Hello! My name is Shannon Taylor. I'm a long-time writer and editor living in the woods of Wisconsin with my husband, four children, two dogs, and two crazy cats.

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Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
+ Mahatma Gandhi

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Winter Fun

U2 Got Rejected and So Will You…So Make the Most of It

Have you seen this rejection letter that’s making its way around social media?

U2 Rejection Letter

{ UberFacts }

As we all know, U2 persevered and went on to become one of the most successful bands in history.

I read through a bunch of comments about the letter and found it interesting that most people are accusing Alexander Sinclair of not recognizing talent when he heard it. And that might be true. But it might also be true that U2 wasn’t that good yet. Bono himself described the group as being “a band before we could play.”

Regardless, they kept practicing. They played as many shows in Dublin as they could to build a strong fan base. They took input from the audiences and tweaked their music and their message. They kept putting themselves out there until the right people liked what they heard. People like my politically-conscious, alternative-music-aficionado friend Aaron, who played his War cassette for our freshman science class one day in the spring of 1983.

In other words, U2 followed this advice:

So Good They Can't Ignore You Steve Martin

One thing is certain: If you put yourself out there, you will be rejected. Read it and believe it: You will be rejected.

So how can you handle rejection? How can you keep it from freezing you up so completely that you don’t even try?

The only thing you can do, really, is make rejection part of the system. As author Carolyn See wisely says, “Rejection is a process, not an event.” So when rejections show up in your mailbox or in-box, Crazy Ivan the darn things and take away their power. Tack them to your wall like Stephen King so famously did. Use them to line the guinea pig cage. Slip them into a bedazzled binder.

Celebrate rejection because it means that you went for it. You are officially a member of the same club as U2 and Stephen King and J. K. Rowling and others who put themselves out there, got smacked down, and kept going. You’re that much closer to success.

Most importantly, take a deep breath and analyze the response to whatever it is you put out there. Does the person have a point? Does the rejection contain any advice or bit of wisdom you can use to make your work better? Make some changes if necessary and then send that puppy right back out again.

And then get back to work. This story isn’t about Alexander Sinclair of RSO Records and whether he did or did not miss the boat with U2. The real story is about being so good they can’t ignore you.

Anti-“Gravity” Workout with Simone De La Rue

Simone de la Rue Workout

So I’m watching Gravity the other night and thinking how old is Sandra Bullock? I googled Sandra Bullock workout and discovered two things: Ms. Bullock is four years older than I am and her trainer is Simone De La Rue. And Ms. De La Rue definitely knows how to fight gravity.

I quickly headed over to the Body by Simone (BBS) website, loved what I saw, and immediately signed up for a month of online videos for $9.99. Simone’s workouts are a fusion of Pilates, bar method, strength training, and cardio dance moves with a heavy dose of plyometrics. The dance routines are challenging (you will be sweating!), but they’re fun and easy to learn. You have to love a trainer who includes some Running Man!

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“Crazy Ivan” Strategy for Busy Days

Underwater sub

Do you remember the movie The Hunt for Red October? It came out in 1990 and stars Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst leading a covert attempt to steal a cutting-edge Soviet nuclear submarine with the help of a defecting Russian submarine captain, Marko Ramius (played by Sean Connery).

I’m thinking about this movie because I need a Crazy Ivan today. Not the drink, the strategy. Although the drink might be nice, too.

If you saw the movie or read the book—which I have, of course, because when you have a Will that’s the sort of thing you read for bedtime stories—you might remember Captain Ramius doing a maneuver called a Crazy Ivan. A Crazy Ivan is something Russian submarine captains used to do to see if anyone was following them: they’d stop their engines and make a sharp turn left or right to look behind. The crazy part was that the other submarines could crash into you.

So, by analogy, a Crazy Ivan is any quick and unexpected change in direction, literally or figuratively.

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Homemade Shamrock Shake Recipe

Shamrock Shakes

by Lexie

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to try some homemade shamrock shakes. They were really easy to make and judging by how quickly my family consumed them, they taste just as good as the original!

Homemade Shamrock Shakes
makes two 12-ounce servings

2 cups vanilla ice cream
1 to 1-1/4 cups milk
1/4 tsp. mint extract (not peppermint)
about 10 drops of green food coloring
whipped cream and green sprinkles, optional

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth. Add enough milk to get the consistency you like. You might need to break up chunks of ice cream with a spoon, but be sure to turn off the blender first!

