What I learned from a writer’s class is that children’s picture books are harder to write than it seems like they should be!
The Kissing Hand
The classic, A Kissing Hand, was the most touching of the books I found when I researched prize-winning picture books for a class assignment. It is a classic, published in 1993 about Chester Raccoon who did not want to start school. His mother gave him the most unusual going away memento that any loving mother could give.
Peter Abraham’s Collection Recommended by Stephen King
Yes, I just told you that my goals are to use Always Write for my book reviews and this blog for traveling. Because there are book reviews here already, I am going to repurpose some the posts from time to time.
Here’s my logic to how this relates to travel.
If you’re going on a trip, you need some books to read. Don’t blame me for recommending these books. Steven King included his favorite books in his book On Writing.
After I had read Steven King’s On Writing, I thumbed through his suggested reading list at the end of the book. Granted he published his book ten years ago, so these are classics. Probably voracious readers have already heard of Peter Abrahams, but I started at the top of the alphabetized list, so I started reading his books. He does what I haven’t even come close to mastering. He writes descriptions, metaphors newer and fresher than clean socks, similes as puzzling as a Sudoku, which I never work out correctly no matter how much scratching I do along the sides.
Lights Out – Peter Abrahams
In Lights Out Abrahams chose a wrongfully imprisoned, vengeful murderer as the hero. This poor man’s mother neglected him. His older brother set him up, lied to him and abandoned him, leaving “Nails” to serve his entire sentence in prison for something he never did. Of course, he killed a few bad guys in jail that picked on him, which kept him locked up. When he eventually emerged, looking younger and more fit than his outside colleagues, he searched for his brother. Nails seemed dumb, but you had a feeling he would solve the mystery of why he went to prison, and get the sexy woman in the end. You wondered if his brother would get caught, and by whom. He did, but not in any way I would have expected or chosen to read, for that matter, but it kept me reading. No matter what he did, Nails’ brother got an appropriate comeuppance, but not one you’d wish on your worst enemy.
Revolution #9, published in 1992, told the classic story of a smart woman marrying a man she thought she knew and finding out on her wedding night that she didn’t even know his name, nor the people who came and took him away. The government thought they could close the twenty-year-old murder case when a counterfeiter blew Charlie’s cover in return for favors he would soon need again. No one had reacted with more surprise than Charlie when the bomb he had built and set under the building exploded, killing the eleven-year-old son of a professor at his college.
Running for his life, abandoned by the real terrorists, Charlie changed his identity and took cover as a lobster fisherman. He had not been discovered. Then he accidentally fell in love. When he married, news of Charlie’s reappearance twenty years later triggered many levels of events reaching into the depths of the government before the reader discovers the true perpetrators. But did they get away with it, and let Charlie live? Only those who read the book will know for sure.
I also read Oblivion. Such a title that might have clued me into the surprise, but it didn’t. It’s unclear by the end of the book if it actually has a resolved, happy ending. It’s sort of happy, but because of the oblivious, I’m not sure.
Petrov is an investigator who wins court cases for his clients. He’s dramatic and thorough, attacking each case with the tenacity of the locked door on my front loading washer. (That’s another story.) Somehow along the way, he loses his way, and ends up in the hospital, falls in love with the nurse, and ends up head to head against his past and another love. Abrahams packs more surprises into each chapter than I have had in my life. If you read it long ago, you may have forgotten all the turns and twists, but I doubt it.
If you haven’t read this trio of mysteries, treat yourself a few days of good reading this summer. 🙂 What are you reading?
Award ceremonies honor the organization or community that gives them. If newspapers come to cover the event the organization or city gets some free publicity. People come to celebrate. They meet and greet make new friends and hug old ones. Excitement fills the room and spills outside as guests enter and leave. Normally I take pictures of it. This year I did not.
The Awards Ceremony elevates the award giver.
