What Flowers Remember

flowersToday we welcome back author Shannon Wiersbitzsky, who we previously interviewed about financial literacy as well as writing. Shannon is returning today as a guest blogger to discus writing, gardening, and how writing is like gardening! Shannon’s latest book, What Flowers Remember, launched this month. In celebration of this, there is a giveaway at the end of the post! Thank you Shannon for being our guest. Shannon’s post follows:

You know those beautiful home gardens? The ones featured on Pinterest or Facebook that are bursting with color, not a weed in sight, picture perfect wicker baskets loaded with cut flowers or fresh vegetables of the season. Yeah. That. Is. Not. My. Garden.

Despite my suburban existence, I like to think of myself as a gardener. The idea of planting seeds, nurturing them, and then reaping the harvest pomegranate floweris immensely appealing to me.  Its all the actual work that gets a bit dull. Starting out is the easy part. I’m full of ideas and inspiration. Then as the weeks and months drag on, I lose a bit of steam. Ok, I lose a lot of steam. The poor bean plants sag as they wait for me to come pick. If they could give me a holler, I ‘m sure I’d get an earful.

As writers, if we’re not careful, the same thing can happen to our manuscripts. We start out loaded for bear. Ideas to spare. Eager to outline plots and characters, and to get writing. We have energy to burn.

As the first sprigs of green come to life, in the form of pages and chapters, we pat ourselves on the back, our energy high, our spirits soaring. We’re sure this will carry on forever.

Then it rains. We struggle with the next plot twist. A heat wave makes being outside unbearable. We begin to dislike our own character and doubt this story idea had any merit in the first place. Then when we finally get to the garden, we find its almost taken over by weeds. We scrap a thousand words in an effort to find the good stuff.

spanish moss trail flowersAnd of course we must battle the temptation of the next energizing idea. When one story is a struggle, it is so easy to get wooed by one of the many thoughts that constantly whiz back and forth in our minds. Those ideas can be so shiny! They look terrific. They feel new and glossy and full of promise. And of course we are completely capable of convincing ourselves that if only we set aside our current work and switched gears, then oh the words would flow!

Of course weeds will grow in any garden. Rain will fall. Heat waves will sap our energy. And we’ll be tempted to throw in the towel. Don’t give in!

Writing takes extreme patience. It takes the diligence to write day after day, week after week, whether that writing yields a single paragraph or several chapters, we must keep going. Every word is progress. I have a mantra I like to tell myself when writing doesn’t flow. It’s this. Word by word, page by page, a story grows. Jot  that on a sticky note and put it where you write.

Like my garden, a work in progress doesn’t always look picture perfect. Know that you will get muddy. There will be annoying bugs. And know that this is perfectly normal! morning glory

Writing involves tremendous work. Sometimes it means sacrificing bits we adore so that the rest can grow. But it will grow. Maybe not as fast as we’d like. But the shoots will rise. The leaves will unfold. And before you know it, you’ll be reaping the rewards.

Thank you Shannon for that great analogy. I agree 100 percent. Writing is work…. but the rewards are beautiful! Readers, take a moment to find out about What Flowers Remember, then enter the super-easy to enter giveaway!

Most folks probably think gardens only get tended when they’re blooming. But most folks would be wrong. According to the almanac, a proper gardener does something every single month. Old Red Clancy was definitely a proper gardener. That’s why I enrolled myself in the Clancy School of Gardening. If I was going to learn about flowers, I wanted to learn from the best. 

Delia and Old Red Clancy make quite a pair. He has the know-how and she has the get-up-and-go. When they dream up a seed- and flower-selling business, well, look out, Tucker’s Ferry, because here they come. But something is happening to Old Red. And the doctors say he
can’t be cured. He’s forgetting places and names and getting cranky for
no reason. As his condition worsens, Delia takes it upon herself to save
as many memories as she can. Her mission is to gather Old Red’s stories so that no one will forget, and she corrals everybody in town to help her. What Flowers Remember is a story of love and loss, of a young girl coming to understand that even when people die, they live on in our minds, our hearts, and our stories.

“[Delia’s] frustration, fear and sense of loss will be readily recognizable to others who have experienced dementia in a loved one, and her story may provide some guidance on how to move down that rocky path toward acceptance and letting go. …What do flowers remember? The stories of the people who cared for them, of course, as Wiersbitzky’s sensitive novel compassionately conveys.” — Kirkus Reviews

*Note: A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Shannon_Wiersbitzky_Author_Photo_2012 Shannon Wiersbitzky is a middle-grade author, a hopeless optimist, and a lover of nature. Her first novel, The Summer of Hammers and Angels, was nominated for the William Allen White award. Born in North Dakota, Shannon has called West Virginia, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Michigan “home” at some point in her life. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two sons, one rather dull fish and her never dull mutt Benson.

