Nerdify a Chick

Having a 12 year old girl in the house is awesome for many reasons, one of them being the fun ideas girls have, that adults would never think of. So I have to attribute today’s post to my daughter C. The other day she said, “Mom, there are so many chicks around this time of year, you should buy some and dress them up like nerdy chicks for your blog.”

Ha! For some reason, it was an irresistible idea. I mean, do we ever really outgrow playing dress up?  Anyway, last Saturday when we were running errands, we had the best time looking for chicks. We gathered up an assortment, (or as Julia Child would say: a peep) and nerdified them this Saturday. Here’s the whole peep:

Yes, it looks like we have way too much time on our hands. In fact we just didn’t do stuff we should have been doing while we made little bows, glasses and strings of beads for these chicks!

Then we came up with the idea to make a groovy chick. Here she is:

Then we had to stop, even though we had a bunch of other ideas that you’d probably find equally entertaining. Notice I didn’t try to quantify how entertaining that might be.

When I started this blog, I promised to drop in every now and then and tell you what this nerdy chick has been doing. Well…. now you know! In a week or so, these babies will be on sale in stores everywhere dirt cheap cheap cheap. If this post inspires any of you to buy a chick and dress her up, please send a picture and we’ll add it to the gallery!

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Julia Child

Julia Child is best known for introducing French cuisine to her American public through her cookbooks and television shows. You all know who she is, don’t you?

This was one of those rare weeks when I thought of a great smart woman to feature, looked up the things she said, and violia my work was done. Because who couldn’t use a hardy helping of Julia Child? So clever, so witty, such an artist. If you saw the movie Julie & Julia, or if you were a fan of her show, you’ll know what I mean. Below is just a taste of some of the wonderful things she said.

Julia Child Quotes

• Always start out with a larger pot than what you think you need.

• If you’re in a good profession, it’s hard to get bored, because you’re never finished-there will always be work you haven’t done.

• The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It’s doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile. I think of my strawberry souffle. I did that at least twenty-eight times before I finally conquered it.

• Moderation. Small helpings. Sample a little bit of everything. These are the secrets of happiness and good health.

• Everything in moderation, including moderation.

• Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.

• You find yourself refreshed by the presence of cheerful people. Why not make an honest effort to confer that pleasure on others? Half the battle is gained if you never allow yourself to say anything gloomy.

• It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate — you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.

• I think every woman should have a blowtorch.

• Life itself is the proper binge.

Updated today (August 15, 2012) Happy 100th birthday, Julia!

How to Write a Poem about a Nasty Bug…

I’m mixing things up this week because something exciting happened recently and I haven’t had time to write about it yet.

Nasty Bugs, a book of poems about bugs edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins and published by Dial hit the shelves on March 16. I am thrilled to be one of the poets featured! My poem, Tick-tock Tick appears on Page 22, along with a fabulous drawing by artist Will Terry, whose jewel-toned, super-fun illustrations accompany each poem in the collection.

For this collection, Lee assigned each poet a bug. Lice, fire ants, fleas, bedbugs, cockroaches, termites, and a host of other creepy crawly creatures were doled out.  We were asked to focus on scientific facts about our bugs when creating our poems.

So, how do you write a poem about something as disgusting as a tick? Well, it involves a lot of research, it really does.  Here is a photo of the folder I kept all of my tick information in while I was working on this poem.

After reading all of these articles and many more, I discovered many fascinating things about the little creatures. (These fascinating things did not make me fonder of them, quite the opposite, but it really is amazing what a tick can do.) For example, the tick’s body contains an arsenal of chemicals useful to acquisition of blood.

  • Its mouth secretes something like glue to help keep it anchored to its host.
  • It releases pain inhibitors so the host cannot feel it suck blood.
  • Its spit contains anti-clotting substances to keep blood flowing during the feast.

And I haven’t even gotten to the barbs on the hypostome, its ability to detect carbon dioxide (thus prey), and the way it uses its sharp little teeth to cut blood vessels beneath the skin. Cringing yet?  Seriously, I found out so much information it was very hard for me to fit it into one poem. I ended up writing several.

But back to the poem in the book. After reading all about the amazing tick, I highlighted important points from the articles. Then I went to my trusty notebook and started doing one of my favorite things: playing with words. I made lists, I put words in groups, I tried to think of the best ways to show what makes the tick tick. It took several pages. Here’s a glimpse of one of them:

In the end, I decided to give my poem a temporal theme, tying the tick to a ticking clock because stealth and patience are crucial to a tick’s survival, but the passage of time is really not.  To emphasize this, Tick-tock Tick is a long and skinny poem with just a few words per line. I want readers to read it slowly… at a creeping speed… like the pace of a tick.

