Tag Archives: Carolyn Haywood

Why I Love Book Blogger Appreciation Week

BBAW 2016

A few weeks ago, I was delighted to read that Ana, Jenny, Heather, and Andi of The Estella Society (one of my very favorite blogs) were bringing back the very fun book blogging event known as Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW).

I always loved this event for many reasons — the camaraderie of those of us who love reading and writing about books, discovering new blogs to follow (one can never have too many, as my Feedly proves to me every day), and celebrating what we do as book bloggers.

But this event is special to me because it represents, for me, my introduction to this wonderful book blogging community 7 years ago.  I had just started my blog in August 2008 when Amy from My Friend Amy  decided to create, as the ladies from The Estella Society wrote: “an online festival for book bloggers called Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Her intent was simple:

Acknowledging the hard work of book bloggers and their growing impact on book marketing and their essential contribution to book buzz in general, I am excited to announce the first Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Think of it as a retreat for book bloggers and a chance for us to totally nerd out over books together. And of course, shower each other with love and appreciation.

For me, BBAW came at the perfect time. I was new to the blogging world and to find other people who also loved reading as much as I did — and, who, even more unbelievably, loved WRITING ABOUT THE BOOKS THEY READ  — well, this was a game changer for me.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that book blogging changed my life. I’ve made new friends from all over the world who I would never have met otherwise.  I’ve traveled (by myself!) to New York City for the Book Blogger Con (back when it used to be called the Book Blogger Con), spoken at Podcamp Pittsburgh, and started writing book reviews for our local newspaper. I’ve connected with some of my favorite authors and met new writers who have become some of my favorites. I’ve learned about the publishing industry and strengthened my own writing. I’ve increased the number of books I read each year and discovered new writers and genres.

If you’re new to my blog (either because of finding me via BBAW or Listen to Your Mother), welcome! I’m so glad you’re here.

By way of introducing ourselves for BBAW, we’re asked to tell about five books that represent ourselves in some way or our interests/lifestyle. Looking through my Goodreads list, here are five that seem fitting:

B is for Betsy - orig

B is For Betsy by Carolyn Haywood

In a January 2009 blog post called Happy 111th Birthday, Carolyn Haywood!, I wrote about why B is for Betsy (and all of Carolyn Haywood’s books) were important to me as a child. “The Betsy books were just the beginning of my love affair with books. I still have the same feeling upon discovering a new author, a new work of literature (and your books were, most definitely, literature), a book that pulls me into its world.” 

Stones from the RiverStones from the River, by Ursula Hegi

I read this because OPRAH TOLD ME TO.  (It was an Oprah Book Club selection.) And I’m so glad she did, because this was one of those books that found me at precisely the right time.

The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor

The Collected Stories by Flannery O’Connor

In college, I took an English course called “Faulkner, O’Connor, and Morrison” which introduced me to the short stories of Flannery O’Connor. That was more than 25 years ago now, but I can still remember how in awe I felt when I first read her work.  Her stories made me fall in love with the short story and, of course, with every word she wrote.

Making Peace with Autism

Making Peace with Autism, by Susan Senator

When our boy was diagnosed with “clinical features of autism spectrum disorder” shortly after his second birthday, we were lost. What we needed — instead of the badly-photocopied article that the “specialist” practically tossed at us as she dismissed us from the tiniest exam room in all of Philadelphia — was some reassurance that our boy would be OK.  That our family would be OK. Susan Senator gave me that hope during some very dark days and for that I am very grateful.

Little Nightmares Little Dreams

Little Nightmares, Little Dreams, by Rachel Simon

When this book came out in 1990, I went to a local writing conference where author Rachel Simon was the main speaker.  That book and that event sparked a friendship with Rachel that I am so grateful for, as she is one of my writing mentors.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week continues for the next four days, with writing prompts and much more bookish fun.

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Armchair BEA: Introductions First!

Today kicks off the first day of Armchair BEA, an online virtual convention event that was organized in … um … 2010 (I think) as a consolation prize of sorts for those of us who were unable to be at the real life BEA.  (That’s Book Expo America, currently underway this week in New York City.) Armchair BEA has come into its own, however, and is now an event that complements BEA quite nicely.

Like any conference, it’s all about the networking and building community, so the Armchair BEA team asked us to start things off on this first day by selecting 5 interview questions to answer about ourselves and our blog.

Forgive me for being a tad chatty. I like talking about books. (Obviously, or else we wouldn’t all be here, right?)

