The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Diana Nyad

DianaLong-distance swimmer, Diana Nyad, caught the public’s eye in 1975 when she broke a speed record by swimming the 28 miles around Manhattan in under 8 hours. In 1978, her dream was to swim from Cuba to Florida, but she failed on her first attempt. She continued to break world records and retired from swimming at age 30. Diana became a television and radio broadcaster, author, and motivational speaker.

After her mother’s death, Diana reached age 60 feeling “closer to the end than to the beginning.” So she recommitted to pursuing her dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida and resumed long-distance training. In September 2013, on her fifth attempt, Diana reached her goal by swimming the 104 miles in 53 hours at age 64 (without a shark cage)! See the The Other Shore film trailer here

Diana Nyad Quotes:

• You never are too old to chase your dreams.
• You can’t start to get into negative spaces…telling yourself it hurts too much, maybe another day… because even people with an iron will [can] talk themselves out of stuff and quit when things get tough.
• All of us suffer heartaches and difficulties in our lives. If you say to yourself, ‘find a way,’ you’ll make it through.
• Life is not over at this age [64] by any means.
• I believe endurance grows and we can never discount the mental…the powers of concentration and perspective of what it all means. What you are capable of is infinitely higher at this age [64] than when you are a young twenty-something.
• So many people discuss the journey and the destination. The destination was always my vision. The journey that took me several years was thrilling. The discovery, the people, and the looking inside at what you’re made of made reaching the destination euphoric.
• Whenever you’re pushing through the tough moments, find a way. If something is important to you and it looks impossible and you’re up against it, step back for a minute and ask yourself if you have the resolve to think of every -nth degree to get through this. And most times, we do.
• I wanted to teach myself some life lessons at the age of 60 and one of them was that you don’t give up.
• I am willing to put myself through anything; temporary pain or discomfort means nothing to me as long as I can see that the experience will take me to a new level. I am interested in the unknown, and the only path to the unknown is through breaking barriers, an often painful process.

Diana Nyad’s website has links to her blog and to videos, including TED talks, so that you may enjoy the fuller experience of this Quotable Nerdy Chick. She is also a contributing writer to the Huffington Post.

Holiday Book Crafts

P1080073As we close out the holiday season, the Nerdy Chicks wanted to share some nerdy, fun, creative things to make your days more merry and bright. All you need are some books and some imagination (and scissors, hot glue, etc. — but that doesn’t sound as musical, does it?).

Paper flowers:

P1080075 P1080084These are not just holiday crafts — these gorgeous paper flowers are good all year long. There are many different types of flowers that you can make, from roses to orchids to calla lilies and more! The petals are cut out of old book pages and hot-glued (make sure you use a low-temp glue gun) onto a toothpick or piece of wire. Sudipta uses these as bows on wrapped presents or glued onto alligator hair clips to make great tree ornaments. For some examples of different paper flowers you can make, visit the Elli Blog.

Book Christmas Trees:

IMG_20131218_163103_748These are easy to make, and we love the way they look. Basically, you just cut circles from the pages of old books, then thread them onto a dowel or skewer. Kami used vintage wooden spools for the trunks. You can get full instructions on how to make these, and other types of book-trees here.

Book Wreath (shown above):

P1080074This was Sudipta’s favorite 2013 book craft. Pages ripped from a book, rolled into cones, and glued onto a cardboard circle, and VOILA! Instant masterpiece! (And by instant, I mean three hours later. But, hey — totally worth it!) For instructions on how to make a similar book wreath on your own, visit this site.

Quotable Nerdy Chick: Caroline Kennedy

Caroline with her father in August, 1963

Caroline with her father in August, 1963

In November, our nation commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. His daughter Caroline wasn’t quite six years old when her father died. Over the years, she faced other tragedies—the murder of her uncle, the loss of her mother to cancer, and the airplane accident that took her brother’s life. Through it all, she remained strong, quietly out of the public eye. Caroline Kennedy became a wife, a mother, a lawyer, an author, and was recently appointed Ambassador to Japan.

