Good News for Amazon (the Rainforest, that is)

We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

It’s the last Friday in February, so you know what that means…

It’s almost March. 🙂

But it also means that it’s time for the worldwide monthly deluge of good news stories that bloggers have found to counteract the bad news we see in the media all day, every day. As always, the story I have chosen to share is about the environment. It’s a story from back in December of 2020, but it’s not one I was aware of, so I thought I’d shine my little light on it for others who may not have known about it, either.

Court Sides with Indigenous People

Back in 2018, the Minister of Hydrocarbons in Ecuador announced the auction of sixteen oil contracts located on lands owned by indigenous peoples. One indigenous woman, a 33-year-old mom, was able to bridge the gap between indigenous societies and the West and managed to fight against the oil companies by enhancing economic opportunities for people and by targeting donors worldwide with a digital fundraising campaign.

In 2019, this woman was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Ecuadorian government—and she won. The appeals court upheld the lower court’s ruling in favor of the indigenous peoples. I hope you’ll take a minute to read the whole story here.

Join Us!

Your cohosts for this month are Eric Lahti,  Sylvia McGrathRoshan Radhakrishnan, Shilpa Garg, and Susan Scott. And if you want to read more uplifting articles, please visit the WATWB Facebook page here or the Twitter home page here to find links to other stories.

Want to participate? Click this link to sign up and help spread some happiness!

Until next time,

Amy

Reading Round-Up: February 2021

February is a short month to begin with, but it seemed even shorter this year. This month I’ve been so busy with edits and redesigning my website (and trying to clean out my attic) that I’ve had less time than usual for reading. Here’s the round-up:

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Amazon Decoded: A Marketing Guide to the Kindle Store (Let's Get Publishing Book 4) by [David Gaughran]

Amazon Decoded: A Marketing Guide to the Kindle Store by David Gaughran is going to be one of those books I read over and over again. If it wasn’t in ebook form, it would have sticky notes on three-quarters of the pages. If you are trying to sell books, do yourself a favor and get this book. The author is a genius at marketing and the ins and outs of various platforms. This book is about understanding why Amazon does what it does, and it’s a great read. My 5-star review is here.

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The Henna Artist: A Novel by [Alka Joshi]

Next up was the book my book club read for February. And what a spectacular book it was. The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi is one woman’s story of ambition, caste, love, friendship, and dignity as India emerges from British Raj rule. I was swept away by the descriptions of the people, the places, and the fragile relationships that exist between members of different castes, and I can’t wait to read her next book, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, when it comes out later this year. Read my review here.

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Super Host by [Kate Russo]

I didn’t like anything about Super Host by Kate Russo. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t charming, it wasn’t “compulsively readable,” as some reviewers suggest. Instead, I found it rude, offensive, and vulgar. I tried, but I just couldn’t finish it. Read my review here, though I don’t really think you need to read it to know what I thought of the book. Please remember that this is only one person’s opinion—there are plenty of reviewers who loved the book.

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TAINTED: From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate, Fifty Years of Food Safety Failures by [Phyllis Entis]

In Tainted, From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate: Fifty Years of Food Safety Failures by Phyllis Entis, readers will find a wealth of information about the foodborne illness outbreaks that many of us will recall from the news. The author presents the information in a way that is easily understandable and quite scary when you stop to think how many processes have to work in tandem and without glitches in order to bring the food we eat from the farm to the dinner table. Read my review of this important work of non-fiction here.

I hope you’ll share in the comments what you’ve been reading!

Until next time,

Amy

Interview with Stefanie Gouviea

Several weeks ago I put out a call for readers to share their hobbies with all of us as we all continue to spend more time at home than in previous years. Several people responded with their favorite pastimes, and I’m thrilled to share my interview with reader Stefanie Gouviea.

Welcome, Stefanie!

First, tell us what your hobbies are.

I like to read, paint and make homemade candles.

How did you get interested in them?