Pour into two large glasses and top with whipped cream and sprinkles, if you’d like, and serve with a straw. Sláinte!

Green Beer

Not to be outdone, my dad did his own photo shoot. Yep, that’s green beer. Thanks, Dad.


Happy Friday + Weekend Links

Lily Snowy Self-Portrait

Self-portrait by Lily.

Happy Friday! How was your week? Mine was good—and it got even better when the mercury crept up past 30 degrees. The first trickles of melting snow are just starting to flow. Are you familiar with the sound of melting snow? I think it’s one of the most beautiful noises in nature.

Do you have plans for the weekend? We have a tournament here and there and the last night of ski club, but it’s not looking too crazy. Which is a good thing because I get cranky if there’s not enough white space in my life. Maybe you can relate?

I’ve finally taken the plunge into revising the book I drafted last November during NaNoWriMo. Man, it can be hard for me to get started on things like this. How long has it been? Three months? I will, of course, share anything I figure out about the revision process for those of you who are interested.

So while I try to get a handle on where the heck I was going in Chapter Two, here are some fun links for you:

+ Gabby is never afraid to tackle difficult subjects, and this discussion on teaching kids about race and racism got me thinking. We’ve certainly dealt with our share of, um, misguided comments. I’ll have to write about it one of these days. In the meantime, the self-portrait Lily made at school makes me so happy.

+ How do you catch a leprechaun? With tiny donuts, of course! Be sure to check out the free donut box printable.

+ I’m obsessed with this video of Idina Menzel and Jimmy Fallon performing “Let It Go” using only classroom instruments. Just ask my family. Luckily, most of them are obsessed, too.

+ Inspired by Farrell’s Happy project, these folks want to spread the happy. (My tap class is dancing to “Happy” and I’m over the moon.)

+ Lily would love these projects using watercolor tape.

+ Please let this study about coffee be true!

+ I decided to lose a few pounds before our trip and immediately gained two. Maybe this is why.

+ Stamp yo face! Look! It’s you on a rubber stamp!

+ I appreciate stories that celebrate the art of honing one’s craft: A Useful Reminder: Louis C.K. Was Bad Before He Was Good.

+ Fascinating animated map showing the evolution of Europe from 1,000 AD to the present.

So there you go. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you back here next week!



To Wallpaper or Not to Wallpaper? And Other Decorating Dilemmas

The Simple Things wallpaper

To be honest, I’m not even sure I’m allowed to talk about wallpaper. You see, the walls of our old house—our first home—were literally covered in wallpaper. Every. single. wall. Living room, kitchen, bathrooms, family room, hallways…even the laundry room had wallpaper. But it was a charming house and we weren’t planning to stay for long, so we ignored the wallpaper.

Until it was time to sell. Conveniently pregnant with Will, I took Andrew and Lexie off to a family reunion one weekend at the Wisconsin Dells and left Tim to tackle the wallpaper. To this day, his eye starts to twitch at the word. Seriously, the next time you see him say “wallpaper” and watch what happens.

So I feel kind of bad bringing it up. But look at that photo up there. Isn’t the room beautiful? Doesn’t it invite you to curl up and relax in front of the fire with a good book, a cup of tea, and your labrador? The wallpaper provides such a soft, subtle background.

(The room is featured in a British publication called The Simple Things. I could live in this magazine. Since I can’t actually do that, I’m working up the nerve to pitch them some ideas.)

Anyway, I’m thinking about wallpaper because something has to be done about this room:

Away Room Wallpaper

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Pilgrimage to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe

Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe

It’s March 2004. We’re in Tomorrowland, seated at a table just outside Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. Over the weekend we attended a cousin’s wedding in nearby Cocoa Beach and now we’re spending a few days at Disney World before heading home to the frozen tundra. Andrew is 5, Lexie is 3, William is 1. We’re enjoying our lunch and soaking up the glorious warmth and sunshine.

At a table near us, a young girl, about three years old, is holding court. She is wearing a blue princess dress and a crown that is perched precariously on her head. She has three older brothers who are wiggling and falling out of their chairs and causing a polite ruckus, but she sits calmly amid the chaos. She is focused on her lunch. Every now and then she reaches out for a french fry and someone hands her one. Occasionally, she laughs at her brothers. This has the effect of egging them on to act even sillier. It is a happy scene and they look like every other happy family at Disney World.

