André and his wife own the 'Portuguese for a Day' tour company. Not only do they make a great couple, but they are also dynamite business partners. Filipa generally takes care of the reservations and business end, and leaves the touring to André (most of the time). He's been driving since he was a teen, never had an accident, and was born in the old Alfama section of Lisbon. So he knows his way around. We also discovered he is a professional Jazz Bass player, and has performed all over the world with the likes of Elton John and Michael Bublé. He has also played all over Lisbon, which is why he knows the roads so well. Last year, he decided to stay close to home and begin a tour company with his wife. And we are glad he did!
Our first stop was the Pena Palace, built by Ferdinand II (a Saxe-Coburg and Uncle of Queen Victoria) who married Maria, the Queen of Portugal. In the mid-1800’s, this artist-king built the Pena Palace in the Romantic style at the site of an old Monastery on the tip-top of a mountain in the historic town of Sintra, a half hour drive from Lisbon. Dan and I agreed it was the nicest and most livable palace we have seen to date-which is quite a few! The roads, although winding and extremely narrow, were not an issue for André. He was a master at getting around (or making way) for tour buses and other vehicles which had no business being on the road.
Each view of the palace was more stunning than the previous. It was hard to take a bad photo. We wound in and out of the rooms, looking at the incredibly intricate ceilings, which, in the last few rooms, became faux-finished works of art. One could barely tell they were two dimensional!
The one below is a faux-finish!
There were a few oddities, like their first telephone, pictured below:
And this Asian-looking desk. . .
And this rather uncomfortable looking chair!
When we arrived at the end, this enormous kitchen came into view-one I would covet even today. All the pots, pans, and space one needs to make a meal fit for a king and queen.
Here are a few more shots . . .
Then, we wound our way to Quinta da Regaleira, the summer residence of wealthy businessman Carvalho Monteiro, built in the neo-manueline style by the country's best artists. I would call it a small palace. What do you think?
Here were some of the interior views . . .
We had only ten minutes to tour, since we spent most of our hour and a half on the winding, tree-covered paths, leading to Lake of the Waterfall. . .
Towers and turrets. . .
Next, we had a lovely meal at a local restaurant, suggested by our guide, André. I tried a national dish of salted cod mixed with onions, egg and 'chips' or tiny bits of French fries. Yum! Then we strolled around for a few minutes, walking up (of course), the narrow streets to window shop.
Dan bought a tasty pastry known as the 'pillow of Sintra'. André explained when the kings would come to towns around Portugal, they requested a special pastry made, similar to the pastis de Belem in Lisbon. It all began with monks who spent their time making wine, and discovering the barrels were rotting inside, found a way to seal them with egg whites. What was left after painting the interior of the barrels? Egg yolks! Thus, custard came into being, which bakers used in their delicacies.
Then we ventured to the Westernmost point on the continent of Europe: Cabo Da Roca. Talk about wind! Well, I suppose it's a good thing on a Windjammer cruise. . .
We had a grand tour with André- it couldn't have been better! Our every need was attended to, including a drop off at the Oriente Train Depot, where we thought we had tickets for a 6pm journey to Porto. Not so. It was a mere promise of a ticket. Come to find out that ordering an paying for a specific train trip and having it shipped overnight to the States doea NOT a reservation make. So, we missed our train, and took the intercity route which arrived in Porto at 11:15pm. By the time we made it to our Hotel, it was almost midnight. Dan pointed out we didn't miss our destination. True. And for that I was grateful. He takes the laid back approach at all times. It must be his Italian roots. Me? I'm stil working on patience and trust!
It's been an uphill battle these last 24 hours—in more ways than one. First, there was an issue with our passport names not matching our tickets. Our surname, Del Boccio, is composed of two separate words, but many computer programs do not allow for the space. Not good. So, we waited for 45 minutes to resolve the problem as one family (yes, one) ahead of us checked in. We were next in line. That is, until the woman decided to go on break. Patience is certainty not a virtue of mine, but at least I had the comfort of knowing we left plenty of time for unforeseen issues like this.
