What Makes it Possible

I’ve heard that sharks need to keep moving, or they die.

The same, I think, with writers.

I make presentations as a guest author. I visit schools, connect with kids, share my love of words with others. And doing so is an absolute delight.

But the “guest” part wouldn’t happen without the “author” part.

So, even when I’m out visiting schools (or even, tbh, brushing my teeth or taking out the trash), my mind is writing the next book, the next story I want to share.

And when that next book comes together, it’s exciting, indeed.

That’s where I am tonight.

My new book, a children’s biography about John Muir, Father of the National Parks, is officially being released tomorrow on Amazon. As I’ve written in a previous post, this book has added meaning for me because I not only learned about John Muir’s love for nature, but I also realized I needed to research the Native Americans who predated the National Parks. In my book, I hope young readers (as well as their teachers and parents), will read about the mistreatment of Native Americans in the region that is now known as Yosemite National Park, Muir’s particular passion. And, hopefully, young readers will ask questions about not only how we treat nature, but, most importantly, how we treat our fellow humans.

And that’s really the most important part for me, getting out the message. As a small-press/independent publisher, I have no illusions that this will bring me fame. It certainly won’t bring me riches. But it will bring me the satisfaction that my message, the story I felt needed to be told, is out there in case anyone is interested.

It’s the actual writing, the sharing of a story–the “author” part–that allows me the chance to visit schools and students as their “guest.”

And I love that. I do.

But I know I’ve got to keep moving. Make sure I keep writing and thinking of stories.

Or, well, you know…

The previous post about my journey in writing this book: https://casettakids.com/2021/10/11/indigenous-peoples-day-and-my-ignorance-and-journey/

My new book, now available at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sophia-Discovers-Real-Treasure-National/dp/1956224025/ref=sr_1_3?crid=30GI9EE8IWVJC&keywords=curt+casetta&qid=1647734421&sprefix=curt+casetta%2Caps%2C265&sr=8-3

Um, So What’s a Guest Author?

The term guest author can certainly be confusing. I mean, a guest chef will cook, a guest speaker will, well, speak. But a guest author doesn’t write, does he (or she)?

Nope. But a guest author is kind of responsible for laying the foundation for writing (or reading) in his audience. If the guest author is instructive enough, or inspirational enough, those listening should feel more confident or more motivated when it comes time for them to do their own writing–whether it be a short story or a short email to one’s colleagues.

A guest author should be able to draw upon his own experiences and writing struggles to help it make a smoother go for those in the audience. By offering tips or anecdotes, a guest author should be able to have everyone in that audience think, “Hey, I could do that one little step.”

And a guest author should be able to connect enough with the audience–through his talk or his books (preferably both)–to make them willing to do that one little step.

Now, does that really work for everyone listening ? Do they really all become a little bit better writers, or more motivated ones?

Well, tbh, that wouldn’t be realistic. However, if there is someone listening that has that desire to become a better writer–even if they have that door open just a tiny crack–it’s my job (and my privilege) to encourage them to open it even wider.

And, if I’m really lucky, maybe they’ll just kick that door wide open.

Indigenous Peoples Day and My Ignorance and Journey

Today marks Indigenous Peoples Day, a day to celebrate the contributions of Native peoples to this great country.

It’s also time to reflect upon the sad and horrific acts committed against this country’s Indigenous Peoples through the years.

As a children’s author, I never thought I’d be writing about race and racism. Instead, I planned to write about subjects far removed, such as biographies or silly adventure books about my mischievous cat, Bluebell.

But that changed as I was finishing my upcoming book, “Sophia Discovers the Real Treasure, A Story of John Muir, Father of the National Parks.”

In it, Sophia (who, in her last book, learned about Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day), travels back in time to learn about another great conservationist, John Muir.

But, it got complicated. As my text was wrapping up, the Sierra Club, co-founded by John Muir, wrote about disparaging comments he made about Native people he encountered. The Sierra Club’s article shared the abhorrent white supremacist views of Muir’s colleagues. It discussed the privilege of the early Sierra Club’s exclusively white members.