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?
I’m Melissa and I’ve been blogging here at The Betty and Boo Chronicles for almost 4 years … since August 14, 2008. In those days, I had a very long, dreadful commute to and from work and I was feeling the passing of time.  (And literally seeing it rush by as I sat in traffic, which felt like a metaphor for my life.) I wanted a way to capture the everyday moments with my kids (they’re the “Betty” and “Boo” in the blog title) and also to get back into writing, which was something I missed.

I started by writing personal essay type posts – about just whatever was on my mind that day. Some idiot I saw in traffic, a memory conjured up from a song I heard on the radio, the latest craziness from Sarah Palin. (The 2008 presidential campaign was in full swing, providing ample blogging fodder.) I discovered the world of book blogging in Fall 2008, when I was delighted to find a passionate community of readers like me who liked reviewing books and sharing their opinions.  I can’t remember the first book blog I read. I’d like to think maybe it was Dewey’s. I thought, what the hell, I could do that on my blog too …. and so, for almost 4 years and 1,377 posts, I have.

2. Where do you see your blog in five years?
That’s an interesting (and timely) question because it kind of ties into some changes I’ve been recently contemplating – namely, in regards to my blog name itself.  A blog name change is very likely, possibly in the near future.(You heard it here first!) I still plan to write about my kids, but I’m finding that as they get older, their stories are becoming theirs. At the same time, though, the issues (especially Boo’s autism and our journey as a family with this) are ones that I want and need to continue writing about. I have a new name in mind, but the thought of changing and the logistics in doing so … well, let’s just say that if YOU’VE been through this, I would love some advice and your suggestions.

(That’s what’s cool about this community. There’s always someone who has paved the way before you who is willing to offer advice to you.)

I’m also in the process of writing a novel, and in five years, I’d like for that novel to be DONE. More than done, actually. Published in some form would be nice. I’d like to be onto a second book. So, in that regard, I’d like for the content here to take the form of some more writerly posts. Excerpts and the like.  Photos from my worldwide book tour.  (A girl can dream, right?)


3. What literary location would you most like to visit? Why?
This might come as a surprise to some people but London would top the list. I say a surprise because I’m not much of a classics girl (I like the idea of them) … but I think I would become one either shortly before or after such a trip.

And South Carolina would be a close second. Every time I finish a Pat Conroy novel or anything in the Southern literature genre, I want to find the nearest wraparound porch and pour myself a glass of sweet tea.


4. What is your favorite part about the book blogging community? Is there anything that you would like to see change in the coming years?
I could write an entire post on this question alone – because in a way, my favorite part about the book blogging community and what I want to see changed are the same exact thing.

Allow me to explain.

Nearly four years into this blogging thing, it still thrills me to no end when an author comments on a book review I’ve written or friends me on Facebook.  My day can easily be made if Beth Kephart likes a photo I’ve posted or if Rachel Simon comments on a Facebook post of mine. It’s yesterday once more and I have time traveled back to my overjoyed 6 year old self because my favorite author, Carolyn Haywood, has written me a personal letter.

That, to me, has been the best part about the book blogging community – how it has brought authors and readers together in a way that is unprecedented. But like many good things, we’ve seen a dark side with all too many instances of Authors Gone Wild when faced with a negative review.  I’d like to see that sort of behavior change and all of us try to get along.

I’d also like to see self-publishing gain more respect. As someone who will likely be self-publishing her first novel in some way, shape or form, it distresses me to see how hard authors like my friend Melissa Luznicky Garrett work. I’d like to see that change.


5. Have your reading tastes changed since you started blogging? How?
I’m definitely reading more Young Adult books, absolutely.  Before book blogging, I would have never picked up the likes of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness or Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt, two YA books that I recently enjoyed tremendously.  At the library on Saturday, I checked out Jay Asher’s The Future of Us, which I was delighted to see back on the shelf. (I had to return it unread, because another patron had it on hold.)  The circulation clerk looked at me and then looked at Betty, who is 10.

“Which one of you is reading this?” she said, holding up the book.

A fair and legitimate question, I thought.  “Me,” I proudly answered.  “I’m one of those adults who reads Young Adult books.”

She smiled. “Me too.”

Another point for book blogging.

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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A Halloween Treat of the Literary Kind

While Boo was at his acting class this morning, Betty and I went to the library. This is our usual weekly routine. Instead of hitting the large regional branch that’s a 20 mile trip (each way), we stayed local and went to a branch that we call “the little library.”

