February 18, 2017
You

You

Lent 2017 for Orthodox Christian Kids!

Great Lent is (almost) here!

And though the grownups are usually the ones more excited about leaving bacon behind and reading spiritual books so they can take one more step up the mountain, well, kids are a little more spiritual pliable since their minds and hearts aren't so habit-bound. I think kids are the best, and such natural seekers and learners and teachers. How often will a child change her mind about how she sees the world--after she reads a story of another child who chooses to be brave?

But, grownups. We read those same stories of bravery, and change comes so  s l o w l y.

I've been collecting spiritual books for Orthodox kids for too many years to count. Here are some of my favorite stories--stories filled with potential inspiration when it comes to Lent... 

 

To encourage kids to pray

The Monk Who Grew Prayer

This short book for toddlers and older is all about a life spent in pursuit of prayer. Whimsical, sweet, and soft like a song; I love this book.

In the Candle's Glow

A brand new picture book for toddlers and older about a little girl who loves to pray. Her loving spirit is contagious, and this book is a delight.

What Do You Hear, Angel?

A very sweet picture book for toddlers and young children that encourages them to hear God in all things. 

A Child's Guide to the Divine Liturgy

Learning to pray in church, now there's a worth-while lenten goal! This book is written even for very small children, and is designed to help a child follow along and enter into the Divine Liturgy.

Special Agents of Christ 

There aren't many prayer books out there for young, independent readers. This one encourages the child to think like a young saint and engage in the spiritual fight! It's a training manual of sorts, for elementary-aged kids, which includes a guide to confession.

My Prayer Book

A large, picture book-format prayer book filled with icon-style illustrations and prayers for many different occasions. There is additional text in the back of the book that explains, for older children, more about the prayers and the reasons for them.

Royal Monastic

Written for teens and adults, this is the story of Princess Ileana of Romania, who eventually became Mother Alexandra. A wonderful story of a role model who models perseverance, faith, and prayer.

Hear Me

Hear Me is a prayer book specifically written for young people who are high school-aged or older. Filled with inspiring prayers, a guide through confession, and a topical section that focuses on anger, loneliness, persecution, anxiety, depression, peer pressure and other themes that face young people as they mature...

   

To encourage children in their knowledge of the faith

Every Time I Do My Cross

A beautiful book for toddlers that teaches them the power of making the sign of the cross over themselves and how that helps them enter into prayer, giving, and being thankful.

Pictures of God

An introductory book for young children that explains the symbolism found in icons, introduces readers to several saints and their stories, and encourages children in their faith. From God to You is a follow up book, and just as informative!   

The Tale of Three Trees

A classic picture book that subtly tells the tale of Christ's death and resurrection through the journey of three trees. 

The Resurrection of Christ 

This is one of the Potamitis Publishing Paterikon books. They're tiny and amazing. There are a million of them now (exaggeration--maybe around 60?) and so worth looking into. Each one tells a short story of a saint, or teaches a bit about a feast; and there are coloring books too! This one is perfect to finish off Great Lent!

The Miracle of the Red Egg

A story of St Mary Magdalene and how she bravely shared her faith (and why we celebrate with red eggs on Pascha!).

The Bible for Young People

This is my very favorite children's Bible. Written with a distinctly Orthodox Christian viewpoint, if you start in the middle of the book, around page 90, you can follow the path of Christ, from his birth to the cross as we traverse lent and head toward Pascha!

Heaven Meets Earth

Written for both children and adults in mind, this book features all of the feasts of the liturgical calendar. It highlights traditions, includes hymns, Bible passages, quotes from the Fathers, etc... A perfect handbook for the many feasts that we enter into from Annunciation through to Pascha!

   

To encourage humility and other virtues

The Hidden Garden

A picture book for all ages, especially those who are 5-10. It takes a child on an inward journey, into the heart, encouraging him to examine that inner garden and see what is planted and growing there.

The Boy, the Kitchen, and His Cave

A children's picture book that is quite long, but entirely lovely. In the book, we follow St Euphrosynos from the time he is a child to his life as a saint. This is one of the only saint books I have included in this list and there are certainly many, many books on saints that teach about prayer, humility, sacrifice, giving, and love. All of them completely appropriate for Great Lent! This book in particular highlights a humble man and his search for holiness. 

