From an Acorn a Big Idea Grows

acorn and oak tree

Acorn with potiential tree inside

How can a teacher know what a student does not know ?
What can a student be expected to know?

Last night I was in a conference with an non-traditional college student, probably about 40 years old or so. The class the student is taking is for people who bombed the grammar part of the entrance test for a community college. No, this is not whining about how people don’t know grammar.

Acorn? Oak Trees?

The assignment was to do some brainstorming/prewriting on some writing prompts, and one of the prompts was “From tiny acorns giant oaks grow.”  The student is tentative, afraid of looking stupid since being out of school for many years. It’s a common concern. Figuring out how to write about this prompt was impossible.

As we talked, I realized that the student did not have a clear idea of what an acorn was, nor where they come from, or that oak trees grow from them, only that possibly, squirrels liked to eat them.  I asked her to walk outside with me to a place by the parking lot where I knew there was a young oak tree and a prodigious number of acorns.

I picked up an acorn from the ground and handed it to her. I pointed at the tree and explained that it was an oak, and that its seeds were acorns.  I asked if the student’s child had ever grown a lima bean for a science project, where they could watch the root come out and the leaves come up. I said that it works the same way.

We walked back into the adjunct office. The student stared at the acorn in wonderment. The acorn I picked up was very dry, and probably would not sprout even if it were planted and tended, but that was not the idea I was trying to implant.

Tree. Acorn. Dirt. Grow.

I talked about how children grow, not just from tiny babies but from invisible cells, and that their potential could grow too, if the conditions were right. We talked about how the acorn wouldn’t sprout without water and fertilizer, and then I asked what kind of fertilizer the student would find in a forest, where oak trees normally grow.

“Dirt?”  The student’s eyes were wide and somewhat fearful. The answer might be wrong.

“Yes,” I said, and talked a bit about how the old leaves and other stuff rotted to make dirt for the new seeds to grow in. The student smiled, and rather than the cliché of the light bulb, the whole aura of the student glowed. The brain, the student said, felt so much bigger. I told the student that once a mind is expanded, it can’t to back to where it was before–like an acorn that sprouts to grow into a giant oak.

I am not mocking the student, as I sometimes do with the funny typos and “spun” word synonyms that “clever” students use to conceal that they are copying from others.

How can an adult not know where acorns come from? What huge crack opened up to let this student fall through? What other morass of ignorance–not stupidity–are other students drowning in, not even knowing that they are drowning?


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Review: This Old World by Steve Wiegenstein

This Old World, a novel by Steve Wiegenstein

This Old World by Steve Wiegenstein

Weigenstein takes a look at the effects of war on community

Daybreak, a utopian community in Arkansas based on democracy and equality, is torn apart, like the nation during the American Civil War.  Charlotte Turner becomes the leader of the community when her husband and the older men leave the community to fight, some for the Union, some for the Confederacy.  The community is not healed when the surviving men return, as the men have been changed by their experiences as have the women and children they left behind.

Weigenstein develops the story by showing how the people try to reintegrate around the old conflicts before the war, and to heal the scars from during the war. Each person–Charlotte, Emily, Flynn, James–has relationships to rebuild, wounds to heal, and none of them is like they were before.  The devastation of the land by both sides and the neglect due to not having the manpower to manage the community adds more strain.

Then some people do not want the war to end, as they enjoy the excitement, the lack of rules, so the reader sees the birth of what eventually will become the Ku Klux Klan. Made up of bushwhackers, these are men who are not part of the community, but who are more interested in doing whatever they want, drinking, setting fires, lynching people they object to, such as formerly enslaved people and Native Americans.

Weigenstein writes from the history of his family and the area where the story takes place. He provides a few maps of the area to help the reader visualize the landscape, and he describes the way of life in sufficient detail to make it easy to visualize and be in the story.

I was given a galley proof of this book in exchange for an honest review. This Old World by Steven Weigenstein is available at

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Review: Shifter by Alma Alexander

Shifter (The Were Chronicles, #3)Shifter by Alma Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a world where Were and Not-Were live in a fragile balance, an abandoned were-child must make his way alone, figuring out who and what he is, risking his life to find friends and something of a family. The themes of brotherly love and loyalty make this compelling and exciting.

While this is book three of the series, following  Random and Wolf, the world is sufficiently developed for the book to stand alone. The first-person narrator learns about himself and his world, so the reader is taken along for the ride—and it is quite a ride.

I enjoyed the narration, the character’s perceptions and understanding of how he came to be and why he is in the situation where he finds himself. This is a fresh take on what a world with were-folk and humans living together might look like in a modern day world.

There are several places where the story jumps over several years, summarized succinctly to get to the next place in the story, some of which I found a bit rushed and disconcerting. There are also sidebar chapters that explain some background as part of the information that the character has compiled in his research. While this was interesting, it also stopped the story, and I was tempted to skip over it.

Overall the story and the characters kept my interest, and I found all of them believable, and the conflicts of the story well-grounded in the setting.  I wanted all the characters to succeed and to make their way into the kind of life that they wanted to have, despite all odds against them. There are more stories here to tell, but the ending of this was satisfying and well designed.