To honor the memory her mother, Caroline helped publish The Best Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 2001. She has since edited other poetry anthologies, including the recent children’s book, Poems to Learn by Heart.

Caroline Kennedy Quotes:

Caroline was recently appointed Ambassador to Japan

Caroline was recently appointed Ambassador to Japan

• Education was the most important value in our home when I was growing up. People don’t always realize that my parents shared a sense of intellectual curiosity and a love of reading and of history.

• I think my mother… made it clear that you have to live life by your own terms and you have to not worry about what other people think and you have to have the courage to do the unexpected.

• As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency.

• The arts are really one of the things that make this country strong. We always think it’s our economy or our military power, but in fact, I think it’s our culture, our civilization, our ideas, our creativity.

• It’s true, Christmas can feel like a lot of work, particularly for mothers. But when you look back on all the Christmases in your life, you’ll find you’ve created family traditions and lasting memories. Those memories, good and bad, are really what help to keep a family together over the long haul.

• The biggest problem is people are afraid of poetry, think they can’t understand it or that it will be boring.

• When you’re going through something, whether it’s a wonderful thing like having a child or a sad thing like losing somebody, you often feel like ‘Oh my God, I’m so overwhelmed; I’m dealing with this huge thing on my own.’ In fact, poetry’s a nice reminder that, no, everybody goes through it. These are universal experiences.

• In a funny way, poems are suited to modern life. They’re short, they’re intense. Nobody has time to read a 700-page book. People read magazines, and a poem takes less time than an article.

• The biggest problem is people are afraid of poetry, think they can’t understand it or that it will be boring.

Caroline may have been speaking to me in that last quote. I definitely need to check out her latest poetry book and face my fears.

If you’d like to learn more about Caroline Kennedy’s life, please go to this bio.

kennedy_poems_WEBTo read more about Poems to Learn by Heart, go to this interview with Caroline.

Investing in your Nerdy Chicks

As 2013 draws to a close, people are starting to reflect on what has happened and identify things to focus on in the future, especially in the new year to come. I’ve noticed that a lot of people are talking about investing in women.

Of course, this isn’t a new idea. Just a year ago, billionaire businessman Warren Buffet said that he believed that harnessing the full power and potential of women would be what saves the U.S. economy.

On an international level, Pakistani student Malala Yousafzai brought the need to offer women equal educational opportunities to light, both in her advocacy for women’s education and her valor and courage when she was almost assassinated for those views. A report from the George W. Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative called INVEST IN AFGHAN WOMEN: A Report on Education in Afghanistan uses Malala’s example to make the case for why we should invest in girls’ education.

Just last week, Catherine M. Russell, the United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, gave a speech about increasing the opportunities for women to participate in politics and government. She said, “We know that that investing in women and girls – helping them unleash their potential – is the right thing to do morally – and the wise thing to do strategically.”

Here at Nerdy Chicks Rule, we are strong believers of investing in women – especially in girls. If you have a Nerdy Chick in your life (as I do), you already know that the more you invest in her now, the easier it will be for her to reach her full potential. So we’ve come up with some tips to help you invest in the Nerdy Chick in your life:

  • Encourage

1074test_tubesIt seems pretty obvious – the more you encourage someone, ANYONE, the better he or she will do. Somehow, though, there are people that believe that encouragement alone is not enough. A few years ago, on January 14, 2005, then president of Harvard, Lawrence Summers, made it clear that he believed that there was an innate difference in the ability of men versus women in mathematical ability. And yet, studies have shown that there aren’t innate differences in ability between boys and girls, just in the ways they are encouraged to pursue certain fields or careers. (We’ve even blogged about this here earlier this year.) So, if you believe in your Nerdy Chick, encourage her to try things, pursue her interests, follow her heart. If other people try to dissuade her, encourage even harder.