Philo and the Superholies

A ridiculously adorable book for young people about a little boy who learns to call on the SuperHolies during his time of need. Prayer, Patience, Goodness, Self Control--you know! All those virtues we wish we could employ every minute, every day... 

The Quiltmaker's Gift 

A deeply spiritual story about both humility and sacrificial giving. Wonderfully told, beautifully illustrated, see if you can track down this book, or its prequel, The Quiltmaker's Journey for a read during Great Lent

Shepherding Sam

This sweet story could be a read-aloud, or is perfect for independent reders. It's the tale of a dog and a boy, and is set at a charming monastery that has a children's garden and a stable of farm animals. A little adventure, a little prayer, and a lot of love are found in these pages.

From I-ville to You-ville

A favorite of middle grade readers. This is an adventure story where a young boy learns to move from a self-centered worldview, to one of holiness, giving, and love. 

   

Lent is all about turning inward. I love Great Lent! Here are a few other blog posts you may want to check out that focus on lenten reading for kids.

 

Great Lent Learning Basket from Matushka Emma

Some ideas of things to think about and do with children on the OCA website

Learning during Lent (including a cool calendar!) by Jennifer at Illumination Learning

A wonderful list of good books from Carol at The Many Hats of an Orthodox Mom

If you have other favorites that you'd like to share, please list them in the comments!

 

March 1, 2016
You

You

When God Made Me--Volume 1--and Giveaway!

When God made Duncan, he made a Builder, a Fixer, and a designer.

Duncan is ten (and look at that peek inside of the church!).



When God made Malcolm, He put a big appetite and made me fast. And put a video game disc in and a joke and a hug. And hobbit feet.

Malcolm is eight (wearing a hat & headphones, and his feet are amazing!).



When God made Ciara, He made me kind to others and love fashion. He made me love drawing and making stuff out of paper. And my cat Pasha.

Ciara is six and is giving a lady the wallet she dropped (thanks for acting on your kindness, Ciara!). 



When God made Bonnie, He made me with a twirl, because I love twirling and dancing. And singing. Then He made me dance and hop, hop, hop! And don't forget run around in circles!

Bonnie has a rainbow over her head, and she is four (and she runs around in circles and loves to twirl! I'd love to twirl with her)...

***

A friend sent along these amazing drawings that children in her Sunday school did. If you have a child (or children, or maybe you!!!) would like to write a profile about what beautiful things God was thinking when they/you were created, or draw a picture, or do both, I'd love to share them here. You can send them to jane@janegmeyer.com.

Also, it's time for a giveaway, yes?

If you're interested in When God Made You, I'd love to send off a copy or two or three. Just mention one beautiful thing in the comment section. Any word, any thought, and I'll put you in the drawing. 

I'll choose on Friday, March 11th, so that gives you plenty of time to think of beautiful words and write them here, and for you to tell all your friends, cause maybe I'll give away lots of books! 

Cheers, Friends...

 

 

 

February 7, 2016
You

You

Baskets and the Building Fund

When it comes to my writing career, I don't mind making a little bit of money. I've poured in hours and hours and hours of writing time, of critiquing, of slaving over words, of reading about writing, of writing about writing. It's a career, and typically when you work, you get paid for your efforts. It's fair...

But when it comes to my handwork--to knitting, or crocheting, or sewing ridiculous Star Wars-themed napkins, I do it for fun. I do it to relax, to pray, to enter into an activity that both slows my body and stimulates my mind. Same with this new hobby of mine--weaving with pine needles.

(Okay, those photos are mostly about tea. But who doesn't love tea?!!! Notice the trivets and coaster...)

What's fun about the weaving is that not many people do it! So it looks unusual, unique. It's not that hard, really, at least at the level that I'm working, but it's different, and the end products are interesting, useful, earthy...

Many people over these last several months have asked if I might sell the baskets that I'm making. What?!!! No! I'm just a beginner. Selling them seems preposterous. Half of what I make is lopsided! I don't gather the needles from my backyard, soak them, sew them, to earn money. It's about the learning--the journey--doing something new. 

