Interview with Sammy Shu, Author of “There’s a Season for All”

Sammy Shu resides in Denver, Colorado with her family. In 1992 she finished her first children’s book, and quickly discovered a love of the genre and has been weaving her fantasies ever since. Sammy writes four hours a day and spends her time dedicated to the whimsies of childhood. She hopes to bring smiles to the faces of children all over the world and her stories are a testament to this. Fairies, dragons, mermaids, centaurs and creatures yet to be discovered are but a few of the fabulous topics of her wonderful books. Sammy has written nine children’s books with more planned for the future.

Juanita: Welcome to Reader Views Sammy, and thanks for the opportunity to talk with you about your wonderful new children’s book “There’s a Season for All.” Sammy, have you always been a writer? Why did you begin writing children’s books?

Sammy: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember being able to hold a pencil. My first stories were related to role-playing. You learn about character development, Finding a reason for things and developing storylines. It’s a great fun way to relax and stretch your imagination muscles. As I grew older I stopped gaming and began really pursuing more fairytale themes in my work. My love of children’s book arrived with my children watching their faces light up as I tell them a story makes a challenging day melt away. That’s good stuff.

Juanita: What is the age range of “There’s a Season for All”? Is this the same for all of your books?

Sammy: This book is for young readers, ages 5 – 9. My next book is for young adults and the ones coming next year are again for the younger reader.

Juanita: Is there anything specific to the 5 – 9 year age group that you keep in mind when writing?

Sammy: I try to remember how amazingly intelligent children are today. I never dumb it down. I use big words and situations that I know they deal with. I want to relate to these children. My writing has a purpose, a goal, and that’s an important factor to my work. I want to create an emotional response, make them think. So far the response has been great.

Juanita: What happens in “There’s a Season for All”?

Sammy: Four fairies sisters inherit the running of Tweenland. They have many responsibilities and soon discover that things are far more difficult than they thought. Running a kingdom is demanding. Soon they are fighting and causing problems for the people. I think this is something that happens with siblings, they fight, they work it out and in the end they remain loving and considerate. This is what happens in the book. But I don’t want to give away how that happens. The ending is pretty cool.

Juanita: Would you tell us about Tweenland, and its metaphoric message?

Sammy: I wanted a land that represented real life situations while remaining true to a child’s fabulous imagination. This is the place in be Tween.

Juanita: What inspired this highly creative storyline?

Sammy: I have daughters and of course they love all things fairy tale. Seasons are very important to me. I grew up in Florida where there really weren’t many changes, that part was inspired by Colorado and all of its beauty and variety. Sometimes I forget that I came from a place that didn’t have that. It’s so beautiful here and I draw a lot of my inspiration from that. all of the rest comes from the children. They’re so open and so fascinated by it all. I remember that and I miss the innocence. I’m inspired to keep that alive.

Juanita: The four fairy sisters in this story represent the four seasons, who struggle to assert their power. This really is a fascinating way to connect children with the environment, while teaching personal responsibility and working with others. Would you elaborate on these characters – the four fairy sisters, and the magic they hold in this story?

Sammy: The great thing about this story for me is each character represents a child in my life so they are all very special to me. They have such power to control their own environment and you can see how competent and successful they are by the end of the story. Girls need to know that they are powerful and capable I love that my girls feel that and I hope this book can put those ideas out there for other girls.

Juanita: What is the take home message in “There’s a Season for All”?

Sammy: Every person has something to offer in the big picture. We’re all so different and if we could just learn to work together we could achieve anything.

Juanita: Sammy, have you always been interested in fairy tales and mystical themes?

Sammy: Yes, as a child I wrote about magical bunnies and a land where you could sip chocolate milk from streams. I also played some role-playing games. I love fantastic themes. It’s so wonderful to be able to write about the places in my dreams and know that I can share that with the world.

Juanita: Even in this modern-day, why do you think fairies, dragons, mermaids, and elfin creatures provide such timeless fascination for children?

Sammy: It’s the belief that magic is real. I think as children are growing they are frustrated by their lack of control on their lives. In fairy tales they can use their imagination to create situations that they enjoy and have some control over.

Juanita: I know that imagination is a significant theme in your books, as well as in your personal and professional life. Would you comment on your desire to spark children’s imagination as well as inspiring your own?

Sammy: Life can be so demanding. We all need a place to go and recharge our batteries. The imagination is abundant and you can make it anything you want. For me it’s writing and my hope for the children is that they enjoy my stories, come away feeling refreshed and ready to take on all of life’s challenges.

Juanita: Sammy, would you tell us about Carl Cone, the illustrator for “There’s a Season for All,” as well as the collaboration process?

