Jessica Mathisen

Meet Featured Author Jessica Mathisen!

Join us for a Meet the Author Event on Saturday, May 19 at 1:00pm.

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1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a former elementary school teacher turned church administrative assistant. Athens has been my home for about 10 years now, and I love it! My husband Rory and I have been married for almost three years, have a sweet puppy, and are in the process of becoming foster parents.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?

I work full time. :) I love to read, obviously, and I also just enjoy being at home with my husband. As a social person it is also really fun for me to get to hang out with friends by getting lunch together and catching up.

3. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Since I was a child, I have always known that I wanted to write. The dream got put on the backburner a little bit during my teen years, but I’ve always been an avid journaler. The written word is much more comfortable for me and I’ve always enjoyed being able to put my thoughts on paper.

4. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

My husband might be a better person to ask this question to; I’m not sure I’m aware of my quirks! I don’t think there is anything too strange or out of the ordinary that I do while writing. :)

5. Do you have an upcoming book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Yes! My book is called Already Chosen and was just released on May 1. It is about my journey to discovering true contentment and allowing God to teach me that He would always be enough for me. Growing up in the South and also as a Christian, I felt like those two subcultures valued marriage and made it an expectation and desire of my heart that would have to be fulfilled in order for me to be happy. When I didn’t receive that desire in a “timely manner,” it made it difficult for me to find happiness because I started to wonder if something was wrong with me. Even when the dream finally did come true, I found that all of my problems were not solved overnight. This book is my journey of learning that joy is a choice and contentment is possible even in the midst of deep longing.

6. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Well, since it is a memoir, it is all about my life!

7. What was your favorite part to write and why?

It was really fun for me to go back and write about our love story. It made me so grateful for him and was fun to relive.

8. Who is an author that you look up to today?

I absolutely love Beth Moore. Her writing and Bible studies have been deeply impactful for me.

9. What is your favorite genre of book to read?

Memoirs are my favorite these days! Reading someone else’s story brings me a sense of gratitude and helps me to understand how every person’s unique story has value.

10. What is your favorite book?

My favorite book is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It is a modern retelling of the biblical book of Hosea. I have probably read it about five times and own two copies, one of which is falling apart.

11. Who is an author that has inspired you or influenced you growing up?

I read and reread Ella Enchanted when I was younger. While I am not a fiction writer, I devoured historical fiction as a child. I also loved the Little House on the Prairie series and the American Girl series. It was always fun to imagine that I lived in another place or time period.

12. Who is an author that has inspired you more recently?

Annie F. Downs’ work has inspired me to take chances in my writing and to pursue it with all that I am. She is from the same town I grew up in and also went to UGA. Not only do I share some life experiences with her, I feel like she has been a trailblazer for younger authors who want to share their story in an honest way with others. Her writing has a “me, too” voice that helps you know that you are not alone.

13. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Just do it. I know it sounds trite and a bit terrifying, but it is worth it to take the leap and just put yourself out there. It’s ok to start something from nothing and just get your feet wet. The practice of writing does not have to be painful! For me, I journal a few times a week, and that counts as writing to me! It’s a way that I process everything before I process in front of others through my public writing. If you want to write, just write. Learn from other authors and take notes, but use your gifts and talents to inspire, encourage, and lead others.

14. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers?  

Thank you! It is an honor to serve you and I don’t take it lightly. It was always my dream to write, and with the ease of technology, that dream became a reality. Learning from you and hearing your stories inspires me to keep going and become better at what I do in order to serve you better, too.

 

Marsha K. Nowakowski

Meet Featured Author Marsha K. Nowakowski!

Join us for a Meet the Author Story Time on Saturday, May 12 at 1:00pm.

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1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a wife, a dedicated mother to three children, and a “grammie” to my grandchildren.

I have spent forty years in the healthcare industry, primarily as a cardiac nurse. My inspiration for writing Matt and Mattie’s Adventures developed from her own observations that patients who recovered more quickly exhibited healthy habits and good attitudes toward life.  

As a mother and grammie, I recognized the need for books teaching healthy habits to help young ones develop into successful people who always do their best.  Matt and Mattie’s Adventures makes everyday habits fun, balanced, and adventuresome for toddlers.

My own adventures include travel, horseback riding, and reading. I also enjoy golf, baseball games, and sailing with my husband. Every day is an adventure!

