Alice Herz Sommer-The Lady in Number Six

“I think I am in my last days but it doesn’t really matter because I have had such a beautiful life. And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love.”
~Alice Herz Sommer

Today ash crosses adorn foreheads. They serve as a reminder that Easter is coming. Lent literally means “spring”, a season of preparation. The reflective 40 days ahead offer a prime opportunity for growth.

As we enter this growing season, Alice Herz Sommer’s preparation and waiting is over. She’s reached her “harvest” day. The 110-year-old pianist will go down in history as the last living Nazi Holocaust survivor. Yet, she was one of the world’s most joyful, hopeful, and “Lenten” souls.

Alice Herz Sommer says that music saved her life. Maybe her saving grace wasn’t the music, but her capacity to hear it.

THELADYINNUMBERSIXThis Lenten season, my preparation will be less about what I give up and more about who I want to become. In Alice Herz Sommer I’ve found a modern-day mentor.

Read more about The Lady in Number Six here.

I shouldn’t complain, but . . .

MinnesotaIceSculptureIt’s another subzero morning in Minnesota (-16 degrees), and my pen is on strike. The ink won’t to come out–and I don’t blame it. I prefer to stay inside this time of year, too.

Knowing that writers in other states are struggling, too, might make me feel better.

  1. Do Florida iPads ever shut down from too much sand?
  2. Californians–is that pesky sunshine making that laptop too hot to hold on your sunburned legs?
  3. Hawaiians–do you have circular indentations covering the backs of your notebooks, curse jars full of quarters, and trash bins full of dead pens from too much orchid pollen?

For those of you feeling a ting of guilt as you bask on the beach, here are some great good-will ideas for the needy. (I’m talking about us cranky Vitamin D deprived writers and illustrators from up north):

  • fingerless-glovespencils with refillable lead
  • fingerless gloves
  • space heaters
  • hot beverages
  • airline tickets to any southern destination

Okay, I’m warmer, now that I vented.

A gift idea for the KEMs (besides the aforementioned) is to join us February 15 for our Barbara Park tribute post about KEM GEM, MICK HARTE WAS HERE. We’re eager to know your opinion about the middle grade novel and we look forward to seeing you there.

Also, it’s never too late to comment on our first KEM GEM recommendation: Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee’s chapter book, CLEMENTINE.

Movies About Writers

THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLENever stop looking for what’s not there.

This quote came from Morgan Freeman’s character, Monte Wildhorn, in The Magic of Belle Isle.

I love movie characters who share writing wisdom or a glimpse into their writing life.

Since my husband and I are avid motion picture enthusiasts, I looked on-line for more flicks about writers and writing. And voila! Christina and Jason Katz have compiled a list of 277 titles and a Pinterest page of the 277 movie posters.

For fun, I’ve compiled my own Top Ten List of Movies About Writers (and the books that inspired them, where applicable). (My list is PG13 and under and they’re in no particular order.)

  1. movies_saving-mr-banks-posterSaving Mr. Banks (Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers, The Real Life Mary Poppins: The Life and Times of P.L. Travers by Paul Brody)
  2. Freedom Writers (Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell)
  3. Diary of Anne Frank and Diary of Anne Frank TV miniseries (Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank)
  4. Funny Farm
  5. Marley and Me (Marley and Me by John Grogan)
  6. The Magic of Belle Isle
  7. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan)
  8. Little Women (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott)
  9. The Help (The Help by Kathryn Stockett)
  10. Dan in Real Life

On my to-read and watch list:

  1. thebookthiefThe Book Thief (about reading–so it qualifies) (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak)
  2. Nim’s Island (Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr)
  3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney)
  4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky)

What’s your favorite movie that features a writer or writing?

Chester’s Christmas

As promised, below is the latest news on Ann Page’s follow-up ebooks to Maggie’s Christmas Ride. Follow the links for free previews.

ChestersWishList_COVERChestersVisit_COVERChester’s Christmas List Chester is torn between finishing his Christmas list and helping someone in need.

Chester’s Christmas Visit Chester and Maggie visit Chester’s sick grandpa to spread holiday cheer, but things don’t go exactly as planned.