Sammy: Carl is my best friend. We’ve worked together for years and I’m sure we will continue to do so. He’s amazing. All of my work comes to life because of his astounding talent. I give him a story and he usually shows me sketches. We talk about possibilities and then he’s off and running. He’s always right on with his great ideas. I’m lucky to have such talent surrounding me. He has a site for people in need of an artist in different mediums. It is http://www.myspace.com/carltheartbug.

Juanita: Are you working on any other books/projects at this time?

Sammy:“The Legend of the Vampire Fairies” is the next book coming out. It’s a darker fairy tale for teens and young adults. The art is primarily my photography with some sketches and detail work by Carl. We’re very excited about it. I’ve also written several books that are about the Land of Imagination (where the fairy queen goes to rest in the first book) in that book the main character is a centaur boy learning the responsibilities of adulthood. Both project hold a special place in my heart and I cant wait to share them.
They will all be coming out as soon as the art is done.

Juanita: How can readers find out about you and your books?

Sammy: You can buy my books at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Tattered Cover, Amazon.com any retail store should have them or be able to get them. My web site is [http://www.Sammyshu.com] .

I also have several other sites that are linked to that one. If you go to Youtube.com you can put in Vampire Fairies and watch a book trailer of my upcoming book.

Juanita: Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us today Sammy. We encourage readers to look for “There’s a Season for All” at local and online bookstores, as well as stay posted to your website for future releases. Before we depart, do you have any final thoughts for your readers?

Sammy: I’d like to mention that a portion of the proceeds of my book sales go to a foundation I started called AFFECT (artists function for enhancing children’s tomorrow) The purpose of the foundation is to give children in need the opportunities that the rest of them have, Good books, entertainment, Art. We go to children’s homes and hospitals we read to them, do short skits, teach them fun safe choreographed combat techniques. Drawing classes, and anything else our members are willing to provide. We are always looking for people who are willing to donate their talents for the lost children of this world; hopefully through my writing I can make a difference. Thank you for this opportunity to get my message to more people.

To find out more about our cause go to makeanaffect.com and keep reading!

Benefits of Home Schooling – Now is the Time for All Good Parents to Consider Home Schooling

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Every second of every day passes by unbidden and unstoppable. When a minute has passed, it is gone forever. Whatever was done or not done during that minute is history and–at least as far as we know–unchangeable. For teachers, a minute lost means that less time remains for instruction. For students, there is less time in which to learn. If there was a way to use instructional time more efficiently and effectively, wouldn’t you be interested in finding out about it? One of the benefits of home schooling is related to time.

You may be wondering how time could possibly be considered a benefit of home schooling. Doesn’t home schooling take loads of extra time? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to learn in a school setting?

Obviously, the amount of time that your child spends in a learning situation is not significantly different in home schooling compared to standard educational models. The primary time difference comes into play when you look at the amount of time spent by you, the parent-educator.

When you undertake home schooling, it’s pretty much like taking on a full-time job. You will become your child’s (or children’s) only teacher. Even with a spouse, friend or relative helping out, there’s still just the two of you. Compared to the faculty of a typical school, one and two are pretty small numbers.

Home schooling brings with it a great deal of responsibility as well. When you choose to home school, you are reclaiming the responsibility for teaching your child the essential knowledge and skills to succeed in life. You will be putting together a collection of home schooling materials. You will need to decide how to present information and help your child discover new knowledge on his own. Checking for learning and understanding will also be your responsibility. And if the need ever arises for discipline, guess who gets to be the one who sets things right? Yep, you guessed it.

So you can begin to see that the many benefits of home schooling are accompanied by many responsibilities as well. You may wonder if it’s worth trading in a career or free time to acquire a better education for your child. It’s definitely not a decision for the commitment-shy.

On the flip side, time is also a great benefit of home schooling, enough so that it may sway, or at least balance the equation.

Your child will most likely find that home schooling offers a huge advantage when it comes to time. Home schooling almost always offers a near-perfect learning environment, free from the distractions and politics found in the typical school. Even though you have the responsibility to provide learning materials, since you’re only providing for one or a few students, you may be able to acquire materials much better than can be found in the local classroom. The bottom line is that most children in a home schooling situation are able to learn in a few hours what might take a day in the “normal” classroom.

Think of the possibilities! If your child is learning more in less time, not only will they be guaranteed to get the essentials to succeed in higher education and later in life, they will also have time to learn additional enriching knowledge and skills.