And I realized I had to include such references in my book. I reached out to professors in Native American studies, experts on John Muir’s life, members of Native tribes.

I researched about the killing of Indigenous Peoples in California to clear the way for white settlers. I learned about broken treaties and the forced displacement of people from lands their ancestors had lived on, and taken care of, for centuries. I explored the mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples right here in my home state of Wisconsin.

I understood how the original title of my book, “Sophia Wanders the Wilderness,” is inaccurate and offensive because the land around Yosemite had been inhabited, and cultivated, and cared for, by Indigenous Peoples long before John Muir–or any white person–ever even laid eyes upon it. So, it wasn’t a wilderness, it was their home.

The revelations were eye-opening and relatively unknown to me. The discoveries of these facts–and the discovery of my ignorance–were shocking. And so very, very sad.

And I learned a lot.

But I realize I have so much more to learn.

So, celebrate Indigenous Peoples today, but remember to acknowledge the suffering they’ve endured.

Some links cited here:

Pulling Down Our Monuments | Sierra Club

California’s Little-Known Genocide – HISTORY

COVID, Round 2

Well, another school year is here. And with it, so sadly, is the coronavirus.

After believing that schools would finally be ready for normalcy (and, selfishly, that they’d be ready for accepting guest visits from authors), the mutating virus has thrown a health and safety wrench into yet another school year.

Some school districts are doubling down on the mitigation efforts they used last year to stem the pandemic, and some are convinced that COVID doesn’t pose a serious risk to their students or communities.

In the meantime, I’ll be promoting my virtual guest author visits for another few months. And, along with everyone else, longing for that ever-elusive normalcy.

Stay safe, everybody.

How do YOU recharge?

It’s time to recharge.

Whether an author, a guest speaker, or an electrician (as was my late dad), we all need  a place or an activity where we can shut off the flow of thought about work for a little while and replenish our souls. To be ready to tackle it again another day.

My dad bowled, or loaded us into the car and took us to obscure travel sites (seriously, places such as the “House Made of Coal” and the “Deepest Hand-dug Oil Well”). I, too, have many such respites (from our back porch to mindlessly matching candies in an online game). My favorite, though, is up here, at our tiny cabin, on a quiet lake in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

Our cabin is one of a handful left from its time as a secluded “resort,” where visitors seeking fish and solitude—or nights of stories and beers around the campfire–would rent little cabins for a week at a time during the all-too-fleeting Wisconsin summer. We bought it about a dozen years ago. It overlooks a lake, far from any population center, small enough so as not to draw the pleasure crafts and jet skis, but large enough to provide a home for loons and eagles, and an occasional, little, aluminum fishing boat seeking a bounty.

Right now, I’m watching a pair of fishermen cast the enormous lures needed to catch the elusive (and also enormous) musky. The musky is called the “fish of 1000 casts” because only patience and perseverance (and a bit of luck and knowhow) will finally land you one. If you fish, I’m sure it’s the perfect way to recharge.

Me? I like to observe. I subconsciously register the wind roaring through the hemlocks, a cheering crowd at some far-off football game. I watch the kingfishers dart through the trees along the shore. The hummingbirds squeak and whirr by, finally pausing on a pine branch overhead. The breeze plays the perfect counterpoint to the increasing warmth of a noontide sun. A squirrel walks cautiously nearby, checking out the guy tapping away on his computer.

And recharging.

To write another day.

For more suggestions about recharging, check out these sites:

10 Easy Methods How To Recharge Yourself For A Fresh Start (stunningmotivation.com)

How to Recharge: 16 Science-Backed Habits that Restore (greatist.com)

Presenting to Students? Uh-oh.

I get to make a presentation to kids!


Does that get your butterflies fluttering? Take a deep breath—a lot of the things that make good presentations for adults are good practices to use with students, too. Although there are a few tweaks you may want to employ.

