Before I started writing stories in my youth, I wrote poetry. Some of my poems were good. Many of them were not. But they all served a purpose. It gave me a way to express my feelings when the world around me stopped feeling normal.

Since nothing these days seem very “normal” to me, I thought I would change things up a little with my TALES FROM THE BAYOU post. I’m sharing two poems with you this week. “Carry On” was written when I was twenty years old. I wrote it for a friend of mine at the time who lost his younger brother to a sudden heart attack while he was playing touch football. For my friend, his “normal” changed that day as he struggled to come to terms with his “new” normal.

The other poem, “The New Normal”, came to me last night in my dreams. When I woke up this morning, the first two lines played over and over in my mind until I had to write them down. It reflects how I’m feeling right now as I struggle to adjust to my own “new” normal.

Maybe one day this “new” normal we are all dealing with will become old again.






When the clouds turn grey

And the path seems long,

When your will to fight

Doesn’t seem that strong,

When the world turns away

And you feel like you don’t belong;

Just  keep your head up…carry on.


When the turn of the card

Doesn’t come your way,

When you want to give up

At the end of the day,

When friends start to leave

Though you wish they would stay’;

Just keep your head up…carry on.


When the night draws near

And darkness will find you,

When you feel all lost

And don’t know what to do,

When something brings pain

And you discover others hurt, too;

Just keep your head up…carry on.


When you lose someone you love

And you have to say goodbye,

When the truth begins to hurt

And you start wondering why,

When you know it’ll get better

Yet still feel the need to cry;

Just keep your head up…carry on.






Where I once lived, flowers grew,

Among the rocks and grassy dew,

There, families hugged

And laughed

And loved,

Living the only “normal” they knew.


But now the world seems so tilted,

With dreams on pause and lives all stilted,

Where some will cry

And mourn,

Ask why?

Towering faith suddenly wilted.


Yet sounds of nature are still there.

Songs of life still in the air.

Where families still hug

And laugh

And love.

This “new” normal where people still care.




HM Hunting Gris-Gris Epub cover



Eleven-year-old Emma misses her father who’s serving in Europe during World War II. He left behind a treasure box with six secret compartments to be opened during her birthday week. He also told her to watch out for the gris-gris while he was gone. Looking out for swamp creatures and dealing with wartime rationing was hard enough, but now there’s a British refugee coming to stay at the house! How will Emma enjoy her birthday and keep her decision to hunt for the gris-gris a secret with a stranger hanging around?





donna - Copy


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 chapter book series is called HISTORY’S MYSTERIES. Book three, Hunting Gris-Gris, is now available in ebook, paperbook & hardback everywhere!





















(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 and 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 Heidi E Y Stemple


Owl Cottage on Phoenix Farm

Western Massachusetts

April, 2020


Dear Socially Distant Creative Friends,

There is one thing writers say all the time. It comes in many forms. “Someday, I’ll get to that story.” “Someday, I’ll find a way to fix that manuscript.” “Someday, I’ll figure out what to do with that idea.”

Guess what—“Someday” is today.

It can be difficult to jumpstart a new project when your routine changes–more people in your house or fewer. Anxiety levels are high. Speaking engagements (those things that keep us afloat financially) and conferences (those things that feed us emotionally) are cancelled. We’re all counting toilet paper rolls and milk and eggs. It’s hard not to be consumed by the fear of the unknown future.

The first week I was home, I did what I always do with my anxiety—I organized. Shuffled books, cleaned out desk drawers, recycled a million pieces of paper. Then I had to come to grips with the fact that I needed to write. When I say “needed,” all you writers reading this know what I mean. Creative people function better when they are creating.  I needed a kick in the pants artistically. For me, it’s always a poem that gets me up and running. I wrote this:


Quarantine with Cats

The cats don’t care

that my hair is growing gray

and my nails

are too long

because the nice man,


that’s not his real name,

isn’t around to cut them down

to a reasonable length for typing.

They could not care less

about my


and my

obsessive cleaning,

or even that I made sure to have 4 extra bags

of cat food.

They don’t know running out is a possibility

because they never have.

They are just happy

that their human

has learned,

by necessity,

and under duress,

                                to webinar                                 

and YouTube

and Zoom

because it means

I am here.

All the time.

And though, I’m sure

they miss the nice little girl

that checks on them when I’m gone,

and plays with them,

which I never do,

they prefer



And to be honest,

through the worry about both

mother and daughters,

and every tickle

at the back of my throat,

I am not unhappy


Slow is not something I’ve done


I’m thinking of knitting

or needlepoint.

I should write, but

creative hasn’t come yet.

And, I’m past worrying

when it disappears.

I know,

it always returns.

Fear and sickness both have the same


But, neither last long enough

to scare the muse

too far gone.

I’ll write again

when I can.

For now,

I’ll just sit with a couple cats.




When I write poetry like this, I give myself permission—permission to write without expectation, without revision, without caring what others think. I posted it on Facebook because I thought others might be helped by it. I sent it to my mom who told me I needed to change the line “too far gone” because it didn’t make sense and wasn’t needed. You see that, though she is right, I didn’t change it. Permission—to do something imperfect.

And, just like that, I was ready to tackle some other writing. Let the Someday projects begin!

Here’s what I have done since:

  1. Finished a manuscript that had all the right plot points but only about 20% of the right words. Sent it out.
  2. Revised and resubmitted a manuscript that an editor wanted completely changed and needed lots of research.
  3. Un-gendered (is that a word?) an entire manuscript from being about a girl (very specifically, not just pronouns) to being about a kid. I’m still fiddling with the ending.
  4. Worked on/reworked the first half of a nonfiction picture book with a co-author. It’s my turn to work and will do that today (I promise!)
  5. Reread and prioritized all the half-manuscripts on my desktop. Found 2 I would like to look at again.
  6. Made piles of the research books and articles I want to read to see if a couple ideas I have could be made into books.

