Category Archives: Writing

Spring in Sacramento

This is the perfect time to live in Sacramento, California.  The weather has simply been divine.  Mid 70s, slight breeze, glorious sunshine with wispy clouds ever so often… Hopefully it will rain a bit more before the scortching summer heat arrives as we did not have a wet winter and everyone is worried we are going back into drought mode.  But for now, on my Spring Break, it has been delicious.

Here are a few flowers in my garden that have decided to bask in this great weather:

School has been really fun this year.  The kids just concluded learning about the Bill of Rights and the Three Branches of Government – for their culminating projects they did a music video and then a stop-motion video (respectively) explaining each.  Super silly and fun.  They also wrote a biography and did a research project on a founding father or mother of the US.  Here, they are dressed up ready to present their biography:

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also lucked out at Marin Headlands this year and it only poured down rain on us in the mornings – the afternoons were full of beautiful sunshine.

At the lighthouse.

 

We are now moving into learning about the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark and then on to the Civil War.  Its an exciting and very packed full final nine weeks.

March for Our Lives 2018

I’ve been doing a bit of hiking and exploring, not as much as I had planned as I am tutoring after school and trying to fit in writing the next book in “The Treasure Chest Mysteries.”  I’ve gone on a couple of marches: Women’s March and the March for Our Lives.  So amazing to be out there with people who care about our country.

Sunset watching the Great Sand Hill Cranes

Women’s March with Kristin and Brynna

And here it is April tomorrow!  I hope spring is being gorgeous where ever you are as well. Enjoy!

~ Gretchen

 

 

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Filed under Education, Fifth Grade, Gardening / Outdoors, Spring, Uncategorized, Writing

Congratulations!

Congratulations to Pam Curcio!

Pam won “The Treasure Chest Mysteries,” book two: The Jade Serpent in my Amazon giveaway.

Thank you to all who entered to win.

I hope you enjoyed the holidays, surrounded by friends, family and lots of laughter.

After an active, five days with family, I am happily back to writing; working on the outline of Book Three: The Black Tortoise.  Having a couple weeks (total) off from teaching has given me the opportunity to go for great hikes and ponder the possibilities for Koen and Titanus as they venture off to the exotic country of Vietnam.

Tomorrow I am back to teaching my amazing fifth graders.  As we begin to explore the building of our nation through looking at the construction of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, my kiddos will also be starting a biography project focused on our founding fathers and mothers.  They will research and write a biographical essay on their randomly chosen founder, develop a bio-poem and then rap it out, in full costume for their second grade buddies.  Should be fun and entertaining.   We also will be continuing our service-learning project but changing up the focus to water conservation, cleanliness and who gets access.

Should be fun!

Have a great January everyone.  It’s going to be a great year.

~ Gretchen

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Filed under Education, Fifth Grade, Service Learning, Writing

Enter to Win My Book

Hi Friends,
Want to win my latest book that is perfect for the 7 – 9 year old in your life?
It is full of adventure, geography and history.
Enter for a chance to win “The Jade Serpent.”
Simply click on this link to be entered into the drawing! AMAZON Giveaway!
Happy Reading Everyone!

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Adventures in Publishing

Hi All,

Due to the hurricanes that have been ravishing the US (and beyond), I didn’t receive my copies of “The Jade Serpent” until a few days ago.  When they finally arrived I found that the spine was blank. Oh No!

After investigation I discovered I needed 3 more pages in my book for it to have the title and my name on the spine. So I have been reformatting with old photos of me in Guatemala and added a map of the world showing where Koen and Titanus have been adventuring.  All this to tell you that, if you have been trying to purchase my book on Amazon – it has said the print version is unavailable. (Still available on Kindle).  If all goes well, it should be available again starting tomorrow – Sunday, 10/1.

Lesson learned…always buy a physical proof before launching.  Oh, and with the added pages, Createspace forced me to up the price to $6.20. Sorry.