To top off my tick poem-writing experience, while I was working on this poem I actually found a tick crawling up my arm. I’ve lived in my house for almost 5 years and it is the only tick I have ever encountered. So glad that Lee Bennett Hopkins assigned each poet only one bug!

If you want to read Tick-tock Tick, check it out in Nasty Bugs!

If you want to read one of the other tick poems I came up with, just keep reading!

The Deer Tick Larva:

Stage One of Three

by Kami Kinard


I wait.

I wait.

So patiently.

For future meals

to pass by me –

a bird or mouse

or hopping hare

if it’s warm blooded

I don’t care

which species or

which type of hide –

my six legs cling

to for a ride.


I drill.

I drill.

My hypostome

bores through the skin

of my new home.

The tiny barbs

upon my snout

keep me in place.

I won’t slip out.

Plus, I secrete

a cement-glue!

Where my host travels

I go too.


I sip.

I sip.

I grow in girth.

Then I detach

and fall to earth.

Call me Nymph now!

I’ve shed my skin.

I have eight legs!

So I begin

to wait

to wait

so patiently.


So many words, so many scientific facts, so many possibilities for tick poems…

We will return to our regularly scheduled Nerdy Chick Interviews next Monday!

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Mae Jemison

Mae Carol Jemison (b. 1956) became the first African American woman to travel into space when she went in to orbit on the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992. She has also done many other amazing things. She served in the Peace Corps, she holds nine honorary doctorates, is trained in dance and choreography, and is fluent in Russian, Japanese, and Swahili. The most nerdy among you might be interested to know that she has acted in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation!

There is much more to learn about this smart and adventurous woman. You can find out more about her HERE.

Mae Jemison Quotes

• The thing that I have done throughout my life is to do the best job that I can and to be me.

• Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.

• It is important for scientists to be aware of what our discoveries mean, socially and politically. It’s a noble goal that science should be apolitical, acultural, and asocial, but it can’t be, because it’s done by people who are all those things.

• Science is very important to me, but I also like to stress that you have to be well-rounded. One’s love for science doesn’t get rid of all the other areas. I truly feel someone interested in science is interested in understanding what’s going on in the world. That means you have to find out about social science, art, and politics.

• Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations…If you adopt their attitudes, then the possibility won’t exist because you’ll have already shut it out … You can hear other people’s wisdom, but you’ve got to re-evaluate the world for yourself.

There are times when I get an idea for notable quotable female and when I look her up, I am disappointed by a lot of what she has to say. But this week’s Quotable Nerdy Chick was easy because once I thought of highlighting Mae Jemison, I found that I liked everything I read about her!

To see a compiled list of Nerdy Chick Quotes (only one quote per chick) chick HERE.

The winner of the So You Want to Be A Rock Star prize pack is… a photo essay, kind of

Everyone who entered had their name written on an old business card (those things come in handy). The folks who chose to enter more than once with a (+1) had their names added again for each plus one. See that funky background? Those are my kitchen cabinets made with oyster shells. I love these since I live on the coast!


Next the cards were dropped into a hat, courtesy of one of Barnum's suckers. (i.e. the kid that paid $15 for a hat full of popcorn, but at least we're still finding uses for the hat.)



We tried to get our dog to pick a winner from the hat... but she only wanted to eat the hat!


So my daughter C. drew Cathy M's name from the hat. Congrats Cathy! Audrey will be mailing you the loot!


Thank you Audrey Vernick for the great interview and hosting the great giveaway! And thanks to all who entered!  

Jo Watson Hackl: Stellar Leader

I met Jo Watson Hackl when I was living in Greenville SC, but, ironically, I didn’t really get to know her until I moved away.  She is super smart, an attribute that she fully employs in her career as a corporate and securities attorney with Wyche law firm in Greenville, South Carolina. Jo has served as lead counsel on public registrations of stocks and debt securities that total over a billion dollars. Jo currently serves as Chair of the Board of the Community Foundation of Greenville and President of the Emrys Foundation and is immediate past Chair of the Board of Directors of the Greenville Area Development Corporation. She is past President of the Greenville County Bar Association and past President of the Greenville Professional Women’s Forum. Jo is listed in Best Lawyers in America®, a leading legal referral guide, and her pro bono work has been featured in American Barrister magazine. Jo is a Liberty Fellow and serves as Co-Chair of the Liberty Fellowship Economic Development Forum.  Jo received her Juris Doctorate degree from Yale University Law School, where she received the Israel Peres Award for best student contribution to The Yale Law Journal. Jo received her Bachelor of Arts from Millsaps College with high honors. Jo is a recipient of the Richard Riley Pro Bono Award and the Peace Center for the Performing Arts Philanthropist of the Year award. 

