Monday, May 30, 2016

Reflections on Memorial Day

We had a Memorial Day program at our clubhouse this morning.  Patriotic songs were sung, as well as the service song from each branch of the military–– Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Marines.  Men and women from each service stood and were honored when their song was played. 

Most moving to me was a video accompanying the John Williams’ song, “Hymn to the Fallen.” As the haunting music played, the screen showed military cemeteries in Europe and the U.S.––endless rows of crosses––with the number of fallen soldiers buried there written across the bottom.  There seemed no end to the cemeteries, no end to the crosses .

As I looked at all those thousands of crosses, I thought of the thousands of young lives snuffed out prematurely.  I also thought of the thousands of telegrams that were sent, telegrams that began, “We regret to inform you . . .” 

I pictured thousands of mothers and fathers weeping at the kitchen table, wives mourning and wondering how they would face life alone, children crying because Daddy wasn’t coming home, and friends seeing a future they would never share.

Maybe the best way to honor those killed in battle is do what we can to prevent more lives from being lost.  May they rest in peace, and may we find a way to live in peace.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

PAIRS ON ICE Kindle Offer

I finally finished revising my preteen novel, Pairs at Nationals, and am exploring paths to publication.  The book is the second in a three-book series about pairs skater Jamie Bartlett. To mark this final step, I’m offering the first book, Pairs on Ice, at a discounted price. From today, May 17, through May 23, you can download the Kindle book for just 99 cents.

Pairs on Ice begins Jamie’s story when she’s a singles skater and her coach suggests she switch to skating pairs with Matt O’Connor.  The back-of-the-book blurb says it best:

Pairs?  With Matt?  Jamie’s eyes widened.  She wasn’t a pairs skater.  And even if she     was, she’d rather eat worms than skate with someone as full of himself as Matt . . . What was her coach thinking?

Jamie’s coach was thinking that Jamie,12, has a better chance of achieving her Olympic dream as a pairs skater than as a single.  So Jamie agrees to skate with Matt, even if she has to grit her teeth every time they practice.  Their skating is smooth and polished, but their constant battles keep them from being truly great.

If Matt weren’t enough to deal with, Jamie’s divorced father tells her he is getting married again.  A new stepmother and six-year-old brother are just what she doesn’t need.

Will her life ever be smooth skating again?

My decision to write about skaters was inspired by my years as a skating mom when my daughter competed. Like Jamie’s stepmother, Linda, I always marveled at skaters who could jump, spin, and glide over the ice.  I hope my readers enjoy reading about Jamie and Matt as much as I enjoy writing about them.

You can find Pairs on Ice on Amazon and  You can also check out my Amazon Author Page at  

Pairs on Ice is written for tweens. But this is an amazing book for readers of all ages! We read Pairs on Ice as a family, and then my students read it as a project. We absolutely loved it! Whether you are a skater, a skating fan, or just looking for an inspiring story about working towards your dreams, this is the book for you!  We can not wait to read more from Elizabeth Vollstadt!
–––Skating coach B-J-Shue Chapman

I really liked Pairs on Ice.  It made me feel like I was in the story! . . . One of the things I liked best abut it was that I could imagine how Jamie was feeling. Also, I like how I almost couldn’t stop turning the pages. 
––-10-year-old reader

Monday, May 9, 2016

Let's Not Forget Stories

“Literature is the history of the soul of an age.”

“Tell me a story.”  What child hasn’t said that and what parent hasn’t heard it?  We all love stories.  It seems to be part of our nature.  Every culture has a pattern of stories, beginning with cave pictures that tell stories of successful hunts.

Stories help us make sense of the world and remember our past.  A college professor of mine once said, “Literature is the history of the soul of an age.”  That sentence stayed with me because I think it’s true.  We can read history books, but to really feel what life was like, we need a story.  

That’s why I’m a little concerned about the increasing emphasis on STEM studies (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) to the neglect of literature and the arts. Even Common Core Standards focus more on non-fiction.  Don’t get me wrong. I know how important science and technology are.  And I believe young people need to learn how to read and examine information critically, especially when so much out there is unfiltered.

But let’s not forget stories.  “Tell me a story,” a child says, and Grandma begins, “A long time ago when I was your age . . .”  She tells the story of her journey to America, and family history is passed down.

“Tell me a story,” and Mom weaves a fantasy of fairies that dance in the moonlight.  A child’s eyes light up as she looks into the garden.

We can read about the Civil War, but we learn what it was to live through it with Gone With the Wind.  We read about World War II and the Holocaust, but we feel it when we read Sarah’s Key, The Winds of War, Anne Frank’s Diary, Sophie’s Choice, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Land Girls, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and so many more.  We learn about prejudice and hatred, but it hits home through To Kill a Mockingbird and The Help.  

And it’s not just historical stories.  Think of the pleasure we get out of reading fantasy, mysteries, spy thrillers, romance, horror, and realistic fiction. Each of those books also teach us something about ourselves and our world––that we are not alone in our feelings, that people can overcome hardships, that what is right for one person may not be right for another.  

Children especially need stories, from picture books to novels.  I’m sure it’s comforting for middle-schoolers to read The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and see that they're not alone in their insecurities.  The Harry Potter books show the power young people can have as Harry and his friends fight the evil Voldemart.  Other books show how young people have overcome abuse, illness, tragedy, loss, and other terrible things.  The message is, it can be done.

So yes, let’s make sure young people learn science and the skills they need to succeed, but let’s not forget that they need stories, too.

How important have stories and literature been in your life?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Author Cruise on the St. Johns River

All eyes were on Marcia as she read her Prologue.
I had a fun afternoon on Saturday taking an “Author Cruise” with local writer Marcia Meara.  Marcia is the author of two romantic suspense series––Wake-Robin Ridge, set in the North Carolina mountains, and Riverbend, set in a fictional Florida town on the St. Johns River.  She came on this cruise to talk about writing, life dreams, and her novels. 

Marcia shared that although she had a lifelong dream of being a writer, the opportunity never came. It wasn't until she retired from full-time work that she listened to a friend who said, "You've always wanted to write, so do it."  And she did. 

Marcia's talk ended with a reading of the Prologue to her latest book (still to be published), Harbinger, the third in the Wake-Robin series. Wow, I didn't see that last sentence coming!

My favorite of her two series, however, is the  Riverbend series because I’ve boated on the St. Johns River for years and think it’s Central Florida’s greatest treasure.  The main character in the first book, Swamp Ghosts, is Maggie Devlin, beautiful, but bruised by life.  She owns and operates a river tour boat just like the one we traveled on.  In fact, Maggie and her photographer lover, Gunner, were inspired by Captain Jeanne Bell and her husband Doug Little, also a photographer, who own and operate St. Johns River Eco-Tours. 

It’s fun to see the scenes in a book in a special way because you’ve been to the place.  Here are some pictures I took as we explored inlets just like the ones Maggie and Gunner explored in Swamp Ghosts.  Especially exciting for me was getting my first picture of a limpkin and seeing the barred owls.

Are any books special to you because you live or have visited where they take place?

Barred Owl

"It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking up at the stars, and we didn't ever feel like talking loud . . . "
–– Mark Twain, Huck's comment in Huckleberry Finn