(Editor’s Note…If you’re like me, adjusting to a new, COVID-19 world is a bit stressful. Everywhere you look…radio, TV, newspapers, and even the internet…are stories of the latest stats from around the world. Hospitalizations. Unemployment. Social distancing. How do we keep our sanity in the middle of all the craziness? 


For the next several weeks, many of my writerly friends will be virtually dropping by to inspire, uplift, and make us laugh as we look for reminders that even the scariest of times do not last forever. I hope you enjoy this FEEL GOOD FRIDAYS series. If you want to know more about me, Donna L Martin, or my books, check out my Story Catcher Publishing website at www.storycatcherpublishing.com)




by Barbara Renner


Arizona has two seasons, Spring and Summer, and most people think it’s nothing but rock lawns and brown dirt. But when the calendar marks the beginning of Spring, the desert bursts with color of flowering wildflowers and cacti. Sometimes along with the blowing pollen comes allergies, and this year 2020, the COVID pandemic, which has forced the desert rats and rest of the world to hide inside their homes under a strict quarantine.

As a nature lover, I can get pretty restless cooped up in the house all day. Luckily, I can still go on my long walks and enjoy the kaleidoscope of colors the desert offers this time of year. Walking makes me happy, and I can step in stride to my favorite Pandora tunes through my ear buds. On my walks, the blooming wildflowers look like carpets of yellow and orange, and the bougainvillea bushes climb the block walls with candy apple red. Even the Palo Verde trees, which means green stick, grow a bushy head of yellow blossoms this time of year. Recently, I picked some wildflowers to put in a vase by my window. They only lasted a few days. Like me apparently, they also need to be outside in the fresh air.

Another benefit to living in the desert is being able to open the windows during our lovely 70-degree Spring weather. Being a bird lover, I enjoy listening to the birds as they announce dawn. Birds sing to attract potential mates and defend their territories. Some people believe that birds who sing loudly first thing in the morning are proclaiming that they are strong and healthy enough to have survived the night. It sounds like a good philosophy for us to follow, especially during this pandemic.

Sometimes I make up words to the birds’ chirpings, “pretty me, pretty me” or “tweedle dee, tweedle dee.” It’s the small things that keep me occupied. As a matter of fact, The Cornell Lab of Bird Academy is offering a course on how to identify birds only by their songs using mnemonics like “drink your tea” or “sweet, sweet, sweet, isn’t it sweet.” With all this extra time on your hands, perhaps you will want to make up phrases to the bird songs too – or maybe not.

What am I doing to keep a positive outlook during this strange time of depressing news, mask wearing, and toilet paper hoarding? I go for walks in the mornings, marvel at nature’s bounty, breathe fresh air, and soak up the Vitamin D the sun provides. I sit outside in my wicker rocking chair in the early evenings realizing that after every rain, the sun will continue to shine and the flowers will still bloom. I marvel that the birds go about their business without a care in the world, singing their songs and nesting so their species will survive. Tweedle dee.






Spring! Time to Build a Nest, A Story about Trumpeter Swans

When Pen and Cob realize it’s time to find a place to build their nest, they are shooed away by a beaver and a muskrat.






Barbara and her husband have lived in Phoenix, Arizona for over 40 years, but travel to Minnesota in the summer to escape the desert heat and fish. After retiring from teaching, Barbara pursued a career writing children’s picture books about wildlife. Even though her stories are fiction, they contain interesting facts about the main characters as well as QR Codes so readers can hear actual animal sounds and calls. Not only does Barbara love nature and wildlife, she adores all breeds of dogs. Larry is a Yellow Labrador mix who came to live with the Renner family almost 7 years ago. Barbara is currently creating a book, Larry’s Words of Wisdom, that includes his cutest photos and most profound words of wisdom. A portion of sales will go to the facility where Larry was rescued. Information about Barbara and her books about Lonnie the Loon, Quincy the Quail, and Trumpeter Swans can be found on her website: www.RennerWrites.com. She is also a member of SCBWI. Keep in touch with Barbara on her social media sites:

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY: Stranded In The Wordless Desert…




Whoever said writing children’s books is easy never actually tried to write one.

Sometimes I will sit in front of my computer, staring at the blank screen and wondering if I will ever form a coherent thought again. Experts call it writer’s block. I call it being stranded in a wordless desert where hundreds of negative thoughts swirl around me and finding my next drink is a thousand times easier than that first sentence.

This feeling of emptiness…for I have no better way to describe it…doesn’t happen often but enough for me to really appreciate those sweet words when they do return. There is such a rush of emotion when I am working on a story…watching the ebb and flow of characters interacting with each other and the world around them. Allowing my main character to almost reach their goal before I throw another monkey wrench into the mix. Then being just as surprised as my protagonist when the last page turns and there is a happy ending waiting for us both.

But if I’ve learned anything from a successful writing time it’s the fact those empty word roadblocks WILL indeed happen so I need to be ready for them. I may not be able to stop them from occurring but hopefully I can use some of the following tips to lessen the time I spend in that wordless desert…




1. WRITE SOMETHING…ANYTHING DOWN. Write Mary Had a Little Lamb or the Lord’s Prayer. WHAT you write down right now isn’t as important as the fact you are breaking through the sterile curtain holding you back from adding more words to screen or paper.

2. READ OVER THE LAST THING YOU WROTE. I’m also in the middle of writing several different stories in multiple genres. To avoid drawing a blank the next time I work on one of my stories, I always go back and read the last chapter. It helps set the tone and draws me back into the world I’m creating so I can more easily follow the story moving forward.

3. READ SOMETHING SIMILAR. If I’ve started a new picture book and run into a brick wall, I start reading similar stories to see how other authors have handled their protagonist’s problems. I don’t want to mimic their work but enjoying the works of others will help fuel my own imagination.

4. VISIT THE INTERNET. You’ve heard me right. Now I don’t mean hang out for hours playing Candy Crush or watching YouTube videos. But setting a kitchen timer for 30 minutes to connect with other writer friends and family allows you a chance to realize you’re not all alone on this journey. Others have choked on the dust of a wordless desert and sometimes it helps to know that.

5. TAKE A BREAK. Take a walk. Work in the garden. Phone a friend. Do a crossword puzzle. Take a nap. Just like Paul Simon’s song “Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover”, there are at least that many ways to shake things up and get those words flowing again.

I don’t claim to know all the answers when it comes to writing but I do know I’m a pretty good listener. I listen to those smarter than me and I follow the writerly wisdom of others who have been on this journey longer than I have. And the next time I find myself drifting into a wordless desert, I’ll be sure to take along some cooling ice tea…






HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams (Paperback)

Ten-year-old Margaret can hardly wait to see the largest ship ever built visit Southampton! Life is already hard for her family in the spring of 1912, but the coal workers' strike could turn a bad situation into a deadly one. Margaret hopes to see the great Titanic leave on its maiden voyage, but will the strike prevent it from happening?







International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.