Then, at the Philadelphia airport, we witnessed a fire drill- complete with alarms, flashing lights, and the warning of a fire in the building. Everyone needed to go immediately to the nearest exit. Of course, Dan and I dutifully obeyed, looking for others who would be streaming out the doors along with us, all the while the obnoxious alarm and warning rang out repeatedly in our ears. It finally occurred to us, after five minutes, that no one was panicking. Or moving swiftly to the nearest exit. Nope. It was business as usual.
Being proactive, I had to ask. I thought a young employee, sauntering along towards me was a good target. Where should we exit the building? I asked. Oh, she said, with a wave of her arm—don't worry. It doesn't mean anything. It's just annoying that's all. She went on her way, leaving me with a furrowed brow and recollections of a folk tale about the "Boy Who Cried Wolf." The alarm continued to sound for another twenty minutes, which in fact, deadened the passenger's sensitivity to the alarm. I'm still shaking my head.
Other than a bit of turbulence and very little sleep, the flight went well. For that, we were truly thankful to the Lord. Arriving at 9am (4am Chicago time), we pick up our carry on bags, navigated the Métra into the center of town, and began our uphill climb (literally) to our lodging along the stone wall of Castelo de São Jorge. It didn't occur to me until this morning that this would be a difficult location to access, since castles were built on the highest point in a city. From the Rossio station, we zigzagged back and forth on the uneven terrain, with our faces to the sun, and a simple map of the city, which looked like a maze of ant trails. I counted at least four times we stopped and asked for directions. Each time, the helpful person assured us the place was 'up and to the left' or 'just around the corner.' I began to think they were all conspiring to give us leg cramps and blisters, but in the end, all we got was extreme exhaustion.
I must say the old buildings with their quaint curtains and shutters, decorated with hanging laundry distracted me, so the steep incline, innumerable flights of stairs and cobbled streets didn't seem so daunting. Of course, we could have used our cellular data to find the way, but we thought an adventure was in order.
When we checked in to our lodging, the desk clerk's eyes widened when we told her we walked up from the Metro Station rolling our luggage behind us. I thought we needed a badge of some sort to commemorate the event. And probably new wheels for our luggage.
But, we were well rewarded with a lovely lodging, and a classic Portuguese (or so I thought) terrace in which to rest. Along with its resident peacocks— and boy, were they proud!
He was more than happy to display his feathers. I chucked as I caught him admiring his image in the patio window.
Well, that's about it for now- tomorrow we will visit a unique multi-architectural castle in nearby Sintra, before heading north towards Spain. Hope you've enjoyed your tour . . .
In just a few days, my husband Dan and I will embark on our 25th wedding anniversary voyage. This one will be a true adventure-taking us across the northern coast of Spain in a Windjammer!
The last time I set sail on a Windjammer was with my best friend Becky, decades ago. Then, it was along the coast of Maine. The captain allowed, in fact, encouraged us to be part of the crew-helping with sails, anchor and even navigating!
I'm not sure what we will experience this time, but I know it will be memorable. And the fact my Middle Grade Historical Novel-in-progress is set in La Coruña, one of our stops, is a plus. Even better, the bulk of my story takes place aboard a similar ship, which is icing on our proverbial anniversary cake. Here is a photo of the Sea Cloud II:
So, I will have my royal blue lined notebook ready as we set sail from Oporto, Portugal. Before then, I hope to share a few historical tidbits along the way. For that is my passion: to make History and Scripture come alive for my readers.
Stay tuned for your armchair voyage. No need for dramamine. No fighting crowds. Just a peaceful and inspirational trip back in time. . .
I'm thrilled for my author friend, Miranda Paul, and honored to interview her today about her latest book. It was voted an Amazon Best Book for August 2016! Miranda is a delightful, personable and creative individual, so I can't help but wish her the best in her author's journey.
So, here goes!
