Children of the Gifted Network – The future Mary Oliver’s and Basho Matsuos of tomorrow

On Saturday, September 21, I taught a writer’s workshop for the children in the Gifted Support Network at Spencer Creek Library in St. Peters, Missouri.

My husband assisted me… nine and ten-year olds tend to be a little energetic.

The first part of the workshop dealt with the components of a picture book, developing a story, and using a storyboard. Some of the children chose to pen their ideas first, then draw. Others drew, then created. Some of them found this part a bit challenging. But by first break, six children completed six stories and offered to read them aloud.

After break, we dove into “What is a poem?”

I explained to them how a poem can be about anything – it may or may not have punctuation, it’s  how you feel, what you see, what you hear, or even what you touch.

I brought objects for them to help stir ideas for writing – a pearl, a seashell, a small piece of rope, a pebble from a lake, a building block, and an ink stamp. I spoke of different poetry styles – free verse, rhyming, Haiku, and shape poems.

Their creativity kicked into high gear with this exercise, all very excited to use their talents and imagination. As they finished their poems, they called me over to read their poetry. What beautiful masterpieces they produced. I asked if they would like to read to the class, and after they shared, they went on to work on another!

Sophia penned an emotional free verse poem about nature, adding illustrations to her words.

Jace chose to write two shape poems that rhymed – one inside of a mushroom cloud, the other inside a campfire. Amazed at how small he could write, the poems fit perfectly inside the shapes.

Anna wrote a very sweet free verse poem about pearls. I watched as she touched the pearl thinking about how to pen her thoughts.

Mya wrote a funny poem about getting rope burn, in keeping with her carefree personality.

Andrew wrote ten Haiku poems, many about nature and the sea. He loved reading to the class (and me).

Lucia designed an apple shape poem about an apple. She insisted on using markers, and the poem turned out very colorful and detailed.

On the whiteboard, my husband, designed a shape poem using the word L O V E. (I think he wrote it for me.)

Collectively, the children (and hubby) all created a poem, which I scribbled furiously on the whiteboard (because their minds were in overdrive). Each child recited the first thing that came to mind. I was moved to hear a poem about nature.

Using their words, I edited by placing only line breaks.

The final masterpiece is below  –

 

The wind is whistling

through the trees

and swirls through the grass

that sways.

The breeze

makes the waves ripple.

The smell of the ocean

has me in a daze.

 

The seagulls quietly murmur,

and soar

near the seashore.

Small

silver

fish

dart in the water.

 

In the far distance,

the water shimmers.

A dolphin catches my eye

and it appears

to glimmer.

 

Why is the tide never so high?

 

By Jace, Andrew, Lucia, Sophia, Mya, Anna and Russell

——-

I’m proud of them thinking so quickly and working together as a team.

At times, some of the children lost focus, with half of the group erupting into a giggle fest. Once they understood their time limits, they pushed pencils to paper.

I can definitely say that some of them may even grow up to be future Walt Whitman’s, Mary Oliver’s, Barbara Kingsolver’s and Basho Matsuos.

Peace, Love, and Sand Dollars,

Sheree

______________________________-

Sheree K. Nielsen is the award-winning author of four books  –

Her newest poetry and photography collection, Mondays in October, is her love song for the beach, and her eternal companion water. She’s dedicated the book to the Siteman Cancer Center Nurses who helped her make chemotherapy more bearable.

Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets, based on her adventures (Chanticleer Semi-Finalist for Nonfiction Guides – Insight and Instruction)

Folly Beach Dances is her 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, a healing coffee table book inspired by her lymphoma journey

and coauthor of, Midnight the One-Eyed Cat, 2019 Chanticleer Little Peeps First Place Winner for Early Readers, Montaigne Medal Finalist, and Foreword Indies Review Finalist

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Mondays in October – My love song for the beach, and her eternal companion water – dedicated to the St. Louis Siteman Cancer Center nurses

Mondays in October….Happy Book Birthday Baby!

July 30 – published by Shanti Arts, Maine

For me, this collection is about time, nature, art, movement, and learning to slow down. During the creation of this book, I was forced to take a step back and look at life differently. In November 2018, I began chemotherapy for Waldenstrom’s lymphoma.