2. What do you do when you are not writing?

I have not given up my full time career as a cardiac nurse at Emory University Hospital. I love my Nursing career, coworkers, patients and Emory University Hospital but as I approach age 65,  I am looking forward to retirement. My husband and I love to travel and visit our children and grandchildren in Philadelphia and Denver. With a large extended family, we all like to travel the world and do so often together making our adventures of culture and history fun and exciting.   

My husband and I look forward to our next adventure in the life of retirement. We are excited to be building a retirement cottage in our own little slice of heaven which happens to be in Montana near Glacier National Park. I really am a country girl at heart who loves the outdoors, animals, and, in particular, horses. I’ve owned and trained several horses, but currently enjoy trail riding with my friends. Because my husband and I have resided in the beautiful state of Georgia for the last 34 years, living in a golf course community with tennis, I have taken part in our country club living over the last 30 years but look forward to a slower, more serene pace of living in Montana,  which I often refer to as the last best place on earth!

3. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Although always a creative child with a vivid imagination, I found myself throughout my nursing career creating projects, flyers, and support information for our patients and staff. After becoming a grandmother, nearing retirement, and taking care of other’s hearts for 35+ years, I decided to follow my own heart. I envisioned doing something that would make a difference and contribute positively to our world. Teaching health and wellness most of my life, it made sense then to follow what I knew best. So my journey to creating the Matt and Mattie’s Adventures series and Toddler Tootsies Take on the Day! started approximately 3 years ago. My belief is that our future lies in creating healthy children with good attitudes to create a healthy world. In reality, the message of diversity, positive attitudes in learning hard lessons and developing habits through good choices can apply to everyone, not just toddlers. My healthcare background provided me the vision that good attitudes will lead to healthy, lifelong habits, thus helping young ones learn confidence and independence.

4. Do you have an upcoming book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Since my book Toddler Tootsies Take on the Day! just came out in January, I find myself immersed in social media, readings, and book tours.  I have many ideas for future books promoting healthy choices that will always cover ten toddler tips about learning life’s adventures. The next book I am working on is called Matt, Mattie, and Murdock the Horse. Because of my own love of horses, I would like to write ten safety tips for toddlers visiting a barn and seeing big horses for the first time. Murdock will be a sad, lonely soul looking for his lost barn when Matt and Mattie come upon him. They become fast friends, find Murdock’s home and soon Murdock is the comic relief in teaching them about safety tips in the barn.   

5. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

The educational portion of Toddler Tootsies Take on the Day! is based on facts and observations as a Mom, Grandma, and Nurse. The characters of Matt and Mattie are cute, unique, creative feet characters who represent ten activities of daily living symbolic to ten toes. Just as our toes help our bodies balance, learning the ten life skills will help your child create balance in their own life. Toddlers will learn independence and confidence in a fun, interactive way.

6. What was your favorite part to write and why?

My favorite part of Toddler Tootsies Take on the Day! occurs on the very first page which starts with the toddler’s morning and introduces the idea of having a good attitude each day. I was inspired by my experience as a cardiac nurse and mother, knowing that a positive attitude is key to leading a healthy, productive life. Quality choices define the outcome of our health. Having a good attitude and always doing your best by putting your best foot forward is not a one-time choice made in the moment. It’s a behavior cultivated over many attempts, many days in those formative years through healthy habits. Toddlers have a lot of learning to do and I wanted to write a book of encouragement that makes all the difficult lessons seem easier with rhymes and fun activities. I impress upon young readers important life skills, such as eating nourishing meals and brushing your teeth, through endearing characters, enjoyable illustrations, and easily understood lines.  All pages in the book introduce toddlers to routines that could be considered difficult and instead become fun-filled learning activities.

7. Who is an author that has inspired you or influenced you growing up?

As a young child I enjoyed all the fantasy and enchantment found in Christmas books, but as I became a teenager I enjoyed solving the mysteries found in the Nancy Drew series.

8. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”    -Toni Morrison

Writing requires a lot of creativity, time, and energy. Even though Matt and Mattie are friends in the book, my husband and I call them “our twins.” They are with us always!

Life is short, so follow your dreams. For me, I waited until my own children were grown and my primary career is now coming into retirement years. Your dreams can come true but it will require patience, rewrites, reworks, and a good publishing team. The title of my book was the single most difficult decision for me. Trying to capture everything your book represents in a creative way can be long and the most thought provoking exercise. 