Jo is married to Robert Hackl, chef and co-owner of Augusta Grill and the couple has three children. In their free time, Jo and her family raise fruits, vegetables, flowers and many, many weeds. Jo also takes as many black and white photographs of her family as they will tolerate and writes every day. You’ll see more about her writing later in this post. Now for the questions!

Jo, it’s clear that you have brain-power a-plenty! What is your favorite way to flaunt it? Whether it is the intricate details of economic development strategy (in my legal and community work) or the best way to start a fire if you’re out in the woods without a match (in my writing), I enjoy challenging myself to find out what makes thing tick.

What aspects of your career are most stimulating to your brain?I love working with brilliant, talented people and learning new things every day.  I particularly enjoy learning how businesses work, the goals of the management team, and how the team works together to create and sustain their corporate culture. Helping businesses achieve their goals is satisfying and my colleagues are smart, kind and interesting.

How what is the attitude toward brainy women in the legal profession?Attitudes have changed. When I first started my career, there were few women lawyers in our community and clients often assumed I must be a secretary or paralegal. Now women are very well-represented in the profession. My law firm has a culture of supporting and developing women and has established a “Women of Wyche” group whose members help champion and support each other.

What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick? I grew up in rural Mississippi in one of the poorest counties in the state. Along with support from my family, I credit my nerdiness for getting me into Yale Law School. Once at Yale Law School my nerdiness helped me do well there and inspired me to take risks.   At that time students traditionally wrote articles analyzing cases and legal trends in order to try to earn a coveted spot on The Yale Law Journal staff.  I teamed up with my roommate to undertake a different kind of venture- we conducted an empirical study to determine whether state anti-takeover statutes then in effect actually did what they were supposed to do- maximize shareholder wealth. We concluded that they did not. Not only did we both earn a spot on The Yale Law Journal staff, but we also were awarded the Israel H. Peres prize for the best student contribution to the journal that year.

 That’s awesome! So looking back, if you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? Be comfortable being nerdy!   You’ll have more fun and you’ll help other people connect with their inner nerd.

What’s cool about being nerdy? Being curious. You can learn something from everyone you meet if you just ask the right questions. Whether it is about how their business works, how to tell the temperature from a  rhododendron leaf, or how to start a fire with only a plastic bag and some water, learning something new makes your day more interesting.

True! Tell us about a well-known fictitious chick you admire and why you admire her. My favorite character is Claudia Kincaid in From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. She and her brother ran away to hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and ended up solving a mystery involving a Michelangelo sculpture. I love how Claudia stepped outside her comfort zone and let her sense of her curiosity take her on an adventure.

I love thinking of curiosity as an asset. Can you share a favorite song, quote, or movie that speaks to your inner nerdiness? O’Brother Where Art Thou?- a movie based on Homer’s Odyssey and set in the Depression-era South. This combination is absolutely inspired!

That is a great movie. What’s something you like to do that might be considered a tad bit nerdy, but is actually really fun? Writing- it is the perfect combination of the wildly creative and the analytical processes- and I think I’ve finally figured out how to give myself permission to write a really bad (but creative) first draft and then go back and revise the manuscript into shape.

I also love to go to art shows and learn not only about the physical process of creating a piece but also about the artist’s mental process behind each decision- medium, subject matter, etc. –  in the piece and what he or she hopes to communicate to the viewer.

Do you have a favorite hobby? Details please! Writing, although it is much more than a hobby   I have completed my first novel, an outdoor adventure meets art mystery story set in a Mississippi ghost town, and am at work on my second involving a fishing prodigy, her Johnny-Cash obsessed older sister, a catfish wrestler, a funeral director and a floating gospel choir. I am represented by the wonderful Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.  The story on which I am working now is set along the banks of the Tombigbee River, near where I grew up. As part of the research, my father and I traveled 226miles down that river. I took loads of notes and pictures and went through two bottles of bug spray.  We encountered blinding rain and lots of alligators and our boat almost got sucked over a dam.  I’ll go through just about anything for a great story and to make sure I get my facts right!

