Saturday, July 24, 2010

Review from American Author's Association

Olivia and the Little Way – Review for American Author's Association
by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat

‘She hated feeling nervous, but she couldn’t help it. Today was the first day of fifth grade at her new school. Two big things in one day. She thought of all of the other kids at St. Michael’s School who were probably eating their breakfasts at the same time as she. They were lucky. They would be able to see all of their old friends. They would know their way around the hallways, know where to go for lunch, be able to find the bathrooms and drinking fountains. She’d be lost in a sea of new faces and new rules.’

Living in Houston, Olivia always looked forward to being able to visit her Grandma Rosemary in Michigan. But things had changed. She and her family would now be living in Michigan. She would be leaving her twobest friends Claire and Emily. She was not faced with making new friends in a new school.

Then Grandma came to the rescue with a beautiful chaplet that had been given to her years before. It was the St. Therese chaplet. Grandma explained to Olivia that St. Theresa the Little Flower was someone who had lived many years before and would always be there to listen to her when she needed someone to talk to. Olivia took great solace in knowing that even in a new town and new school, she would never be alone. But that didn’t mean that she wouldn’t still run into problems as she made herself comfortable in her new surroundings.

Reading Olivia and the Little Way made me realize that things never change. I can remember some of the problems that Olivia was faced with as she made new friends and worked at being accepted by the other kids in school. I can remember the trials of being tested to do things that I knew weren’t right. I can also remember what it cost me when I made the wrong decisions. Olivia and the Little Way is a book that would be wonderful read as a discussion book. Not only is this book helpful for young people that WILL eventually be faced with the same situations Olivia is faced with but it will also help adults remember how difficult it was for them when they had to make decisions of right and wrong at such a young age. Reading Olivia and the Little Way just might slow us all down enough to think about the outcome of anything that we do, good or bad. I recommend this book for ALL ages.

Harvey House Publishing
216 Pages
ISBN# 978-0-923568-92-4

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Book Review: Olivia and the Little Way


Olivia and the Little Way (by Nancy Carabio Belanger and illustrated by Sandra Casali LewAllen) is a delightful story about a young girl named Olivia who, with her grandmother’s help, forms a spiritual relationship with St. Therese of Lesieux. Through her St. Therese chaplet, grandmother’s stories and a book she reads about the saint she learns that St. Therese often dealt with struggles similar to the ones she is dealing with as a 5th grade student in a new Catholic school. After moving from Texas to Michigan, Olivia starts the school year at a new school and discovers things are different for her now. In her old school she had good friends and felt comfortable in her surroundings. Now she is faced with developing new friendships with girls who are not exactly the type of people she can count on for solid, virtuous relationships. She struggles with wanting to have new friends, but the two girls who are friendly to her turn out to have some less than appealing traits. They tease other children, break rules and are a bad influence on Olivia. She finds herself making bad decisions and doing things she would not normally do. As she makes bad choices she is faced with the natural consequences of her actions.

Throughout all of her trials Olivia has the help of St. Therese to comfort her and lead her to the real answers to her problems. However, Olivia doesn’t always accept St. Therese’s guidance, even though she knows in her heart it is the true way to happiness and peace. As her struggles become more confusing and complicated, Olivia is able to gain strength from St. Therese to find the some answers and even help others with their problems. She gains some new friends that she didn’t expect to find. She brings people together who originally could not find a common ground. Eventually Olivia even is given a gift that she hoped for all along.

Olivia and the Little Way is a beautiful story showing the struggles of peer pressure, obedience, faith, trust, hope and love. It is a perfect book for an elementary school student to read over the summer or for a book report. The author provides you with many moments of suspense and relief as Olivia works through her troubled times. Olivia is a good example for children who may be going through their own confusing situations. She shows how even if you make a bad decision, God always gives you the opportunity to repair your mistakes. She also shows you how you can learn through suffering, rise above the desires of wanting to please friends, and come out a more mature and happy person. This book is also a wonderful story for parents to read to their children. It is a wonderful vehicle for exploring the role of saints in the Catholic faith. Readers will enjoy the refreshing perspective for handling childhood problems and how being Catholic plays a role in everyday life.

My age recommendations for Olivia: I think the book is geared towards girls as it is about a girl and her friends. I thought it was good for 4th through 6th grade readers. The main character is in 5th grade. Strong 3rd grade readers could probably read the book but it is also a good chapter book for moms and young daughters to enjoy together!

Carrie MacGillis is a Scrapbook Artist, owner of Scrapbook Services with a Personal Touch, and the Editor ofMichigan Scrapbooker. She can be reached at Information on Michigan Scrapbooker Magazine can be found at

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blog Talk Radio Interview Today

Today, I am honored to be a guest on "The Catholic Revolver With Jerry" on Blog Talk Radio.