None of these things took huge chunks of concentration, though some did take me into that wonderful headspace where everything but the project at hand melts away. They were all in some form of in-the-works. I have yet to start a brand-new story. But, I am working. I am writing. And, it is certainly helping get me through the now, month-long quarantine (I am not, technically quarantined—but I like a good word and “stay-at-home order just isn’t as good). It feels good to be writing—creating.

Think about some of those projects you have in your Someday pile. It’s time to revisit. Perhaps, that is looking through those saved tidbits that made you think, “this could be a story.” Maybe, it’s returning to a story that didn’t work. Or, your project could be going back and throwing out things that, now that you are further in your learning or your career, you know are not viable—and finding that one that may still be. Maybe, it is finally finding a critique group of trusted friends now that we are all developing new technological skills for not-in-person meetings. Maybe it’s re-envisioning an old, rejected picture book manuscript into a chapter book or a chapter book manuscript into a graphic novel. All these things are forward movement.

The anxiety and fear of the future unknowns are going to be with us for a while. The kids are going to be out of school longer than first guessed and they probably need help with math as you read this. Or, like me, you may be alone and missing humans. (The cats are nice, but…) We will all be touched by this illness and there is death all around us. I can’t help with that—I am in that rocking boat on the roiling seas with you.  What I can tell you is that the muse is not lost forever. If you are struggling with her absence, looking back is a step towards moving forward. Grab something from your Someday pile or file. See if it sparks you to reimagine.

You got this. I believe in you.

xo Heidi



Coming October 2020


A tornado, a blizzard, a forest fire, and a hurricane are met, in turn, with resilience and awe in this depiction of nature’s power and our own.

In the face of our shifting climate, young children everywhere are finding themselves subject to unfamiliar and often frightening extreme weather. Beloved author Jane Yolen and her daughter Heidi Stemple address four distinct weather emergencies (a tornado, a blizzard, a forest fire, and a hurricane) with warm family stories of finding the joy in preparedness and resilience. Their honest reassurance leaves readers with the message: nature is powerful, but you are powerful, too. Illustrated in rich environmental tones and featuring additional information about storms in the back, this book educates, comforts, and empowers young readers in stormy or sunny weather, and all the weather in between.



heidiHeidi E.Y. Stemple


Heidi didn’t want to be a writer when she grew up. In fact, after she graduated from college, she became a probation officer in Florida. It wasn’t until she was 28 years old that she gave in and joined the family business, publishing her first short story in a book called Famous Writers and Their Kids Write Spooky Stories. The famous writer was her mom, author Jane Yolen. Since then, she has published more than twenty-five books and numerous short stories and poems, mostly for children.

Heidi lives and writes on a big old farm in Massachusetts that she shares with one very small cat who lives inside, and a dozen deer, a family of bears, three coyotes, two bobcats, a gray fox, tons of birds, and some very fat groundhogs who live outside.





Twas An Eve Before Christmas
By Donna L Martin

Twas the eve before Christmas,
When all through my little house,
I’d just finished a story
About a cat and a mouse.

Next year I would be busy,
Many stories still to write,
But what if I’m not published,
Tho I try hard as I might?

I shut down my old laptop
And then I turned off the light,
When suddenly a loud noise
Began ringing in the night.

I moved quickly to my door
To get a sneak peek outside;
There stood a gnarled old wizard
With a donkey he named Clyde.

He said his name was Berlin
And he came bearing a gift
Of a brand new computer
From bags he could scarcely lift.

He asked could he come inside,
And get out of the harsh cold?
Well, I gladly let him in
After the story he told.

He was going to Vegas
To try his luck with the dice,
But got lost near the North Pole
And met a dude who was nice.

“I’ll help you get to Vegas,
If you stop along the way.
I don’t have time to visit
The Martins by Christmas Day!”

Then Berlin opened his sack
While books spilled out on the floor.
Lots of writer references;
And stories that I adore.

“Here’s all the magic you need
To make the right dreams come true.
It takes belief in yourself.
Hard work. It’s all up to you!”

Then smiling, he turned to go
Out into the winter night.
But I heard words softly said
As I turned off the porch light.

“Good luck in the coming year,
With a book contract or two.
Should you run into that dude,
Clyde wants a blanket in blue!”








by Donna L Martin


To loved ones near or far,
And those dear to my heart.
For family staying at home,
And friends living miles apart.
From my house to yours,
My heartfelt wish for you,
Is lots of love and laughter,
Now and the whole year through.








Just Imagine
By: Donna L Martin

Just stop and imagine
What you could achieve
If you thought that you could
And then just believed?

What wonders exist
For you to uncover?
What brand new worlds
For you to discover?

No walls in the way
Or mountains to climb
What could you create
With your wonderful mind?

Would you fly to the moon?
Take a trip out to sea?
Would you change up the world?
Or just let it be?

Would you feed all the hungry?
Wipe the tears from the sad?
When you see all the problems,
Would you get a little mad?

Would you stand on your soapbox
And beat on your chest?
Or simply look away
Like some of the rest?

Would you write down your thoughts?
Give flight to your dreams?
Would you give up so easily
When it’s harder than it seems?

Just stop and imagine
What you could achieve
If you thought that you could
And then just BELIEVED!





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 scheduled to be released in ebook edition by June 2018 from Story Catcher Publishing, with the print edition coming out by Spring 2019.