“The Party in Your Brain”

Hello to all my Readers,

Today, I present a timely guest blog from my fellow Blackbird Writer, Joy Ann Ribar, author of The Deep Lakes Cozy Mysteries series. She entitled her blog, “The Party in Your Brain.” I hope you find the following information as exciting as I do:

Did you know that April 17-23 is World Creativity and Innovation Week, declared by the United Nations? (Of course, creativity extends beyond one week!)

Joy says, “Its aim is to empower creativity from all people in all functions of life to improve our world. That may sound lofty and maybe even cliché to some, but according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, every occupational field in the world is seeking creative minds to move the world forward in the 21st century. In the world we live in, creativity has become an essential skill and tool for a better future.”

Not feeling creative? Maybe you don’t think you are a creative person. Of course you are. As Joy says, “You have creativity. . . . And it is the truth. . . . Both hemispheres of our dynamic brains are connected with nerve pathways that communicate and work together. I call it the party in your brain.

The key to creativity is to cultivate it, like a garden. The soil is already present, it just needs fertilizing.

Joy goes on to say, “World Creativity and Innovation Week celebrates creativity of all sorts and empowers individuals to share their everyday creative ideas and to collaborate with others to find answers to problems. Because creative thinkers are able to see problems as opportunities, most everything has multiple right answers from a creative standpoint.”

Storytelling is one form of creativity, but there are thousands more!

You can check out ways to participate in this celebration and find all listed events at https://wciw.org/

And if you’d like to read Joy’s entire blog to see how important creativity is and some ideas to spark your own brand of creativity, please click HERE.

So, get a clue, Readers. I wholeheartedly agree with Joy’s closing statements: “I steadfastly believe that the stories we tell will always matter. Never doubt that somewhere out there is a reader who needed to read or hear your story for a particular moment in their life. It was your words that mattered, and that is why words have power.”


Are You a Synesthete?

Dear Kids and All Readers,

I am a member of Blackbird Writers, a group of mystery, suspense, thriller, and crime fiction authors scattered across the U.S. Our motto is “We flock together to bring mystery and mayhem to the world.”

Each member is tasked about once every five months on a rotating basis with writing a blog that is posted on the group’s website.

Today was my turn.

My topic was “Are You a Synesthete?” That’s someone with synesthesia. Ever heard of it? Are you a synesthete?

Here are some opening paragraphs from my blog:

“Ms. J, what does my name make you taste?”

A fair question, the kind I am always asked by school students when I attend an author visit.

My kid-lit fans know I’m a synesthete. That’s a person with synesthesia. So is Rani Kumar, one of my detective characters. No worries. It’s not a fatal disease. She and I were born as synesthetes. We didn’t know the term until I stumbled across an article about the condition five years ago.  

What exactly is synesthesia?

The word synesthesia derives from two Greek roots: syn = union; aesthesis = sensation: a union of two or more senses. About four percent of the world’s population (roughly 320 million as of 2023) was born with this interesting neurological condition, resulting in unusual cross connections in the brain. Those cause one sense to trigger another, allowing synesthetes to apply two or more senses simultaneously. This “sensory fusion” is considered by many to be a mental ability, not a disability. . . . 

If you would like to read the rest of my blog on synesthesia, please click HERE

So, get a clue, Readers. I think you will find my article enlightening. And maybe revealing!

Want to know what your name makes me taste or smell? You may ask me HERE! I’ll do my best to reply.

Photo Credit:  Thank you, wikimedia.commons


Want to Make It to 100+?

Dear Kids and All Readers,

Did you know that there are almost 600,000 people worldwide who are at least 100 years old? And the numbers are expected to climb in the coming decades.

How did the longest lived reach this incredible goal? Is that your goal, too?

It is mine, so I’ve been doing some research. Below are four fascinating articles on the topic.

Turns out from an eighty-five-year Harvard study, the number one factor in achieving longevity is not social position or even health but ongoing social interactions: “relationships, relationships, relationships; loneliness kills.”

Diet (see the Blue Zones Longevity Diet and Info), exercise, joy, positivity, and genetics (somewhat) help, too.

And how about this? Has the First Person to Live to be 150 been born? It includes info about resetting the body’s molecules to reverse ageing and eliminating diseases. Whoa!

So, get a clue, Readers. I will leave you with another article with Expert Longevity Recommendations. Plan well financially for longevity. Welcome each of your birthdays joyfully; they beat the alternative. And kids, it’s not too early to start developing healthy habits to live a long, happy life. Hope to see joyful, healthy, and still financially comfortable you in the coming decades!

Photo Credit:  Thank you, Romario D’silva, on pexels.com.



Raven Mad

Hello, Kids and All Readers,

You might say I’ve gone “raven mad” lately. I refer to the bird, not my mental state!

Research for my Book 5, Jacaranda Street: Gravestone Image, has taken me to many sites about Edgar Allan Poe and ravens. I can’t seem to get enough of either topic.

But for today, I hope to make you just as enthralled with ravens as I am.