Suppose for a second that no one gave awards. Do you think the movie industry would be so noticed if it did not honor its own? People would go to movies – maybe. But they might not choose La La Land. Now they might! 🙂 Awards matter to the organizations that give them.
It thrilled me to see local papers cover the Woodlake Award’s Ceremony. One of the reporters said that it was the best ceremony in the area. Why? There’s a real family feeling in the community.
Go Woodlake! Go Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, Lady Lions, Chamber, Homegrown, Woodlake Schools, Woodlake Businesses!
A community that pulls an awards event together elevates everyone, the City of Woodlake and all the community organizations that work so hard together to make it a great place to live and work.
The awardees walk a narrow line.
Woodlake honored me. Wow! I am humbled. Honorees walk a thin line between confidence and humility. Shy awardees suffer embarrassment from the attention. Even confident winners may have moments of awkwardness. (when they talk too long) For those who will be honored in the future, remember…
Award ceremonies are not just for the awardees. Organizations that do not honor their own do themselves a disservice. To downplay the recognition of the award dishonors the community that honors them Receiving an award validates the winner for a period of hard work and sacrifice. Someone noticed.
Of course, this brings up another issue!
What if there wasn’t anyone to award?
I wouldn’t want to live there, would you? Or what if the community was too lazy to find someone who worked hard among them. What if no one appreciated anyone who worked hard?
What if no organization would take on all the work of gathering all the certificates from commissioners, mayors, senators, assembly members, ordering the awards, raising money for the food, preparing the food and decorating for the event? Much more goes into event planning that the larger community realizes.
Next Year It Could Be You!
This is what happens to the awardees so you can be prepared next year when the nominating committee calls you.
When Sally Pace called me to tell me I was chosen as the Woodlake 2016 Woman of the Year, my first thought, was, “How in the world am I going to fill the tables?”
“Also, I need 24 pictures and you need to fill out all this information about yourself.”
There is an expectation that the awardees will fill the room with guests. Everyone brings his or her family to celebrate. My family consists of my husband Vince and his sister in our area. Vince’s son Jason lives five hours away, and my brother lives in Portland, OR, about 15 hours away.
I put out a call for help on Facebook! Come be my family! I bought tickets to fill two tables. Then a third. I worried that they might go vacant. I told all my close friends out of town, even called my brother. He couldn’t come.
The night came, the tables filled. My rock star friend, Elane Geller, a child Holocaust Survivor came from Los Angeles and our close friend, Andria Jacobs came from Las Vegas, NV to make sure I treated Elane well. (I’m kidding, Andria!) The whispers started among the guests, “Is that Elane Geller?”
They rushed over to greet her. They wanted pictures of her and themselves. Some of them included me, too. Tony Casares recognized her from the platform before the ceremony started. She received an ovation. Don’t ask me if they stood, I think my head had fuzzed shut by that time, but not from drinking. It just does that on me when I know I have to get in front of people.
My dear friend, Margaret Morris came from the coast. My step-son came. People came from TCOE where I worked for years including a former boss, Olga Cortez, a close colleague, Connie Smith, and two former support staff, (my pretend kids) Ivette Lopez and Paula Terrill, all of whom I love dearly.
My neighbors came. People who helped me with the Woodlake book came so I could talk about them in front of their faces instead of behind their backs. I worried about how to seat people. I didn’t need to.
No one edited my paperwork, I’m sure. They read the WHOLE thing! When will I ever learn? When I’m home alone with my computer, I think it’s a diary. Before I even reached the stage, I’d already been going on too long.
I wanted to tell the story about Robert Edmiston dusting me off after I fell out of the car when he showed me around Elderwood. The emcee, Tony Casares chased me off the stage before I could.
I wanted to thank my husband for supporting me so much while I’ve been busy doing all the stuff I love to do. He got up and left the room before I spoke. I forgot! Then I saw him standing in the back. Tony kept swooshing his hands to get me off the stage.
“No! Go! Go!”
Vince got an apology look across a crowded room. I think he understood.