Thanks for your patience as I continue to learn this process.  And please -write a review on Amazon!  It really helps!  Thanks!

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The Jade Serpent…Published!

Hi Friends!

I am so excited to let you know that I have just published the second book in The Treasure Chest Mysteries: “The Jade Serpent.”

You can find it on Amazon in print and Kindle formats.

I’d like to ask your help in spreading the word to all your friends who might be interested (or know someone who might be interested) in a fun adventure story for approximately a 3rd grader (7-9 yrs old).

ALSO If you purchase one on Amazon – I’d be oh so grateful if you would write a review as that is how books get noticed and ‘suggested’ on Amazon.

Thank you so much for your support!  I hope you enjoy.    Gretchen

Outsmarting looters, crawling into dark, dripping caves, and escaping spear-throwing villagers is
only
half the battle when ‘afraid-of-heights’ Koen is forced to jump off a giant temple,
climb to the top of the tallest tree in the rain forest, and swing for his life – like Tarzan – through the jungle.

Putting his trust in: a medicine man, a monkey and a mouse… No Problem.
Koen and Titanus are off on another adventure.
But it’s a race against time.
Can they find the stolen treasure before the thieves get their dirty hands on it and it is lost forever?

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Filed under Adventure, Third Grade, Writing

Writing, Teaching and Traveling

Hello Friends,

The time has just flown by since I last sat down to take stock of life and share it with you.  Since February, my last post, life has been full of good stuff.  I finally finished my second book in the Treasure Chest Mysteries titled “The Jade Serpent.”  I will be announcing when you can pre-order through Amazon soon.  Working on finishing the illustrations now.  Very excited.  It has been such a different process to write a second book in a series; full of constraints, but overall they have been fun challenges to work with.

As to the rest of life, the last half of the school year at Sacramento Country Day School was packed with history.  For the American Revolution unit the students researched the key players, learned about women spies, explored how and why the revolution happened and then, after writing papers, they performed a musical, in A Capella, that spanned the American Revolution.  It was great.  We then learned about the Constitution and Bill of Rights, before heading into the Civil War.  For this final unit the students’ main project was to research and debate in groups. They went above and beyond and I was so impressed with their debating skills.  Also, throughout the year, the kids did 10 Minute Minis.  This was their opportunity to teach the class anything (upon approval) that they were interested in, to the class.  We had the gammot: card tricks, history of dogs, turtles, elephants and video games, rugby, lacrosse and baseball strategies, how to shake and make ice-cream, create clouds in bottles, and decorate your locker, step-by-step origami, and how to speak a little Japanese… and many more.  It was amazing what we learned in ten minutes.

Learning how to attack in Rugby

Creating a cloud in a bottle. (Classroom was set up for our North vs. South debates)

History of dogs – with a live specimen

Lacrosse strategies

Earlier this summer I was given the great opportunity (from my school) to participate in the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History‘s Seminar on the American Revolution in New York City.  It was a week of amazing learning.  New York City in 1789, became the first US capital under our new Constitution and therefore it was packed full of history that we explored. We walked between 7 – 13 miles each day uncovering its revolutionary history.  Some of the places we visited were:
~ Trinity Church founded in 1696. Alexander Hamilton is buried there
~ Federal Hall – where George Washington was inaugurated,  and it was the home of Congress
~ Wall Street – named so because it used to have a wall that ran east/west across the island to protect the tip from First Nation peoples
~ Bowling Green – where the Dutch would chop off the heads of dissidents and use them as bowling balls for entertainment, and where the statue of King George the Third used to be.  Also the iron surrounding the little park is the original fence, minus the little crowns that used to be on the poles – they were cut off when the Americans toppled the statue of King George.

Flying into NYC. In this photo you can imagine where the “wall” was that protected the tip from the Native Americans.

The plaque on Wall Street explaining the “wall.”

The stone block that used to be in Federal Hall that George Washington stood on when he was inaugurated as our First President.