Each branch of our library system is different, and each has its pros and cons. “The little library” tends to have the best selection of new children’s books. It also has an ongoing children’s book sale, usually consisting of an overflowing cart of books. Betty loves to look through these (almost moreso than the library books) and we’ve usually gotten some good finds.

“Oh look, Mommy, it’s a Halloween book and today is Halloween!”

There was no way I would be able to say no to whatever she was holding, I thought.

She held it up. “It’s called Halloween Treats!”

I looked at it … and blinked.

“Oh my God, it’s the missing Carolyn Haywood book!”

“She was your favorite writer when you were a little girl, right, Mommy?”

“Yes.”

Longtime readers of this blog might remember the post I wrote back in January as a tribute to Carolyn Haywood, who was, indeed, my favorite author as a child. I wrote to her when I was 6 and received a handwritten reply. I’ve never forgotten that.

And her book of short stories, Halloween Treats, was long out of print, published in 1981. At 12 years old then, I’d apparently outgrown Carolyn Haywood’s timeless, innocent stories about Betsy and her friends Billy and Eddie, and their life as elementary school students, because I never read this. I looked for it not long ago, and it didn’t seem to exist anywhere.

For a mere 25 cents, now it does. So forget the candy (I’m on a self-imposed chocolate ban again to see if it helps my headaches) … I’ve got my Halloween treat!

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Best of the Week – June 28-July 4

I took this photo during a post-game fireworks display at a baseball game we attended over Memorial Day weekend.

Let’s start this week’s Best Of with a reminder from Sassy Secrets of a True Blue Desperate Housewife (how can you not love that blog title!) of just why we’re celebrating this weekend. (Hint: it’s not about the BBQs and fireworks.)

Also, Lori from The Queen’s New Throne gives us some interesting information about the Declaration of Independence.

She also gives us a timely (given Philly’s history with our country’s earliest days) love letter to the City of Brotherly Love. Like yours truly, Lori is a Philly girl and she loves every bit of her (our) hometown. As she writes, there’s oh-so much to like.

I agree with Lori when she says that one of the things that’s so great about living here is being within two hours of the beach. And once upon a time, there was a little amusement park in the shore town of Sea Isle City, NJ. It’s target audience was the toddler and elementary school demographic – and their parents. I have great memories of Fun City from when my family vacationed in Sea Isle, and it was kind of sad when the land was sold to developers. That was ten years ago, but a deal never materialized … and now, Fun City is back again. As this blog post from the Philadelphia Inquirer says, it’s the only new amusement park opening this summer in the entire country.

Speaking of kids at heart, I love this idea from Stitched: 50 Letters in 50 Days to Write a Michael as a way of remembering and honoring Michael Jackson. (And check out the post about the meaning behind 50 Letters in 50 Days. I love this! This blog is quickly becoming one of my newest favorites.)

Can you stand another Philadelphia reference? Of course you can. Ali from Worducopia is hosting the end-of -June edition of the Bookworms Carnival, which is now posted on her blog. We were asked to submit posts about our local authors, and my tribute to children’s author – and Philadelphia resident – Carolyn Haywood is included. As well as some other worthy reads. Check it out!

Speaking of fun places (like carnivals) to hang out, have you joined me over at She Writes? I learned of this new social networking site by reading this post on Girl with Pen, one of my favorite blogs. I know what you’re thinking … I need another social networking site to check and keep up with like I need a hole in the head. But She Writes is a different. It’s a new forum where women writers working in every genre–in every part of the world and of all ages and backgrounds–can come together in a space of mutual support. (It’s also brand new – just launched this week – and last I looked, there were over 1,000 women writers signed up as members. I’m blogging there under my real name.)

Pamela Murphy of Moms Blogging writes a great post about motherhood on MomsRising.org. Here’s part of it: When did we stop discussing our journeys with one another? Not the journey of motherhood (we discuss this endlessly) but our dreams, our goals, our disappointments, our successes. I know when you are a mother you give constant and unending attention and energy to your children and you want to be the best mother one can be. However, it is a strange thing when your very existence is completely defined by being a mother and you, the individual, remain treading in the deepest of waters trying just to keep your head above sea level. Here’s the post in its entirety.

If I am ever in need of reconstructive or cosmetic plastic surgery, please make sure this doctor who throws knives as a hobby is not in the room. Thanks. I appreciate it.

