About Julie Cantrell

Julie Cantrell is an award-winning New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling novelist and public speaker. A TEDx presenter, she is known to inspire others to live a more compassionate and authentic life. Her debut novel, Into the Free, earned a starred review by Publishers Weekly, the Mississippi Library Association’s Fiction Award, and the Christy Award Book of the Year while being named a Best Read of 2012 by USA TODAY. The sequel, When Mountains Move, was named a 2013 Best Read by USA TODAY and won the Carol Award for Historical Fiction. Her third novel, The Feathered Bone was selected as an Okra Pick by SIBA and Book of the Year by Pulpwood Queens. It earned a starred review by Library Journal who also named it a Best Book of 2016 was a finalist for three literary awards: INSPYs, Carol Award, and SIBA Southern Book Prize. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship as well as the Mary Elizabeth Nelson Fellowship at Rivendell Writers’ Colony. Her fourth novel, Perennials, will release November 2017. Learn more: Website: www.juliecantrell.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliecantrellauthor Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulieCantrell Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/juliecantrell Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/juliecantrell

2013 – Radical Well-Being

As promised, I’ll continue introducing you to some amazing authors throughout 2013. This week, with all of us focusing on our resolutions and feeling inspired to live healthier, happier lives, I’m excited to feature my friend, Dr. Rita Hancock, who is board-certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as well as in Pain Management and whose work in the medical field has helped countless patients focus on the mind, body, spirit connection.

radical well being coverResearch increasingly shows a strong connection between our spiritual life, our emotions, and our physical well being. Yet too often our physical conditions are treated without taking our whole lives into account.  In her latest book, Radical Well-being, Rita shows us how the mind, body, and spirit are connected and addresses the factors that can contribute, and even cause, illness, addictions, and chronic pain.

So the first thing I did was ask Rita, Who will benefit from reading this book?

“Many people can benefit from understanding the concepts described in Radical Well-being,” explains Dr. Hancock. “If you suffer from medical conditions like fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, neck or back pain, irritable bowel syndrome, jaw pain, food and drug allergies, depression, anxiety, or unwanted behaviors such as overeating, an eating disorder, overspending, drug abuse or alcoholism, Radical Well-being will show you a biblical, whole-body approach to overcoming your condition.”

If you’re like me, you approach self-help books with skepticism. I’m never one who is easily sold on a guidebook for life. But with nearly twenty years of experience counseling patients from a balanced, mind/body/Holy Spirit perspective, Rita goes beyond the preaching and provides practical nuts-and-bolts advice, including how to:

·           Identify the lies that are manipulating you from a subconscious level

·           Deal with emotional factors that can make your pain seem worse

·           Address addictive behaviors that you want to get rid of

·           Fully accept God’s love and forgiveness on a deep, healing level

According to Dr. Rita Hancock, true freedom and improved health come when deeply-rooted lies are illuminated and replaced with knowledge from the merciful heart of God. “Radical Well-being will help you feel better in all three domains—in your mind, body, and in your spirit,” Rita says. And if you don’t believe her, just ask one of her patients  instead: “I feel like the weight of a skyscraper has been lifted off my shoulders.”

If it’s weight loss you’re after, Dr. Hancock’s previous books include The Eden Diet (Zondervan) and The Eden Diet Workbook, which are about learning to eat in response to physical rather than emotional hunger.

Want to learn more? Visit www.TheEdenDiet.comand www.RadicalWell-being.com.

Meet the Gypsies of Spain

Susan-with-lace-cropped-31-222x300I’m excited to introduce you to a new friend of mine, Susan Nadathur, whose debut novel, City of Sorrows, was just released. You’re one of the first to learn about this beautiful new story set in the Gypsy communities of Spain, and this might just be the first interview posted publicly regarding the book.