Thanks so much Jo for joining us today.  If you want to hear more from Jo, you can! She is also a regular columnist on writing topics for the Pen & Palette, published by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Carolinas chapter. You can see some of her columns HERE.  An active member of SCBWI, Jo retired from being SCBWI Caroloinas ARA last year to be able to spend more time on her writing. 



The Quoteable Nerdy Chick: Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursla K. Le Guin is an award winning writer of science fiction. A master of creating worlds with words, her awards include the Newberry Honor, The National Book Award, and the World Fantasy Award and many others. Because her website is so fantastic, I feel inadequate telling you more. Find out more about this brilliant woman HERE.

I simply could not decide on only 5 quotes from Ursula K. LeGuin, so now I am abandoning the idea of limiting featured quotes to five altogether. I will try to pick fewer than 10 quotes each week… we’ll see how long I can stick to that!


 Ursula K. Le Guin Quotes

  • The creative adult is the child who has survived.
  • It had never occurred to me before that music and thinking are so much alike. In fact you could say music is another way of thinking, or maybe thinking is another kind of music.
  • It is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception and compassion and hope.
  • Love does not just sit there, like a stone; it had to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.
  • My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.
  • The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself.
  • It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.


This time, I can’t pick a favorite quote. I love them all.

C. Hope Clark: Writing to Success

I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Hope Clark speak twice in the past two years and each time I’ve walked away impressed and awed by what this super-smart woman has accomplished. The last time I heard her, only a few weeks ago, I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave the building without asking her to share some of her insights here at Nerdy Chicks Rule. A former Administrative Director of a small federal agency, Hope founded Funds for Writers in 2000, and this information-filled website has been awarded Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers every year since! She can now add author to her list of accomplishments. Hope’s first novel, Lowcountry Bribe debuted in February with Bell Bridge Books. I love that this suspense-filled mystery features a smart and savvy female main character! Congratulations Hope on your successes!

Instead of my usual format, I asked Hope to talk to us today about what it takes for a woman to succeed in the career of her choice. 

The Definition of “Successful” Writer

By C. Hope Clark

When people ask how I became a successful writer, I’m always stymied how to respond. I don’t recall becoming successful, and, frankly, I don’t recall when I wasn’t successful as a writer. Fact is, when I decided to write seriously, and pointed the bow of my boat in that direction, I decided that was success . . . the fact I was lucky enough to select a profession that made me happy from the core out.

Having worked for the Federal government for eons, under an immense burden of regulations and rules, I decided to define writing success on my terms. Writing was entrepreneurial, in my eyes. Guess that means I started out as a business person. As a very common sense, left brain individual, degreed in the sciences, I needed steps, order and justification for all I did. In the beginning, that clashed with creativity.

My first mystery draft took two years to write, and it stank. I kept trying to structure it instead of writing with abandon. When agents and publishers refused it right and left, I threw it aside in a box and decided to earn an income writing whatever anybody would let me write, and that was the best decision I could have made – to write anything and everything, and delay the fiction.

Commercial writing, online and in print, was not so different than reports, justifications, releases and congressionals I wrote at the day job. I made a point of writing better than my peers, capturing attention of readers and the powers-that-be. That urge to excel landed me promotions at work, and spilled into my magazine features, book reviews, and online columns at home.

When only one in five households had a computer, I realized that a writer needed an online home base in the form of a website. I deduced my email address needed to announce me, not sound silly, and my professionalism needed to speak on my behalf since I could not meet eye-to-eye with the movers and shakers. I wanted editors and publishers, and one day an agent, to see my name and recognize quality and reliability. I decided I was in this for the name first, the money second.

That was an amazing release, for some reason.

Still, the mystery paralleled my knowledge and love for the country, and I continued to work on it at night. It was my dessert each night. There’s magic and beauty in rural areas that goes unappreciated in mysteries. Noir, cozies and crime fiction prefer the complexity of urbanity. However, as an administrative investigator in agriculture, and having married a federal agent who once specialized in agricultural crime, I sensed a niche in the making. If it didn’t sell, I’d just continue to have fun with it.

