About K. E. Blaski

I am an Associate Professor of Business & CIS at Rock Valley College working on breaking into the YA fiction market with my first novel. I am a member of the SCBWI and AMA. A mother of three, my interests are diverse and include everything from science and music to hanging out on the beach. I also have a soft spot for zombie books and movies.

The Book That Inspired My Author Adventure

watershipdownWe all know every writer started as a reader. Recently a writer friend of mine shared that the book she read in middle school that kicked off her interest in writing for children was E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. I agree that book is a serious favorite of mine too. I named my first two-wheel bike Charlotte after all. But for me, if I have to narrow down from all the books I read as a kid, (everything from To Kill A Mockingbird to Salem’s Lot) the one book that inspired me the most was Watership Down by Richard Adams.

The blurb from Sparknotes does not do this novel any favors:

Watership Down is the tale of a group of rabbits in search of a home. Fiver, a small, young rabbit, has a gift: He can tell when things are going to happen and he can sense whether they will be good or bad. Fiver foresees great danger to the rabbits’ home warren.

 

Bunny Metaphors Abound

Bunny Metaphors Abound. Photo credit Irina Blaski 2016.

The book is So. Much. More. Maybe part of my affection stems from the fact that my favorite teacher in middle school passed along her personal copy to me, encouraging me to dive deep within its pages to find the story beneath the story. Shout out to Mrs. Monroe @Summit Hill Junior High for lighting the fire within this little girl. Honestly it took her a couple weeks of pestering for me to give this book a chance just because the back cover blurb was so lame.

Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. And so began my love of reading and writing stories that are more than what they seem on the surface, stories with nuance that warrant a second, and third reading.

Richard Adams wrote Watership Down in 1972. From his Amazon Author Page:

Richard George Adams (born 9 May, 1920) is an English novelist, author of Watership Down, Shardik, Maia, The Plague Dogs, Traveller, Tales from Watership Down and many other books.

He originally began telling the story of Watership Down to his two daughters during a long car journey, and they insisted he write it down. When Watership Down was finally published, after many rejections, it sold over a million copies in record time in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Watership Down has become a modern classic and won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 1972. To date it has sold over 8 million copies and been translated into many languages, including Finnish, Hebrew and Chinese.

And yes, he’s still alive and kicking at 96 years old. [UPDATE Richard Adams passed away the day after Christmas, 2016 a mere three months after my original post. His obituary can be found http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-38446309. RIP.]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Adams

Adams reads from Watership Down at a 2008 exhibition of Aldo Galli paintings, Photo Credit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Adams

One of my favorite interviews with him is from The Telegraph, originally published in 2014, in which he tells us that when his publisher accepted the manuscript (after rejections from seven other publishers) “This blew a trumpet in my heart.”
Great line, right? It’s the same feeling I get when a four or five star review for any of my work hits Goodreads!
Another of my favorite Adams quotes is from an interview with Alison Flood of The Guardian just last year, where he said, “I do not believe in talking down to children. Readers like to be upset, excited and bowled over.”
Nothing wrong with a little heart-pumping excitement or a good, cleansing cry while turning the pages of a book.
Which book started your author journey? Share in the comments!

What’s to Like About Rockford: Free Electronic Recycling

So there I was getting gas one day and I saw this . . .

Live near Rockford? Got electronic junk? Take it here.

Live near Rockford? Got electronic junk? Take it here.

AND THEN, I saw this . . .

Big pile of big TVs

Big pile of big TVs

All you have to do is drive your electronic junk out to Kelley’s Market, on S. Main and Hwy 20 and drop it off in their big blue bin (or off to the side of their big blue bin, like in the photograph above). Old TVs, computers, VHS players, radios, and so on, they take it all.

Kelley Williamson Mobile teamed up with United Recycling Technologies (URT) and the partnership has been going strong since 2013. There’s a second bin at East State Street and Lyford Road. Between the two bins, millions of pounds have been collected. URT handles all kinds of e-waste to make sure it doesn’t wind up in a landfill where the corrosion of electronics can leak lead and hazardous chemicals into the water table.

So go ahead and clear out the basement. You’ve got a place to take that ginormous TV that blew up while you were watching American Ninja Warrior.

How to Sunblock Your Kids Without Poisoning Them with Sunblock

Sure, getting your kid to wear a hat is the first line of defense, but unless they’re wearing a sombrero, from their shoulders down will still be exposed. Like most people I see at the beach, I sprayed my kids down with waterproof sunblock from a can or slathered on some name brand SPF 1000–the higher the number the better right? Nope, the experts recommend no lower than SPF 30 and no higher than SPF 50.