JC: Susan, You have a fascinating life. You grew up in a quaint New England community but after graduate school became an ex-Pat and relocated to Spain. There, you fell in love with a man from India, and together, after years of some pretty amazing adventures, you decided to move among the Gypsies of Spain whom you describe as some of the most generous, humble people you’ve ever met. Tell us briefly how you ended up “running away with the Gypsies.”

SN: I often wonder where this journey began. I think God always knew, even though He was not so good about sharing the details with me. But, looking back on my life, the road seems clear. For example, if as a child I had not been bullied, picked on and humiliated, I would not have developed the keen sense of empathy I have for people who are marginalized. And without that compassion, I would not have been profoundly affected by a racist remark targeted at my Indian friend in Spain who was confused for a Gypsy way back when I was a twenty-two-year-old expat living in Seville.

“Gypsies and Moors are not served here,” a Spaniard said before refusing my friend a cup of coffee. That one statement, spat out decades ago in a bar in Seville, became the catalyst for a story of love and loss in the vibrant world of Gypsy Spain—a world I would never have penetrated if I had not felt the sting of isolation, humiliation, and rejection that gave me the unique, unspoken connection to this group of persecuted people.

Several years later, that story finally germinated. I started to write the novel which has become CITY OF SORROWS. But, in order to do justice to the project, I had to return to Spain. And this time, I had to meet and get to know the people whose culture I was writing about. Spanish Gypsies.

The only problem was, I knew that most of the Gypsies in Seville lived in poor, dangerous sectors of the city. My husband knew that too. As well as my pastor. The only way I was going to convince both my husband and pastor that I would be safe in these marginalized areas was by connecting with a Christian church that had ministries in the Gypsy community. Well, to make a long story short, I ended up in a  Pentecostal Gypsy church called Dios Con Nosotros (God with Us), in one of the most sordid sectors of the city (Las Tres Mil Viviendas). And not once did I ever feel unsafe. The congregation embraced me, though kept me at a distance whenever I asked questions about their culture. Too many years of marginalization and oppression had made them wary of foreigners.

But as the weeks went by, and they began to trust me, my experiences began to change. I was invited into homes, into people’s lives. Finally, I was asked to leave the apartment I had rented in Seville and invited to live with Pastor Pepe Serrano and his family in their home on the outskirts of Seville. Once I moved into Pastor Pepe’s home, I no longer had to ask questions. I only had to live as part of a family to understand the people I had been led to write about.

Pepe-Pura-and-Susan-Cropped1-300x242Looking back now, I remember what Pastor Pepe said to me that day I first entered his church.

“God has not brought you here to research your book,” Pastor Pepe said. “He has brought you here to work on you.”

I guess God always knew the plans he had for me. There was a reason I was me.

JC: You are not only fluent in Spanish, you have created a successful business teaching Spanish to medical professionals and have published several books on this topic. It’s clear you have spent your life working to promote cross-cultural understanding. What do you consider the most positive aspect of modern Gypsy life in Spain? What are their struggles?

SN: I think the most positive aspect of modern Gypsy life in Spain right now is the transformation that is occurring because of Spanish Gypsy evangelism. Negative behaviors historically associated with Gypsies, such as vagrancy, theft, violence, revenge and tribal feuding, are being modified and corrected with conversions to Christ.

From “gypping” someone out of their money, to truancy and laziness, to admonishment for being unhygienic, to retaliation and revenge, the standard image of the Spanish Gypsy is cloaked in negative stereotyping. The Gypsy has come to symbolize everything that modern-day, industrialized societies reject as immoral and inefficient. But that image is changing from the only place where change is meaningful – from within.

A remarkable phenomenon is occurring that is changing the face of the Spanish Gypsy: Pentecostal evangelism. As thousands of Gypsies convert to Christ, their slogan has become:


Antes los gitanos iban con cuchillos y quimeras.

Ahora llevamos la Biblia, la palabra verdadera.

Before the Gypsies went with knives and quarrels into battle.

Now we take the Bible, God’s True and Holy Word.