At the end of April 2019, chemotherapy was finally over. As for life, well, I imagine things in a simpler light. I’m in remission. I’m grateful for a publisher like Christine of Shanti Arts who was both patient, understanding, and kind, throughout the book’s journey.

I’ve dedicated Mondays in October to my husband, my fur babies, the tango dancers Elise and Marco who I met on the beach that Monday in October, and the St. Louis Siteman Cancer Center nurses who aided in my longest days of treatment with a smile, a kind word, and even a joke.

The photographs and poems are places, people, animals…and nature….that I hold most dear. They are my gift to you…..my love songs for life.

“Like the cricket’s song serenading a marsh at sunset, the wind’s harmonies causing waves to lap to shore, or two lovers dancing the tango in the sand, Sheree K. Nielsen’s Mondays in October’s collection of poems and photographs suggests easy movements in nature, and a time for us to slow down… like October…and imagine a simpler life.

Mondays in October are Sheree’s unmistakable love songs for the beach and all things water – vulnerable, blissful, and sensual.”

Here’s a page from the book titled Red Dog’s Observations at the bottom of my blog page.

Red Dog was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his heart on Monday. We are cherishing our days with him….however many sunsets he still has….

This post is for him.

Peace, love, and sand dollars,

Sheree

ALL DOGS SAY THEIR PRAYERS – PART TWO

My husband started a cute routine with the dogs awhile back – a prayer before their meals. When the pooches spot him with their food bowls, they know it’s time for dinner, but importantly, it’s time to be silent and listen to what Daddy has to say.

I tried my hand at this concept again this week at the beach. Food bowls in hand, I say a prayer at each meal. On a couple of occasions, our mini Aussie who knows how to ‘say her prayers’ even bowed her head in reverence.

My original blog post from May 2014 focused on the dogs being thankful for special things in their lives. However, I left one important element out. How could I? Let’s see if you can figure out what I left out.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for this food.

Thank you for everything you do for us.

Thank you for CHICKEN!

Thank you for long walks on the beach,

new canine friends,

long rides in the car over the intracoastal waterway,

and CHICKEN!

Thank you Lord for the screened in sun porch at the beach house

to observe passersby on Main Street,

and CHICKEN!

Thanks to Mom and Dad for the trip to the beach.

Thanks for letting us lick the bottom of the cappuccino milkshake cups.

And most importantly,

CHICKEN!

Sincerely,

 

Ms. Brina and Mr. B

Salty Dogs Morning

Well I hope this little dog prayer brightened you day. I know it did mine.

We’ve got a few more days at the beach, and I’m sure the dogs won’t let me forget to put some chicken on their Purina dog food.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Sheree is the author of three books –

– Chanticleer nominated Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits

– Montaigne Medal Finalist Midnight the One-Eyed Cat

– 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner Folly Beach Dances

Her work can be found here:

https://amzn.to/2NDanYo
https://amzn.to/2zLgqFm
https://amzn.to/2zNuoq9

 

The River – Going With the Flow (Ethel + Robert Mirabal)

 

 

20190224_205925My long friend Tina, surprised me with tickets to see The River performed by Ethel + Robert Mirabal at the Blanche Touhill Performing Arts Center on February 24 at UMSL. I really had no idea what to expect as I’d never heard of the group before, so I settled into the comfy theatre balcony seats.

The River embodied the ritual of the Native Americans gathering near the water for events – the the birth and baptism of a child, a celebration, washing their clothes and bathing, among others. The river forged a sense of community among the people, as they would always return to the water, creating an essential spiritual role in the Native Americans lives.

Mellifluous sounds expressed through violins, flutes, and spoken word about how the river connects people throughout their life, was blissful solitude to hear. Robert Mirabel shared stories about his Native America heritage as well.

Their performance overwhelmed me with gratitude, and brought me to tears. For me, I felt connected, just being an audience member. At times, the music was so meditative, my eyelids felt heavy with slumber. I identified with The River’s concept that water is life – holding close to my heart trips to the ocean and the Great Lakes.

Waiting patiently until the audience had left, Tina and I were able to meet and speak with the group in the performing art center hallway.

I expressed thanks to Robert that the music brought me peace after recent chemotherapy treatments.

