Thank You For Your Photos, iEMPOWER! Star Advocates!


Every Child Deserves to Sparkle

Did you know that a child is lured or forced into trafficking

every 26 seconds?

That’s about 140 kids an hour!

Over 3 thousand kids a day!

And more than 1 million kids a year!

Did you know that child trafficking is a global problem?

It’s not just happening overseas, but also in every state across America.

iEMPOWER! was created

to raise awareness of child trafficking

and to support survivors.

Doesn’t every child deserve to sparkle?

Star Ornament

How Can YOU Help? 

On December 1, 2015

iEMPOWER! is launching two campaigns

where YOU can make a difference. 

Campaign #1: Buy a Star, Empower a Child! 

iEMPOWER! adopted a Destiny Rescue home in Thailand

where survivors heal and rebuild their lives.

Each child is offered vocational training of his or her choice

to transition out of the sex trade and secure future earnings.

Thai Girl Making Jewelry

iEMPOWER! has teamed up with the Jewelry Studio Artists

to find homes for their Holiday Star Ornaments!

Campaign #2: Be an Advocate, Make a Difference!

If you want to help fight child trafficking,

please consider buying a Star Kit

to help raise awareness and support survivors.

Every Star Kit includes ten Holiday Star Ornaments.

By selling, gifting, or donating each of the ten Stars,

you have helped spread the word to ten more people and

have further empowered survivors.

Your purchase provides hope and gives children a chance to sparkle.

everyone deserves to sparkle 1

Every Star is a one-of-a-kind treasure

handcrafted by a sex trade survivor.

Extra Credit: Please share a photo of your choice featuring the Star

 via email at and

we will sing your praises on our blog as a

Star Advocate who empowered a child.

Help Aubrey reach her goal of 100 photos

by January 1, 2016!

Together we can do it!


BEOWULF A New Telling by Robert Nye

cover1This year I hope to read every book that Aubrey and Anjuli’s school teachers assign to them with the exception of their text books. To meet this goal I got a list from each of their English teachers on parents night, went to the local bookstore, and bought dozens of books that are now stacked a few feet high on one of the nightstands by my bed.


As part of the 7th grade curriculum covering the Medieval period, BEOWULF was selected to support student learning and was among one of the first books I tackled.


220px-Beowulf_geography_namesTo ground you with some background on BEOWULF, it helps to understand that it offers readers both fictional elements, as well as real historic events. It is the oldest surviving long poem in Old English and is often cited as one of the most important works of Old English literature. BEOWULF was written in England between the 8th and 11th century by an anonymous poet. Because the original manuscript had no title, over time the story came to be called BEOWULF after the protagonist.

BEOWULF is set in Scandinavia and includes a number of clans from all over northern Europe including the Geats, Jutes, and Frisians, for example. So it was a little confusing to follow where the clans resided or what territory they controlled until I found a map online to better plant me in Beowulf’s world.


Beowulf_Cotton_MS_Vitellius_A_XV_f._132rTruth be told, this was my first time reading any version of BEOWULF and I’m glad I did until I went online and read reviews of Nye’s  new telling. According to a minority of the reviewers, Nye’s version does not “reflect the original text” of BEOWULF, nor does Nye “embrace the themes from the original manuscript.”

In Nye’s defense he does state on the very first page of his new telling that “there are literal versions of BEOWULF. I have not tried to compete with them. This is an interpretation, not a translation.” So for the naysayers out there, Nye gives his readers a disclaimer, as well as why and how his telling came about. The cover title also states “New Telling” which should clue potential buyers.


11527Personally, I enjoyed Nye’s story, especially the thread regarding the bees. It came full circle for me by story end. The bee thread also reminded me of the-overcoming-fear role the bats played in the Batman Begins movie when Bruce Wayne sheds his childhood fear of bats and actually leverages them as an adult to accomplish his mission of doing good for Gotham. Given that Beowulf means ‘bee wolf’, it was satisfying as a reader to watch Beowulf not only overcome his fear of bees, but to embrace it. As a storyteller, it makes logical sense to bring in and develop the bee thread. Anything otherwise would seem remiss and a lost opportunity. So I get why Nye developed the ‘bee wolf’ symbol in Beowulf’s journey.