For more on this subject, here’s a link to an article I wrote for EMQ Online titled “Waiting on Dibel: The Growth of Pentecostalism among Spanish Gypsies.” https://www.dropbox.com/s/nusbzyrmnk48sku/Waiting%20on%20Dibel.pdf?m

  • “Waiting on Dibel: The Growth of Pentecostalism among Spanish Gypsies” was originally published in the April 2011 issue of EMQ (www.emqonline.com). Reprinted with permission. Not to be reproduced or republished without permission.

As far as their struggles, Spanish Gypsies have much to overcome. Poverty is rampant, Work inconsistent (A large number of Spanish Gypsies make their living as itinerant street vendors, a way of life that has been severely affected by the economic crisis that has plagued Spain since 2008). Drugs and crime threaten the world in which many Gypsies live. And attitudes toward education sometimes limit them from exploring options outside of what is familiar to them as a group of people living as part of, while at the same time separated from Spanish culture. And of course, there still exists a subtle level of (sometimes self-imposed) social marginalization from mainstream Spanish society as well as the perpetuation of negative stereotypes. You will still see the beggar sitting in front of a church, or the fortune teller stalking the outside of the Cathedral for unsuspecting foreigners ready to part with their money for a Tarot spread or palm reading. But, the positive news is that change is coming, slowly but surely to the Spanish Gypsies.

CITYofSORROWSfinaldigitalCOVER-660x1024JC: Because you are a writer, you have documented some of the stories you’ve witnessed during your adventures. Tell us a bit about this project and how your real life influences your fiction.

SN: CITY OF SORROWS (release date December 2012) is the story of a young Spanish Gypsy, Diego Vargas, and his journey from the shackles of grief to the obsession of revenge, to the miracle that is love after loss. Young Diego lives with his family on the Southside of Seville, in what is basically a Gypsy ghetto. Just turned nineteen, he is recently married, madly in love, expecting his first child, and completely unaware that his life is about to come crashing down around him. On a dark road outside the city of Seville, Diego must find the courage to face death, the strength to survive it, and the power to hold onto his humanity while both his mind and his will scream against it.

The seeds for this novel were sown many years ago, when I first lived in Spain. But for a long time, those seeds remained dormant. When I finally sat down to write the book, I was all revved up and ready to whip this story into shape. Just “write what you know,” I thought. Well, yes and no. I had NO idea what I had gotten myself into. Surprise, surprise, sitting down to write a novel actually meant acquiring some new skills. Like characterization, plotting, pacing and so many other things I had simply taken for granted.

After writing what was basically a fictionalized account of my life with my Indian friend in Seville, I soon realized that if I wanted this story be of interest to anyone except my immediate family, I had better start studying the craft, and then, start rewriting. As I went through the process of a second draft, I started seeing some subtle changes. My protagonist, who had some pretty obvious character traits of that Indian friend I had met in Spain, started taking a back seat to his fictional best friend, Diego Vargas. And then it seemed as if Diego wanted to write his own story. When that happened, I convinced a lot of people that I needed to abandon my home for a while and go live with the Gypsies in Seville. There was no way Diego was going to hijack the story without me doing my research.

Many of the scenes in the novel are based on my experiences living among the Gypsies. I have tried to be faithful to the reality of their world without either glamorizing it or condemning it. Like in real life, my novel has both good and bad Gypsies. Good and bad Spaniards. And yes, there is a strong Indian presence offered through one of the supporting characters, Rajiv Kumaran. Rajiv is Diego’s philosophical friend from India, the man who helps him to work his way out of the darkness of despair and into the light. And yes, I admit it, Rajiv does have a strong likeness to that Indian friend from Spain who later became my husband.

JC: Finally, I’m intrigued by your efforts to help young adults cope with bullying by celebrating their differences. You even offer a blogsite for such teens. Tell us about these efforts.