Map of the Battle of Brooklyn – a very decisive battle in the American Revolution.

We walked from Brooklyn to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge – just a gorgeous bridge, day and views.

Alexander Hamilton’s grave at Trinity Church

Inside Trinity Church

Me having a beer with my new teacher friends in Chelsea.

We also spent our evenings exploring: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Little Italy, Alexander Hamilton’s Grange…

Arriving by ferry to Ellis Island.

Visiting the Statue of Liberty.

Mighty Girl!

Alexander Hamilton’s Grange – this used to be 9 miles outside of town in the country – now the area is called Harlem.

Inside Hamilton’s Grange – this is the room and desk that he wrote the Federalist papers. Gave me chills, it was inspiring to be there. But… is it wrong that I kept picturing Lin Manuel Miranda sitting there? 🙂

At the end of the week I took the train up to Connecticut to spend the weekend with my sister and her family.  A great seven days on the East coast.

Since returning to Sacramento I have been teaching two creative writing classes at Sacramento State University for 4th – 10th graders.  It has been really fun to help them step outside the usual, observe their surroundings and find the stories waiting to be expressed.  Such creative minds.

I’ve also been working on my house a bit here and there.  Last weekend I tore out the old carpet in my living room and refinished the hardwood floor beneath.  I’ve now repainted, put up crown molding and moved back in.  Still working on the wall paintings, but getting close to being satisfied.

This week I am home to focus on my writing.  As I have been wrapping up “The Jade Serpent,” I have outlined a nonfiction book about my time in Myanmar full of photos of that beautiful country.  After those are off to the presses, the next big writing project is to continue developing a fiction story for young adults that I started a few years ago.  It is centered around a stolen antiquity, moves between centuries and across continents… an adventure mystery: mysture? adventery?

I have also decided that the next Treasure Chest Mystery will take place in Vietnam – one of my most favorite countries I have visited.

So lots to keep my mind engaged.

Next year I am teaching fifth grade again.  I will be coaching one volleyball team (instead of 3 like last year!) and tutoring a 6th and an 8th grader as my extracurriculars.  I’m excited also, to be piloting a year-long service learning program for my school with my fifth graders.  The focus is on hunger but I’ll be tying in issues around water as well.  My school also has a “sister school” in Rulindo, Rwanda and I am hoping to tie in the local service with the global learning.  Should be a fun year.

These cubist paintings were created by my students last year – arent’ they awesome? I love them altogether.

On that bright note, have a great August!

~ Gretchen

 

 

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Filed under Education, Fifth Grade, Fourth Grade, Summer, Super Creative, Travel, Writing

Oregon Gardens

A deep breath infuses my body with the rich perfumes of pine, fir, lush soil, cut grass, and blossoming plants.  Every time, it nearly knocks me over with its power.  The abundance of nature in all its glory is here in Oregon.  I love being here with my mom at her beautiful house just off the hustle and bustle of the University of Oregon campus.

Over the last few months we have been chatting over the phone (me – from the desert terrain of Gallup, NM) about re-creating her small patch of garden on the south side of her house that gets full sun, and therefore has the great potential to be a vegetable garden.  When I arrived a couple of weeks ago we started plotting in earnest.  After a rather painless trip to Jerry’s (a local version of a Home Depot) we returned home with a plan and lots of supplies.

First, we weeded the over-grown area and laid out what I like to call “weed destroyer” – black landscape material that blocks light.  Then we mulched and started hauling in the concrete blocks.  A few six foot, 12″x 2″ cedar boards, soil and voila; raised beds and a tidy little garden. Super fun and quite easy.  Here are the before and after shots:

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The next day I took a trip up to Portland to visit some friends and one was my dear friend Patty Cassidy.  She is an amazing gardener and such an inspiration.  She is a grand master gardener and has turned her expertise to helping seniors continue to garden and explore the wonders of plants in all shapes, colors, smells and forms.  She has written a wonderful gardening book, aptly titled “Gardening for Seniors” that I was happy to learn has been translated into four different languages.  She is also the president of the Portland Memory Garden which has been “especially designed for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems: the site is relatively flat and is away from other park activity and significant traffic noise. The garden was dedicated in May 2002 and is one of eight memory gardens in the U.S., and one of only two built on public land. The garden is a national demonstration garden project, created as part of the 100 Parks, 100 Years centennial celebration of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).”   If you are looking for wonderful advice about your garden – Patty should be your go-to gal.