I only recently became interested in reading when I learned about the “Cozy Mystery” genre, and now I’m hooked. I became interested in making candles because I like to make things with essential oils and I wanted to make more homemade gifts, so this year I decided to make candles for everyone and I really enjoy it. I became interested in painting because I have attended a few paint nights in the past and found them very therapeutic, but since COVID they’ve been cancelled, so I had to figure out a way to still paint even though I am not a professional artist.

A great way to display tea cups and saucers

How did you learn to do them?

I learned how to make candles through Pinterest (love Pinterest), I reviewed a few different recipes and articles until I found one that resonated with me, then I came up with the idea to make teacup candles and looked up some ideas on Pinterest. The paintings I am doing now I discovered through Facebook events, this artist does live tutorials and records them, or you can just buy the recording and follow along like I did so I could take my time and pause as much as I needed to. This was the first time I’ve ever used a recorded tutorial to paint since my previous experience was in person paint nights.

How long did it take you to become proficient?

I don’t think that I am proficient in painting at this time, but I have added additional tutorials to try and suspect I will get better as I keep practicing. I became more proficient in candle making after making several test candles using different types and amounts of oils. I still don’t add color to them, but they smell good.

Do you have certain times when you prefer to paint and certain times when you prefer to make candles?

Not really, I generally prefer to do them on the weekends because I am too tired to focus during the week at the end of my workday. It breaks up my weekend nicely, especially since we can’t really go anywhere.

What special equipment do you need to paint and make candles?

The tutorials I use for painting only require us to have paints, paint brushes and either a canvas or multimedia paper. The artist teaches you how to mix colors and blend, so you don’t need extra equipment. For candle making you need, wax (I use soy wax flakes), a kitchen scale, essential or fragrance oils if you want them scented, a heat safe measuring cup or tin for candle making (I use a tin), a pot with water (candle making uses a double boiler method), wicks and a candle holder/container. Most wax kits online come with wicks, so I didn’t have to worry about that and you can get creative with the candle holders.

Do you have a favorite painting? Would you be willing to share a photo of it?

I’ve only done two paintings so far, but the one I like the most is titled, “Midnight Snowman” and I will share a picture of it.

Isn’t this adorable??

How about a favorite candle scent/color? Do you have photos you can share?

I don’t add color to mine because I feel like it doesn’t burn right when I do, and I don’t have a favorite scent since I like all of them for the most part, but if I had to choose, I’d say the fruity ones smell the best (strawberry, mango, honeydew melon, cucumber melon). Yes, I can share two pictures of two types of teacup candles I made.

I love the see-through cup.

Does anyone in your family help you with projects?

No, I prefer to do these projects alone. Although, I think my husband is going to do a painting with me one night, so I’m looking forward to that.

Is there any hobby you’ve tried to do but either didn’t like it or it just didn’t work out?

I’ve tried watercolor painting and jewelry making, but I didn’t like either one.


Thanks so much for sharing your interests, Stefanie. It was a pleasure hosting you here this week.

Until next time,

Amy

Author Spotlight: Sally Cronin

I’m thrilled to host Sally Cronin this week on Reade and Write. Sally is the author of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, short stories, and an incredible wealth of blog posts where you can read about topics ranging from healthy eating to holiday customs to music and travel. She is also a tireless promoter of other authors’ works and is beloved in the blogging and writing communities.

She’s here today to discuss her latest release, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet. If you read my Reading Round-Up two posts ago, you know how much I enjoyed the book. If you didn’t or if you need a refresher, click here to see my review.

Welcome, Sally!

Thanks very much Amy for inviting me over today and appreciate your support in getting my new collection of stories promoted.

The pleasure is mine, Sally.

When I read your books, I always wonder if there’s a lot of you in your stories. Would you say any of them are autobiographical?

There are definitely elements of my life woven into the fabric of several stories in this collection and others that I have written. I don’t want to waste any of my experiences in life or the amazing people I have met, and I hope that it adds a touch of authenticity to the emotional content. Nobody’s life is perfect, however much we wish differently. Whilst there have been times I have wondered ‘Why Me!’ in all honesty in hindsight, there were valuable lessons to be learnt and it usually sent me off in a direction where I was meant to be. Bringing characters I have met in life, many of them now gone, is a great way to keep them alive in my memories.

