Category Archives: Literacy

My Micromadness Entry Published Today

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that my entry for Flash Frontier Micromadness accepted for publication. Well, it was published online today 13 June, New Zealand time.

22 Finalists will have their entries published between 1 June 2016 and 22 June 2016, National Flash Fiction Day in New Zealand. The winner of the competition will be announced on 22 June.

I wrote my entry Midnight a week before the 13th anniversary of my son’s death. He is the theme of my short story. His death was so unexpected, so sudden and changed me deeply. A small warning: This story is not for the faint-hearted or those who have suffered recent bereavement. It’s only as years have passed that I can allow myself to express some of these emotions via my writing. If you’ve recently lost someone you love, sometimes it’s best to be kind to your self and not ‘go there.’

My entry is here. If you’re viewing this after 13 June, you’ll need to scroll down to 13 June entry, next to the gorgeous oil painting Owlmoon by Sandra Whyte.

New Zealander of The Year Local Hero Award – Literacy and Community Service efforts

A few weeks ago, I was presented with a Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Local Hero  Award.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Eileen Mueller and Kiwibank CE,Paul Brock

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Eileen Mueller and Kiwibank CE,Paul Brock

These awards are given to kiwis who make a difference in their communities through volunteer work.

So what did I do?

Over the past seven years, I’ve organised numerous community service projects in my role as Director of Public Affairs for my church, but the highlight has to be ‘Books For Fiji.’

Books For Fiji: In 2011, I ran a campaign that collected over 45,000 second hand books, which were donated to 82 schools in outlying islands of Fiji. See the video below.

Books for Fiji came about after I found out that Her Excellency Ms Mere Tora, Acting Head of Mission for the Fijian High Commission (Wellington, New Zealand) bought books at garage sales and school fairs all year long. Every year at Christmas when she visited Fiji, Ms Tora took boxes of books home and donated them to local schools.

I was impressed with her dedication to children’s literacy and wanted to help.

Although my initial idea was to collect a few boxes of books to give to Ms Tora, my vision grew as enthusiasm from the kiwis spurred me into action. Books came flooding in. Local schools cleared out their libraries and donated boxes packed with books. Business donated stationery and provided free advertising. The media jumped on board, and books kept piling up. The community wanted to help raise the English literacy of Fijian children.

Secretary of Fijian High Commission Niraj Mudaliar, Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Eileen Mueller with the Mayor's childhood books that she donated to Fijian school children to improve their literacy

Secretary of Fijian High Commission Niraj Mudaliar, Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Eileen Mueller with the Mayor’s childhood books that she donated to Fijian school children to improve their literacy

Wellington Mayor Her Worship Celia Wade-Brown donated her childhood books, and Porirua Mayor His Worship Nick Leggett provided his libraries as collection points. All across the lower North Island of New Zealand, Mormon Helping Hands volunteers took donation boxes to their schools, workplaces and local supermarkets.

A deluge of donations came in. Then the hard work began. We sorted every book by hand, categorizing them into subject matter or, for fiction books, age categories. We created a mix of books for each school, so they received a balanced shipment containing board books, early readers, chapter books, novels, encyclopedias, dictionaries and reference books about  a variety of topics.

Sorting 43,000 books!

Sorting 43,000 books!

I worked with the Fijian government to ensure we targeted the most needy schools. Then we shipped the books out the door and sighed in relief that the hard work was over!

While the books were en route to Fiji, a camera crew from church headquarters became interested in our project. I met them in Fiji to present the first shipment of books to a school on Bau Island, the chiefly island of Fiji – an area steeped in prestige and tradition.

The best part of the entire project was seeing the children unpack their books and start reading. They opened the boxes, and with wonder in their eyes, each took a book off the top, sat down on the grass and started reading. They didn’t rummage through the boxes or yell in excitement. They just sat down and started reading.

Children on Bau Island with books from Books For FijiTheir quiet page turning bought more joy into my heart than any shouts of excitement could have. They wanted those books. They loved those books. They were reading English books and had previously had none on their island. They were being taught English, but had no materials to read. Their literacy could take a leap forward, thanks to the kindness of their neighbours – kiwis in New Zealand.

How can we make a difference?

Eileen with 100 items made for Wellington Neonatal Unit.

Eileen with 101 items made for Wellington Neonatal Unit.

Often a need is right under our noses. We don’t have to organise thousands of books to make a difference in the lives of those around us. If you see a need, contact a local volunteer organisation or charity and ask how you can help.

I have been lucky enough to have Mormon Helping Hands volunteers enthusiastically embrace every project I’ve organised. We’ve quilted for neonatal babies, cleaned the local homeless shelter (Wellington Night Shelter), baked cookies for its guests, and assembled hygiene kits for them. Thousands of trees have been planted across the region by keen volunteers, schools have been made over – not just tidied, but demolition work done, buildings, rooves and libraries painted, chairs upholstered, and carpet laid. Volunteers have blazed trails, mulched and weeded in the hot sun, and battled with gorse (thorny bushes) to provide recreational area for the local community.