Find out more about her here:

Website: www.shannonwiersbitzky.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ShannonWiersbitzky

Twitter: @SWiersbitzky

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/ShannonWiersbitzky

Super-Easy to enter Giveaway:flowers

Enter to win a copy of What Flowers Remember. All we need is your name and an email address, so we can notify the winner. The contest runs until Midnight May 20, 2014. For Double Entries, leave a comment about writing, gardening, or this post!






Five Authors Give Back-to-School Advice

As of today, almost every kid in the nation has gone back to school. In honor of this annual event, we thought it’d be fun to highlight some advice from some of the amazing authors we’ve interviewed in the past. We usually ask this question:

If you could give your high school or middle school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Here are their answers:

amy reevesAmy Carol Reeves:

Don’t worry about so much!  I was very Type A and so much of what I worried about didn’t really matter in the long run.  (Oh, and to my middle school self—puffed bangs were REALLY not cool! What were you thinking?)

katie davis

Katie Davis:

Do not, I repeat, do not get that short haircut and subsequent perm in ninth grade, in the year 197(mumbles something incoherent).



Shannon W

Shannon Wiersbitzky:

Ditch the long hair sooner! (grin)

Actually, I’d sit my younger self down and say, “Never doubt your abilities. EVER.” I’ve spoken to lots of women, of all ages, and it seems we all have this annoying voice in our heads that says, “Maybe you’re not ______ enough.” Just fill in the blank….smart, thin, talented, driven, creative, loud, beautiful. We’ve all heard it, no matter where we are in our life or our career. When we don’t quiet that voice, it can cause us to miss the most wonderful opportunities. I try to remind myself that all the time, and then I remind other women as well. A little bit of encouragement can go a long way.


Barbara Johansen Newman:

I could pretend my seventh grade self would listen if I told her not to worry about what her peers were thinking, but I am sure she would roll her eyes and let me go in one ear and out the other. I certainly could not tell her that none of the people around her would matter much in ten years because I ended up marrying one of those seventh graders in my own section and here we still are almost fifty years later  

Kathryn ErskineKathy Erskine:

Who cares what the other kids say — be yourself and be proud of it.  Hey, that sounds like the advice Kara would give in THE BOY PROJECT!  She is one smart, nerdy chick! (Thanks Kathy!)

I can’t help but notice that this advice falls mostly into two camps. Camp One: Don’t worry. Camp Two: You will live to regret (and even laugh about) that bad hair style. So pass the wisdom of these ladies on to a student you love, and assure them that they are not alone. We’ll highlight more back-to-school advice soon. In the meantime, just click on the author’s name to see their original interviews and to learn about their books. Have a great weekend!

Shannon Wiersbitzky: Author and Champion of Financial Literacy

According to family legend, Shannon was born with a day planner in one hand. These days that planner is always full. In the early morning, when the rest of the world is still sleeping, Shannon Wiersbitzky writes children’s literature. Her first novel, The Summer of Hammers and Angels, was published in July 2011 by namelos. Her second novel, What Flowers Remember, is due out in 2013.

During the week, Shannon is the Head of Institutional Marketing for Vanguard. In addition to her executive role, she also leads a program called My Classroom Economy (www.myclassroomeconomy.org) which enables teachers to create a mini-economy in their classrooms and teach children key life skills through experiential learning. Both inside and outside of work, Shannon is involved in efforts designed to increase the number of women getting their MBAs and ultimately attain corporate leadership positions.

I was so happy to meet Shannon at the SCBWI NJ conference. Once I found out she was not only a writer, but had brain for math as well, I knew we needed to interview her here. Keep reading to find out more about this wordsmith number cruncher!

If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? Ditch the long hair sooner! (grin)

Actually, I’d sit my younger self down and say, “Never doubt your abilities. EVER.” I’ve spoken to lots of women, of all ages, and it seems we all have this annoying voice in our heads that says, “Maybe you’re not ______ enough.” Just fill in the blank….smart, thin, talented, driven, creative, loud, beautiful. We’ve all heard it, no matter where we are in our life or our career. When we don’t quiet that voice, it can cause us to miss the most wonderful opportunities. I try to remind myself that all the time, and then I remind other women as well. A little bit of encouragement can go a long way.