  • Inspire

Another one that seems pretty obvious, but bears some discussion.

wedu logoIn 2012, two graduates of the London School of Economics, Mari Sawai and Mario Ferro, founded an organization called Wedu. Their goal is to create access to higher education for women in Southeast Asia through microfinancing, mentorship and counseling. What I found really great about their approach is the mentoring. These women understand that it is not enough to have ability – Nerdy Chicks need role models, something to aspire to. For your Nerdy Chick, be a role model. And if you aren’t the right role model, find her one. Connect her to other people who can support her. Give her a network and a community of people who believe in her. Over time, that will only make her exponentially stronger.

  • Invest (money)

The last thing I want to quickly touch on is the importance of money. As a country, we’ve been talking a lot about saving for the future and ways we can figure out how to pay for things like mortgages, health care as we age, college costs, and a lot of other things. And while we all know that saving is essential, I wanted to give a concrete example of what a difference it can make.

growing savingsMy oldest daughter is 12. In six years, she’ll be going to college. If I gave her just $20 a month, every month for the next 6 years, when it is time for her to pay for college, she’d have almost $1700 set aside (and that’s assuming a relatively conservative 5% annual interest rate). If I gave her $50 a month (around $10 a week), she’d have about $4100 for college. These things can mean the difference between being able to afford a higher education or not. It’s one of the best ways to invest in your Nerdy Chick. (Click here for a great simple calculator to estimate savings.)

Encourage, inspire, invest. Three simple steps that can make a big difference.

How the Vegetable Co-op Changed My Life

Bins awaiting pick-up by co-op members.

Bins awaiting pick-up by co-op members.

I’m not what you’d call a Tree-hugger, a Granola, or even a Free Spirit. Those titles require a lot more time and energy to earn than I have to give. Sadly. (Because I particularly admire tree-huggers.) Anyway,  in the spirit of adventure, this wanna-be tree-hugger tried something new and joined a vegetable co-op. My goal was to force myself to eat healthier, and I guessed that if the vegetables were already selected and provided for me weekly, instead of sitting in stores waiting for me to go pick them out, I would.

Did I meet this goal? Yes! Did our compost pile grow substantially due to an abundance of uneaten vegetables? Yes!

Okay, so my experiment could have been more successful had we eaten more and composted less. BUT here are some things I discovered about myself during the process.

  1. I definitely eat healthier when my refrigerator is stocked with vegetables.
  2. I lost weight without dieting because an abundance of vegetables was on hand.
  3. I was forced to try foods I hadn’t tried before.
  4. I became an adventurous cook, googling recipes, and altering those I found to keep them low fat.

Every Friday, I went to the Omni Gym to pick up my box of locally grown vegetables delivered by Pinckney’s Produce. The combination of vegetables in my box IMG_20131213_124052_681was never the same, but it usually contained some vegetables you could eat without cooking, like lettuce, and some I already knew how to cook, like broccoli, and a few others I had never tried. It was fun to experiment with these and try some new dishes. I even attempted new recipes for familiar vegetables.

Curious about some of the recipes I tried?

Stir-fried bok-choy. Kolrabi chips. Fried cabbage. Tomato pie.  Stir-fried eggplant. Collard greens. (Don’t let the word fried, fool you here. None of these were fried in the usual sense.)

My favorite source of vegetable recipes became Martha Stewart’s website. There, you click on the vegetable and scroll through all available recipes for it. Most are straight forward (and low fat), so I loved this.

My doctor tells me that all women need to eat a lot of vegetables in the cabbage family, like broccoli, ….. but I wasn’t sure what to do when I ended up with three heads of cabbage in my vegetable drawer. The only way I knew how to cook it was boiled, and I didn’t particularly like it that way. I was surprised to find a recipe for “fried” cabbage. Apparently, it is a common southern dish that this southerner had never heard of. I made a low fat version of it, and my husband and daughter were asking for more.