I received a copy of this book for an honest review.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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Imprisoning a Duel Discord by Louise Findlay

Imprisoning a Duel Discord by Louise Findlay

Imprisoning a Duel Discord by Louise Findlay

Imprisoning a Duel Discord: The world is in musical order. To maintain balance, a team of Government Agents, named Harmony, track down, experiment on and sometimes kill those who express the music of dissonance. Those like Psycha, a duel Discord of Vyla and Sios; a prime lab rat to Harmony. Being able to disrupt harmony by voice and hands alone makes Psycha far more dangerous than the usual Discord. Will she run into trouble trying to protect her boyfriend, Caleb? Will her desire to destroy Harmony prove fatal for her? What will be left of her if she ever gets captured?

Louise Findlay - Dreamless Roads

Louise Findlay – Dreamless Roads

Author Louise Findlay writes fantasy (generally short stories) and inspirational poetry. She enjoys reading and writing about mythological creatures such as angels and demons but has a soft spot for vampires. Louise is currently in the midst of writing a vampire novella about two vampire clans whose deputy’s clash in a big way, entitled A Spy in the Sagax Vampires.

She generally writes ebooks, but she’s part of a few anthologies which are in print and is working on a special secret project this year.

Excerpt of Imprisoning a Duel Discord:


What had Caleb gotten himself into this time? We were discords for music’s sake. We couldn’t strike back against Harmony if we ran, and be damned if he got caught. He was a Tara Discord not a Vyla like me. He was more vulnerable and I knew for a fact he left his Tara back at camp. Careless. That was so unlike him. He was usually methodical and paranoid. He couldn’t afford to throw his life away on a whim. I was the reckless one.

I hummed a tune to try to find his wavelength. Discords stuck out like a sore thumb, and he was a Tara. He was invisible without it, but I knew his musical signature like the back of my hand. I was almost certain I could pick something up, and I did. The three note discordant hum that was uniquely Caleb was faintly ringing in the air. I rushed to try and catch up to him. There was no way he would get captured on my watch. Cinder would kill me.

No. I caught sight of a man with the Harmony symbol on the back of his black suit. The tell-tale sign of a sharp, with two notes at the bottom and a treble clef in the middle, made him the enemy. I’d seen what happened to Discords when Harmony got a hold of them. They were mere husks of their former selves; dead and despondent inside. Their life cruelly ripped away. I would not let that happen to Caleb.

I screamed out notes at the man’s back, notes which clashed horribly. It was music to me, but the assailant recoiled, clutching his head in pain. How dare he try and take away the thing that made Caleb who he was. Being Discords defined us.

Imprisoning a Duel Discord Psycha

Imprisoning a Duel Discord  – Psycha

My enemy retaliated by taking out his Ko and trying to play me into submission. The harmony was excruciating to me. I was a duel Vyla/Sios Discord. Normal Discords were three parts discord and one-part harmony. I was fully Discord. I could control music with my voice and by touch alone. I hated Harmony for what they did to us, and I knew I’d be their prime lab rat.

“Caleb, run” I shouted.

I was bombarding him with musical assaults, but I had to be careful not to hit Caleb. He was powerless without his Tara. Why did he not bring it with him?

“I’m not leaving you,” he said.

Ah. Blood ran down my cheek when a note hit. Harmony and dissonance were opposites. One could hurt the other. Harmony were the government and Dissonance were the outcasts. I would make them pay for condemning us to a lifetime of running. Harmony agents lived to capture us.

“Go, you idiot. Get back to camp. You’re defenceless,” I ordered.

At last, he managed to see sense and fled. I couldn’t protect him if he was in the way. I waved a shield to protect against the agent’s next attack. Now Caleb was safe I could really let loose without fear of hurting him. I used my voice and hands in tandem to unleash a barrage of musical weapons at him. Streams of note swords and arrows flew at the enemy. He was pretty quick to keep up with me, but he couldn’t deflect everything I threw at him.

Imprisoning a Duel Discord Bram

Imprisoning a Duel Discord –  Bram

I started to hum a dissonant melody designed to sweep into his soul. I would poison his harmony with dissonance. He let out a hiss, which told me I was successful. I screamed as more musical implements of doom attacked me. I used the blood trickling down my arm in a note. Blood notes packed a mean punch. Judging by the look on his face, it did.

“Just die, Harmony bastard,” I said.

“Bring it, Discord cur,” he replied.

I screamed like a banshee. When he was distracted, I flung a spear at him. I turned his cries into a gag with a wave of my hand. His voice was grating to my ears.

Ah. A melody hit me straight in the neck and continued to constrain my throat. I tried to catch my breath, but it was impossible. I flailed around, trying to swipe him off me, but to no avail. I couldn’t let him get me. I couldn’t be captured. I finally managed to get him to relent, but my vision turned hazy as I gasped for breath.

Read the rest of Imprisoning a Duel Discord by Louise Findlay at

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In the Still Midwinter: a Christmas Anthology

In the Still Midwinter A Christmas anthology by Charlotte Henley Babb

In the Still Midwinter: A Christmas anthology by Charlotte Henley Babb

Five stories of Christmas redemption and revelation–families, strangers, coworkers, and even the dear departed.