FundsforWriters, however, exploded with interest, so my worries about the novel became the last thing on my mind. What started as a platform to hopefully one day use for my novel, morphed into my full-time job. . . and I enjoyed it immensely. One newsletter turned into four. Each time I yearned for the novel, Writer’s Digest selected for its 101 Best Websites for Writers again. 2011 was its eleventh year on the famous list. Head down, climbing a ladder, I enjoyed the growth of FundsforWriters. Maybe this was the writing I was meant to do.

Then a funny thing happened one night when I picked up the novel. I realized that my writing had improved a hundred fold from that old tale, and instead of editing the old novel, I tossed it and started over. Years of writing weekly editorials and innumerable freelance pieces had honed my skills. I dared to join a serious critique group.

It took five years of queries and contract pitches to land the agent, sign with the publisher, and see Lowcountry Bribe come to be. That sounds like a long time in this self-pubbing, quick release environment, but I wanted to be traditionally published . . . a bucket list item. No compromise.

Some have asked how I recognized an unfilled niche for rural mystery. Others have slapped me on the back for standing firm that my protagonist Carolina Slade have children who actually get in the way of her sleuthing, without turning the story into a cozy. And others ask how I recognized the need for FundsforWriters.

Like a classic over-analyzed by a college professor, my efforts were not as calculated as they’d started out to be. Once I did what I felt passionate about, keeping ever focused on making it better, my work improved. Just one foot in front of the other, having fun getting better at what I loved. That simple. No secrets, no magic, no genius revelations.

Grooming ourselves to our truest, most polished form is the best gift we can give not only to ourselves but to the world as well. Success as a writer is what you decide to make of it. When you go to bed mentally tired from rewriting Chapter 12 or wake up with a fantastic hook in mind for a magazine piece, or when you land a freelance gig or hear positive reviews, you know what success feels like. It isn’t a monetary measurement or the number of books sold. It’s living up to a standard you’ve defined as a grand way to live your life.

Thanks so much Hope, for your insights! For more information about Hope, read her bio below and check out her websites.


C. Hope Clark is founder of The FFW newsletters reach 45,000 readers each week, supplying writer calls for submissions from contests, markets, grants, employers and publishers. Hope is also author of LOWCOUNTRY BRIBE, A Carolina Slade Mystery, publisher Bell Bridge Books, February 2012.  She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina. /

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Jane Addams

Jane Addams (1860 -1935) was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Addams co-founded Hull House, a settlement house in Chicago where middle-class women volunteered to uplift the communities in which they lived. She was a leader in women’s suffrage and worked for world peace. Nerdy chick Janelle Bitikofer, who is also a humanitarian, turned my attention to Addams in her interview here. Finding out about amazing people like Addams has been my favorite thing about starting this blog. Here are some of the wonderful things Addams had to say. I couldn’t narrow it down to five this time!

Jane Addams Quotes

• Civilization is a method of living and an attitude of equal respect for all people.

• Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.

• Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics.

• Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we often might win, by fearing to attempt.

• America’s future will be determined by the home and the school. The child becomes largely what he is taught; hence we must watch what we teach, and how we live.

• The essence of immorality is the tendency to make an exception of myself.


I added the one below, because it is so interesting. Have we had the chance yet, do you think?

• I do not believe that women are better than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislature, nor done many unholy things that men have done; but then we must remember that we have not had the chance.

For more information about Jane Addams, click HERE.

To see a compiled list of quotes from featured Nerdy Chicks, click HERE





Janelle Bitikofer: Humanitarian Writer

I consider Janelle one of my conference buddies. We met a few years ago at an SCBWI Carolinas conference and now we make sure to seek each other out and catch up every year. Janelle is easy to like. She has a wide range of interests, is always cheerful, and I’m convinced she doesn’t have a selfish bone in her body. She missed this year’s conference because her humanitarian work has taken her to the Dominican Republic. I was thrilled when she agreed to do an interview for Nerdy Chicks Rule, and even more thrilled after I read her amazing answers. They made me wish I saw my conference buddy a lot more often. I think all who read this interview will wish you knew this inspirational writer and humanitarian too. Thanks so much for joining us today, Janelle! 

What social norms are you fond of flouting? 

I like the idea that, `different isn’t bad – it’s just different,’ especially when talking about people. People are like snowflakes. No two of us are exactly alike.  I love learning about people who have different cultures, different languages, and different life situations than me.

It’s always easier to hang out with people who are like me all the time, but I don’t think that that would help me understand the world better.  So I make friends in many places.