It was a gorgeous Oregon afternoon of filtered sun.  I had such fun chatting in Patty’s beautiful back yard with her husband Gary, who, like me, is diving into the world of children’s literature.  No worries – I’ll be shamelessly promoting his book when it comes out too.

In three short weeks I’ll be moving to Sacramento, California.  I am really looking forward to a little space of my own to dig into some earth and help cultivate a bit of life.  Moving to Sacramento not only means I can garden again, but as the winter season is so mild – I’ll get to garden all year round!  I can’t wait.  And I have so many wonderful gardening experts in my life to help me.  Such fun.

I’ll write again from California.  Have a great end of your June!

~ Gretchen

 

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Filed under DIY, Education, Gardening / Outdoors, Writing

2016 Has Ushered in… Fun and Creativity

Such fun I have been having!  And thus, I have not been good at staying in touch, sorry.

The weeks have simply zoomed by since a lovely Christmas seeing and holding my adorable great (grand?) nephew in sunny California.  Sweet, adorable, with tiny little hands and feet…Koen.

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And I was so excited to give the adventure book I had written for Koen to his parents, my nephew Calvin and his great wife, Abbey.

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Then a huge surprise, I was whisked away to NYC for a fabulous weekend with my sisters and mom – girls camp, as mom called it.  So much fun.

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It was seriously freezing and then the wind!  But we had a ball.  We checked out the Highline (converted, old, elevated rail track into a lovely walking promenade…if it hadn’t been so windy!).  We hit the Chelsea Market, a bit of Greenwich village, uptown, midtown, soho, Ground Zero…The Whitney Museum… We survived the Blue Man Group and ended our wonderful weekend with Kinky Boots – an absolute must see if you’re in NYC – hysterically funny and so clever – Loved! It!

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No idea what we were getting into – PRE – Blue Man Group

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Post Blue Man – see, we survived!

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Chillin’ on the Highline.

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Ground Zero Memorial

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Amazing Kinky Boots!

But don’t think the fun stopped when I left NYC – oh no!  🙂

Just last weekend I headed up into Utah to Canyonlands National Park for a fun, challenging trail run and great hikes.

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IMG_4838 Corona Arch which was really fun to get to; climbing over big rocks, using ladders to get up impassable areas and then arriving and feeling really, really small.  If you look at the photo below, people are standing under the arch.  Its huge.

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IMG_4848I loved the colors – rich oranges, reds, greens and yellows.  It was really beautiful.

IMG_4864In between all this gallivanting I have been practicing my illustration skills and continuing to write the second book in the Treasure Chest Mysteries series.  Writing this second book has proved much more challenging.  I think it is due to wanting to make it better, deeper, more robust.  I am currently working my way through the book “The Plot Whisperer Workbook” by Martha Alderson.  She is helping me understand how to build a character that has more emotion, more rise and fall and more empathy.  I hope you’ll notice the difference in the next book.