SN: I have always enjoyed young people, especially those who don’t quite “fit in.” I currently volunteer at the local high school in Lajas, Puerto Rico, where I live. I work with the students both individually and in a group setting, where I encourage them to express themselves in writing. Many of these students feel isolated or “different” from their more popular peers. They all have been labeled something, from “Goth” to “Nerd” to other more offensive titles. And up until recently, they have, for the most part, kept silent. I have been working with them to help them find their voices.

The students and I have formed a group called Vox Occulta which translates to “hidden voice.” The students have written poems, stories, and rap songs about their lives, learning about themselves in the process. Many of these stories are posted on my blog www.susannadathur.com.

These young people have made a mark on my life. And like the Gypsies, they have influenced my writing. My next novel-in-progress is for young adults. You can’t spend so much time with young people without being influenced by them. They are a wonderful addition to my life.


SUSAN NADATHUR is a widely-traveled writer, teacher, and self-proclaimed “outsider” from Connecticut who lives on-and-off in Spain with an extended family of Gypsies in Seville. A registered nurse with a Masters degree in Spanish, Susan teaches language and cultural diversity workshops to childbirth and healthcare professionals, and has authored several books on Spanish language acquisition and cross-cultural communication. City of Sorrows (Azahar Books, 2012) is her debut novel. She lives with her husband, a philosophical scientist from India, and their daughter in Lajas, Puerto  Rico. Visit the author online at www.susannadathur.com.

That Whole ‘Unequally Yoked’ Thing (guest Nancy Rue & Giveaway)

I’m so excited to introduce y’all to one of the coolest authors I know –, the incredible Nancy Rue. I’m honored to be a part of Nancy’s blog hop this week, and I hope you’ll enjoy learning all about this fabulous Harley chick and her newest release, Too Far to Say Far Enough.


What a delight it is to bring my community of “Nudgees” to yours here on Julie’s blog. After endorsing Julie’s book, Into the Free (amazing) and getting to know her a little via email and Facebook, I’m thinking you’re a lot like we are: people who feel nudged by God and need the company of folks who won’t think we’re crazy – or will accept us if they do.

toofartosayenough3D400pxYou are the fourth stop on our hop, and I have to say that “hop” is really too “fluffy” a word for what we’ve been about, which is the asking of the hard-to-deal-with –questions that come with being a Christian. They’re the ones addressed in the trilogy of fiction novels The Reluctant Prophet – and there is probably none more sticky than today’s. Here it is:

What about the whole ‘unequally yoked’ thing? Should you even consider a partner who isn’t where you are spiritually? 

That would be an easy question to answer if the partner under consideration were in the Gomer category – you know, that “bad boy” who oozes sexuality and very little else. Our answer would be like the one we’d give a teenage girl who wanted to “minister to” the hot kid with the juvenile record. Someone told me recently that’s called “Missionary Dating.” I love that!

But it isn’t an easy one to answer in a situation like the one protagonist Allison Chamberlain finds herself in. The man she struggles not to fall in love with is “Chief,” a Harley-riding attorney with more integrity than any three of your average men put together  and a heart bigger than the engine of his Road King and a life that looks so much like the one Jesus led it’s uncanny. Except that he isn’t an official Christian.

In fact, Chief tells Allison early on that he respects her faith but he can’t go there. And then he keeps acting like Jesus. In time he comes around to believing in God again, but as he says to Allison, he isn’t ready to go into the pond (you have to read Unexpected Dismounts to understand that). Then he goes on acting even more like Jesus. How is Allison not to continue to fall more deeply in love with him?

When a proposal is imminent, Allison turns desperately to her mentor, Hank D’Angelo, with this very question: “Do I go ahead and marry him if I’m not totally sure we’re on the same spiritual page?”

Hank could have pointed Allison to Paul. He was, after all, wonderful at bringing people into the body and showing them how to make a life in Christ as easy as possible on themselves. But instead she does what she usually does and what Jesus so often does. She asks another question: “Have you talked to him about it?”