Speaking of knife-throwing, I was wondering why I haven’t seen any Tweets from Alice Hoffman lately. (I follow her. Or, rather, I did.) I’ve never read any of Hoffman’s work – except her Tweets – but I have Turtle Moon, Seventh Heaven, Here on Earth, The River King, and The Third Angel on my bookshelf. After this brou-ha-ha where Alice Hoffman trashes a critic via Twitter, don’t look for them to be reviewed on this blog anytime soon.

I hope you’re all enjoying a wonderful, safe holiday weekend (for my readers here in the USA) and, if elsewhere, that your weekend has been a good one. Here’s to a great week ahead … and don’t forget to check out She Writes ! Let me know if you join … I need a few friends over there. 🙂

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Happy 111th Birthday, Carolyn Haywood

Dear Carolyn Haywood,

Happy 111th birthday! I know you’re no longer with us to celebrate, but allow me to wish you a wonderful day anyway. You probably don’t remember me, which is perfectly understandable since it’s been about 34 years or so since I last wrote to you.
I was the 6 year old girl from Philadelphia who wrote to you as a fan back in 1976 (or maybe 1977). Your books, “B” is for Betsy, Betsy and Billy, and Back to School with Betsy (just to name a few) are the first ones that I remember loving as a child. I can still see myself tip-toeing, stretching to reach them and then, placing them, as if precious diamonds, ever so carefully on the circulation desk at the Fox Chase Library.

“I want to write Carolyn Haywood a letter,” I announced to my mother. And lo and behold, we discovered from the book jacket that you, too, were a Philadelphian, living in Flourtown! A real life writer, right here in my city. You became real to me then, much as your beloved characters Betsy and Billy and Eddie and Betsy’s sister Star became real to me as a child.

Somehow, maybe through the Yellow Pages or some other sleuthing, my mother tracked down your address – or maybe we sent the letter to the publisher. She cautioned me that perhaps you might be too busy writing books to write back, but undeterred, I wrote my letter and sent it off.

And then, your reply. Your gracious reply, written in longhand, answering all my questions. It definitely wasn’t a form letter; you – my favorite writer – had taken the time to write to me. You enclosed a list of all your books and told me about your next book, still in progress. I felt like I was being let in on a most wonderfully delicious secret.


The Betsy books were just the beginning of my love affair with books. I still have the same feeling upon discovering a new author, a new work of literature (and your books were, most definitely, literature), a book that pulls me into its world. Even now, there’s still that 6 year old part of me who gets so excited when seeing a reply from a “real writer” – not to a letter, but perhaps in reply to an email, or to one of my blog posts.

My daughter is especially fond of reading, and I’d like to think that I (and my mother’s encouragement in my reading and writing) is partially responsible for that. In fact, it was my mother who tracked down a copy of B is for Betsy for my Betty. With some disappointment, I admit, I noticed the cover had been updated to a more modern look.
A look inside revealed the same writing, the same stories, the same pen and ink drawings that I’d loved … and the happy ending to this would be for me to say that my Betty is equally as entranced by your quaint, charming stories. In this age of Junie B. Jones and Disney Princesses and fairies, she’s not quite as captivated, and that’s OK. (Sort of.)

It’s me who is resisting the temptation to spend the rest of the afternoon on the couch reading about Betsy being a little scared about the first day of school, about needing to take her koala bear with her, and about meeting her first friend, Ellen. But, I have grown-up things to do today, like grocery-shopping and straightening up the house …

… and a 7-year old girl to take to the library for some new books.

Happy Birthday, Carolyn. And thank you, 111 times.

Love, Betty and Boo’s Mommy

Carolyn Haywood was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 3, 1898. She graduated from the Philadelphia Normal School for Girls and taught for one year before attending the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She studied with Elizabeth Shippen Green, Jessie Wilcox Smith, and served as studio assistant for Violet Oakley, renowned muralist. Haywood herself painted murals in banks and schools throughout Philadelphia, where they can still be viewed today. “During this time I was becoming more and more interested in children’s books and eventually, through my interest in illustration, I found my way to Harcourt where Elizabeth Hamilton was editor of their juvenile department. She encouraged me to write something about little American children doing the things that little American children like to do.” Her first children’s book, When I Grow Up, was published in 1931, but in 1939 she hit her stride with the first of the Betsy and Eddie books, “B” is for Betsy. She wrote about the childhood adventures of these two for more than fifty years. She stopped illustrating her own books in the 1970s. Ms. Haywood died on January 11, 1990. (From Children’s Literature Network.)

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