Keep a few important things in mind when taking photos of wildlife. This short video outlines everything you need to know.
In this video series, author and educator Yancy Lael shares literacy tips to help your "little owls" become stronger readers.
In this video, you'll learn what to bring when you go owling. Should you bring snacks? A tripod? Find out in the video!
Reading should always, always be fun. Unfortunately, our school systems don't support this rule - but at home, we can!
In this video, you'll learn what to wear when you go owling. Hats? Sunglasses? Find out in the video!
In my opinion, nothing can make a more positive impact on your child's literacy development than the simple act of letting them read whatever they want.
~June 9, 2017~ This is the second time I captured the triplets on video (the first being the day I discovered there were three - not two - of them). I had already observed the tight-knit relationship between Lyra and Sirius, and knew that Vesper was always on her own. Incredibly, I referred to Vesper here as the "reluctant" one. At the time I filmed this, I hadn't written - or even conceived of - The Reluctant Owlet. It's amazing to see how one observation can plant a seed in the mind that later becomes a piece of our creative fabric.
How do you get your kids to read instead of playing video games? I have no magical solutions, but here are my suggestions:
It’s Owling 101 time! This time, I tackle the topic of how to go about finding owls. (Spoiler alert: They are everywhere - you just have to start paying attention!)
Why is it important to teach your children to read with their senses? And what does that even mean? Watch this video to find out!
I’m so excited about the official trailer for The Reluctant Owlet! It’s so cute and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy every time I see it. I hope you love it, too.
If you’re going to be owler, it’s important to begin this hobby in the right mindset, with integrity and good intentions: The Owler’s Code. Watch this video to find out more:
There’s a lot of controversy over e-readers when it comes to literacy practice. I lean on the side of prioritizing real books when teaching kids how to read. Here’s why:
There are few things in my life that I love as much as owling. Why? Check out my video to find out.
I’ve got some really exciting, fun projects over at my YouTube channel. I’m working on two series that will be released over the course of the next few months:
Now that I’m a children’s book author, I have an excuse to talk about one of my favorite subjects: literacy. I used to be a teacher and literacy specialist, and there’s something about decoding text that really revs my engine. (#LiteracyGeek) Throughout this video series, I share many of the tips I learned in grad school and during my experience as a teacher. You’ll get to know “literacy lingo” and receive actionable steps to take to help your child build their literacy skills - something that can be a challenge in a world filled with distractions.
A lot of people have asked me to share advice on how they can become owlers. In this video series, I outline all my tips for starting a successful owling hobby - from safety to sartorial requirements.
Be sure to check it out. Videos will be released about once a week (for the most part, the two series will alternate from week to week). If you like them, subscribe and forward to a friend.
I’m so excited. The Reluctant Owlet is finally here!
I’ve been working on this book for over a year. The story started to come to me in the summer of 2017, inspired by the owl family I was observing.
Little did I know, that was the easy part.
The artwork took me months to complete. I remember the endless hours I spent working on that, night after night. More yellow. More green. Does that look right?
After finishing all of that, I made a mock book to help me decide where the page breaks should go. I cut the manuscript into pieces, paragraph by paragraph. I cut up the artwork, next. Then I pasted each section of text onto an index card with the appropriate artwork. This process actually took quite a long time, as I debated over which pictures to use for each page.
And if that wasn’t hard enough…next came the formatting. The first stab I took at it went fairly well. But it ended up costing a lot of money and was ultimately useless for the distribution I had chosen.
So…I had to do it all over again. It took me back to October 2013 when I had to reformat Soulful Skincare over and over and over again, trying to get it right.
But finally, it worked! And even though my proof copy arrived on a day that was very emotionally difficult for me, holding that book in my hands was quite a moment for me. It made me so proud.
It still hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Indie publishing never is…and I’d venture that traditional publishing isn’t, either! But I did it. Like Vesper in the story, I faced the unknown and took a leap.
I hope you love this book and I hope it inspires your children to be brave and face their fears. I also hope it instills in them a love of nature, at least for this sweet owl family featured in the book.
What’s next? Stay tuned. I’m working on a few more videos about owls and literacy practices for children. And best of all, some author events here in Oregon!
I’ve finally got the date set for the release of The Reluctant Owlet.
January 3, 2019!