If we’re insistent that an equal yoke has to consist of two people who can pinpoint the day and time they gave their lives to Christ and have been faithful churchgoers and tithers ever since, then that question does us no good. I know some amazing couples who have that kind of yoked-ness and it’s beautiful.

I, however, don’t.

My husband was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and was quite devout as a young boy, until the day his mother was dropping him off at parochial school and he looked at the kids going into the school at the Presbyterian Church next door and asked his mom, “So if what I’m being taught is true, all those kids are going to hell?” When she couldn’t quite answer that, he knew that Catholicism wasn’t for him. He never gave up God, though. When we met and fell in love, I was captured not only by his wit and warmth and overall cuteness, but by the way he lived out his values. I saw God in his soul and I married him.

I have always gone to church and there have been marvelous seasons in our life together when we’ve been involved in a particular church together. We’ve taught Sunday school as a team, been youth group advisors more than once, gone on missions trips as team leaders. Most of our lasting relationships with other people have come out of our church experiences. Several years ago, however, when the church we were part of became toxic and the members turned on each other, my husband said, “Y’know, I think I’m done with the church. I’ll support you in whatever you want to do but I can’t do it anymore.”

I didn’t insist that we find a church together. I found one and I’m happy there. More than happy. I miss him sitting next to me, though. Of course I wish he were. There are in fact things I don’t participate in because he’s not. And at times I wondered, “Is he still talking to God? Is he okay spiritually?”

After I wrote Hank’s words, “Have you talked to HIM about it?”, I thought, well., um, no, I actually haven’t.

So I did. His answers are between the two of us, but what they showed me is that this question goes beyond who we’re “yoked” to and into our assessments of who’s Christian and who’s not, something we touched on a couple of posts ago.

Why do we make these assessments and judgments about how Christian is Christian enough without getting to know the people in question?

What are the signs we absolutely have to see in order to know, okay, that’s a Christian? Do those signs keep us from having a conversation that could tell us so much more?

And is it up to us to see those signs before we can say, “Oh, yeah. Definitely a believer.”

Absolutely we have to know that if marriage is part of the equation. But these questions of an “is this okay?” nature go far deeper than what’s “legal” for Christians. Allison and Chief’s situation raises more than the issue of being unequally yoked. It asks each one of us: what does a Christian look like to God? Now there’s a question I could hop to.

I believe those of you hoping to win prizes might need this quote from Too Far to Say Far Enough.
I believe those of you hoping to win prizes might need this quote from Too Far to Say Far Enough.

Nancy Rue is the author of over 100 books for adults and teens, including Healing Waters, which was a 2009 Women of Faith Novel of the Year, and The Reluctant Prophet which received a Christy award in 2011. Nancy travels extensively-at times on the back of a Harley Davidson-speaking and teaching to groups of `tween girls and their moms and mentoring aspiring Christian authors. She lives on a lake in Tennessee with her Harley-ridin’ husband Jim and their two yellow labs (without whom writing would be difficult.)

Now what you have probably been waiting for…winning books!  Nancy’s publisher, David C. Cook, is giving away:

  • Reluctant Prophet series (3 books) to 10 winners
  • PLUS 10 copies of Reluctant Prophet to each winner’s recipient of choice

Nancy will personally sign each book as well as include a letter with Reluctant Prophet to your person of choice.  Visit here for the Rafflecopter entry form and official rules.

If you are joining the hop mid-way through and not sure where to go, here are all the stops for each day.  That way you are able to maximize your entries into the giveaway, as well as capture Nancy’s heart as she wrote this series:

Monday: Nancy Rue, The Nudge “What Hank Says . . . About Leaving the Pew”
Tuesday: Mocha With Linda “Will the “Real” Christians Please Stand Up?”
Wednesday: Jen Hatmaker “When the Nudge Drives a Wedge”
Thursday: Julie Cantrell “That Whole ‘Unequally Yoked’ Thing
Friday: Far From Perfect MaMMa “Is It Worth Having a Record?”