While it’s true that home schooling can require a large time commitment on the part of the parents, the education gained by your child will be of incomparable quality. Plus, who’s to say that parents will escape evening instructional time even if they do send their kids to public or private school? Any investment you make in the future of your children will certainly pay dividends many times over. And you will always cherish the memories of the quality time you spent together.

Teachers – Want a Private Education For Your Children But You Cannot Afford It?

You need to teach overseas! Pick a country, any country, and there will be at least one international school there. International Schools offer private education for expatriate’s children worldwide. And, while most of the parents have to pay school fees, one of the conditions nearly always included in the contracts of international teachers is free education for the teachers’ children. There are over 4000 international schools worldwide, all requiring teachers to staff them, many of them offering excellent quality private education.

Picking a school that suits both your children’s needs and yours can be challenging, but it is possible. In a recent interview I conducted with international teachers, Maggie Hos-McGrane, an international teacher of 19 years experience said that after she had completed her research she’d found only 30 of the more than 4000 international schools suited both her and her children. If you have children, here are some things you should consider when applying for teaching posts abroad in international schools.

Is the school a profit making enterprise?

There are a number of different kinds of international schools to choose from, some are run by a board and are not designed to make a profit, and others are run by an individual or company in order to make a profit.

As a teacher you will be concerned that the school’s educational philosophy matches your own. As a parent you want to insure that your children’s education is the priority of the school, rather than the amount of money spent on educational materials and the effect that will have on the school’s owner’s profit.

There are some directors or owners of international schools that may be more interested in the financial benefits of running a school than the education benefits to the students. Be aware, both as a prospective employee and as a parent.

Is the school accredited?

International schools can become accredited by an organization that sets educational and operational standards for international education institutions. One such organization is the Council of International Schools (CIS). In order for an international school to become accredited by CIS, they must go through a rigorous appraisal process which looks at the staff and management, the facilities and, the quality of teaching and learning in the school.

If an international school is accredited, then you can be confident that the quality of education provided by the school is high. Most schools that are accredited by an organization like CIS advertise their status on their webpage, brochures and stationery.

Other organizations that offer accreditation for international schools are NEASC, COBISEC, ISCIS and the Association of Christian Schools International, to name a few.

How many students are in the school?

This is particularly of concern for parents of high school aged children as the number of students in a school may affect the number of subject choices offered at higher levels. For example, if there are only 30 students in the graduating class, then the school will have to limit the number of subjects being offered to make it cost effective. This can often affect profit and non-profit making schools alike.

Additionally, the number of students in the school can affect the number and type of extra curricular activities offered, and therefore your child’s opportunities to experience team sports and other activities that are usually run after school.

When a school has a large number of students, this can also mean that the school is more likely to have a well-stocked library, well equipped laboratories, up-to-date computer equipment and outdoor activity areas. This is usually true of larger schools simply because there is a larger pot of money to fund these facilities from.

On the other hand a school that has thousands of students, while usually offering a wide variety of subjects and activities for students, can often be an anonymous place for children. It is up to you to decide what a good balance is for you and your family.

Which curricula do the schools subscribe to?

There are international schools abroad that offer what is essentially a national curriculum. In fact, in the case of many British schools abroad, it’s even called the National Curriculum.

You can find international schools that are running the national curriculum from America, the UK, Australia, Canada, France (usually taught in French), and so on. Securing a teaching contract in an international school that offers the national curriculum that you and your children are used to will help ease the transition. However, you are not limited by the curricula that you have taught in the past, international schools are generally looking for good teachers and realize that teachers can adapt and teach any curriculum.

When you are looking for a good school for your children, you may run up against some curricula that you haven’t come across before. For example, there is the school wide system offered by the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO). The IBO offers the Primary Years Programme up to Year 6, the Middle Years Programme from Years 7 to 11, and the Diploma Years Programme for Years 12 and 13.

Which examinations will your children be working towards?

There are a number of examinations available for international school students, and you will need to understand the options before making any decisions about accepting an employment contract.

I mentioned the IBO previously as being a school wide programme. However many schools adopt bits and pieces of the programme. You may find that an international school offers the Diploma for the upper two years but offers the British IGCSE for Years 10 and 11. IGCSE is an examination based qualification, and the IBO Middle Years Programme has no formal examination assessment, students get a certificate and a record of achievement. Some international schools have a mix and match attitude to the curricula offered.

International schools that run national curricula tend to prepare students for the related national exams. American schools overseas run a mixture of state curricula and AP courses.

In this article I have listed just a few of the factors you’ll need to consider if you would like to get a private education for your children by teaching overseas. While I don’t have any children of my own, many of my colleagues do, and they believe that the education their children are receiving abroad is better than what they could get back home, wherever home may be.