As tears welled in my eyes, Robert placed a colorful braided necklace over my head. The coral, crimson, maize, and burnt umber strands highlighted a pendant in the shape of an animal carved in wood.
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“This is Mama Bear. Mama Bear protects,” Robert smiled.

He lifted his left hand and interlocked his fingers with mine.

“Go with the flow of the River.”
_____________________

Peace, Love, and Sand dollars,

Sheree

___________________

Sheree is the author of three books –

– Chanticleer nominated Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits

– Chanticleer and Montaigne Medal nominated Midnight the One-Eyed Cat

– 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner Folly Beach Dances

Her work can be found here:

https://amzn.to/2NDanYo
https://amzn.to/2zLgqFm
https://amzn.to/2zNuoq9

The Spirit of Aloha – The Lei Tree of Maui

DSCN1560 The Lei Tree crop copy

Last April, my husband surprised me with an anniversary trip to Hawaii. The second leg of our trip we spent eight glorious days on the island of Maui. Honua Kai Resort, on Kaanapali Beach’s north coast, served as our home base.

Each day, we’d venture out and explore a different part of the island. One of my favorite drives was to the breezy south coast. I adored the winding curves, the scenic overlooks, the wild surf, effervescent beaches, and aquamarine sea. Every so often, hubby and I would stumble upon a beach where driftwood washed ashore. Majestic trees, barren and seasoned by the radiant island sun, told their stories.

One such tree, I fondly named the “Lei Tree” , spotted near Ukehame Beach Park. Reposed on the western shoreline, her resilient, sinewy neck lay adorned with colorful leis – each represented a victory she’d won, a battle she’d conquered. She was a true, Hawaiian warrior princess.

DSCN1561 lei tree copyr

I often reminisce about that statuesque lady. Her memory makes me smile.

She represents the true ‘Spirit of Aloha’ – arms open, ready to love…ready to give.

According to the Hawaiian people, Aloha also means love, compassion, kindness and grace. Its literal Hawaiian definition is “The presence of (Divine) breath.”  Taken from Alo = presence, front, or face and Hâ = breath. …

In Hawaiian culture, the spirit of aloha goes well beyond a simple greeting.

It is a way of life.

At this time of year (and maybe even every day), let’s try and spread the Spirit of Aloha to those around us. Every one we meet on the street, in stores, our friends, our family…

Maybe our lives would be that much fuller, if we accepted people for who they are…..

Aloha, and Merry Christmas !

Peace, Love and Sand dollars,

Sheree

_______________________

Sheree is the author of three books – Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits, Midnight the One-Eyed Cat, and Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, Folly Beach Dances.

Her work can be found here:

https://amzn.to/2NDanYo
https://amzn.to/2zLgqFm
https://amzn.to/2zNuoq9

 

 

Staying in with Sheree K. Nielsen – An interview with Linda’s Book Bag

So honored to be featured on Linda’s Book Blog today in “Staying In with Sheree K. Nielsen” with my inspirational essay collection, Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits. Read the entire essay on Linda’s site.

Linda's Book Bag

Ocean Rhythms eBook Cover Large

As we are now in that frantic run up to Christmas when time seems short and we can all begin to feel slightly stressed, it feels the perfect moment to be staying in with Sheree K. Nielsen for the evening to chat about one of her books.

Staying in with Sheree K.Nielsen

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Sheree. Thank you for staying in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

Ocean Rhythms eBook Cover Large

Linda, I have brought along Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits– An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets. It is the most recently published of my three books, and shows how tender and positive adventures and experiences can be in life, if we just keep our eyes open to our surroundings.

(I think we all need a book likeOcean Rhythms Kindred…

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Seventeen Days Since My Veins Were Filled with Poison

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I recently went though my first round of chemotherapy for Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia (lymphoma), and I was prepared to dump on the world six pages of my experience and disparity. I decided no one wants to read that much content. Instead, I wrote a poem that reflects my feelings on the chemotherapy process. Cancer sucks. No doubt about it.

Seventeen Days Since My Veins Were Filled with Poison

 

Seventeen days

Since my veins were filled

With

Poison.

 

Funny how you need

Poison

to kill

poison.

 

Chemotherapy –

The Mother

Of all

Duckers.

 

Thirst,

Sweat,

Heart palpitating,

Throat closing,

Vomiting,

Gut wrenching,

Belly swollen,

Cracked lips,

Crashing,

Unrecognizable

Self….