Both eBooks are available at They will be available in paperback in December 2014

For the latest info on Page’s writing projects, go to

Congratulations, Ann!

Elise Parsley Has Arrived!

EliseHyldenElise Parsley. Elise Parsley. Elise Parsley.

I told you I was a name dropper.

Sally Lodge’s awesome Publisher’s Weekly article of December 17, 2013 “From Query to Book Deal in 72 Hours: Debut Author Elise Parsley” will explain why I’m babbling.

Every once in a while we are blessed to journey with a superstar and live vicariously through his or her success.  Elise has been that traveling companion for me and lots of MN writers.  Yet, never once has she left us behind, choking in her jet stream. Not when she realized how artistically challenged the majority of us are. Not when she was told by an editor that she had a breakout character and to find an agent right away. And not when she got her three book deal and didn’t need our feedback anymore. She’s bringing us along by her side, where we can enjoy the view, too.

Elise is teaching us what it’s like to be discovered. And how to handle it with grace, wit, and humility. She won’t brag about herself, so we, her fans, have to do it for her. Her agent, Steven Malk tweeted:

Honored to have been part of this quintessential dream publishing story. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer author:…

Well said–by someone who knows a little about success. And how to handle it with grace, wit, and humility. Talk about a dream team …

Elise Parsley. Elise Parsley. Elise Parsley.

Sorry. I can’t help myself. Once you meet her, you’ll be shouting her name, too.

Pinching Christmas Pennies II

Installment #2 on how to spend wisely so we can give better this Christmas.


If you have gift certificates or coupons that have expiration dates, try them anyway. I tossed $30 worth of Chamber of Commerce “cash” because they’d expired. Later I learned they could be updated. In fact, now it’s unlawful in some states for gift certificate issuers to enforce expirations.

Expired Holiday Gas Station coupons from Cub can still be used at certain gas stations. Just ask. (The Holiday Gas Station in Inver Grove Heights, MNtakes them, in case you’re in the neighborhood.)

Also, food expiration dates may cause you to throw away perfectly good products.


Vacation by Owner and Home Away may offer cheaper alternatives for family getaways because you can prepare your meals and eat in. However, take photographic inventory of damage to rental property and send it to the owners before you move in.

The owner of a summer rental threatened to keep our deposit because the housekeeper reported a hole in a bedroom wall. Since I couldn’t say for sure that no one in our party did it, I asked the owner to ask the previous renters if they saw it when they stayed. Luckily, they had and we saved $75.

The aforementioned example applies to any rental item. Recently we rented a car that had small dents in it. We snapped pictures and asked the rental car attendant to record the dents. Only then did we feel comfortable driving out of the parking lot.


We’ve been overcharged on our telephone bills more than once. It’s a hassle to get overcharges reversed, but it’s worth your time.


We earn enough travel reward points through our credit card to pay for the bulk of our travel. We pay for everything with it to build up points. We’d even pay our mortgage with it if our mortgage company would allow it. Then we automatically pay the balance each month with our checking account.

Disclaimer: If you can’t pay your balance in full each month, this is a BAD IDEA for you. In fact, if this is the case, you should not have any credit card. Pay cash for a shredder and destroy all plastic!

The rest of you, be smart with your rewards. Redeem your points for travel only. Don’t use them to buy the advertised products like that overpriced glow in the dark alarm clock that sings “Yankee Doodle Dandy”.


Buying event tickets online will cost you much more in tax and shipping. Plus they charge per item, so if you purchase more than one ticket it will cost significantly more. Also, many metropolitan theaters offer rush tickets, where unsold event tickets* are available at the box office half an hour before show time at a reduced price. A friend bought rush tickets for her daughters for Wicked for $25 each. I felt stupid standing in line with my $87 Les Miserable e-tickets. And, I think they got better seats.

*Have an alternative plan in case of a sold-out performance. Sometimes this offer is limited to students and educators. Do your research ahead of time.


Finally, when the checkout person asks if you want the extended warranty on the item, just say “no”. Here’s why:

Happy giving!