JDB: Amazing 5 books in 18 months! That doesn't happen to all children's writers. What was the key to your success?
Miranda: I don’t know if there’s one single key. I’m also cautious around using the word “success” — it can be a dangerous word, and can mean vastly different things to different people. I built up a body of work, and then when my agent began to query, there were a lot of manuscripts ready to go.
JDB: What was your inspiration for 10 Little Ninjas? Did the original story write itself, or did you struggle with every word?
Miranda: My own kids seem to go through phases of clever bedtime-stalling antics. My extended family is pretty large, and my husband also comes from a family with 10 kids (he’s the baby!). I wanted 10 Little Ninjas to be fun and funny, but also sweet. The original idea came quickly, but I struggled through many choices, deletions, and endings over the course of several years.
JDB: I understand you have three distinct versions of the manuscript, and went through many revisions. What were the darlings you had to kill in the process?
Miranda: The original pirate stanza rhymed “booty” and “pa-tootie”, which I loved. The book is better off without those lines, but my finger hovered over the delete key for awhile before I was able to press down. Critique partners and editors pull you back to reality and help you recognize stronger and better choices.
JDB: What was it like to collaborate with Nate Wragg, a Disney Pix animator? Any surprises?
Miranda: I’ve never met Nate, nor did we speak directly during the process. (This is often a surprise to people to know that you don’t have to illustrate your picture book or provide any art notes!) My editor and the Art Director at Knopf handled all of the communication between us. My favorite surprise is how Nate gave each character a distinct color outfit, shining-star moment, and personality. It’s interesting to see how Mom is portrayed in each scene. Some of them are particularly clever.
JDB: In that case, which ninja was the most fun to create?
Miranda: You’re asking me to choose a favorite kid?! Well...the 1 little cuddlebug sleeping on Daddy’s head was my favorite. Both of my kids (and cats) have done this—sneak all the way from their beds into ours, and fall asleep on top of our faces, etc. Basically, that stanza was written from personal experience. It’s also the “heart” of the book in a way.
JDB: Awwww . . .sweet! So, what's your secret to getting your own Ninjas to bed?
Miranda: Nowadays if they say they’re bored at any point during the day, I make them run laps around the yard. As a result, they’re always tired by sunset.
JDB: Since yours is a rhyming picture book, do you have any tips for writing great rhyme?
Miranda: Read a lot of current rhyming books, get some thick skin and a sharp editor’s eye, and read Dori Chaconas’s article, “Icing on the Cake”.
JDB: Helpful ideas. Thanks, Miranda! What takeaway do you want your readers to experience after reading 10 Little Ninjas?
Miranda: I want them to think the book was fun and that they want to read it again and again!
JDB: I'd say that's a universal goal of all writers! So, tell us about your dedication page. . .
Miranda: I wrote a whole piece on that over at Laura Sassi’s blog, so I’ll post the link here: https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/a-handful-of-books-miranda-paul-and-her-picture-book-10-little-ninjas/
JDB: Which book was easiest to write up to this point, and why? The most labor intensive?
Miranda: The fastest book I ever wrote isn’t out yet - it’s called Are We Pears Yet? The book is coming out with Neal Porter Books (Roaring Brook/Macmillan) in Fall 2017. But...just because I wrote it fairly quickly and my editor loved it right away doesn’t tell the whole story. I waited nearly two years before an illustrator signed on (the fabulous Carin Berger) and then there were some significant changes I made to the text once she began, because of some style choices we made cooperatively. This just proves that all books are labor-intensive in different ways.
JDB: Well, I can't wait to read it! What drew you to writing for children in the first place? What's the most rewarding part of your career?
Miranda: My husband would probably answer this by confessing to everyone that I’m just a grown-up child, or at least young at heart (and silly). The most rewarding part of my career, hands down, are the readers themselves. They’re remarkable. I love getting the chance to meet them or hear from them through their letters.
JDB: I understand your husband, Baptiste Paul, is a writer as well. Did you ever guess when you married that this was the path you would take?