MV5BNTM3OTc0MzM2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNzUwMTI3._V1_SX640_SY720_Is it disappointing to learn that I haven’t really read the real BEOWULF?


Yes, but as a young adult author and mother, I’m more thrilled to hear Anjuli rave about the story Nye has written without my prompting. At her age, the joy of reading is more important to me than becoming a scholar on BEOWULF. Should she decide to major in Old English Literature, she will most certainly have a chance to read a truer translation of BEOWULF than the one she is currently reading. Until then, I plan on letting her enjoy the reading process in the same way I give Santa Claus all of the credit on Christmas morning year after year.








STICKEEN by John Muir

1161926Over the what-I-prefer-to-call Native American Indian Day weekend, my daughters and I headed to the John Muir House in Martinez, California. Aubrey had an opportunity to earn extra credit in her history class by learning more about John Muir and his work as a conservationist and naturalist and then writing a report on it. That’s when I discovered STICKEEN written by John Muir and illustrated by Carl Dennis Buell in the museum bookstore.


jomuHouse_1891_lgFrom the back cover of STICKEEN:

The year is 1880. One stormy Alaska day, John Muir rises before dawn, puts a piece of bread into his overcoat pocket, and sets out to explore a glacier he has recently found. A little black dog named Stickeen trots along behind him, launching an adventure that Muir will later call “the most memorable of all my wild days.”


f23-1282-muir-against-heavyTogether, Muir and Stickeen find a majestic ice-cascade two miles wide and a lake filled with icebergs. But when it comes time to turn back, they find themselves trapped on an island, surrounded by icy crevasses a thousand feet deep. The only way out is a narrow sliver-bridge that passes across a great crevasse and up a cliff of ice.



muir-standing-next-to-newly-planted-sequoia“A stirring tale, exquisitely told” is what Booklist says about STICKEEN and I couldn’t agree more. For one, though written in 1909 I found Muir’s language both accessible to a modern day reader, as well as beautifully, poetically descriptive in a non-over-the-top way. Secondly, I’m a huge fan of a good dog story and STICKEEN does not disappoint. But, most of all, Muir plants us on that sliver of a narrow ice bridge, and then with an ice pick chipping away at the ice cliff to form steps of all things to escape off of the ice island where he and Stickeen are trapped. It’s amazing Muir survived minus the kind of gear I suspect teams today would require before embarking on such an adventure. And with just a piece of bread in his pocket for nourishment no less!


john-muir-tree-todayMuir often talked about the little black dog and their adventures at parties and lectures. It is said that waiters, porters, and others would hide behind curtains or even under tables just to hear Muir share it. And I can understand why, having just read STICKEEN. It’s the kind of story that pulls you in from the first page and holds onto you until the very last word. I would highly recommend STICKEEN for both children and adults. Thankfully nobody need hide behind a curtain to enjoy Muir’s adventure with Stickeen.


If you’re a John Muir fan and happen to be in the San Francisco Bay area, I’d also recommend a visit to the John Muir home in Martinez. Be sure to visit the Giant Sequoia tree that John Muir planted in 1898 as a sapling he brought back from a trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Today, the former sapling is about 70 feet tall and is infected with the fungus Botryosphaeria dothidea, a vascular disease that causes branches and tips to die. Seeing what is not native to the Bay area was a huge highlight for us, as you can see below.






It gives me huge pleasure to welcome fellow VCFA alumna and Beyond the Margin critique partner, Ann Jacobus to World Reads, a blog that features interviews with authors who’ve written a story set outside of the United States for children or young adults. I’ve been fortunate to watch this story evolve and grow and the best way I can sum it up is by describing ROMANCING THE DARK IN THE CITY OF LIGHT as an “ANNA KARENINA meets THE BOOK THIEF in a Parisian setting” story. Read on to learn more about Ann and her debut novel.

From Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Griffin/Macmillan

Release date: October 6, 2015

This is a dark and edgy upper YA thriller so for readers 14 and up.