I am also exited to say that my friend Ivy Newport, through her wonderful blog, has introduced me to my next exciting online adventure: A Storyteller’s Art.   This class by Robin Laws looks like so much fun.  I can’t wait to get started on March 14th.Storyteller's Art

Oh, and then of course, I have been teaching – the day-to-day job.  It has continued to be fun, super frustrating, challenging, empowering, painful and eye-opening.  My sixth graders are still my wonderful little stars, so eager to learn, curiosity abounds, full of smiles and giggles.  My seventh graders are more moody, more tired, over-the-top fidgety and dead in their seats – Ahh the wonders of puberty!  The eighth graders are a whole other ball of anger, apathy, rolling eyes, shy smiles, loud and aggressive chatter, more touchy or afraid to be even looked at.  Every day these students walk into my classroom and I do not know what I am going to get.  On a good day, it just doesn’t get better than teaching;  Spirits are high, curiosity rules, high-level discussions, students wanting more, which translates into: I am challenged and excited to explore new avenues with them.  On a bad day, its bad.  Grumpy, won’t do anything, talking back, refuse to participate, angry at being forced to sit in a seat and learn…  I rarely get a day that is strictly one or the other.  My days are full of emotion, highs and lows, smiles and angry, teenage stares.  Teaching is amazingly exhausting, but for the most part rewarding.  I only have three months left here in Gallup, NM.  I have learned a lot about what I need in life being here.  It has been very interesting learning a small bit about the Navajo Nation and the life that many lead.  But I am a tree and green person.  I need to see diversity in color, texture and foliage.  I didn’t realize how much I needed that until I came here.  It is very monotone in color.  Beautiful in its own right, but my eye needs color and diversity.

Where to next?  Not sure yet.  I have some irons in the fire that I am pursuing.  I’ll let you know where life plans on taking me next as soon as I know.  Until next time, Happy Spring!!!

Gretchen

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Filed under Adventure, Education, New Mexico, Photography, Travel, Writing

Snow Day!

So the big storms that have been predicted for this winter here in Gallup, New Mexico have yet to materialize.  But yesterday we did get the storm that has been battering the northwest.  We didn’t get rain, what came down was a wet snow, and since the temperature outside quickly went down to the upper 20’s, everything froze.  While it was exciting at first, the reality of departing from a school that was on a steep hill, quickly became stressful.

So instead of going up the hill towards home, which I observed others trying and spinning out, I went down to find a more slopping upward hill.  Eventually I circuitously found a path and since most of the roads still had a dusting of snow on them, with enough speed my little Volkswagen Jetta chugged up the hills (just like the Little Engine that Could one of my favorite books) without too much side sliding and I made it home safe to my two furry friends.

The snow fell more throughout the night and the frozen streets remained solid ice, so…no school today!  Beautiful sunshine out, but only 16 degrees.

So today I continue writing on Book 2 of The Treasure Chest Mysteries.  What a great day!

Gretchen

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Filed under Adventure, New Mexico, Writing

My First Book, The Launch

Hi All,

A few months ago my mom found a really fun, wooden chest.  It was covered in a circus motif and painted by a local artist in her town.  With my nephew’s baby on the way, she snatched it up and sent me a picture of it.  Seeing the chest sparked an idea and I started writing a story with the thought of giving it to the parents, my nephew and his wife, at Christmas.  So I have been working on the story and attempting my first illustrations.  With the great encouragement of friends, family and my current 6th graders that I am teaching, I decided to not only give it to my nephew, but to publish it.

I decided to self-publish through Amazon’s Create Space.  It was a fairly painless experience and now my book is listed on Amazon!  I am beyond excited.  I am finally coming down from my initial high and working on promoting the book, as well as writing the next one, as it is to be a series.  But I have to be careful not to over publicize right now as my nephew might see the PR blitz!  That would ruin the fun for Christmas.

So as soon as my nephew has the book in hand, I’ll launch my Facebook page etc. and let you know.  I did take the plunge and set up a Twitter account as well.  I have also created a website for the book which you can view here.  But for now, if you know of anyone that has a child reading at the 1st – 3rd grade level – I would really appreciate it if you would pass the word on about my book – it ships internationally!

You can see one of the main characters on the side bar to the right with a light blue background – Titanus McDuff.  Below is the cover of the book.

Cover Trade

Thanks and have a happy, creative day!

Gretchen

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Filed under Adventure, Animals, Fourth Grade, Third Grade, Writing