Miranda: Although we used to write, read, and attend poetry readings together long before we were married, I don’t think either of us considered it as a viable career option back then. Neither of us met an author at a young age, and are each first-generation in terms of certain life experiences. I’m glad that our lives have been rich with experience and that we were blessed with great teachers and mentors. It’s really remarkable that Baptiste and I get to do this together—I’m looking forward to a particular book we’re co-writing.
JDB: That's amazing. What an opportunity! Then, tell us a bit about your family:
Miranda: Two kids, a cat named dog, beetles, fish, a dozen monarchs (for the moment), and whatever else my son has collected for the day. We also host exchange students from time to time. Never a dull moment in the Paul Household, that’s for sure!
JDB: Well, that certainly sparks fun ideas for future stories! Since you spent time teaching in Gambia years ago, what did you come to love about the culture? Did you experience culture shock?
Miranda: I don’t know that I’m the kind of person who experiences culture shock. As someone who can be introverted, it can be difficult to transition to a new community, especially one as social as the village where I lived. But I’ve come to love so much, especially my host family and good friends. There’s also food, of course—domodaa (peanut butter stew with rice), tapalapa (stone oven baked bread), and mangoes so big they’re hard to hold in one hand. I love learning words in other languages where there isn’t a direct translation in English, because those words explain so much about a culture or place.
JDB: Okay, stop. Your making my mouth water! Since your husband hails from St. Lucia, you've embraced the culture fully. What have you found most engaging?
Miranda: Warmth, friendliness, and a life lived alongside nature, without as many “things” or “distractions”.
JDB: Sounds like a writer's paradise. Anything you can share about yourself that few people know?
I’ll leave it at that!
JDB: Wow! For our readers, check out this link for more fun facts about Miranda: http://mirandapaul.com/11-fun-facts-about-miranda-paul/
JDB: Any last words for writers who feel as though their manuscripts will never be published?
Miranda: There are so many options for printing or publishing a book today. I wouldn’t lament rejections, just focus on what you really want to accomplish and why you’re doing it. Don’t compare yourself to others.
JDB: Good point. Thanks for your time, Miranda. All the best!
Miranda Paul is a award-winning children’s author of One Plastic Bag and Water is Water, both named Junior Library Guild selections. Her titles have received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly in addition to being named to several recommended and “best of” reading lists. Miranda’s newest release, 10 Little Ninjas, was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month (August 2016). Miranda makes regular appearances at schools, libraries, and bookstores, and has been a guest presenter at the Library of Congress Young Readers Center along with environmental activist Isatou Ceesay. Miranda also serves as Mentorship chair for We Need Diverse Books™ (www.diversebooks.org), volunteers for Books for Africa, and is a regional advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers (Wisconsin Chapter). She believes in working hard, having fun, and being kind. Learn more about her current and forthcoming titles at www.mirandapaul.com.
Find Miranda here:
TWITTER - @Miranda_Paul
FACEBOOK - Facebook.com/AuthorMirandaPaul
This prompt came across my path the other day:
"Write a letter to an agent telling her how wonderful you are."
So, with my tongue partially in my cheek, but with all the honesty I could muster, I began:
Dear Ms. Dream Agent;
You don't know me, but you soon will. I am YOUR dream client. As of yet, I'm undiscovered (not sure why), but in the near future, that will change. YOU will find me.
I'm the kind of client every agent wants. Hard working, easy to get along with, not offended by positive critical feedback, and, I'm told, a lyrical writer. Best of all. . . I'm prolific!
I've written fiction and historical fiction PBs, three chapter books (one
Biblical fiction), an MG novel (WIP), and one historical Picture book in the process of converting to an early MG. So, you see, you will have much to work with. And I am not so blind to assume these are all submission ready.
And that is why I have chosen to submit to your agency. I understand you are 'hands-on' and communicative, and unafraid to give your opinion (with gentleness). I also hear you are well-connected, always looking out for the best publisher for your client's work.
