ton of articles on mindfulness in schools. Meditation and mindfulness training is being used as a technique to calm anxious students, typically in elementary schools in more progressive, liberal communities. While I think this is great practice, you know who else needs mindfulness training? Teachers. And high school students. And parents, now that I’m thinking about it.

Students are so overwhelmed with the demands that teachers put on them. Some of my students complain of having three to four hours of homework per night. That’s a lot, and I remember those days (and late, late nights). If you add sports and clubs, it’s no wonder some of my students feel like this:

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And teachers, in order to do a good job, have to place these demands on students. And the work comes back to them. To give an explanation of teacher anxiety: I have 119 students this year, and that is fairly low compared to some of my peers. It takes 10 minutes to grade a typical essay, and that’s if you have a lot of experience. That means that during any week that teachers are grading five sets of essays, they need to be doing about 1200 minutes or 20 hours of essay grading on the weekends. Why on the weekends? Because during the week, they have no time for that. They have to grade quizzes, homework, smaller writing assignments; they have to plan their lessons, make copies, attend meetings, and communicate with parents. Oh, and they have to teach their five classes! 🙂 So what happens before the kiddos come into the room in the morning? This happens:

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With all of the demands placed on teachers, it is not a mystery to me why the average career span of a teacher is five years. Given the pay and the public’s relatively low level of respect for teachers, you have to really love it.

And THAT, folks, is why I began using mindfulness and meditation to stay sane. All teachers need this support, and so do all students who are fully dedicating themselves to their schoolwork.

As for myself, since implementing mindfulness training, I have noticed first and foremost that my health has improved. With fewer sick days and more stamina, I feel more prepared to face each day and less “in the weeds”, or at least I beat myself up a little less about being in the weeds. Am I a better teacher? I’m not sure, but I think I am.

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Mindfulness training and a meditation practice would help my students as well. I can feel the anxiety in so many of their voices when they reach out to me about how they feel about an upcoming essay or test. Though I feel for them, I can’t change the demands I am obligated to place on them, and I can’t pretend that they are meeting standards that they are not meeting. What I wish I could change is how they feel about all of it. It seems like some of them get sucked into a cycle of demanding too much from themselves, procrastinating as a result, and then beating themselves up over a C. Their stress rubs off on the teachers and the parents, which then in turn affects administrators. Right in time for the holidays, we’re all stewing in anxiety soup!

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This cycle is preventable if everyone knows how to manage their own time and stress. This is not an easy skill, and with the demands society places on kids today, I think it is a skill that has to be taught! It certainly continues to be a struggle for me, but with the help of mindfulness I am getting a tiny, tiny bit better at it.

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Bring mindfulness to schools, please! For everyone’s sake. 🙂

Check out this link to see what one organization is doing to promote mindfulness for students:

http://mindfulnessinschools.org/

Women on Writing Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest!

My Story Won an Honorable Mention

Recently, I won an honorable mention for Women on Writing’s Summer Flash Fiction Contest. If you are a very new writer, it is a great contest to enter. The story must be under 750 words, which is tough, but worth it! They have a contest four times per year. Check it out! I am working on adding a link to my blog where you can read my short stories and poems. Once that is up, feel free to check it out.

Happy writing! 🙂

Solo (Mindful) Travel to Acadia National Park

“Summer’s almost over.”

Each time that dreadful, pointless line punched me in the gut this August, I tried to apply Tara Brach’s words: “When you feel fear, lean into it, and allow the universe to hold your suffering.” Sadly, each time I tried Tara’s technique in the wake of those three words, the universe proved too small to hold my troubles.

So instead of leaning on the universe, I turned to grit, my old standby. I was, and I still am, determined to milk this month. In that spirit of that determination I booked a last minute trip to Acadia National Park in Maine; and as teachers sometimes have to do in the midst of summer when they book a trip to a place five hours from home away in the middle of a workweek, I decided to go solo.

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At first this frightened me. I am not very open to talking to strangers, and I figured that over the course of a few days, I’d have to talk to a few. Even in the comforts of my home neighborhood, I have never been one to say hello to a passer-by. I am not sure why this is. Possibly, it is because I am from New England, where the harsh winters, I believe, have helped to shape a culture of fast, unfriendly walkers. People on the streets of Boston, where I live now, don’t have time for breezy hellos: They have work to do. Possibly, I am fearful of smiling at strangers because I learned at an all-too-early age that sometimes, this “engaging smile” behavior can elicit responses that are, um, a little creepy.

Whatever the reason, my recent exploration of mindfulness has made me think that maybe, just maybe, I could be a little less restrained with strangers. Solo hikes cradled in the arms of Maine’s natural splendor seemed like the perfect time to try to be more open and warm.

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In reading Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance, one of the practices she suggested struck me. She said that while walking down a crowded street, it is be useful to pass strangers with a smile, and, regardless of their reaction to you, say to them, “May you be happy.” You say this in your mind, not aloud, so as not to scare people. In Tara’s experience, regardless of others’ reactions to you, the simple act of sending this loving message fills you with peace.

Sounds strange, but I tried it while hiking the trails. The results were overwhelmingly positive. So many fellow hikers would receive my smile with the glow of a long-lost relative, causing my heart to swell for sweet moment. For some of them, particularly moms and dads hiking with kids, their smile was one of relief. (Not sure why, but it was nice.) Many people, upon seeing my smile, blurted out an encouraging phrase like, “Almost there!” or “Beautiful day for a hike!” It was very easy to wish these people well as I passed them.

Still for others, the reaction was odd. In some people, I noticed an aura of worry or tension in them before we even made eye contact. They hiked with their eyes downcast, shoulders stiff, neck muscles tightened, brows furrowed. Usually with these people, their reaction to my friendliness was non-existent or even prickly, as though they had an aversion to warmth. Their glance would dart away, or ahead, and they did not seem to appreciate me. With these people, the “may you be happy” part was more difficult. However, I found that when I mentally said it, I was able to feel a great deal of compassion for these uptight hikers. After all, as a former unfriendly walker, I could understand their reaction to me. The compassionate feelings did, as Tara predicted, bring me some peace. Or maybe the views of the ocean brought that? Not sure. Either way, I found that the aftermath of wishing a worried person well was somehow sweeter and more joyful. I almost felt that my wishing them well, if only for a moment, really could help them feel a little lighter. In my head I turned into Glinda the Good Witch, waving my magic wand of kindness at whoever needed it most. Ok, so I got a little carried away…

All of this happened, of course, in the midst of some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen in my life. Being up there, and especially being up there alone, filled me to the brim with the realization that this moment, the one right in front of us, is as ephemeral as it is glorious. The ancient trees, the pine-scented air, the wild ocean, and the jagged pink rocks all begged me not to blink.

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Who knows if the “may you be happy” practice will go over as well in the big city. I am curious to find out. I’ll let you know what the results are. Until then, may you be happy, and may you enjoy some of these pictures. 🙂

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Leave a comment if you enjoyed the post or pics!  What did it get you thinking about?