Someone told Linda LaFleur, Kiwanis President, that the only bad thing about the ceremony was that some of the awardees spoke too long. Anyone know where there’s a good hole?
After the Event
Did you think it would end that night? Not at all. A couple of reporters called me. One gave me homework. One took a great picture of me and put it on the front page of his newspaper. I finally changed my three-year-old Facebook profile picture.
My former boss, Jim Vidak sent me a letter of congratulations with lots of personal marks on it. Go TCOE! My friend, Monica Pizura collected papers for me and brought me cute gifts. Connie brought me wine, and Connie doesn’t drink wine.
Last year’s awardee donated all the meat for this year’s banquet. She’s shy and I don’t think she wanted that information told. Yes, shy people get awards!
Get prepared, Woodlake Chamber Member, General Food Store, I’m going to need to buy a lot of meat next year. And the rest of you be thinking of who to nominate next year! 🙂
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Kiwanis Club International focuses on “changing the world by serving children, one child and one community at a time.”
Over the years Kiwanis Club of Woodlake has learned how to modify the world by focusing on doing something well. This active service club of around twenty members runs a tight serving ship. Kiwanis members have helped caterers for the public, service organizations, and private parties.
Serving at weddings and events like the Awards Dinner involves much more energy and hands than the Kiwanians can provide. So they partner with their sponsored youth groups, Key and Builders’ Club, the high school, and middle school service clubs. As a result, students work hand in hand with experts in the field. Each time the students serve, their organization earns money which goes towards scholarships.
Opportunities for Students to Succeed
Through their combined expertise in serving, Kiwanis of Woodlake has developed awesome opportunities for individual and groups of students.
Students benefit in many ways.
Professional Training Provided
This year about twenty students from 6th-12th grades attended a training session with a former restaurant manager, CEO of Tulare-Kings Hispanic Chamber, Armondo Apodaca. After instruction in table setting, students divided into groups to put their learning into practice. Each group served one portion of a five-course meal. When they were not serving, they engaged their table mates, which included adults in dinner conversation.
After the training, the service club members had multiple opportunities to serve at various events. In a short time, these students established a name for themselves. Working tirelessly for as many hours as the adults, they provided polite and excellent service with a smile.
Each Event Is On-the-Job Training
For the most part, the events at which Key and Builders’ Club students serve and the adults who supervise them are the community leaders. Besides earning community service hours, which they need to graduate, students learn essential skills that will guarantee their success as productive citizens.
More than contributing to a general Kiwanis scholarship fund, each student learns a valuable trade, social management, problem-solving and communication skills advancing them far beyond their peers.
They have time to observe and learn how their friends work with deadlines. They act as a team. It is almost like a coeducational sports team.
They are busy. Because students are busy doing adult work, they have no time or inclination to get into trouble. Most of these students end up with hundreds of hours more community service work than they need for graduation.
Adults rely on students’ problem-solving skills. When you provide service for caterers, all kinds of detail issues arise. Adults may not have the best answers. What happens when there are no water pitchers, or the food service providers are late? What happens when there are too many or few appetizers for the table space, or you can’t find them. The person who solves the problem is the hero for the minute.
Tight management is essential. Although there is an adult in charge of every event, students learn to manage each other as well. Given an overall task, the Key and Builders’ Club students subdivide so that no logistics fall through the cracks.
Politeness is essential. When one adult orders a student to do a task followed by a second command by a different adult, students are taught stop and explain to the second or third adult what they are doing and who gave the instruction and not to be confused and jump on every command.
Adults learn their names and the capabilities of each student. Many of these same adults make scholarship decisions, interview students to go to leadership conferences, or grade graduation portfolios.
Students have real work experience to add to their resumes for scholarships and employment.
They develop relationships with influential people who can give them honest recommendations.
Many of the students in Woodlake come from farm labor families. They work very hard and see their parents and grandparents working long hours for minimum wages. Numerous other employment opportunities could open for Key and Builders’ Club students who work with professional and volunteer servers.