Community service is also about building relationships with those you would never otherwise meet. For two years I was a member of The Wellington Interfaith Council Executive, putting time and energy into building more love and understanding between those of different faiths. We talked together, planted trees together, sang and danced together, and walked in each others shoes a little as we learned more about one another. It was a rewarding and fulfilling experience to see Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindu, Buddhists, Sikhs and Baha’i planting trees on the slopes of Wellington, laughing and getting to know one another.

Planting, trail blazing, blackberry eradication and planting in 2013 with local rangers, politicians and a few volunteers. (Eileen is far right, back row)

Planting, trail blazing, blackberry eradication and planting in 2013 with local rangers, politicians and a few volunteers. (Eileen is far right, back row)

It was humbling to accept my New Zealander of the Year Local Hero medal, knowing that although I had brainstormed and organised these projects, none of them would have happened without hundreds of volunteers seeing the vision of a better community and giving their time and effort to make it happen.

I’d like to thank my generous husband and cool kids. Without their support and enthusiastic participation, I would never have gotten one project off the ground. Thanks to them a childhood dream I’d had of helping those in a less wealthy country has come to fruition.

Cook Strait News ran a story here about my Local Hero award.

I’d also like to thank politicians, church leaders and the many organisations that have assisted with projects. My thanks and deep appreciation go to the amazing helpers who have donated their time, sweat and service to help make our community a better place.

You can be a local hero too

We are all part of the jigsaw which makes up our community, our country and our world. I encourage you to look around, see a need, and contact a local organisation to see how you can help to make our world a better place. Who knows, maybe one day you will be a local hero too!

Article on Mormon newsroom

More information about New Zealander of the Year Awards can be found here.

I’m published! Baby Teeth launches in Wellington, New Zealand!

Tomorrow night is the pre-Halloween launch of ‘Baby Teeth – Bite-sized Tales of Terror.’ My first published short story, ‘Dad’s Wisdom,’ is in this anthology!

Group Bench 1mediumres

Wellington Authors Back L-R: Michael Parry, Paul Mannering, Dan Rabarts, Sally McLennan. Middle: Jack Newhouse, Eileen Mueller, A J Ponder. Front: Jenni Sands, Darusha Wehm.

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Baby Teeth cover

Baby Teeth is an odd concept. Inspired by the creepy things that kids say, these horror stories are raising funds for children’s literacy in New Zealand, via Duffy Books in Homes. What a great way for writers to raise funds for children! When I heard about the charity aspect, I wanted to be involved. Two years ago, I organized a project to help children’s literacy in Fiji, so this was a cause close to my heart.

Before submitting,  I read some of these stories and was so creeped out that I nearly decided not to submit! Some of the Baby Teeth authors have been doing horror for years and do it very well! However a story about a little boy having fun with a monster caught my eye. It was creepy but really funny. Voila! I had my inspiration. Thank you Paul Mannering for showing me that horror can be hilarious!

Mine is a quirky, humorous tale about a boy who finds a dragon under his bed and goes to Dad for advice – with unexpected results! I’ll be reading ‘Dad’s Wisdom’ tomorrow night. Paul Mannering will be reading the tale that inspired me to write about creepy things kids do to raise money for kids’ literacy.

Dominion Post’s Capital Day page features Baby Teeth

New Zealand press have been intrigued about this odd collection of stories helping kiwi kids so I was able to place four articles in these newspapers. The Dominion Post (national NZ newspaper) ran this feature today  The Wellingtonian ran this article. The Hutt News ran this story. Cook Strait News published the article below .

 

Cook Strait News post launch article.

Cook Strait News post launch article.

 

Come to the Quality Hotel, 223 Cuba St, Wellington. Drinks from 5:30pm. Readings at 6pm. Join our Facebook event.

 

See a review by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) 

To purchase Baby Teeth go to http://www.paperroadpress.co.nz

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3 short stories accepted in 1 week!

Wow! I am ecstatic! I’ve just had three short stories accepted in one week – to two different anthologies.

At the end of last week two of my short stories were accepted for a fantasy anthology about Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum. ‘A Wizard in the Works’ is a night-time rollick through the museum. ‘Lucky Brake’ is a coming of age story about a boy facing a tough a decision. I’ll post more about these later.

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Cover of Baby Teeth

This week my flash fiction piece ‘Dad’s Wisdom‘ was accepted for ‘Baby Teeth’ – bite-sized tales of terror! I don’t usually write horror, but when I realised this anthology was raising funds to support Duffy’s Books in Homes charity, I was keen to be a part of it. I’m passionate about reading and children’s literacy and have done work in the past to aid kids’ literacy in developing countries (more about that later in another post!)

Instead of scaring myself witless by writing a blood-chilling psychological terror story, I penned ‘Dad’s Wisdom  which is a humourous take on childhood fears.

Baby Teeth will help Duffy’s Books in Homes to give books to underprivileged children in NZ. It utilises crowd funding via this site. Once the book is published ALL proceeds go towards children’s literacy in New Zealand. Authors have donated their time and energy so we can make a difference in children’s lives by providing them with books to read. Donations close on 10 August. To donate, please click here.

 Thanks for supporting Baby Teeth and helping more kiwi kids to read.

WARNING: ALTHOUGH MINE IS NOT, SOME OF THESE STORIES ARE DISTURBING-TYPICAL OF THE HORROR GENRE.