Based on my years as an educator and presenting as a guest author for school assemblies, here are my “12 Helpful Hints to Present to Young Students,” that should help even the most kid-phobic among us breathe a bit easier.

  1. Have them prepped, if possible. Make sure the school/organization knows about your book/topics you might cover (maybe send a rough agenda and a couple copies of your book when they schedule). Present yourself as kind of a big deal so the staff, and then the students, will get more excited and be more receptive to your presentation.
  2. Have a plan: Know the things you want to talk about, about for how long, and the order you want to present them.
  3. Practice: That wonderful plan you prepared in step #2 won’t mean a thing if you haven’t practiced what you want to talk about, about for how long, and the order you want to present them.
  4. Say quality stuff: Share personal stories that provide examples/make your points, detail a process (your writing/illustrating/publishing), give them information that will inform or entertain them, connect things to their experience.
  5. Be authentic: If you’re a buttoned-up, dad-joke kind of guy, don’t try to come across as some guitar-playing, hippy-type dude. And vice-versa.
  6. Hook them in: Interest them immediately—maybe read a dramatic/funny section of your latest book, or that dad-joke, or a guitar song, or a thought-provoking question pertaining to your book (i.e., if you were a cat that escaped through a screen door, where would be the first place you went?)
  7. Don’t talk down to them: use correct terms to refer to literary things you want to (and should) point out in your book (i.e., don’t say “sound words” if you mean “onomatopoeia”). Make sure your examples are age-appropriate (i.e., not Harry Potter to five-year-olds)
  8. Ask them to participate. Ask simple questions to get them to raise their hand or turn and discuss with a neighbor. The questions can be general (“Who’s your favorite author?”) or story-specific (“Who has a mischievous pet?”).
  9. Limit their responses. After asking a question or for a discussion, say “I’ll take three people to share” or “Five seconds more (and count down out loud from THREE-TWO-ONE—and move on)”
  10. Vary the pace: provide a variety of segments—from questions, to a reading, to a demonstration (I show how I illustrate using the computer), to a song,  to a short video (or any combination/repeating of these components). But, again, it should be quality stuff having to do with your presentation—don’t just say or do something random, such as “Hey, listen to me sing the backwards ABCs!”
  11. Finish on a high note: give them an experience to reflect upon (“So even if you get 83 rejections, you can still get published—or 83 strikeouts you can still get that game-winning hit”) or an action step (“Now, it’s YOUR turn, go out and save the Earth”).
  12. Have fun. Believe in your material, believe in yourself. If you make a mistake, be sweetly self-deprecating and move on. If some technology doesn’t work, go to plan B (or improvise one). Consider this opportunity to present as an exciting challenge, not drudgery. Kids will be able to tell (so will the adults that will provide your word-of-mouth advertising).

Here are a couple other ideas I’ve found useful in making presentations to students:

Tips for Presenting to Young Audiences (presentationmagazine.com)

How to Give a Presentation: 12 Steps (with Pictures) – wikiHow

Instead of “Uh-oh,” your presentations to students will be, “I got this.”

Please feel free to leave any tips that work for you (or any questions you have)!

Guest Authors and Smiling Faces (whether you can see them or not…)

For the first time in over a year (since Covid lockdowns), I was lucky enough to make an in-person guest author visit to a local school. We all had masks, there was a hand sanitizing station off to my left, and the teachers and I had all been vaccinated. To be honest, it was a bit surreal.

But it was awesome.

We sang a song (I brought my guitar). I read things from my books. We discussed being an author. I asked about the students’ writing. They asked about my character (and real-life cat) Bluebell. We shared. We talked. We laughed.

And I realized that wearing masks didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm. It didn’t lessen the electricity in that room, an electricity of kids excited about reading, excited about writing.

And, even though the masks covered the faces of those wonderfully exuberant students, their smiles were most certainly there.

Just like mine.

Thanks, kids.

I needed that.

Check out my YouTube video of me reading “Bluebell and the Runaway Bus,” one of the stories we discussed at my guest author’s visit