If you would like to connect with Nancy, she can be found here:

Website: www.nancyrue.com
facebook (adult fans): www.facebook.com/nnrue
facebook (for teen fans): www.facebook.com/nnrueforteens
twitter: www.twitter.com/nnue
pinterest: www.pinterest.com/nnrue
In addition to Nancy’s blog, The Nudge, (for her adult audience), she also has a blog for teens (In Real Life) and for tweens (Tween You and Me)

How to Write a Bestseller (even if you never took a writing class)

Thanks for joining us for the Write Now workshop on HOW TO WRITE A BESTSELLER (even if you never took a writing class). I enjoyed your questions during the workshop and have appreciated the feedback I’ve received from many of you since the call.

If you missed the free teleconference, a complete recording is available (and it’s FREE, too!) I hope you’ll enjoy this and many more of the free Write Now workshops available for writers.

As mentioned in the workshop, I relied heavily on two books to help me pen my New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling novel, Into the Free.

1. Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell

2. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (a book geared toward screenwriting, but you can find free online beat sheet  calculators to determine the suggested page numbers for a novel – just google Blake Snyder Beat Sheet Calculators to find one that suits your needs.)

I also recommend:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

On Writing by Stephen King

Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland (I don’t outline, but I use this tool after I’ve written a novel to go back through and fill in any gaps.)

Write-a-Thon: Write your book in 26 days and live to tell about it by Rochelle Melander

I encourage you to share your favoritetricks-of-the-trade with all of us. Feel free to comment on this post, or share tips on my facebook page. You can also tweet your thoughts @JulieCantrell (#Bestseller).

Happy Writing!


WeAreTeachers Blog Hop STOP #2: The Four Best Educational Toys of All Time

Welcome to the WeAreTeachers Blog Hop Stop #2. If you’re just joining us, head back to the BLOG HOP LAUNCH POST so you can collect all of the necessary clues for a chance to win an iPad, a $50 gift card, and much more!

As a participant in this blog hop, I’ve been asked to write a review of my favorite educational gift. I’ve decided to blog about the four best educational toys of all time, including dress-up clothes, wooden blocks, a cardboard box, and magnetic letters.

Age range:   Pre-K – 3rd grade (and beyond)

Subject areas: Social Skills, Reading, English, Math, Fine Motor, Gross Motor, and specific language development skills including Syntax, Morphology, Phonology, and Phonemic Awareness (not to mention imagination!)

Hot Deal: KidKraft Wooden Block Set – Item #63242 ONLY $15.00 ($5 S&H) from Woot.com


You’re all on the hunt for the perfect educational toy, right? I’m guessing you’ve found tons of high-tech gadgets, snazzy apps, and gizmos. Call me old school, but I believe it’s a “gift to be simple.” So today, I’ve chosen four of the Best Educational Toys of All Time, and I’m betting your holiday budget will be glad I did.

1. There’s no better educational toy than a good old-fashioned dress-up box. Children learn best through hands-on play, and the benefits of imaginary role-play are endless. They won’t know it, but while pretending to be dragons, teachers, or superheroes, they’ll actually be learning sequencing, storytelling, language, and creativity, not to mention the social and communicative skills involved when acting out scenes with peers. But there’s no need to spend a fortune to gather a spectacular imagination kit.

  • Visit local thrift stores or garage sales for treasures.
  • Include old costumes, scarves, hats, vests, and shirts.
  • Consider clip-on earrings, necklaces, watches, and bracelets.
  • Don’t forget used cell phones, appointment books, or calculators for the briefcase or purse.
  • Antique suitcases can store the clothes and double as props.
  • A cape is a must. For a great selection of budget-friendly capes, visit: http://powercapes.com/ready-made-capes

2. If you splurge on one manufactured toy this holiday, consider a set of wooden blocks. These target much more than motor skills, and your children will still be playing with blocks long after the batteries have died in all their other toys.