It is exhilarating to create something you believe will make a difference to others while also providing joy. In this case Toddler Tootsies provide a difference in how we look at health, happiness, and choices while giving the joy of learning through reading and interacting with the characters.  

As a writer you are vulnerable to criticism and rejections, so you should never give up and develop a thick skin. Remember as Toni Morrison so eloquently stated: write your own story and if has not been written yet, then you must write it!

9. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers?  

I think two things set Toddler Tootsies Take On The Day! apart from other children’s books: The book is about them, the toddler. They recognize each of the ten activities of daily living because this is their day, every day. The book is about them! They can relate to the characters Matt and Mattie, seeing themselves in the book while having fun with some of the choices offered. It becomes an unconscious, fun learning experience for toddlers to learn life skills that follow along with quotes from long ago. Ben Franklin said: “It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.” Or from Aristotle: “Excellence is not an act but a habit.” Matt and Mattie help toddlers learn independence and confidence within their own daily activities.

I look forward to meeting you May 12th at The Story Shop! 

An Ode to Poetry Month

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
— “My Shadow,” Robert Louis Stevenson
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          I can’t help but hear my grandfather’s voice in my head as I read this snippet. It’s a widely known children’s verse, the first stanza of a longer poem from Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1885 collection, A Child’s Garden of Verses.

     "My Shadow" is a poem that’s been read aloud countless times in countless settings, so beloved to children and adults alike that most people probably can’t remember where they heard it first. Countless voices have given it life over the last century and a half. Still, in my readings, the voice is always my grandfather’s.

Poetry helps us remember. 

     I should mention that my grandfather passed away when I was six years old. As one would expect, I don’t remember many details about him. But poetry has always been the clearest way for me to remember his voice.

     This is the power of a poem - it stays with us. Poems have an appeal similar to aphorisms (concise statements of general truth, like “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”): they move an idea from point A to point B via a catchy soundbite. They are portable. We can show poems off on command, both impressing our friends and skipping the long process of trying to put our own words to a thought. 

     (At least, this is the joy I find in memorizing poems. Nerdy? For sure. But it sure makes me look like I know more than I do.)

Poems grow with us as we age.

          I would argue, though, that unlike coffee-cup slogans or t-shirt catch phrases, poems grow with us as we age. As children, a poem can speak to us on a certain level, and then a different level as adolescents, different still as young adults, and so on. Clearly, they spoke to my grandfather over the course of his entire life, ever his companion, just like Stevenson’s little shadow.

          What better way, then, to teach our children to love words and books? What better way to ensure that their lives are interwoven with reading than to give them words they can be proud to remember, books that remind them of all the love and joy they know and have yet to discover?

Poetry from connections.

          Poetry blossoms from connections we make between the world and ourselves, and I can’t think of a better way to teach our children empathy and creativity than to show them these connections and explore them together. And, with poetry as with all books, reading to our children can remind us of what grounded us most when we were their age, and what can ground us still. 

 

From all of us at The Story Shop,

Happy National Poetry Month!

Alice Mohor

Meet Featured Author Alice Mohor!

Join us for a Meet the Author Story Time on Saturday, April 21 at 1:00pm.

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1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am a retired elementary P. E. teacher, and I first wrote rhyming poetry for my elementary P. E. students.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?

I like to visit with my family and with my friends. I also like to read and discuss books with a group of friends.

3. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I wanted to share something that I had written.

4. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I often get an idea for a poem when I am trying to fall asleep. I keep a lighted pen and paper pads on my bedside table and often fall asleep while writing.

5. Do you have an upcoming book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Yes, I just published a second book of poetry, Shared Days, about two people learning how to love each other while living together.

6. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

All of my poetry is based on my experience or understanding of real events.

7. What was your favorite part to write and why?

My favorite poems are about the ordinary days in life that feel special when we remember them.

8. Who is an author that you look up to today?

Mary Oliver

9. What is your favorite genre of book to read?

I like to read books about real things.

10. What is your favorite book?

The Thesaurus.

11. Who is an author that has inspired you or influenced you growing up?

Mother Goose, Dr. Seuss, Robert Frost, Stephen Vincent Benet, and Edgar Allan Poe.

12. Who is an author that has inspired you more recently?

Edna St. Vincent Millay.

13. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Yes, try to write something every day.  Practice will make you better.

14. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers?  

Yes, if you will keep reading, I will keep writing.