Where is it set?

My YA novel is set in what most people will agree is one of the most beautiful cities in the world—Paris, France. Some scenes take place in parts of the city that most tourists don’t see. And the setting is filtered through the point of view of a character who is depressed and suicidal.

In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

Troubled, eighteen-year-old American Summer Barnes has one more chance to graduate from a high school in Paris. There she meets an awesome guy named Moony who’s totally upbeat about life, and her. She needs his friendship desperately, but he can’t put up with her bad choices much longer. Hot, mysterious Kurt, on the other hand, is all about self-destructive fun. He wants Summer to understand that life, and death, are easy choices.

Links to reviews or blurbs you wish to share: Publishers Weekly

Marc Olivier Le Blanc photography, Pictures by San Francisco Photographer, advertising and editorial.

Marc Olivier Le Blanc photography, Pictures by San Francisco Photographer, advertising and editorial.

How are you connected to the setting of your story?

I lived in Paris for ten years with my family. I also studied and traveled in France as a teen and as an undergraduate.

Lucky you, Ann! What inspired you to write this story?

The germ of the idea for this story came from a scary incident in the Métro, where someone ended up on the tracks in front of our train. I was with my young daughter and we quickly left. We never found out exactly what happened. But I couldn’t forget it and that’s where my imagination and the writer’s eternal question of “what if?” took over.

What was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?

My protagonist is depressed and ultimately suicidal. It was more challenging than I imagined living in her head for long periods of time (like, years). But the only way around it was through. This was a story I wanted to tell, and even when I gave up on it, I always returned to it.

What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it set outside of the United States? If so, where? And what is it about?

I am working on a companion book that picks up a year after RTDCOL ends, with Summer living with her aunt and working on a suicide crisis line in San Francisco. Some other characters from the RTDCOL show up, too. She’s very ANTI-suicide now.

We can’t wait for the next book, Ann! What else would you like us to know about you or your story?

I’ve lived outside the US for over two decades of my life and wish everyone could have the chance to travel, or better yet, to live outside their native country for at least a year. I’m convinced it could do wonders for world peace. My family and I lived in the Kingdom of Bahrain in the Arabian Gulf for four years. So one of Summer’s love interests is from the Gulf. We also lived in the Czech Republic for two years, and then for ten in Paris. We loved each experience and are grateful to have had these opportunities.

51byDWCA2WL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why? 

I remember reading the timeless The Witch of Blackbird Pond at a tender age, and being outraged at the injustices heaped upon poor Kit Tyler. She was forced to leave her tropical island home in Barbados and live in cold, harsh, hard-core Puritan 1687 New England. And they thought she was a witch to boot.

Where can readers go to learn more information?

Web page




If you like thrillers, memorable characters, and a good read, be sure to order your copy today at your nearest bookstore!! Thank you Ann, for joining us at World Reads and a big congratulations!

Thank you for having me, Annemarie!


Kid’s World with Anjuli Turner: A Day in the Life of a Medieval Peasant

IMG_4751My daughter, Anjuli is studying about the Medieval era at school. Last week her 7th grade class reenacted a Medieval Banquet with trading, jousting, fortune telling, archery, and many other fun activities from that time period.

The kids and teachers came dressed as ladies, jesters, peasants, nobles, knights, monks, friars, clerics, scribes, merchants, and peddlers, as well as, of course, an honorary king and queen. There was even a priest performing marriages! Anjuli, the bride, partook and looks far from full of bliss tying the marital knot.


IMG_4723Instead of primping for the marriage ceremony, Anjuli chose to joust with a fellow peasant prior to taking her vows.

She walked away with her limbs in tact and a mere few stitches!


As part of her studies of the Medieval era, her English teacher assigned students a creative writing prompt that required each of them to think about what life might have been like at that time. Anjuli chose to write from the peasant point of view and created the fictional character, Lilli of Nottingham.

Courtesy of George Clausen

Be sure to read Anjuli’s story below with an old British accent for the full effect.

Drum roll …

A Day in the Life of a Medieval Peasant

by Anjuli Turner

Being at the bottom of the social pyramid isn’t all that bad. No, frankly, it is terrible, miserable shall I say. Working sunrise to sunset is simply exhausting!