Here is how I made it:

Chop one onion and sauté in two tablespoons olive oil. Chop cabbage in to small pieces, add to onion. Add a touch more olive oil, if needed. continue to sauté. Sprinkle with one teaspoon sugar. Yes, sugar. Sprinkle mixture with garlic salt, salt, and pepper. Stir until cabbage is fairly soft.

1.Chop 1 onion. Sauté in 2 tablespoons olive oil.
2. Chop 1 head of cabbage into small pieces, add to onion. Add a touch more olive oil, if needed. Continue to sauté.
3. Sprinkle with one teaspoon sugar. Yes, sugar.
4. Sprinkle with garlic salt, salt, and pepper.
5.Stir until cabbage is fairly soft.

You’ll be surprised by how good this is!

The lifestyle changes I made as a result of  joining the vegetable co-op are subtle, but I am happy to discover an easy way to eat healthier and try new recipes. This past Friday marked the end of the fall co-op season. We’ll be signing up for the co-op again this spring with the goal of cooking more and composting less! The new year is right around the corner… does anyone’s resolution involve trying something new?












Top Ten Nerdy Gifts 2013

It’s the holiday season, time for gift-giving and gift-receiving. You might be wondering,

“What does the nerd in my life want more than anything else?”

Tough question. You can’t just get ANYTHING. You have to take this question as seriously as, well, as your nerdy loved one would.

Here are some suggestions to help you find the optimal solution…

1. Silently Correcting your Grammar T-Shirt


This one basically screams NERDY! In a good way! (Just so you know, CafePress has an entire assortment of Silently Correcting Your Grammar merchandise!)

2. Hardcover Silhouette Earrings

book earrings

Beautiful. Nerdy. Perfect.

3. My Life in Graphs

life in graphs

This one allows the nerd in your life to collect data and carefully quantify her entire life. Who doesn’t want to do that?

4. Talk Nerdy To Me Tote

nerdy tote

This one needs no explanation.

5. Goggles Umbrella


Smart and functional. Love.

6. Style is Elemental Shower Curtain

shower curtain

Why waste a minute when you can be learning about the universe?

7. The Hungry Scientist Handbook by Patrick Buckley

hungry scientist

The cover says “Edible Origami” and “Light Up Lollipops.” Need I say more?

8. Engineer’s Motto Shirts

engineer t shirt

If this feels completely true to you, you are definitely a nerd. If this sounds completely familiar to you, you definitely love a nerd.

9. Organic Microscope Swaddling Blanket

microscope blanket

For the newest nerd in your life, get her off to a great start by emphasizing the right things.

10. Ice Speed Chess Set

chess ice

Is there anything nerdier than chess? A great game for all ages to hone critical thinking skills, competitiveness, and strategy. And the ice angle guarantees speedy play!

Happy shopping, everybody!

PiBoIdMo Wrap Up: Let it Be

Duck Duck Moose by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

My upcoming picture book!

Now that Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month is over, I thought it would be nice to reflect a little bit on what we’ve accomplished in the past few weeks. If you participated in PiBoIdMo, first off, CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve made great progress on your writing journey. Publishing is an art where creativity and magic come together to make great books. But publishing is also a numbers game – the more manuscripts you create, the more likely it is that some of them will get published. And how do you create manuscripts? Well, it starts with ideas. And now you have lots of ideas – at least 30 if you got through the month! (More if you followed my PiBoIdMo advice.) So you’re all set!


I’ve got some bad news. Well, potentially bad news. More like bad reality, actually. Except that reality is never bad.

Here’s the reality of the situation: not all of the ideas you have so carefully thought up during PiBoIdMo are picture book ideas.

I know you want them to be. I know that’s what you intended and planned for. I know you have great dreams for these ideas, dreams that are so good that you want to will them into existence.

But for some of your ideas, those dreams will never come true.

I’m not saying these things to upset you, or to de-motivate you. You shouldn’t lose your momentum. I just want you to focus your energy on the best paths to maximize your ability to succeed and get published.