 

Hopeless,

Tears,

Zombie skin,

Sunken eyes,

Anxious,

Dehydrated,

No taste.

 

Lifeless.

 

Crawling back

To reality….

Slowly,

Steadily.

 

A magenta-hued sky

over a bronze meadow,

The soft brush

of a cat’s whiskers,

The aroma of a caramel-scented

sugar cookie candle,

The gaze of a

saw whet owl

penetrating your soul,

The Snoopy and Woodstock

animated mailbox –

 

These are the medicines

of life…

The Dolphin’s Dance – A gift from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits book release day

jb040702 (1) The Dolphins Dance Spot and Craig

Spot and Craig, photo copyright by Jason Belport

It’s book release day for Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets, and I couldn’t be more excited. In the coming days, there will be giveaways for free books and Starbucks gift cards.

Writing this book was a labor of love. It was a difficult decision which essays to include in the book. That’s where Trina Sotira came in. An early content editor, she organized the book into sections for me, advising what worked, and what didn’t. Although, I removed some of my favorite essays, there’s always another book to be penned.

So here’s a sneak peak at one of the best days in my life, the inspirational individuals, and special friends I met that unforgettable day.

This excerpt is taken from “The Dolphin’s Dance”.

“Following a second morning dive, Big Sister revved her engine, and steered a course to our afternoon site – The Wreck of the Kissimmee, a Cayman energy tugboat well past her prime, deliberately sunk in 1982 to aid in the reef system. As the boat killed her engine near the northern shore, we recognized a familiar face portside.

Spot had returned for an encore. I clapped my hands in delight. The dolphin patiently waited at the surface for our group to re-enter the ocean’s warm embrace.

We dropped quickly to the sea bottom, where visibility was excellent – as far as one’s eye could see. While exploring the wreck’s nooks and crannies, Spot lingered in the sand flats close by.”

If you enjoyed the sneak peak, you can order the book here or request it at one of your local bookstores. Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits includes complementary photographs and Emerson quotes for each essay.

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

In Search of My Kindred Spirit – An excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirit

DSCN0299 Sea Dog Dance

Today my thoughts are with those affected by the hurricane. My friends in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, seemed to have fare a little better than the other coastal towns like Wilmington. So in honor of them, here’s an excerpt from my book, Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits, to be released Tuesday, September 25, 2018. Hope you enjoy it.

The essay is titled, Finding My Kindred Spirit, and it talks about finding a perfectly inspirational place some search for all their lives. I was lucky to find this place of calm about 7 years ago. So drawn to this spot, I return year after year…

“Two days later, on a radiant Carolina morning, with canteens and cameras in-tow, hubby, the dog and I, made our journey down the beach to the Kindred Spirit Bench from the 40th Street beach access. Along the way, we took time to soak in the sights and sounds – seagulls soaring overhead, driftwood wash ashore, and children building sandcastles.

Arriving at our destination, my carefree animal child with the ice-blue eyes hopped up on one of the two weathered benches aside her Earth Mother. We cast a gaze onto the flat hard sand watching passersby carefully select seashells from the shallow tide pools.”

Hope you enjoyed the sneak peak. The quote below precedes the essay in the book.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”

Emerson

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

DSCN0300 Russell, flag, Kindred Spirit blkwht copyr

The Fix-It Man – excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits

I missed my blog post Tuesday due to the launch of my children’s book, Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat. For that I apologize.

I’ve decided to focus on family for this next excerpt from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets. More specifically, my Dad Joe who passed almost 30 years ago, and the comaraderie of friends. Some friends I am still close with today…my LTF’s (or long time friends).

The title of this essay is called “The Fix-It Man”, and anyone who knew my dad quickly realized he could fix just about anything. The excerpt takes place in my first home. It’s about all the people that stepped up and took part in doing chores, readying it for my first husband and I to live in. The scene takes place after everyone is tired from a day’s work, and the evening begins to wind down.

It’s my favorite scene. I can still remember it to this day.