  • Queenie’s Christmas– A doll helps a girl and her mom find the spirit of love and giving despite the cold, hard realities of life
  • Cocoa and the Cat– It’s dangerous to bring in a stray–when is it worth the risk?
  • The Brick– Christmas is about surprises, right? Not all surprises are appreciated.
  • Moon Dance– The magic comes just when a person needs it, just in a way that one does not expect
  • In the Still Midwinter– When the lights go out, will it be the worst party ever? Can there be peace on earth?

Being vulnerable helps people find the true spirit of the season despite the hype and expectations. Settle in with a cup of cocoa and enjoy.

Save 33% with this Smashwords coupon, until 12/18/15 – only $2.00 for an ebook: AJ28X

Christmas Anthology in print and ebook at Amazon:

I wrote these stories based on family stories and other experiences around the holidays. It’s a hard time for many people emotionally, but stories can help with that, especially if they don’t hit the Norman Rockwell sweet spot or the overly sentimental Hallmark moment.

I have been able to reconcile with my family to some extent, partly by realizing my own hardened attitudes and by listening to more than the spoken words of messages from others. It takes effort sometimes to receive love when it comes in a form that is not what one prefers, but being open to receive allows communion with the other.

Reliving some of these moments and embellishing them to find a more universal experience than any one person’s perspective has brought me a sense of release.  Please do check them out and if you like them, leave a review. It would be such a blessing to me.

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Pumpkineater: New release by Charlotte Henley Babb

Pumpkineater by Charlotte Henley Babb

Pumpkineater by Charlotte Henley Babb

Pumpkineater by Charlotte Henley Babb

This weekend, Nov. 13-15, 2015, you can get a free copy of Pumpkineater for Kindle right here:

The tales were fun to write, and the thoughts about how Maven mirrors my life (changing the names and locations of course) has been enlightening.
I hope others find it funny, and I look forward to any comments.

Three more adventures from Maven Fairy Godmother have her dealing with kudzu, Giants and a very large pumpkin. She brings her usual channel-the-chaos style to deliver the happily ever after her clients desire.

“Kiss of the Kudzu” begins just after the end of Maven Fairy Godmother: Through the Veil. Maven hasn’t recovered from her first week on the job, but she has her hands full with the wishes of a sentient Palace. This does have a couple of spoilers if you haven’t read the novel. She must get help from an unusual source, and that involves owing favors.

In “Beans,” Maven follows her client up the beanstalk to raid the Giants and steal her way out of abject poverty, but the client finds out there are better ways to solve her problems, and Maven deals with a twist on the story that is outside the box.

In the title story, “Pumpkineater,” Maven meets a kept sorceress and must find a way out for both of them or risk being kept forever. Sometimes glamour is just not enough to heal the pain. Then there are those favors to be repaid…

View all my review on Goodreads

I’m still working on the sequel to the novel. The working title of the next novel is That Darn Maven, and I’m happy with the threads of stories I’ve knotted together–The Handless Maiden, The Three Bears, and the Water Nixie.  Maven gets a chance to live on the down low and rediscover her powers.

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New Stories…Writing…Writing…Writing

20 Hours to Charles Twon by Charlotte Henley Babb

20 Hours to Charles Town by Charlotte Henley Babb

I’ve been writing new stories for you, so I’ve not been here on the blog. I’ve gotten some good work done, as I’ve listed below.

The steampunk piece, 20 Hours to Charles Town,  is a finished first draft, waiting on feedback from my beta readers. Elvira, an airship madam, has to deliver all the ambassadors for North America to Charles Town to avoid an international incident after one of them is attacked by one of her women.  If you are into steampunk and would like a preview, in exchange for answering some response questions, email me .  I plan to release this book at AnacroCon in February 2016.

Next I’ve been working on  a sequel to Maven Fairy Godmother, called That Darn Maven, wherein she is transformed into a cat, and must find a way to communicate with the people around her and use her talents to break the spell and return to her human form.  That one is about half finished, but some other stories have been bonking me on the head to be released first.

Pumpkineater by Charlotte Henley Babb

Pumpkineater by Charlotte Henley Babb

These stories are based on Peter Pumpkineater, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle being covered by vines, and Jack and the Beanstalk.  I also have three Christmas stories set in Mundane, and a couple of  children’s stories about dragons.  So I’m working away to keep developing these worlds.

And just today, I was talking to Jerrod, one of my favorite barista at the local B&N, I remembered The Pits of Vell, which developed from the outtakes of the now defunct Port Nowhere.  The characters want me to write them, so I’m staying busy with that. If you want to hear from me about once a month, sign up for the newsletter, over there on the right, and get a free short story, “Red Stilettos.” Maven finds herself in Mundane with a client who refuses to make a wish and no way back to Faery.


If you want to see me in person, Come to CONjuration in Atlanta November 13-15. I’ll be on several panels about Harry Potter, including one about Freudian analysis and another about the Steampunk elements in the books and the movies.

I would so love to meet you and chat about your favorite fandom even if it isn’t mine.  😉


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