As a child I lived on a Native American reservation.  As an adult I’ve been privileged to become friends with migrant workers, homeless folks, foreign exchange students, doctors, artists, and lots of other amazing snowflakes. I’ve spent time in Russia, Ireland, and other countries, as well as on the park benches in the U.S. where our homeless citizens still feel forgotten.  Right now I live in the Dominican Republic providing humanitarian medical care in low-income communities. But all around the world everyone I meet has a story.  I like to hear those stories and experience their lives, and join in, to become a part of their world. 

That was beautifully said. Imagine a world where everyone felt that way. It would be a lot closer to paradise, I think.  Can you tell us about a time when nerdiness turned out to be an advantage for you?

Though I’m a pretty right-brained person I’ve always had an interest in science and technology.  That can partly be blamed on my love of Star Wars, I suppose.

About 7 years ago I was researching spaceports and robotics for a fictional story I was writing.  NASA’s Mars Rover Mission had just landed two Robot Rovers named Spirit and Opportunity on Mars.  I called NASA to see if I could interview one of the mission leaders on the Robotics Team and was thrilled to get the chance to meet NASA’s Lead-Roboticist on the rover mission, Ginny Gulick. She shared her amazing life and work at NASA with me, and I was thrilled to see a woman leading such an important, high-tech team.  I wrote a magazine article about Ginny and the Mars Rover Mission, and that started my freelance magazine writing career.  That interview opened the doors for me to interview other amazing people working in Space Science and to learn more about space travel, robotics, the Ansari X-Prize, global spaceports, rocket racing, and many other spacey things.  My space-science writing has even gotten me a behind-the-scenes visit to U.S. Space Camp. Holy space-tomatoes! Thanks Ginny.

Ginny sounds like an awesome nerdy chick herself. It’s great that you got to interview someone with so many cool achievements. Do you have any favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick?

It’s not really an achievement, but I love those moments when I’m in a crowd of really smart people who know me as a social worker, a writer, a humanitarian, or an English teacher… and who like to put people in boxes.  And then someone starts talking about space science, or technologies that I’ve written about, and… Ha!  “Yes I do know the recommended trajectory for a spacecraft taking off from Las Cruces, New Mexico, thank you very much!” I love watching them choke on their wine in surprise.  But, hey, writers know lots of crazy stuff. That’s why we’re great at Trivial Pursuit!

I’m starting to see a Trivial Pursuit trend among writerly types on my blog and it’s making me nervous… because I’m not so great at that game! Now for my favorite question: If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Never be afraid to try new things.  You will sometimes fail. You may look stupid. But the easiest way to fail is to never try.

Great advice! Tell us about a well-known fictitious chick you admire and why you admire her.

Since I often write for, and about, teens/young adults, I’m choosing Elizabeth Bennet, from the book Pride and Prejudice, written by the brilliant Jane Austen.  Elizabeth wasn’t afraid to by-pass the social norms that were expected for women of her day, and women in her financial and social situation.  She wasn’t afraid to be different.  She remained true to herself, loving books, and words, and the beauty of life. She stood up for what was right and for people she loved, at great personal risk. To me, that’s heroic.

Can you share a favorite song, quote, or movie that speaks to your inner nerdiness?

Sure. Reflecting on my humanitarian work here in the Dominican Republic, my work with the poor in the U.S., and my respect for all snowflakes, I’d love to share this quote by American Humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Jane Addams. She said:

“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.”

Do you credit your brain power for helping you with your overseas work? What about being a nerdy chick helps you live abroad?

It’s definitely important to use your brain power when working and living abroad!  In the Dominican Republic I live in an area of stark poverty. But it’s also an area where people from all over the world have come to live.  I’ve been in places here where people speak to me in Spanish, English, Russian, and Haitian Kreyol all in the same day, and sometimes all in the same conversation. This can happen in the U.S. too.  I love the magic of that kind of multi-lingual experience, and I’m definitely glad that I studied Russian and Spanish in high school and college.  Still, it’s a challenge.  Being able to understand each other makes the world go ‘round, and it definitely requires brain power.

Do you have a favorite hobby? Details please!

My favorite hobby outside of traveling and writing, is photography.  I love watching the world and the people in it do what they do through the impartial lens of the camera.  I love capturing those unexpectedly beautiful moments of life and nature and man-made skylines that are worth keeping.  Photos, like books, tell great stories.

Janelle does take beautiful photos. Look at this shot she got of a whale recently! Awesome! To find out more about Janelle visit her blog at Thanks so much Janelle for joining us today!