My mom has a friend who is an absolute kick. She is a very accomplished woman, verbose, opinionated, cultured. She travels a lot. Somehow she got a hold of one of my first little baskets, and just thought they were the most amazing things. She said they should be under glass at the Smithsonian. Ha! I made several small baskets and sent them her way around Christmas time, saying all I wanted in return was for my daughter to have lunch with her. Instead I ended up with a $100 bill stuffed into my little orange backpack (plus she hosted my daughter for lunch :)). And she thought that wasn't even enough... 

Well, I've thought this through. I don't want the pressure of selling anything. I want to weave when I feel like weaving. I'd like to experiment, when I feel like experimenting... But it's obvious that there are a few people out there who wouldn't mind having a basket, or a trivet, or a coaster or two made from the pine needles that drip all year long from our massive Canary Island Pine. I'm super happy to share, so here's the deal. 

I am going to start a running list of folks who'd like a pine needle something. Email me at jane@janegmeyer.com. I'll put you on the list, and I'll send you a finished woven something, when and if I make one! No pressure on me. You all are the first to hear, so send in your name. I'll wait and post this to other forums in a day or two, waiting until those of you, who might be interested, have responded...

And in return, once you receive the package, I'd love for you to donate something to our church's building fund. We are raising money to build our church temple (right now we worship out of our fellowship hall), and it'd be pretty cool if some of that money came from the prayerful work I do when I'm weaving pine needles, stich after stich.

In your email, please let me know these things:

  • What kind of pine needle thingy you'd like? (Teeny basket, next-to-teeny basket, small basket, etc. Maybe approximate the size. Or, a coaster, or two coasters, or four coasters, etc... Or, a trivet! (My favorite--I just love the trivets.) Or, a giant trivet (like a plate charger... etc...) Be as descriptive as you'd like.
  • What kind of thread you might like? Color, thickness. There's not a ton to choose from, but if you've seen something you like, please let me know!
  • Your full name and mailing address...
  • Someone you'd like prayed for while I'm working...

As for payment. I'll let you decide. I really don't care if you send in $5 or $500. I don't! I really don't. I'll leave that part up to you. But just to give you an idea--it takes me about two hours to weave a coaster or a very teeny basket, and it takes about 20 hours to weave a super large trivet... I'm happy to work for a buck an hour. If you don't believe me, then you don't yet know me...

When you email me with your info, in return I'll send you information on how to care for a pine needle basket/coaster/trivet, etc (not that there's really anything to say--just don't give it to your puppy, cause he'll eat it, like mine did...) and I'll let you know how to mail a check or make a donation to our church's building fund.

What do you think? Does this seem like it'll work? I'm up for revising every word of this if you have better ideas. In the meantime, here are some pine needle weavings that I've done--that might help describe size, threads, shapes, etc.

Cheers, friends! Please ask questions, or make other awesome remarks in the comments below.

The image above is a large, flat pine needle weaving that spans a little more than 12 inches across. It is sewn with a brown hemp thread.

Above left is the same large flat weaving as the top photo. And above right is a small v-shaped basket with brown hemp thread, and a trivet with beige and brown variegated hemp thread--plus some pine needles and the beginning of something new... This trivet, and the trivet shown way up top in the tea photos that is made with a deep blue upholstery thread, are about eight inches across.

These two crazies... Above left is a flat weaving, and I simply experimented all the way through. I wove in lavender stems, grass stalks, japanese maple twigs, and bright pink mohair, using upholstery thread. Had fun with that one. Above right is a basket. These photos can be so decieving. It's one of the larger baskets I've made, about 8-9 inches across the brim, and rising maybe 4 inches, using lots of bright colored hemp thread.

In the basket above left, I used a light brown upholstery thread, it is v-shaped, and is probably 2-3 inches high and 4 inches across the brim. Above right are three coasters (all about 4 1/2 inches across), one small basket, and one trivet. All the trivets I make are between 7 1/2 to 8 inches across. All the thread used on the above right photo is hemp thread--lime green, light blue, and brown.