Great advice! (Except for ditching the long hair. Ha! My mom cut off all of my hair when I was five and it hasn’t been short since!) Your creative side shows in your writing, like your debut novel, The Summer of Hammers and Angels, which was a Crystal Kite finalist. (Hooray!) But  I bet your nerdy side shows in your writing too. What kind of research do you do for your novels? I definitely Google! For Hammers, I researched home building. I had stacks of pages and images that walked through each step. I also explored lightning, to better understand what it can and can’t do when it strikes. For me, research is fun. Is this my nerdy side showing?

While everything I learn doesn’t get used directly, it all impacts my thought process and therefore, helps shape the story. Sometimes I research one particular topic and happen to stumble upon something else that is exactly right for a story. I love when that happens. Plus, I learn so many interesting things!

Besides research, what’s something you like to do that might be considered a tiny bit nerdy, but is actually really fun? So I asked my husband what I do that’s nerdy and at first he couldn’t come up with anything. I felt flattered for about two seconds. Then he warmed up and I could hardly keep him quiet. Here is the one I agreed with most. I’m a total PowerPoint nerd. Taking information and turning it into something visual that can be easily understood? Love. It. Then sometimes I come home and talk (and talk and talk apparently) about my fabulous reports. Let’s just say my family doesn’t always appreciate PowerPoint the way I do.

Growing up, I was always the girl that loved science and math. In college I majored in Economics and was thrilled to talk about supply and demand curves. I’m sure there’s more than one person out there who thinks that’s nerdy too. But I loved it.

It sounds like you had a healthy, happy, nerdy past! Do you ever give nerdy traits to any of your characters? I honestly never think of characteristics as being nerdy or not. In Hammers, the main character, Delia, is good at math and has excellent penmanship, which some might consider nerdy traits. I think we need all types of characters, in books and in life, to make everything more interesting.

One thing about you that is both nerdy and wonderful, is that you are involved in establishing programs to help students achieve financial literacy. Can you tell us more about this? Sure! I initiated and lead a wonderful program at Vanguard called My Classroom Economy. Designed for grades K-12, it’s free to teachers and students, and enables any classroom to implement a mini-economy. Students each have classroom jobs that earn them a salary. They can also earn bonuses for great schoolwork. Students pay bills, including rent for their desk, and have to track everything using a budget. Savers have the opportunity to pay off their “mortgage” and spend money at monthly classroom auctions. If they save enough, they can even buy other desks and earn rent themselves.

As students get older, their bills become more complex. In middle school the program also introduces insurance and in high school, students can even invest their classroom dollars – picking one of five basic stock and bond allocations – and then watch it grow over the course of more than 30 years.

What I like most is that the entire program is experiential. Kids learn by doing and have fun in the process. The program also provides connections to the Common Core State standards, which is critical for teachers, as well as the National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Education develop by the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy.

I love the idea of this program. As a former teacher, I can absolutely see the value in it. Why do you think teaching financial literacy is important to our country?  Most states don’t require any financial education to graduate high school. If the subject isn’t brought up at home (and studies have shown parents find it easier to talk to their kids about drugs than money), kids can leave school not having even basic habits that can help them achieve financial success. It all starts with the ability to organize and track a budget, plan for future expenses, and delay gratification.

In the long run, as young adults, these same kids can find themselves with significant credit card debt, mortgages they can’t afford, and no real savings for retirement. We have to start early, so that by the time they begin earning a paycheck, the mindset of spending less than you earn, and saving the rest, is already a habit.

Can you share a success story about your work with these programs? My Classroom Economy is currently being used by schools around the country. We’re hearing from teachers that their students are really enjoying it. We recently saw this video from North Carolina, which does a great job of capturing the energy that is created in the classroom as well as the learning for the kids.

I hope your program continues to grow! And we look forward to your new book coming out in 2013. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with Nerdy Chick Rules!

Shannon lives in Malvern, Pennsylvania with her husband, two sons, and four fish. She is hoping Santa brings her a new dog. You can find out more about Shannon by following the links below.

Giveaway Bonus! Shannon is giving away paperback copy of her first book, The Summer of Hammers and Angels. It is super-easy to enter. Just leave a comment below between now and November 30! This giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada.

Learn: www.shannonwiersbitzky.com

Connect: Shannon Wiersbitzky’s Author page

Read: Handy link to Amazon

Share: Post a review on Goodreads

My Classroom Economy: www.myclassroomeconomy.org