  • Create castles, farms, skyscrapers, and camps and then add action figures to put these original playsets in motion.
  • Build balance beams and obstacle courses and then practice moving through the maze.
  • Construct roads and bridges, and pretend those roads lead all sorts of places, both real and imaginary.
  • Target basic skills such as counting, shapes, and cognitive concepts including  more, less, big/bigger/biggest, tall, short, and prepositions (in front, behind, next to, on top, above, under, etc.). Ex: “Challenge: What can you build with five blocks?” “Now, can you make something bigger/smaller/taller/shorter, etc.”  “Add two more on top.”
  • Decoupage family photos (or classmates) to the blocks, helping young children recognize faces, or attach flashcards to teach letters and numbers.


3. If you really want to encourage free spirits and a wild imagination, give your kids a sturdy cardboard box. It can become a runaway train, a secret hideout, a roaring racecar, or a spectacular spaceship. Upside down it becomes a stove, a table, a mountain, or a desk. Stuffed animals make fun play companions and with a little encouragement, children can spend their best years converting that simple box into an infinite world of wonder.

4. Finally, for teaching letter recognition, phonics, reading, and spelling, you can invest in tons of expensive programs, OR you can purchase a cheap set of magnetic letters. I encourage you to purchase lowercase letters because most of the words we read are written in lowercase. Use these on your refrigerator or with a metal cookie sheet for lap work.

If Lakeshore doesn’t have what you’re looking for, here’s another site with tons of letter kits at bargain prices http://www.abcstuff.com/magnetic-letters.php They offer great sets with multiple letters (so you can spell words), uppercase and lowercase, various sizes, and they even have foam letters that can be used for bathtub fun. (Also be sure to look for their Daily Special and Web Specials for super deals.)

How to use Magnetic Letters to teach kids at various levels:

  • I Spy the Letter A . . . : For the early letter-learners, reduce the set to five letters at a time and challenge children to find the letters you spy from that set. For example, show the letters: A, T, B, S, W. Then say, “I spy the letter S.” If they can’t find it, point to it, repeat the letter name, and then prompt with a new challenge. Reduce the set to two or three letters for beginners, and make the set larger as their skills increase.
  • Who Goes There?: Put the letters in alphabetical order but then remove a few random letters. Place the ‘lost’ letters under the alphabet and ask kids to help the lost letters find their way home.
  • Word Families: Help little ones learn to read by changing the first or last sound to make new words. For example:  Place the letters “_at” together and slide various consonants in front to make real and nonsense words (cat, bat, rat, zat, wat). Laugh hysterically when they read a “silly word.”
  • Morph: It’s fun to teach difficult morphological concepts with magnetic letters. Simple add ‘s’ to the end of a word and VOILA! You suddenly have more than one. Start with dog, cat, etc. and show your kiddo how to make one into many. Try learning other prefixes and suffixes such as: er, est, ly, y, re, un, pre, mis, less, ful, etc.
  • Message Me: Place all of the letters in one cluttered group on the fridge and encourage kids to stop by to create a word or two. Surprise one another with creative word creations throughout the week. Start with simple CVC words (dog, cat, pat). Write family members’ names, pets’ names, etc. This is also a great way for you to leave sweet messages for your readers (many letter kits on the site linked above include multiple letters to build words).
  • For a Grade: Challenge older children to put the letters in alphabetical order or to create their spelling words each week on the fridge!