You also have helpful suggestions for your client's platform, coming alongside even when that may not be part of your job description. And best of all, you LOVE my work, so naturally, it will be easy to promote me as an author.
Well, dear agent, I look forward to hearing from you soon. I believe we are a perfect fit, and will move together into 2016 with grace, expectation, and success.
All the best,
Jarm Del Boccio
What about you? What do you want in a dream agent? And what do you have to uniquely offer?
Have you experienced disappointments as a writer?
My last post was a celebration of my SUCCESSES in 2016. This time, I'll share my DISAPPOINTMENTS. But, before you assume this will be a 'downer' post, let me include what I know to be true about my self . . . and ideas for improvement.
Here they are:
1. I had a difficult time focusing on one aspect of my writing. Chapter books? PBs? MG Novels? Revisions? Classes?
I'LL NEVER FIND MY FOCUS. I'M LOST!
What does my
"For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself:
Yes, time flies. So, I am making the best of it by getting a clear FOCUS on my goals . . .lasting, God-honoring, inspiring. Have I spent the last year in pursuits that brought joy to my heart? Absolutely! Have I done all I could to further my writing career? Not by long shot. Can I make 2016 a record year? You bet!
I'll be sharing my successes, failures, and plans to change those failures into achievements during the next couple of weeks. Come along! Hopefully, something will inspire you, too.
Here are my successes, as I see them, inspired by Julie Hedlund's "12 Days of Christmas" Challenge:
- Attending Kristen Fulton's Wow Retreat (Week of Writing)
- Wow NonFicPic: completed 7 manuscripts
- 7 days of fiction-writing: 7 rough drafts
- signed up for Alayne's ARC class and was accepted by the Institute of Children's Literature
- Sent out at least four manuscripts
- Set up Author's Blog and planned author's Bullet journal posts.
- Completely rewrote my Peacock story per conversation with a peacock expert at our Local Zoo.
-Participated in two Twitter pitch parties, even though my manuscript wasn't accepted.
- Feeling more confident as a writer to submit manuscripts even if everyone doesn't agree on how I should revise. I'm committing to submitting two or more manuscripts per month in 2016!
- Completed 12 ms this year thanks to 12x12. . .and then some!
- Listened to a number of MG novels, since professional writers are encouraging me to read what I want to write. I fluctuate between PBs, Chapter Books and an MG Novel.
- Feeling the need to 'simplify' and FOCUS on my writing. . .I'm too scattered. Just knowing that is a help!
- I'm reading, reading, reading, and analyzing, analyzing, analyzing. Looking for the hook, the plot, the descriptions.
-More thick skinned with critiques. . .I'm enjoying the challenge of revision.
-Accepted at SCBWI's 'Falling Leaves' conference. I left there knowing I had much work to do, but had great feedback from fellow writers at our Roundtable.
-I'm more knowledgeable about the process of critiquing a manuscript. . .what to look for, and how to express it.
That's it for now. . . More to come! If you like what you see, please feel free to sign up for my mailing list. I promise to have many posts full of writerly inspiration in 2016, including ideas for:
-A writer's bullet journal
-Lists of helpful posts for all stages of your writing life
-Ways to organize your writer's life and help you FOCUS on what is important
P.S. If you wanted to be inspired and challenged in your writing, NOW is the time to sign up with Julie Hedlund's 12x12 group. You'll be glad you did!
Children's author Julie Hedlund, challenged participants of her 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series to post SUCCESSES (rather than resolutions) on our blogs this year. She believes the way New Year's resolutions are traditionally made come from a place of negativity - what DIDN'T get done or achieved in the previous year. Instead, she suggests we set goals for the New Year that BUILD on our achievements from the previous one. I decided to participate in this Anti-Resolution Revolution! Above is my list for 2015. . .
Jarm Del Boccio, Author
I love to share the quirky things I see in the world. Sometimes, it's for a laugh; at other times, to teach a lesson. Or, just maybe, it will encourage you!