Wahoo! Celebrate! I’m so excited about this.
Why is this book so special to me?
1. I have wanted to write a children's book since I was a teenager. It only took 25ish years, but my dream finally came true!
2. This book is my way of sharing my passion for owls with the world.
3. The story is a fictionalized account of the owl family I observed during the summer of 2017. I created the artwork from actual photographs I took of those owls.
4. My little brother, Chance Martin, contributed the best photos in the whole book, making this a family project.
If you want a sneak peek, check out this video. You won’t believe who made a guest appearance at the end, by the way…
When I started the Briarlore series, I intended to begin with a different story than The Fox at the Door. However, writing - or any creative expression, for that matter - never goes as planned. So my intended debut story (also about a fox) was set aside.
It has sat heavily on my mind for the past 7 months. I have literally carried around the half-finished, hand-written manuscript with me for 3 months. I was intimidated by the story, and afraid I couldn't do it justice.
I got quite frustrated with myself on Sunday night and decided it was time to type up the manuscript. As I typed, I had a flash of what the next scene would be. And then the next. And then... My hands were flying across the keyboard for HOURS. I was even switching between that story and my manuscript for the second Raedwolfe novel. It was like goddess Tori Amos pounding away at two pianos at the same time.
I finally had to turn in at midnight, knowing I'd forfeit any Monday productivity if I didn't get some sleep. The next morning, I expected to finish the first draft in an hour. And again, I found my plans and expectations thwarted with interruptions, distractions, and insecurities. I finally wrapped up the story just before 10PM.
It was nothing like I expected. It's long, for one thing - probably twice as long as The Fox at the Door. A major plotline that I'd been envisioning left the story ENTIRELY, leaving room to dive quite deeply into the heartbreak of the story's heroine. I cried at the end, as I was typing it. And I don't do that. If I ever feel too weepy over something in my writing, I usually cut it, worried that I've strayed into false sentimentality and/or manipulative cliches. I might find that to be true here, as well...it's too early to tell. But for now, in an unprecedented move, I'm going to leave the ending as is and trust what came to me.
And strangest of all…right now in this moment…I love it. I love the way it turned out, despite the surprises.
These past few weeks of choosing my writing, first, of pushing myself directly into my creative insecurities has been an amazing experience. Finishing the second Briarlore tale has been particularly helpful in reminding me to trust the creative process. Which is something I need to remember as I dive into creating the illustrations.
Trust the work. And your capability to bring it through.
This is Ruth.
Unlike my grand-aunt Aida, Ruth and I crossed paths in this life. Despite the fact that she was one generation higher than Aida, she lived a very long life. I met her a few years before her death, in the late seventies. Sadly, I was so young, I do not remember her. But I share her name (Ruth is one of my middle names) and have always felt a deep connection to her.
Ruth was the daughter of Norwegian immigrants who settled in Minnesota in the late 1800's. She was the middle of three children, with a brother above her and a sister below. Like me, she was the quiet, introverted sister, and like me, she worshipped her gregarious, outgoing, vivacious little sister.
My great-grandmother Ruth's little sister married and gave birth to my grandfather by the time she was 20 years old. Ruth was still single at this point, watching both her siblings build families, waiting, no doubt, to build her own. For me, in the 21st century, watching my younger siblings reach major life goals ahead of me wasn't so bad - it's not something that's considered unusual anymore. But back then, in the early 20th century, I can only imagine how much she must have stood out, single and childless, long after her siblings had created their own families.
Ruth fell deeply in love in her late twenties and "finally" married at the age of 27 - spinsterhood in 1919. From the stories I heard, she adored her husband - and he adored her right back. All the family spoke of their relationship and what a deep companionship the two forged.
Unfortunately, Ruth still found herself childless well into her marriage. Motherhood did not seem to be within her reach…until one day, she found out she was pregnant, and as the story goes, she was overjoyed to finally have the chance to become a mother.
What came next is heartbreaking: Ruth's baby was born still. It was a little girl who never took a breath outside the womb.
While I remember hearing many stories about Ruth, I heard very little about this horrifying experience - how it happened, why it happened, what happened after. I don't know anything about it except the baby's name: Dorothy. I can only imagine that Ruth and her husband were devastated by the experience.
She never had another child. Were they plagued with infertility? Did they stop trying?