Here’s the thing: your story ideas are like your children. You give birth to them, you nurture them, you guide them toward the goals you have carefully set for them. You know what’s best and you will make that happen.

For those of you who have children, you’re probably already guessing where this is going to go.

With our children, no matter what we have dreamed for them when they were helpless babes in our arms, those kids who once needed us for their very survival somehow end up being the people they choose to be. Not necessarily the people we intended them to be.

This is the kid who was supposed to grow up to be a doctor…

My parents wanted me to be a doctor. They even bought me a $100K science education from Caltech. And in the end, I write books about talking pigs.

With our characters, our story ideas, they will also be who they are, regardless of what we want them to be.

Early on, I said that not all of the ideas you have so carefully thought up during PiBoIdMo are picture book ideas. That is reality. Some of those ideas will turn out to be chapter books, or middle grades, no matter how hard we push them to be something else. (Just like some of our children will become kidlit authors, no matter how hard we push them to be doctors.) That’s ok.

Some of those ideas will turn out to flounder and struggle, will find it difficult to ever realize their full potential. That’s ok, too.

Because the reality is that some of the ideas you have are picture book ideas. They need you to cultivate and develop them, but with your help, they will grow to be wonderful picture books.

The key here is to let your characters be who they are. Let your stories be what they are. If they grow into something different than you thought, follow them on their path instead of forcing them onto your own. The end result will be truer, will have more heart, and will be better written.

Good luck to everyone and see you next PiBoIdMo!

(In case you missed it, here is some more PiBoIdMo advice from Kami and from me from earlier this month.)

Facing the Blank Canvas of NaNoWriMo

nano_hoodieNovember ended and I hung up my NaNoWriMo hoodie. For the first time, I had participated in National Novel Writing Month—the month when writers around the world challenge themselves to write a 50,000-word novel.

Outline in hand, I burst out of the gate on November 1st and, at the end of three days, I had cranked out 9,120 words. Since I work full time and my only writing time would be weekends, I did the math and found there was no way I could hit 50,000 words. But I committed myself to completing a first draft of a middle grade novel, no matter what the word count.

To write that novel in a month, I couldn’t sit and agonize over finding perfect words while the clock was ticking. I just raced ahead and wrote, banning my Inner Editor (as the NaNo staff suggested). Instead of slowing down to make time-consuming decisions, I wrote notes to myself such as [DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?] or [MORE FARM STUFF GOES ON] or [SHOULD HENRY AND MARIGOLD NOT EVEN BE IN THIS NOVEL?] and kept moving.

During the NaNo month, I realized I was writing the way I paint. When I paint, I don’t start in the upper left hand corner and fill that corner of the canvas with every minute detail, and then move to the next part of the canvas, finishing every section until I finally reach the bottom right hand corner. Instead, I work all over the canvas. Using broad strokes, I block in areas, and then build up layers, pulling some elements forward and pushing some back. Finally, I fine tune the details that bring everything into focus. (See the two stages of my painting of our dog that I gave to my daughter)


The lovely Princess Zisk, in broad strokes and then with final detail.
You may see more of my work here.

With writing, I do the same thing. I write in broad strokes to the end, then jump around in time and rearrange things, enhancing or playing down elements, leaving holes and filling in gaps, adding details and texture. Working around my canvas of words, I revise and revise until it is done.

When NaNoWriMo was over, I ended up losing the official challenge, as predicted. But I won my personal challenge and wrote a 28,412-word first draft.  I’ve got the broad strokes. Now it’s time to move things around, add layers and details, and finish my masterpiece (or at least maybe a queryable manuscript).

NaNoWriMo was a quick and focused way for me to put aside a project that I’ve worked on for four years and to try something completely different. I know I’ll have the courage to face a blank canvas again next November. How about you?