Listen and call in to the show for the Olivia and the Little Way book giveaway!

Click on the link below to listen in at 4:00 Eastern, 1:00 Pacific, 3:00 Central:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Interview With The Catholic Writers Guild

Are you a Catholic writer loyal to the Magisterium and looking for a group of like-minded writers determined to assist each other in our publishing goals?

Are you an editor, publisher, or illustrator interested in furthering the development of quality faith-filled writings?

If so, the Catholic Writers' Guild may be for you.

The Catholic Writers' Guild (CWG) is a non-profit organization comprised of writers, artists, editors, illustrators, and allies dedicated to building a vibrant Catholic literary and artistic culture. We do this by encouraging Catholic writers to create, publish, perform, and share their work; by reflecting upon core Catholic values (i.e., those in accordance with the teaching of the Magisterium) in art; and by networking within the faith and literary communities. Our organization is loyal to the teaching authority of the Church. Our regular and alumni members are practicing Catholic writers, while institutional members are persons or companies supportive of Catholic writing; institutional members need not to be Catholic, but sympathetic to Catholic practices and morals.

I am a proud member of the CWG and would like to share an interview I had recently with Maria from the Catholic Writers Guild:


Maria: Nancy, How did you come to CWG?

Nancy: Hi! I heard about the CWG through Michelle Baier, a member who I had been chatting with via e-mail about Catholic children’s books. She suggested I join the CWG, and I am very grateful to her. I have met so many faith-filled people.

Maria: How did your book, Olivia and the Little Way, come to be? Was it a sudden inspiration or was it in your heart for a long time? Or, maybe both?

Nancy:I wouldn’t say it was sudden inspiration. I’ve always been a writer, but in the field of journalism, never fiction. I started to feel like I wanted to be more creative, and so I originally thought I would try my hand at a Catholic chick-lit style, since I like to be funny. Then one day a few years back, I was in a big bookstore looking for some summer reading for my sons. I was not happy with the majority of what I saw. I felt unsettled as I glanced at a stack of children’s novels I didn’t like as I made my way out the door. It was at that moment, I kid you not, that I heard a very strong voice say, “You could do that.” The emphasis was on the word “you.” I looked around, a little on edge. It was that loud—gentle but insistent. Confused, I brushed it aside. I thought I knew best (can you imagine?), so I continued writing adult fiction. After all, I would never be a children’s writer—or so I thought. But I never forgot hearing that voice. After that, St. Therese came into my life in a very powerful way, and it was out of my love and devotion to her and to God that I wrote this novel. I never would have dreamed that I would write a story about a young girl who becomes best friends with a saint! It just goes to show you that God, in His wisdom, knows what is best for us. Now, I adore writing for kids and feel it is my calling.

Maria: Tell us something about Olivia, is she based on someone in real life?

Nancy: Olivia is sort of a mixture of me as a pre-teen, my friends, and some kids I know, so there’s a lot of realism with this character. She’s a completely normal ten-year-old girl, with faults and all. With the help of her grandmother, she learns about St. Therese of Lisieux and her Little Way of Serving God as she is trying to fit in with the kids in her new Catholic school. There are some bumps along the way, but Olivia keeps persisting.

Maria: Based on your description of the book this is a ‘pre-teen’ book. That’s a tough age to write for, how do you make sure your book is neither too childish, nor too grown up?

Nancy: You have to keep the dialogue fresh, as well as the problems they go through now. But St. Therese keeps praying for me to find ways to make it real. I talk to my kids, who are in that age group, and their friends. My sons read through it and give tips like, “Mom, we would say it this way instead.” I’m always observing kids wherever I go, and I make mental notes of the things they are concerned about and the types of things they say. I’ve been blessed with being able to remember how I felt at that age; it stands out so vividly in my mind how I felt talking to the “cool group” and the things they said to me. I always wondered why that was, and now I know that God did that for a reason.

Maria: The sequel: Olivia’s Gift celebrates “modesty, the gift of life and a wholesome childhood”, and is due out this year. Did you know your first book would have a sequel, or did you feel ‘unfinished’?

Nancy: I had no idea what God had in store for me! I just trusted Him. When I started to write Olivia and the Little Way, I told God it was all up to Him, that I would do whatever He wanted me to do with my writing. And I still feel that way. I just told Him that again the other day, in fact! And He told me that our children are suffering immensely in this culture we live in, and that I should keep writing. I’ve had so many requests from readers and their parents to write more, and I’m happy to do it. In fact, I love to do it. As a writer, it is so fulfilling to try my best to make a difference, so their bookshelves have something genuinely Catholic, fun, and fulfilling on them. When the book won a second-place award from the Catholic Press Association last year, I was thrilled because I knew that meant many more children would now learn how to follow the Little Way of serving God.