I don't know the answer to these questions, but I have been told that their marriage was strengthened by this tragedy, which isn't always the case. Ruth and her husband stuck together through thick and thin.
My grandfather loved his aunt dearly. His father was not much a part of his life, and as such, Ruth became like a second parent to him, taking care of him when her sister was busy. She might not have had her own children, but she loved the children in her life as much as any mother would.
Ruth's husband died after a good, long life, leaving her on her own. One of the things I admire so much about my great-grand-aunt is that she persevered for many, many years, all by herself, after his death. She lived alone in Minneapolis and took care of herself, keeping in touch with all her nieces and nephews and their offspring, like a loving mother hen. She outlived both her brother and her sister, and became a surrogate mother, of sorts, to all their descendants.
She was an amazing, brave woman with a heart of gold, and I'm so proud to be her great-grand-niece. As with Aida, it's so important to me to keep her memory alive. As a descendant three generations below her, and as the only one in my family to have met her, I realize I might be the last one to tell her story.
Her bravery inspires me every time I think of her. She was so willing to surrender to the life that was given to her, even though it bucked tradition and didn't give her what she had hoped for. She still put one foot in front of the other each and every day and freely gifted others with her motherly love.
If I find that I share her destiny - to be childless - I hope that I can be as generous and brave as she was.
This is Aida.
I discovered her in my 20’s when I was working on my family tree. She was my grandfather’s sister. I had heard a little about her during my childhood. She had died young, in her early twenties, and by the time I was that age, and found myself looking at a photograph of her, I couldn’t stop thinking about her legacy.
She had never married or had children. Who, I wondered, would remember her? Who would keep her memory alive?
Even at that young age, I remember fearing such a fate. If you are a woman who doesn’t have children, who will remember you? Who are you and what does your life mean if you leave no descendants, or if your descendants leave this earth before you do?
And twenty years later, I find myself facing those very same questions all over again, as a woman who did not have children (by circumstance, not by choice).
Even in my youth, I recognized how important it is to remember the women who came before us. But now I realize why. Our ancestors, mothers or not, leave an impact on their family members – cousins, sisters, nieces. Aida might not have had her own children, and might have died long before I ever had the chance to know her, but as my grand-aunt, she is still part of my DNA. And it’s important to me to remember her and share her story.
Like me, she was the eldest of four children (though unlike her, I have two older half-siblings, as well). Also similar to my family, the older two children were girls, the younger two, boys. Aida, my grandfather, and their siblings were born in Copenhagen, Denmark. They spoke Danish and English, and a smattering of French and Latin. All four of the siblings were fierce kayakers. They loved to be in the water. They came from a long line of Scandinavian intellects, philosophers, and craftsmen.
That is, I’m sorry to say, most of what I know of Aida. My grandfather didn’t share much about his family when I was little – and I was probably too young to have appreciated (or retained) what he did tell me. Any other information I have beyond this is based only on my intuition. I have a feeling Aida was a bit of a loner – perhaps her health problems set her apart from others. I believe she loved her siblings, and most especially, her sister, but that she never felt like she truly belonged. And most of all, I believe she loved life, and didn’t want to leave it so soon. I suspect it pained her, in the end, to face leaving her family, knowing they would go on to live full lives while she would never realize her dreams.
Aida was the only one in the family who never left Denmark. She was buried there. Soon after her death, the entire family – Grandpa, his remaining siblings, and his parents – gave up their lives in Denmark and immigrated to New York. None of them, to my knowledge, ever returned to their homeland.
What happened to Aida seems so brutally unfair - to die so young, without the chance to experience love, motherhood, life. I have an especially deep compassion for women who have lost the chance at motherhood – in any way that might have happened. For some, it might be the death of their child. For others, infertility or other circumstances. And for some, like Aida, it might be their own early death.
It’s so important to tell the stories of the unheard women. We don’t have the voices of our daughters to echo our story to the world. But these stories need to be told. We need to be remembered, too.
To that end, I dedicated The Fox at the Door to two of my "great-aunts": Grand-aunt Aida, and Great-grand-aunt, Ruth. I will be the daughter they did not have, making sure their legacy lives on. I will share their story, and even join hands with them, as a fellow childless woman.
Now it’s your turn. Please leave a comment sharing the story of a childless relative (or friend) that you want the world to remember.