Above left--four little coasters (about 4 1/2 inches across), all for a friend. Black hemp thread with colored centers. I like the way they turned out. Above right--the white hemp is awful, but I was trying to make a little globe shape, and it worked! I've made about four now, of various sizes... The rim of this basket is green, only because I used green needles instead of brown. They will eventually turn to brown...

Above--a coaster that decided to turn into a little shallow tray, and a little basket. These were some of my first weavings. Hemp thread...

Various sizes, all flat. Wow, my stitching is so much better now! Also from more than a year ago. All hemp thread.

To recap:

  • I can make v-shaped baskets, and am getting better at "globe" shaped baskets.
  • Flat is awesome, and easy. Lots of thread colors in both hemp and upholstery... I'll use whatever is closest to what you want.
  • Just give me dimensions, and I'll approximate it.
  • Please don't ask me to make anything on a deadline. :) I have enough of those in my life!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 10, 2015
You

You

The Dog Ate My Tote Bag :: Giveaway!

 A long while ago now, I made my first little crocheted tote bag using a pattern from Attic 24. I purchased a myriad of colored wool and worked away during a three-week road trip with my family. Since then I've added cotton lining to the bags--I also felt the bags so they're easily washable, and just move from row to row, deciding on size as I go.

Recently I worked up four more bags, since my stash of wool needed to be thinned. 

They're pretty cute, and they're useful, but what I didn't realize is that they're EDIBLE!

Especially when you name the red and white one, which I was just about to give away, Peppermint.

Our dog, Zuko, who is evidently still very much an eight-month old puppy, stole this sweet bag from the clothesline, ate part of the handle, buried the bag in the dirt, then proceeded to gnaw on the clothespin, which my son pulled out of his mouth just before swallowing. Zuko is a certified glutton, and will be punished with prostrations. That dog seriously will eat anything that isn't a porcupine.

I made him pose for this picture. 

So instead of giving away Poor Peppermint, which I intend to somehow mend, I'm happy to give away the other three, if anyone's interested. I know Peppermint is the very cutest--I totally agree--but don't blame me, blame it on the DOG! :)

Red-Orange House

Brown-Blue Check

Grey Seattle Stripe

Details about the giveaway are in the comments. 

 

 

March 21, 2015
You

You

So You Wanna Write a Children's Book

I like to bake bread (sourdough in the oven right now!) And I like to garden, and make things with my hands... And I love to travel. 

But more than any sort of work, or hobby, I love to write!

Somehow along the way, I became both a writer and an editor of children's books. Maybe because I'm organized, and love being a cheerleader of others' work? Maybe because I can play with words all day long and never ever get bored? Whatever the reason, when it comes to producing a children's picture book for the Orthodox Christian market, I've helped generate enough books, and watched them take their place in the market, to know what typically works, and what doesn't.

I've set the stage this way so I can talk about you. Here are some things to know if this is an artistic path that you're considering:

