A little R&R (reading and relaxation)


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If you aspire to read more books, you may find that reading also can help you relax. Studies have shown that reading for just six minutes can reduce your stress levels up to 68 percent.

So instead of deciding which shows to binge-watch next, head down to the library. Whether you prefer science fiction, romance or a good mystery, devoting even a little time to a book will give you a chance to let go of the day.

Award-winning author Renee Garrison recently released her second novel, “Anchored Together.

A golden anniversary


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Fifty years ago, Walt Disney World Resort opened in 1971, featuring the Magic Kingdom, two hotels, lakes, lagoons, golf courses, and a campground. Roy O. Disney delivered the dedication speech, which included the following words:

“Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney… and to the talents, the dedication and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring joy and inspiration and new knowledge to all who come to this happy place… a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn—together.”

I visited the park with the Sanford Naval Academy Drill Team and Band. My father, the school Commandant, arranged for the midshipmen to perform in front of Cinderella’s Castle. It was exciting to watch, and also to walk through the underground tunnels usually reserved for cast members. I recently found a Polaroid picture from that day – no, Dopey was not my date. (However, given my outfit, I look as though I ought to be working in It’s a Small World.)

Impossible to believe that fifty years have passed, since it seems we all still need “a happy place.”

Award-winning author Renee Garrison has written two books on her life with midshipmen at the Sanford Naval Academy, The Anchor Clankers and Anchored Together.

Looking for luck


I’ve never found a four-leaf clover.

Yet, Alabama realtor Frankie Osborn has collected sixty-five-thousand pressed clovers with four leaves or more – including two prized clovers with NINE LEAVES! (As the Irish lore goes, the first three leaves stand for faith, hope, and love; the fourth harbors the luck.) 

Osborn has a few tips for finding them: Visit a field on a warm but cloudy day (the leaves curl up in direct sun), and scan for a square among the triangle shapes. Bring along a small bag to collect your trophies, and, once home, press them to dry in a phone book. (Hopefully, you still have one.)

I’m going to give it a try. We all could use a little more luck, right?

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of Anchored Together and The Anchor Clankers.

Renee Interviews Chris Gibson


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Author, Content Creator, and Multi-Media Expert Chris Gibson will speak in July at FAPACon 2021, the Florida Authors & Publishers Annual Conference. His YouTube channel blasted past 30,000 subscribers recently.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about. 

 Born in Dallas Texas, my early background was an Executive Vice President of Marketing for several Fortune 100 companies. I decided to follow my passion and became an internationally known and respected holistic health and lifestyle expert with four bestselling books on effective alternative healing: One book,  “Acne Free in 3 Days,” sold over 1 million copies and landed me on several best sell lists as well as national TV and Radio shows. 

What inspired you to write your book? What is the story behind the story?

I have a passion in self -directed health and wellness. I write to help others find alternative lifestyle changes that positively impact their lives and health,

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

With my books it was being taken seriously as a self-published author in the beginning. However, I was relentless and in things for the long game. 

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?

 Appearing on my first TV show I understood the power of visibility and credibility on a books path to success. 

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

Too many across genres to list – but my favorites are self help, law of attraction, books by self-made people. 

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?

Because I script my YouTube videos and have an active blog – I do write every day.

What are your interests outside of writing? My YouTube channel, travel, and creating media.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.

My best advice is to be on top of and in the game with your book and its promotion. Have a budget before launching it so you are able to get it visible and treat your book as a business. Network with other authors and develop a presence on social media. 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of Anchored Together and President-Elect of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Time for Happy Thoughts


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I read an article that said everyone can develop skills to improve our optimism. As the product of parochial schooling, I confess to being skeptical.

But the one thing I am sure of is that every optimist surrounds themself with positive people.

Mother used to say, “You are only as good as the company you keep.”  If you’re around gloomy people, there’s a good chance you won’t be smiling. I am now making it my mission to dodge negativity. I plan to surround myself with supportive friends who have positive outlooks. As they say, if you want to soar with the eagles, you have to stop hanging out with the ducks.

Optimism is a learned habit, and it can be contagious – even during quarantine. Surround yourself with people who can infect you with positivity.  Then, pass your new good mood on to a friend or stranger – let somebody have that parking space, let that person with only a few items cut in front of you at the market.  The simple act of doing something nice for others is actually a good pick-me-up all by itself.

Award-winning author Renee Garrison’s latest book is Anchored Together.

Armchair Escapes


My fellow Americans, I’m ready to run away (and I bet many of you are, too.)

Someone once said, “Paris is always a good idea,” but the pandemic makes it pretty impossible to visit the City of Light. No problem – I’ve found a few good books to transport us there.

The chocolate croissants are calling…

“Paris for One” by Jojo Moyes

A pick-me-up story that will make you want to book a ticket to Paris. The protagonist, Nell, was supposed to enjoy her first romantic weekend away with her boyfriend, but when he fails to show up, she decides to enjoy the city by herself. She meets the charming Fabien and is set for an adventure in “Paris for One.”

“Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs” by Jeremy Mercer

If you have ever been to Paris, you have probably visited one of the most iconic bookshops in the city (and in the world), Shakespeare and Co. Mercer’s memoir tells his experience as a struggling writer living in Paris and working at the famous bookshop.  