The next stop on the blog hop is: The WeAreTeachers Book Club

Your clue is:  OPPORTUNITIES

More Chances to Win: Thanks for taking part in this blog hop. Now, you can enter to win a set of my children’s books: God is with me through the Day (writtent to help young children cope with seperation anxiety) and God is with me through the Night (a book to help children overcome nightmares and fears of sleeping alone), as well as my NYT bestselling novel, Into the FreeTo enter, do one (or more) of the things below:

–         Return to my homepage where you can subscribe to this blog

–          Like my Facebook page (and post to let me know you want to win)

–          Share this blogpost on twitter/facebook and comment here to tell me you want to win

What One Modern-Day Slave Says about Literacy, and How You Can Help

Today, I’m doing something I never do as a blogger…I’m copying my friend, Lisa Wingate’s blogpost for you to read. It’s posted today at http://www.southernbelleview.blogspot.com I encourage you to visit her there to leave comments, and I hope her story inspires you to learn more about Make Way Partners. Lisa’s original post follows as part of our combined efforts through Writers and Readers Reach Out 2012:

Each year, Shellie  researches a worthy opportunity for giving. This year, she has selected an amazing rescue foundation called Make Way Partners, which (among many other anti-human-trafficking efforts that you can read about here) supports a secure compound providing home, hope, medical care, and education to nearly 600 children in one of the most troubled regions of the world, Sudan.

Currently, the New Life Ministry Primary School offers education to young children who have been rescued from slavery, who would have had no hope of education or a future.  As the children in the program have grown up, the need for a high school has developed, so that the New Life School can continue its mission.

You can read more about the high school by clicking here.

To bring all of this down to human level, let me share a memory that’s close to my heart, as a writer and a reader.

A Human Trafficking Story Years ago, as part of a journalism assignment, I interviewed a tiny woman who looked like she might have been nearing her hundredth birthday, but who, in reality, was probably only in her sixties. She was arthritic, stooped, and less than five feet tall, but large in spirit.  The biggest thing about here were long, gray, dreadlocks. She had come to America on a boat as a child, probably from Haiti, but there was no way of knowing, as the adult who was with her had died. She was sold by human traffickers into virtual slavery in the sugarcane fields of far South Florida, where she worked for many years.

Due to the poverty, illiteracy, and illegal immigration in this remote location, farm owners were easily able to convince workers that if they attempted to run away, they would be hunted down and thrown in prison.  Like many others, she had worked throughout her childhood and well into adulthood, enduring miserable, hopeless conditions in the cane fields.  Finally, she saved bits of food and found the courage to run away during the chaos of the seasonal burning of the fields.

After years of living among the homeless population on the streets of various towns and cities, always on the run from one place to the next, she ended up at a shelter, where among other things, she learned to read. The day I interviewed her, I had the chance to go next door to the library, and the listen while she told folktales to the children and read to them from children’s books.  Her joy in this simple task was magnificent to behold.

The thing that stuck with me the most about her was her description of the gift of literacy.  She said, “It is as if the whole world is filled with line-pictures [written words].  And everyone around you can look at the line-pictures and see a tree, or a horse, or directions like stop or go. But you look, and all you can see are lines. You are not able to do this one thing that even small children can do. It is as if you are not even human. It is as if you are only a dog, walking on four legs, lower than everyone else. And then one day someone teaches you to understand the line-pictures for yourself, and suddenly you can walk into the world on two feet.”

When I read about the school in Sudan, my first thought was of this tiny, inspiring woman I met so long ago, and her description of the power and dignity of education.  We take it for granted in this country.  We complain about it, even.  But education is a tremendous gift.  Every child deserves it, and so do these precious Sudanese children, who have endured so much in their short lives.

They deserve, like that sweet little woman in the mission shelter, to walk into the world on two feet.

How to Help Storm Victims

Today I am thankful for people who reach out to help those in need after major catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy. I’m a Mississippi girl who spent my entire childhood in Louisiana, so while we in the South were lucky to escape Sandy’s wrath this week, we certainly understand the trauma people experience during such an event.
I’m happy to learn Writers and Readers Reach Out 2012 is recognizing the need to support those closest to home (in addition to sponsoring Make Way Partners). If you’re wondering how you can “reach out” to those who have lost their homes or loved ones from Sandy’s surge, CNN offers a list of ways to help, including links to Charity evaluators like Guidestar and Charity Navigator.
Thanks for all you do to make the world a better place.