Although few of these students will go into the catering business, many of them may work their way through college as servers. Most of them go to college. Their home backgrounds and work in providing service for caterers has prepared them for hard work, getting along with all kinds of people, solving real-world problems, and has earned money for the Kiwanis scholarships.
Most of all, serving at parties and events is fun for kids.
They are treated as adults as they work with peers they enjoy.
Although Kiwanis of Woodlake is part of the International Club serving children, it is unique. Woodlake’s Club participates in District, Regional, and National Campaigns, such as Miracle Mile of Quarters, Read Around the World, Key Leader, Special Olympics, and Bowl-a-Thon. Kiwanis puts on the Pancake Breakfast during Rodeo Week, sponsors a Run for Hunger to benefit the Woodlake Food Pantry, the July 3rd Blast to entertain the community as we all celebrate Independence Day, and many other single events.
I am proud to be a Kiwanis member. But I have a request. Kiwanis of Woodlake needs adult volunteers who want to serve the community as members. You are welcome to join our weekly meetings at 6:30 am at the Presbyterian Church on Naranjo. Three out of four weeks a month we invite a community member to speak to the group. If you are interested in joining, please fill out the contact form, and someone from the club will meet with you in person or over the phone to give you more information.
You think nothing happens in a small town? Think again! Living in a small town is amazing.
In addition to attending classes, playing in sports, home and church activities, these young women have taken time to learn new skills that qualify them to compete for the title of Miss Woodlake.
Ms. Vasquez was the first to wow the audience with her version of “Salt and Light.” She sounds like the next American Idol to me. What do you think?
“Salt & Light”
Oh the beauty of our King
You make righteous those who seek
You have written and redeemed my story
Let my eyes see Your kingdom shine all around
Let my heart overflow with passion for Your name
Let my life be a song, revealing who You are
For You are salt and light…
“Salt & Light” by Lauren Daigle
Our new queen and her partner danced a traditional Mexican folklorico dance for us on a very small stage.
Alexis Brogan, the first runner-up to Miss Woodlake recited a poem illustrating her faith in God. Would she be considered the First Princess?
The audience gasped as Odalis Arteaga threw her father to the floor several times displaying her Tiquando ability. She amazed us when she broke a piece of lumber with a kick and a mini-chalkboard with her arm.
Technical difficulties marred the filming of this next contestant. Unfortunately, after the technical difficulties, I forgot to press the record button again. I apologize to Woodlake High School senior, Crystal Zaragoza.
Sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, these five young women, mentored by Claudia Cabrera, will become an part of every aspect of the community. They ride in parades, take part in ribbon cutting ceremonies for new businesses and buildings, sell raffle tickets, and attend monthly Chamber of Commerce Board meetings.
All the service organizations in Woodlake sponsor events, and the court will help out with Lion’s Club and other organizations’ Rodeo Week activities, Kiwanis’ July Third Blast, and Woodlake Chamber’s July Car Show in the Park, to name a few.
Sometimes I felt badly for last year’s Queen because we worked her so hard, but when Sonni Hacobian crowned Lizette Castillo, she cried as she shared it was the best opportunity she had.
A beauty pageant displays and requires much more than beauty from its contestants.
Participants work hard, donate much time to the community, and work as team members.
They practice and hone their skills in addition to maintaining good grades in school.
They represent the town of Woodlake for a year in events across the county.
They attend meetings and assist in events doing whatever tasks are assigned to them.
They participate in sports, music, drama, leadership conferences, FFA, Key and Interact Clubs at school providing leadership there.
They are usually active in church or community work
Opportunities abound in a small town. Forgive me as I excuse myself to interview juniors who hope to attend the HOBY Leadership Conference in the spring.
Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce thanks Claudia Cabrera and all the Woodlake High School seniors who participated in this event. We are so proud of all of you.
If you loved this post, please share it as a thank you to the five talented young women who participated in the pageant, and their mentor, Claudia Cabrera.