“The Fix-It Man”

“Upon closer inspection, I noticed a one-inch ring of barbeque smeared around the perimeter of Dad’s mouth. His sticky fingers grasped the ribs as he sunk his teeth into the meat, causing the sauce to drip, drip, drip onto the paper plate. I couldn’t tell if Chris was chuckling at my Dad’s infant-in-a-highchair look or at what he was saying. My father rather enjoyed laughing at his own jokes.

Later, as the bright tangerine sun touched down on the horizon, one by one, my friends garnered seats on the porch. Gathered around Dad like fireflies to a mid-summer night sky, they chuckled as he spun tale after tale, all the while savoring his scrumptious barbeque — pausing only to lick his fingers and tilt back a beer.”

I hope you enjoyed a little sneak peak from Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits. I’ll be posting another teaser on Saturday.

(Joe, the Fix-It Man) Me and Dad in Florida crop

Me an Dad at Silver Springs, Florida – photo by Mom

If you love the beach, nature, the ocean, pets, wild dolphins, sharks and family heritage, you can get your copy of Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits here.

For now, peace out, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

 

 

 

 

 

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is here! Happy Book Birthday!

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is finally here! Her book birthday is today!

Five years ago if you had told me I’d be publishing a children’s picture book with an author friend, Pat Wahler, I would have said you were crazy.

But at that time, a little seed was planted by my husband who made the comment that Midnight, our black cat, looked like a one-eyed cat with a feather in her hat, the way her tail plumed above her like a periscope when she pranced about the house.

“That’s a really great book title,” I said with confidence. “I’m going to scribble that down and pin it to my bulletin board in my office.”

He said, “Why thank you for thinking that.” Of course, I chuckled.

Every day as I walked past that bulletin board, I stared at the piece of white paper written with the book title written in blue colored pencil.”

Two years passed.

Suddenly, one morning I awoke from a dream I had about Midnight. I quickly grabbed my notepad, thoughts pouring out easily, and wrote an entire story in fifteen minutes. The ending and certain parts of the storyline needed tweaking, so I called my author friend Pat Wahler to collaborate on the story to make it perfect.

After querying agents and publishers, we received a response from a small indie publisher in St. Louis (Amphorae), who seemed interested. They mentioned how they loved the message of courage, confidence, and overcoming disabilities. Would we be willing to making a few changes, and resend the manuscript back to them for review? We agreed. That was three years ago.

Believe me when I say it wasn’t easy. There were at least six edits (maybe more) on this children’s book of approximately 450 words. All the while, we were hoping for a certain illustrator to come into the picture — Janelle Dimmett. We loved her style and use of color.

After Janelle was hired to illustrate, it was then up to her to interpret our story. Janelle also went through many illustration updates to coincide with the book’s message.

Fast  forward to today.

I am so proud of this book and the message of “it’s okay to be who I am, just the way I am.”

With the help of Midnight’s best friend, a three-legged white rat named Starlight, and a bunch of bird buddies, she gains the confidence and courage to realize she was already okay, just the way she was.

So welcome Midnight to the world.  Happy book birthday!

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Midnight, 18 years old, (pictured above) was extremely impressed she was the inspiration for this story!

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is available on Amazon, and can be requested at your bookstores and libraries.

midnight no background - 3d cover

 

 

Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection Sneak Peak

Good morning everyone,

In less than a month my book, Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets makes it debut (in paperback) on September 25. Beginning today, I’ll be sharing snippets of my book, (hopefully) posting regularly on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I hope to show the connection we all have to each other – every being, every creature, every drop of rain, every leaf on this place we call Earth.

This paragraph is taken from the Introduction titled “Wednesday Awakenings”. Enjoy!

“After breakfast, I scuffled down the hallway to the bathroom. Squeezing the Crest toothpaste tube, a tiny bubble formed, and floated upward. The small masterpiece remained airborne for what seemed like five minutes. I watched the bubble travel about the bathroom much like a hot air balloon adjusts to altitude. First up, then down, then sideways, toward the window, over the tub, and back towards me like an astronaut weightless in a space capsule. I stepped into the bedroom to grab my camera to capture a shot of the bubble, but when I returned it had disappeared.”

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I hope you enjoyed this little teaser. Stay tuned for another snippet tomorrow from a different essay.

Feel free to leave comments below.

Here’s the book cover, in case you haven’t seen it.

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

Ocean Rhythms eBook Cover Large

Kindle ebook preorder link here