Three Questions with Tameka Fryer Brown

1493016_10202452286851546_1492077939_nTameka Fryer Brown is the author of the recently released picture book, My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood (Viking, 2013). This beautiful, colorful book features Jamie, an artistic kid whose moods are reflected in the colors of his crayon box. She’s also an awesome mom. I know this because we have commiserated all fall over the college decisions our high school seniors have to make. Tameka has given me some great mom-to-mom advice, and if you keep reading, you’ll benefit from it too. Thanks for joining us today, Tameka!

1. I love your use of color in this book. What made you decide to make color so important to Jamie, your cold plummain character?

I have found that every character I create reflects me in some way. I love bright, vibrant hues—especially those of “rainbow” colors. I didn’t think about it while writing, but I realize that color is important to Jamie because it’s important to me.

From a craft perspective, I thought the vehicle of color would be an engaging, sensory-rich way to describe feelings.

2. What is your absolute favorite thing about creating relevant fiction?

Sharing my perspective and having it be heard—or read—by people I wouldn’t have the opportunity to communicate with otherwise. Creatively speaking, it doesn’t get much cooler than that.

3.       Having met you at conferences, I know you’re an amazing mom with amazing daughters. What tips do you have for moms working to raise children today?

Thank you so much, but I’m definitely more blessed than amazing. These are some things I’ve learned along the way, though:

  • Don’t be so hard on yourself. Moms aren’t perfect, nor are we supposed to be. We’re supposed to do the best we can every day, with a commitment to doing better as we learn better.
  • You’re not raising children…you’re raising adults. It’s important to keep that in mind when determining what acceptable behavior is and what it isn’t. If it won’t be “cute” as an adult, actively discourage it while they are children (and still impressionable).
  • Start giving your kids chores early! Not only will it make life easier for you, it will equip your children to be self-reliant and better able to balance life’s responsibilities later on. (I’m playing catch-up on this one.)
  • When you’re exhausted, skip the non-urgent stuff and rest. Dust bunnies don’t argue and dishes are very patient. (I’ve got this down to a science.)

As always, I love Tameka’s advice!  I too have failed on the chores front. Younger parents, heed this advice and save yourselves!

You can find out more about her by visiting her WEBSITE, checking out THE BROWN BOOKSHELF, visiting her FACEBOOK PAGE, or following this link: .



What Does THE END Look Like?

THE END. It’s usually a good place to be. It means you have completed a journey. The last day of November marked THE END for writers who participated in NaNoWriMo or PiBoIdMo. They’ve slogged through the hurdles of drafting a novel, or worked through creative bursts of ideas for picture books until they accumulated at least 30. But writer or not, when you’ve completed a task, it is always good to find yourself at THE END of it.

When I get to THE END of a project, I’m usually surrounded by chaos. I think I’m that classic creative type who works best in a mess. Up to a point… This November, I not only participated in PiBoIdMo, but did the final proofing of my forthcoming novel, The Boy Problem AND finished a novel I’ve been working on for years. I met all of my goals! But when I was finished, my desk looked like this:


As much as this desk helped me get to THE END of two novels, I found I couldn’t begin to start a new project on it. So I did something I don’t like doing very much. I gave up a day of writing to organize. I stacked all of the drafts of The Boy Problem together.  The result was a ten inch, twenty seven pound stack. When you look at that you can kind of see how I work through a novel. With lots of little flags noting pages that still need work. This probably only represents half of them, many were pulled out along the way.




There were a few more stacks not-quite-so-impressive stacks as well… but eventually, my desk looked like this.


Yeah, I know there are still two pretty messy piles, but you don’t expect me to create in a completely clean environment, do you? The point is, I’ve reached THE END of some important projects! And now, with space on my desk, I can start a new project… a new beginning!

I recently received the ARCs for THE BOY PROBLEM! When  an author actually holds an ARC, the book finally feels real! It marks THE END of a great journey!

I recently received the ARCs for THE BOY PROBLEM! When an author actually holds an ARC, the book finally feels real.It marks THE END of a great journey!

Onward we go! What does THE END look like to you?