Here are some fascinating facts about these magnificent birds that I gathered from farmersalmanac.com and mentalfloss.com:

  1. Ravens love to play. These sky acrobats can fly upside down and turn somersaults. Young ravens drop sticks in flight, then swoop to catch them.
  2. Ravens can talk and sing. These black birds can make 100 or more vocalizations with their deep voices. Ravens, be they pets or wild, enjoy mimicking human speech and bird and animal sounds. When the bird in Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” said, “Nevermore,” that is realistic! (Hint: Watch for a talking raven in my Book 5 this fall!) If you’d like to hear Fable the pet raven vocalize on a YouTube video, please click HERE.
  3. Ravens are clever and intelligent. They often work in pairs to find food and will steal food from people and other animals without remorse. Ravens are ranked in an intelligence class with dolphins and chimpanzees. They make tools to help find and bury food.
  4. Ravens eat anything they want. They are omnivorous and hunt their own food, steal it, or eat roadkill. They also enjoy insects, eggs, seeds, and berries. Like squirrels, they will hide food for lean times.
  5. Ravens have been the subjects of legends and lore. To some, ravens are dark and mysterious birds, appearing in literature throughout history and across many cultures. Some consider them harbingers of death and misfortune. Others see them as symbols of good luck. Edgar Allan Poe described his midnight-visitor raven as “grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, an ominous bird of yore.”
  6. Ravens are adaptable to different environments. They live in the snow, deserts, mountains, and forests and have a lifespan of twenty-five to thirty years.
  7. Ravens roam in teenage gangs. Once they mate, they pair off and mature.
  8. Ravens can show empathy. They can express concern for an injured bird, recognize a “friend” up to three years after seeing them, and even hold a grudge!
  9. Ravens have been kept at the Tower of London for centuries. The Ravenmaster cares for the tower ravens. They are considered good luck symbols, believed to protect the Crown (Britain) and the Tower.
  10. Ravens appear in the Bible in the Book of Genesis and in 1 Kings.

So, get a clue, Readers. How are ravens and crows alike and different? You can find out from the Audubon Society HERE. Now, maybe you’re raven mad, too!

(Photo credits, left to right: Meg Jerrard, Steve Harvey, and Mel Poole on unsplash.com. Far right: Boys in Bristol Photography on pexels.com)


Upping Your Happiness

Dear Kids and All Readers,

What’s the number one factor leading to lasting Happiness?

Check out psychologist Jill Suttie’s article, “What the Longest Happiness Study Reveals About Finding Fulfillment.”

Dr. Suttie, with the Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley, presents the findings from a Harvard study involving a diverse group of people that began in the 1930s to the present day.

The study is now a book entitled The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness, by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz.

So, what did the ninety-year study find? 

The number one factor in achieving happiness, well-being, and longevity is Human Connections. Cultivating relationships in all areas of our lives is critical to happiness. The study cautioned that some cultures push people toward going it alone and overachieving, but relationships and positive social ties are, ultimately, more fulfilling, can help prolong our lives, and help us be resilient in the face of hardships.

If you’d like to learn some tips from the study on how to cultivate better relationships, click HERE.

So, get a clue, Readers. Let your happiness grow and become contagious by seeking out others and developing and maintaining positive social connections! It’s one of my goals for 2023.

(Photo Credits: Surface, Szilvia Basso, and Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash)


Of Grave Interest

Dear Readers,

During my research for Book 5, Jacaranda Street: Gravestone Image, which involves a mystery wrapped around the nineteenth-century American writer Edgar Allan Poe, I uncovered a fascinating, real-life mystery. If you’re a fan of Poe, you probably know that he died in 1849 at the age of 40. His cause of death is unknown, and his death certificate is lost–befitting the Master of the Macabre.

Since the 1940s, an unidentified man dressed in a long black coat, mask, white scarf, and wide-brimmed black hat would make his annual pilgrimage to Edgar Allan Poe’s original Baltimore gravesite in Westminster Church and Burying Ground to toast the writer on his January 19th birthday.

The “Poe Toaster,” as this figure came to be known, would arrive on foot between midnight and 5:30 a.m. each year with a bottle of Martell cognac and three red roses, one each for Poe, his wife, and her mother. He would lay the roses in a particular pattern on Poe’s grave, say a few words in Latin, sometimes leave a written note, and toast Poe with a glass of the drink. After leaving the rest of the bottle at the site, he would depart as mysteriously as he had arrived. Intrigue. Mystery. Solemnity.

A Poe Toaster continued this tradition until 2009, the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth. The Toaster had indicated in a note left at the gravesite in 1993 that his son would someday take over the annual ritual. It is believed that the original Toaster died in 1998, his identity unknown to this day, though speculation still runs rampant, and some “faux Toasters” have tried to claim the title.

A perhaps “new” Toaster continued the ritual from 1999 to 2009. But in 2010, no toaster appeared!

What’s happened to this beguiling annual ritual? Has a successor stepped forward? Who was/is the Poe Toaster? If you’d like to read much more about this real Baltimore mystery, you can Google the topic or click HERE.

So, get a clue, Readers. Edgar Allan Poe’s legacy lives on through his spine-tingling works and adoring fans. Writing, like most art, can bestow a kind of immortality on an artist, with or without a “Toaster.” But I’m still glad that Poe had/has one. Happy 214th Birthday, Mr. Poe!  (Photo credits: geeksided.com)