Except that the girl is Asian and the rest of the family is not. The mother is blond, the father has light brown hair. The brothers are fair like their parents. The girl has a birthmark that runs down the side of her face and onto her neck where it disappears under her dress.

I am trying not to stare. I am not suffering from idle curiosity. It’s just that this family looks so much like us. Or at least us as we could be.

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10 Fun Ways to Connect with Books

Turtle cupcakes

When I worked full-time as an editor for EMC Publishing’s literature and language arts series, one of my favorite tasks was coming up with activities to connect students to the texts in our books. The idea behind these activities was to make the novels, plays, stories, poems, essays, and even grammar lessons accessible to kids no matter what their learning styles were. We played to students’ individual strengths through projects that involved painting, drawing, writing, acting, games, you name it.

As a parent, making those connections between readers and stories is still one of my favorite things to do! Whether it’s a Harry Potter-themed birthday party or our own little summer reading program, I really enjoy finding ways to help bring characters and books to life.

So here are 10 of our favorite ways to connect with books:

1. Cook something. Lily and her friend Abi are co-leading the Mighty Girls book club discussion today on Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. At one point in the story the main character, Minli, eats a turtle-shaped cake filled with red bean paste. Lily and I thought that might be a little too adventurous for a group of hungry third-graders, so we decided to make turtle cupcakes instead.

Sometimes specific foods are mentioned in a story, but if not, why not make something you think the characters would be likely to eat? You could prepare a treat from France to serve while reading Madeline or re-create a meal from one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books.

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The Best Oscar Moment (Hint: It Was Something Meryl Said)

Ellen Oscar Selfie

Did you watch the Oscars last night? I thought it was a great show—I loved the Best Song performances, the Lopezes’ rhyming acceptance speech, and all the tributes to Mom.

But my very favorite moment happened just after host Ellen DeGeneres snapped a selfie with a bunch of nominees (and a brother…literally). As she was sitting down, Meryl Streep exclaimed, “That’s my first tweet!”

Which made me like Ms. Streep even more. Here’s a woman who has earned a record 18 Oscar nominations. And she did it all without a Facebook page, a Twitter account, Instagram, or any other form of social media.

I don’t know what it’s like in your career field, but writers have it hammered constantly into our heads: Build your platform! And, sure, social media plays a big part in selling books nowadays. But isn’t there something to be said for honing your craft? doing the work?

The author Neil Gaiman is known for his successful use of social media and he seems to be having a lot of fun with it. But the man’s in his 50s and put in years and years of work before Twitter came along.

Social media provides great tools for writers. I make Pinterest boards for characters I’m creating to help me picture where they live and what they wear and the things they love. And I love blogging—not only is it great for connecting with people but it’s a useful tool for discipline and practice—I think of it as the writing equivalent of doing scales on the piano or guitar. I’m sure there are ways you can use social media to improve your skills, too.

I realize that at some point we do have to let people know about us if we want to get paid. We have to show up at the audition or put up a website or send out an E-newsletter. But let’s not get distracted or stressed out by our lack of social media presence or, worse, imagine that social networking is what it’s really about. Instead, let’s borrow a page from the amazing Book of Meryl and concentrate on doing great work. And then we’ll really have something to tweet about.

We should also practice our shimmies because you never know….

Meryl shimmy



2014 Printable Oscar Ballot and Bingo

Printable Oscar Ballot 2014

Holy frijoles, I forgot all about the Oscars! But there’s still time to stock up on popcorn and milk duds and print out some ballots before the show airs tomorrow night at 7:30 pm CST.

Jessica at How About Orange is once again sharing a printable ballot and a fun version of Oscar Bingo to make your evening more exciting. You can go here to print out your ballots and bingo cards.

We’ve done slightly better on our Oscar movie viewing this year. For the past few years, it seems like the only nominated movies we saw were the animated ones! But we managed to watch Captain Phillips, Blue Jasmine, The Hobbit and Star Trek sequels, and Gravity. And, of course, Frozen and The Croods.

Are you planning to watch the Oscars? Anything special you’re hoping to see? (I’m looking forward to seeing Idina Menzel perform “Let It Go.”)


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