A related question, and one you’ve partially answered: Do any of your story ideas come from people you know, or things you hear on the news, or snippets of conversation you overhear?

I think probably apart from my own experiences, the state of the world is the next trigger for stories. I enjoy writing stories around topics which are close to my heart such as animal welfare, domestic violence and the elderly. I love reading stories of feisty old people, and in all the collections I always leave room for one or two old but inspiring characters, and of course dogs and cats. I get some prompts from images which I think are very powerful creatively. This is particularly the case for the poetry that I write.

Do you prefer writing short stories, or longer books/novels, or poetry? Or are they just different forms of expression for you?

I have written a couple of novels in the past and two books of linked stories which is a medium that I rather enjoy as they offer continuity throughout the stories and an opportunity for some interesting character interactions. I am not sure it is the same for other readers, but I find that I cannot face the 400 to 500 pages of an epic novel in the same way as I used to, and this is reflected in my own writing. Certainly, with the blog and book marketing, I am not spending as much time writing as I might, so short stories actually fit in well with my schedule. This year the focus is on a return to non-fiction which is requiring me to have a different focus and writing schedule.

And as long as we’re on the subject of writing preferences, do you have a favorite story or poem in the new collection?

One of my daily pleasures is the antics of the garden birds who we built a pyramid feeder for this year. They also have a meter square bird bath created from a seed tray which they love to play in and during this year of lockdowns they have brought a ray of sunshine into our days. This was a Garland Cinquain that I wrote in tribute to them and included in the collection.

Garden Birds

The birds

in the garden

have created a world

removed from the reality

of life.

The Doves

wary and shy

hover on the side lines

waiting to be invited to

the feast

Ravens

fall from the sky

bring ancient mystery

intent on plundering the stores

of seed

Starlings

a raucous flock

delight in the water

splashing and preening their feathers

of jet

Sparrows

agile and swift

dart backwards and forwards

eager for the sunflower seeds

that gleam.

The birds

wary and shy

bring ancient mystery

splashing and preening their feathers

that gleam

That is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.

Was the new book written in response to any of the events of 2020, or did you write the stories before then?

I had written some of the stories earlier in the year before the crisis began, but I actually made a conscious decision not to mention the pandemic as the collection progressed in the later months. I felt that everyone was already living daily with COVID, events in the USA and in the UK with Brexit, and more importantly I was too.  I have to say I found it very difficult to fictionalize the situation, and as writing is a form of escapism for me, I wrote stories and poems that made me feel hopeful.

The stories in the book are divided into categories, such as “Winning Streak” and “Technology.” Do you write the stories to fit into the categories, or do you find that the stories categorize themselves organically once you’ve written them?

I like to write to a theme, such as in What’s in a Name?, where I wrote stories about men and women (and some animals) with names according to the alphabet. So I decided on the categories first and then wrote the stories to fit into them. The poems were already written and luckily I was able to slot those in appropriately.

Do you have stories (short stories or novels) or poems that you’ve written and not published? If so, how many? Will you eventually publish them?

I do have several short stories and poems that are already written and will be published later in 2021. This year images are the focus and I am working through our archive of photos from all our travels and the countries we have lived in and I am using those as prompts.

I’m already looking forward to it, Sally. What else do you have coming up?

This year it is 25 years since I lost 150lbs and wrote my first non-fiction book ‘Size Matters’, which eventually was published in 2001 as the first edition. I have since revised the book, and want to publish this as a sequel in the spring to celebrate that turning point in my life. I also have a book of linked longer stories based in the village where I was born during the war years, and the collection of short stories and poems I mentioned in November/December.  And in between writing those, I will continue to keep the blog going with the focus on book promotion for other authors (as well as myself) and writing new health series.

Congratulations on such a terrific milestone. I know you’ve inspired so many people to have a more positive relationship with food and weight.

Thanks so much Amy for letting me talk about my writing and thoughts on the year. It has been a lovely experience.

Again, thank you for being here, Sally. It was a wonderful experience for me, too.

Until next time,

Amy