 

Books that Feel Like Spring

Whether unconsciously or intentionally, we often gravitate toward books that evoke the season that surrounds us. Spring reads are breaths of fresh air. They clear away the winter gloom and fill the reader with a sense of hope that mirrors the bright blossoms of the season. 

Picture Books

When Mae’s family moves to a new home, she wishes she could bring her garden with her. She’ll miss the apple trees, the daffodils, and chasing butterflies in the wavy grass. But there’s no room for a garden in the city. Or is there?

The colorful illustrations and feeling of starting anew that this book brings will be sure to inspire you for spring. 

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This story of a girl and a duckling who share a touching year together will melt hearts old and young. In this tenderly funny book, girl and duckling grow in their understanding of what it is to care for each other, discovering that love is as much about letting go as it is about holding tight. Children and parents together will adore this fond exploration of growing up while learning about the joys of love offered and love returned.

This book is a great celebration of the excitement and joy that comes from knowing spring will return. 

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From the acclaimed author/artist of Beyond the Pond and Rulers of the Playground comes a breathtaking new book. Each day, the big trucks go to work. They scoop and hoist and push. But when Digger discovers something growing in the rubble, he sets in motion a series of events that will change him, and the city, forever.

Is there any season better represented by tenderness, care, and new life? This book is the perfect spring read. 

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Middle Grades Books

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Orphaned Kit Tyler knows, as she gazes at the cold, bleak shores of Connecticut Colony, that her new home will never be like the shimmering Caribbean island she left behind. In her relatives' stern Puritan community, she feels like a tropical bird that has flown to the wrong part of the world, a bird that is now caged and lonely. The only place where Kit feels completely free is in the meadows, where she enjoys the company of the old Quaker woman known as the Witch of Blackbird Pond, and on occasion, her young sailor friend Nat. But when Kit's friendship with the "witch" is discovered, Kit is faced with suspicion, fear, and anger.

This historical fiction will make you want to spread out a picnic blanket in a meadow of your own.

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Rafael has dreams. Every chance he gets he plays in the street games trying to build his skills, get noticed by scouts, and someday play Major League Baseball. Maya has worries. The bees are dying all over the world, and the company her father works for is responsible, making products that harm the environment. Follow Rafael and Maya in a story that shifts back and forth in time and place, from Rafael’s neighborhood in the Dominican Republic to present-day Minnesota, where Maya and her sister are following Rafael's first year in the minor leagues. In their own ways, Maya and Rafael search for hope, face difficult choices, and learn a secret the same secret that forever changes how they see the world.

Bees and baseball? Sounds like spring to me.

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In the valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli spends her days working hard in the fields and her nights listening to her father spin fantastic tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Minli's mother, tired of their poor life, chides him for filling her head with nonsense. But Minli believes these enchanting stories and embarks on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family can change their fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest.

Minli's hopefulness in this adventure is catching. You may just wander out into an adventure of your own.

 

Early Young Adult & Classics

A captivating tale, from bestselling and award-winning author, that reveals the healing power of duty and honour, love and honey.

Mirasol is a beekeeper, a honey-gatherer, with an ability to speak to the "earthlines"—the sentient parts of Willowlands, where she lives. The concerns of Master, Chalice, and Circle, who govern Willowlands, have nothing to do with her-until the current Master and Chalice die in a fire and leave no heirs to take their places. The Master's closest relative has been a priest of Fire for the past seven years; he is not quite human anymore. And then the Circle comes to Marisol and tells her that she is the new Chalice, and it will be up to her to bind the land and its people with a Master, the touch of whose hand can burn human flesh to the bone.

Bees again. Hope and life (both new and maintained) are key elements in this tale reminiscent of a fairy story. This is one that surprised me in my first reading, and I keep returning to it.

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What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be...well...a lot less than the man of her dreams? As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad's recitation, and only the "good parts" reached his ears. Now Goldman does Dad one better. He's reconstructed the "Good Parts Version" to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere. What's it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles. In short, it's about everything.

The Princess Bride is a book?! Inconceivable! And it's just as good as the movie.

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Everyone's favorite redhead, the spunky Anne Shirley, begins her adventures at Green Gables, a farm outside Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. When the freckled girl realizes that the elderly Cuthberts wanted to adopt a boy instead, she begins to try to win them and, consequently, the reader, over.

If Anne Shirley is not the embodiment of hopefulness, then I don't know who is.

 

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