  • Write a story that has a compelling theme for young CHILDREN. Orthodoxy brings to us so many wonderful saints who have had exciting, crazy lives that are worth talking about. But talking about a saint who was martyred--and actually showing that story in pictures--is two different things. If you want to write a picture book for young kids and the main theme of the story is the saint's bravery when they were being tortured, then write a young adult novel instead. (I would love to get more YA submissions, so get writing!)
  • Use compelling language that evokes strong imagery when crafting a tale. Kids have a wonderful capacity for language, and every word in a picture book matters. Use the right words, the most beautiful or potent words when you are composing your phrases. And choose to treat your language like music--like poetry--so read your stuff aloud, since that is how most kids will eventually hear your story.
  • Almost all of the picture books I produce are no longer than 1,000 words in length. Most every picture book is 32 pages long, and only 24 of those pages actually house the story.
  • Learn how to write! There are great resources available on writing! Practice writing a lot. Read kids books, a lot. Practice writing some more... Writing a picture book is harder than you think and even the littlest of little ones deserve intelligent, artistic, beautiful books made just for them...
  • Share your work with other writers, and get good at taking criticism. I'm at the point in my career where I desperately want to hear bad news about my writing. I want that bad news now, so I can fix it and move on. I thank those folks who find fault with my stories. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Better an adult reader finding fault on this side of the publishing table, than a wee little one being bored by your words and never wanting to read your book again. :(
  • Don't bother finding an illustrator for your book unless you're an illustrator! The publisher pairs the story with the pictures, so that is one less thing for you to worry about. However, you should always put on an illustrator's shoes for an afternoon and try to think how your story would be drawn. If you can't divide up the text into visual scenes then your story is probably lagging and too full of narration that doesn't move the plot along. 
  • Be smart about the market. At Ancient Faith Publishing, we create children's books that cater to an Orthodox readership. We want to produce stories that fill the needs of our community. Currently, we aren't publishing books that have to do with Noah and his ark. There are many, many books about Noah. But imagine a philokalia for kids? (I've tried to write this for years but am still stumped, so maybe you can do it!) A sense of the unique Orthodox ethos should be in every query I recieve...
  • Don't give up if you enjoy the work. There are only a few Orthodox children's books that are published every year. Thankfully, we've been busy these last ten years and there are so many more books for little ones than there once were! I'm working with an author now who deserves three medals. One for persistence, one for humility, and one for longsuffering. He has written many really good stories. He has overcome disappointment after disappointment with grace. I just love this writer. He's not a quitter; and this year he will have a book on the market and we will all shout with joy for him!
  • Which brings me to my last point. Be nice. Be professional. Come to the table as a team player. We are not in this business to make money, but to build the Kingdom of God. We all sacrifice and work hard. As an editor, I never choose to work with people who are difficult. When I am handling only three projects each year, I pick and choose those people who are talented, who are professional, and who are willing to work as a team. There are always bumps and difficulties: The printer in Canada had to delay the shipment because of weather; the artist got the flu and we're behind schedule; my computer crashes each time I type an exclamation point! We want our projects to embody Christ from the get go--we want our books to shine with virtue from the moment we sign the contract. Because, in the end, the spirit of the people shines right through the page and into the words and pictures that those little ones are looking at and hearing. And that's why I do what I do--it's all about the little ones and their desire and capacity to be inspired by the magic of words

and the power of Story...

Cheers, friends!

September 29, 2014
You

You

Madeleine

Madeleine made her way into the world with a splash. Born at home in a rush, her dramatic beginning was just a foreshadowing of an entire childhood painted by a natural zazzle, joy, and penchant for drama. It has been a delight to be her mama--we are almost exact opposites, she and I, so seeing the world through her eyes has opened me to all sorts of new paths and puzzles.

I grew up in Santa Monica with a brother as an actor, a grandpa as a prop master, and Hollywood all around me. I suppose in response to all of that glitter--because I'm an earthy kind of girl--we deliberately kept Madeleine away from casting directors and baby photo shoots. We knew she'd do well there, but we wanted opportunities to come to her through her own desires and choices, not through ours or any other grown up's agenda. By the age of 13 we couldn't deny that the performing path was finding her despite our shrugged shoulders. We prayed a lot, and let things unfold in a slow, easy sort of way...

Fastforward to 17 and that zazzled, joyful, dramatic child is still very visible, except she no longer wears pig tails or tattered princess dresses.

Watching your kids work hard, reach for their dreams, stretch themselves, make goals, and pray a lot. Well, what else is there when you're a mama? So today we're celebrating Madeleine. Because she deserves it. For two years, she and her duet partner, Erik Ireland Olsen, have been writing music, working on their sound, working on their sound some more, performing at small venues, soliciting criticism, recording, and re-recording. These two are no quitters. And this last week a major hurdle was accomplished--the release of their first EP, and a concert they orgnaized themselves to celebrate and show their stuff to the community that has supported them all these years.

Three hundred people showed up. Erik and Madeleine sang their hearts out and proved that they are more than ready for whatever that next step might be. Their website is in the works, and they are hoping to release yet another song come summer, and maybe put together a small tour. Right now Mad is back to the everyday high school mix, juggling tutoring younger students, applying at colleges, working on her own class assignments, making sure her room remains a GIANT mess, and generally just being an everyday, delightful young woman. 

Bravo, Mad! I love you, sweet girl...