I am twelve years old and the eldest child of my family. I have two little brothers. They are both six with not a lot of responsibility, which only adds to my never-ending list of challenging chores.

Yes, my brothers are young but why shan’t they each have at least one of my chores? If only I had a wee bit more time to write in my journal each day, especially with the summer months and longer days fast approaching.


bread village16 June 1422

Nottingham, England

Summer is really such a perfect time of the year. All of the divine, beauteous flowers start budding into fruits, the very ones we shall savor over the cold, winter months. And the smell of freshly baked bread from Mother’s oven makes my tummy growl with hunger! I also love …


“Lilli, come hither and help prepare for supper!” My mother shouts.

“Coming!” I holler back, as I stash my journal in a secret hiding place in the privy and push away my thoughts of summer until perchance the next free moment.

tudor brooch (cz)While setting the table, I hear my parents talking amongst each other in hushed voices. They sound pitchkettled and worried, something about past due taxes. Mother reluctantly hands my father her favorite brooch, the one that belonged to her great-grandmother.

“Don’t be such a quidnunc!” Mother barks at me. “Fetch your brothers and be sure they wash their hands.”

Once my family is settled at the table, for not a soul wishes to kiss the hare’s foot and mayhap starve waiting for morrow’s next meal. As Mother offers a prayer, we patiently bow our heads and fold our hands together.

Let us give thanks to the beneficent and merciful God, the Father of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, for He has covered us, helped us, guarded us, accepted us unto Him, spared us, supported us, and brought us to this hour. Let us also ask Him, the Lord our God, the Almighty, to guard us in all peace this holy day and all the days of our life.

“Grammarcy,” we say in unison.

We have hardly picked up our forks to start eating when Mother asks, “Boys, did you scythe the hay?”

george clausen twins“Yepperdoodle!” Both say in a hufty-tufty tone with chests puffed out like roosters.

I giggle a bit. We all know my brothers dilly-dallied the day away and played hide-and-seek in the woods instead. Still my brothers are dear even if a tad lazy.

Mother raises her eyebrows at them, but the rest of her face is blooming smiles. My brothers are off the hook yet again. Where is the justice?

“And you, Lilli, did you plow the fields, trample the grapes, shear the sheep, herd the pigs, and gather up firewood?” Mother asks.

“With not a moment wasted,” I answer.

“Good girl, then you won’t have a problem scything the hay in the morrow,” she says.

My brothers hoot and keak like hens.

“BUT MOTHER!” I protest.

one_last_look___sheep_painting_4ef0dc18f40cf033205cbb9f536343dc“No buts, Lilli! This is not a question, it’s an order!”

“Prithee, dear Father, surely you have something to say about this?” I plead.

He is wordless! Sometimes he has such a nose of wax!

“This is woodness!” I wolf down the last bite of bellytimber and excuse myself from the table. I don’t wait for Mother’s permission and storm off.

In my escape I let my parents know just how upset I am by slamming the door behind me. I make a mad dash to the apple fields. When I reach my favorite tree, I flop to the ground and lie there gazing up at the dusky sky through the branches and green leaves.

And thither under the tree, I start to dream about another life.

lady clausenWind-sucker thoughts creep into my heart and imaginings of a new world emerge. I hardly recognize myself dressed in an elegant, velvet dress clutching a bubble-bow filled with gold coins in one hand and carrying a small lap dog in the other. I am even wearing a matching hat with many feathers and lace-covered gloves. My face is washed and powdered. The dirt underneath my nails is a thing of the past along with my calloused, often bruised hands. I am no longer slouching, but standing especially tall in brand new boots made of leather instead of the usual felt worn by a simple peasant girl. And the blisters that once lived on my feet are also long gone. Words like plow, grapes, sheep, pigs, firewood, and most certainly hay will one day be forgotten, for I dream of becoming a Lady and the fairest flower of the field.


All materials © 2015 Annemarie O'Brien. Web site by Websy Daisy. Illustration © 2013 by Tim Jessell