“Chéri” by Colette

Twenty-five-year-old Chéri is promised to be married to a young woman named Edmée, but he can’t seem to get Léa, 49, out of his mind. So much so that when Léa disappears and he gets in an argument with his wife, he decides to leave his marital home without explanation and only returns after Léa comes back to Paris. 

“A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway

One of the most famous expats in Paris, Ernest Hemingway once said, “There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris.” And we couldn’t agree more. “A Moveable Feast” is a memoir of the author’s years living as a journalist and writer in Paris in the roaring 20s. A candid account of his life in the city that is a must-read for anyone dreaming of Paris.

“Zazie in the Metro” by Raymond Queneau

A classic of French literature, “Zazie in the Metro” follows the story of a teenager visiting her uncle in Paris. Zazie escapes from her uncle’s custody and starts exploring the city by herself. The book is written in an informal style and has been described as a parody of an epic poem. 

“The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” by Victor Hugo

One of the most famous stories that take place in Paris, “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” never gets old. You have probably seen plays, films, and cartoons telling Hugo’s story many times, but quarantine is a perfect excuse to re-discover this incredible piece of French literature. 

Award-winning author Renee Garrison recently released her latest book, Anchored Together.

Music improves creativity


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Music inspires us – just ask Bob Dylan, who recently sold his song catalog for hundreds of millions of dollars.

While writing my new book, Anchored Together, I listened to a lot of music from the 1970s, because that’s when the story occurs. “Moondance” by Van Morrison, “So Far Away” by Carole King, “Your Song” by Elton John, “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor (loved it,) “American Pie” by Don McLean (hated it.)

Writers have been listening to music while working on books for a long time, while musicians often are inspired by a great story and end up writing a song. The connection between the two arts yields a unique way of expression. Music creates a certain mood and in these days of social distancing and self-quarantine, heaven knows we need a good mood.

 A sweet friend recently reminded me of “Come Dancing” by The Kinks, which now plays in my head when I need a perk in my step! What songs make YOU happy?

 “Garrison takes what could be a simple tale of first love and gives it depth by delving into the serious issue of alcoholism, particularly how it can cause disturbing personality changes in loved ones.” ~ Kirkus Reviews    

Carving out new traditions

Thanksgiving has traditionally been the holiday that my entire family gathers together. Not this year.

With CDC guidelines encouraging people to avoid travel and large gatherings, we’re about to find out what small or solitary holidays look like. Of course, everyone has missed celebrations this year. Virtual weddings, birthdays and graduations took the place of in-person gatherings. The coronavirus pandemic has shaped and changed our lives.

No wonder mental health professionals are concerned.

If states separate you and your family, you may need to look for ways to feel connected to others this holiday season. One of the best ways to spread cheer is to volunteer. Particularly this year, there are more opportunities than ever, both from a safe social distance in person or virtually.

Deliver food to an elderly person who may not be able to get to the store due to the pandemic. Or call someone who is alone and in need of some company. 

I’m going to suggest a FaceTime champagne toast with my clan. Even if the call freezes, we can send a selfie – holding our holiday beverages – in a group chat. The photos will make us grin and create new positive holiday memories.

This year, we need the holiday spirit more than ever.

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of Anchored Together.

Creating Scary Stories

Halloween is just around the corner, and we all know what that means: spooky writing! 

According to New Reader Magazine, “horror can be very difficult to write. The variety of emotional responses you can bring out is wide, and scared may not always be among them.” The magazine offers simple tips to scare your readers: 

  1. Let your readers know your characters. Give your readers time to familiarize your characters before you let the monster out to play. Give them time to care about and sympathize with them. 
  2. Consider sentence length. When you want to slow the action, make the sentence longer. When the monsters want to attack, go short. 
  3. Use your setting to your advantage. Show readers bits of the effects of what the monsters or the killer has done. Let your readers see the terrified old woman shaking uncontrollably!
  4. Hit them where and when they least expect it. Create the action in a way that you’re directing your reader’s attention in one direction, and then coming at them from somewhere different. 
  5. Spend time understanding your characters. Know how they react in terrifying situations and know their motives. This is where you can play on relationships and increasing threats around your protagonist. 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of “Anchored Together,a new coming-of-age book for teens impacted by family alcoholism.

Banned Books Week

The American Library Association condemns censorship and works to ensure free access to information. Since 1982, the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles a list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books in order to inform the public about censorship in libraries and schools. The lists are based on information from media stories and voluntary reports sent to OIF from communities across the country.

The Top 10 lists are only a snapshot of book challenges. Surveys indicate that 82-97% of book challenges – documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries – remain unreported and receive no media. Of the 566 books that were targeted, here are the most challenged, along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

  1. George by Alex Gino
    Reasons: challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”
  2. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased
  3. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
    Reasons: Challenged and vandalized for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning
  4. Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
    Reasons: Challenged, banned, and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate” 
  5. Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
    Reasons: Challenged and restricted for featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint
  6. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    Reasons: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”
  7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”
  8. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”
  9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
    Reasons: Banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals
  10. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole
    Reason: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content