Then I happened to read about the toxicity of the chemicals found in common sunscreens. BreastCancerFund.org tells me “octyl-methoxycinnamate, which is estrogenic and has thyroid hormone-disrupting effects, is found in over 800 sunscreens.” Great. Since my kids were babies I’ve been diligently disrupting their hormones…

Well, when I know better I try to do better, thank you Maya Angelou.

http://www.sunprecautions.com/product/84300

http://www.sunprecautions.com/ product/84300

But what would be an effective replacement? I could cover them in protective clothing, but then I’d never get them out of the house. Long sleeves at the beach? Maybe in fall and winter. But July?

“You want me to wear what? No thanks Mom, I’ll just stay in the air conditioning and play video games all day.”

So this summer I decided to get the kids involved in a little research test. We would try out a few of the “healthier alternative” sunblocks that we could actually afford and see which one(s) we liked.

Our criteria included: EWG rating, SPF, packaging, price, ease of application, feel of product on skin, color of skin after application, time before reapplication, water and sweat resistance, smell, and finally, did it prevent sunburn?

Our three test products:

Three sunblocks chosen for a summer-long comparison

Three sunblocks chosen for a summer-long comparison

When and Where we tried them out? Summer Camps, Sports, Swimming, Beach, Gardening, and Outdoor Fairs all summer long…

Our family gives Burnout 4.5 out of 5 stars

Our family gives Burnout 4.5 out of 5 stars

Our first Sunblock is BURNOUT OCEAN TESTED PHYSICAL SUNSCREEN

  1. EWG rating: 1 (the lower the better)
  2. SPF: 30
  3. Packaging: Easy to get the product out of the tube, fits in a purse, beach bag, back pocket
  4. Price: $13.99 for 3.4 OZ on Amazon
  5. Ease of application: Easy to put on and rub in
  6. Feel of product on skin: Doesn’t feel tacky or sticky, light, non-oily
  7. Color of skin after application: Pale gray at first, slight sheen later
  8. Time before reapplication: one hour
  9. Water and sweat resistance: water beaded up, sunblock ran into eyes when daughter played tennis, rubbed off on clothing very easily, washes off hands with soap and water
  10. Smell: no unpleasant smell, neutral
  11. Did it prevent sunburn: Yes!
  12. OVERALL RATING 4.5 out of 5 stars

Our second Sunblock is BARE BELLY ORGANICS MINERAL SUNSCREEN

Our family gives Bare Belly a 2.5 out of 5 stars

Our family gives Bare Belly a 2.5 out of 5 stars

  1. EWG rating: 1 (the lower the better)
  2. SPF: 30
  3. Packaging: Easy to get the product out of the tub, fits in a purse, beach bag, but not a back pocket
  4. Price: $17.95 for 4 OZ from Bare Belly Website
  5. Ease of application: Difficult to put on and rub in
  6. Feel of product on skin: Gritty, thick
  7. Color of skin after application: Chalky White, strong sheen later
  8. Time before reapplication: one hour
  9. Water and sweat resistance: water beaded up, sweat resistant, rubbed off on clothing, washes off hands with soap and water
  10. Smell: smells like lard
  11. Did it prevent sunburn: Yes! but my kids and I could not get past the consistency and smell of this stuff.
  12. OVERALL RATING 2.5 out of 5 stars
Our family gives Badger Kids a 3 out of 5 stars

Our family gives Badger Kids a 3 out of 5 stars

And finally BADGER KIDS SUNSCREEN CREAM

  1. EWG rating: 1 (the lower the better)
  2. SPF: 30
  3. Packaging: Easy to get the product out of the tube, fits in a purse, beach bag, and a back pocket
  4. Price: $13.50 for 2.9 OZ from Amazon
  5. Ease of application: Easy to put on and rub in
  6. Feel of product on skin: Doesn’t feel tacky or sticky, light, non-oily
  7. Color of skin after application: White at first, slight sheen later
  8. Time before reapplication: half hour
  9. Water and sweat resistance: water beaded up, sweated off after 30 minutes, rubbed off on clothing, washes off hands with soap and water
  10. Smell: Dreamsicles, you know the orange and vanilla popsicles? Smells just like them. I loved the smell, but so did every bug within a 30 ft radius.
  11. Did it prevent sunburn: Yes! but if your the type of person that naturally attracts bugs this will only enhance your attractiveness, so you better wear bug repellant too.
  12. OVERALL RATING 3 out of 5 stars

So this little non-scientific study was how I got my kids to wear sunblock all summer! Hands down BurnOut was the winner. Keep in mind these three sunblocks are all “barrier” types, so it’s best to compare them against each other and not against the chemical- based sunblocks most of us are used to. Also, these descriptions and ratings are from my family based on our own unique experience. We were not compensated in any way and I purchased the products myself.

Have you used a barrier sunblock before? Which ones do you like?