Maria: As a ‘modesty’ writer, can I call you that?

Nancy: I’m honored to be called that; thank you!

Maria: How do you keep hopeful? I mean, this world is increasingly unchaste and immodest, how do you stay on task and remain confident that your approach will sell and will be a product publishers will want to support?

Nancy: How do I stay hopeful? I’m doing it for God. I place all my hope and trust in Him. I have saint friends praying for me constantly; St. Therese is a tenacious soul who never gives up on me. I have other Catholic writer friends who encourage me when I’m down. I am blessed to be a part of this CWG community and have access to this group and its prayers and resources.

Maria: Winning the second place from the Catholic Press Association, must have been a confirmation to your call. You also say you get encouragement from parents to keep writing, did you ever expect this kind of reaction?

Nancy: The response to Olivia and the Little Way has been overwhelming. Some days I just shake my head because I am so amazed and touched by the little notes I get from readers. These young kids, writing me to tell me that they are starting to pray to St. Therese, are now mindful of what they do and say, and how they treat others, and learning from Olivia’s experiences.

Maria: How inspiring and exciting! I imagine that drives you to keep going.

Nancy: Yes, how can I not go on? It’s so badly needed now. There is no respect for human life, our Church, and letting children live pure, innocent childhoods in this secular, sexual society. Our kids are bombarded with tempting ways to forget the Truth, and it bothers me immensely. I know how good parents are starving for wholesome reading material for their kids that kids will actually enjoy. I strolled the big bookstores recently, and I was appalled at what I found available to our children: the occult, sex, violence, nasty language, death, disrespect. We can do so much better than this for our kids! My apostolate is to bring back what we have lost. We owe it to them.

Maria: Maybe I’m just speaking for myself, but all writers have their down-days when we doubt what we do. Do you have days like that?

Nancy: Well, it is a huge job; there are some days I am discouraged with what an uphill battle it is as a writer to go up against vampire, mean clique, and sex stories. They sell— and they sell big. Then a news story comes along about parents who think it’s okay for their daughters to dress up like strippers in a dance recital, or let their pre-teen sons wear t-shirts with the Playboy bunny on it, and I’m recharged. A teacher friend of mine told me that a first-grader was on the playground at her school imitating a stripper with a pole. It’s the evil one coming at the most vulnerable in our society, with the help of their misguided parents, who let their young kids have internet access in their bedrooms, drop them off at unchaperoned parties, and take them to inappropriate movies. When I hear things like this, instead of being dejected, the Holy Spirit moves me to write—and fight. It’s at times like that when I can’t wait to get at my keyboard. I’m in full battle mode!

Maria: How was it working with Harvey House Publishing?

Nancy: I work with great people on this team, from start to finish. My illustrator, Sandra Casali LewAllen, has such a knack for capturing exactly what the story requires, in a beautiful and sweet way. My editor, Erin Sims Howarth, is a pleasure to work with. My graphic designer, Roseann Nieman, knows just what my work needs. They are all gifts.

Maria: You also write for How is writing the Olivia series different from writing a column? (Nancy’s column can be found at:

Nancy: They are two different audiences, adult and child, so it’s a bit different. But I have so many adults reading my book, which I love! As a mom, I love to address the parents too, and I’m fortunate I can do that through the column.

Maria: Well, I ask all our writers, so I have to ask you too, what do you do in your free time?

Nancy: I planted two rosebushes in honor of Our Lady and St. Therese, as well as basil, peppers, and tomatoes. I love to tend to them. I also enjoy cooking, volunteering, reading, crossword puzzles, and fun family time with my great husband and two wonderful sons, traveling and exploring new places and churches when we travel, and just being silly together. Talking to fellow Guild member and author Michele Bondi Bottesi on a regular basis over lunch or coffee is a treat, because we build each other up and encourage each other that we are doing this all for God’s kingdom. And then there’s the laundry…

Maria: What are your future writing plans? And what is your advice for those wishing to jump into the pre-teen writing world?

Nancy: I’m going to keep writing for this age group as long as God wants me to. For other authors who feel called to write for this age group, my advice would be that if you are sure God told you to do it, then do it!

For more information on the Catholic Writers Guild, please visit

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Homeless Expectant Mothers Find Shelter

I would like to share about this brand-new ministry to help homeless expectant mothers in the Detroit area. It is called Mary's Mantle, and just the other day, they welcomed their first expectant mother, who came from the streets of Detroit. Exiting the bus, she held in one hand all of her worldly possessions. She greeted the staff and, with a thankful heart, explained to them that she is all alone in this world. Not any longer.

Today, they are expecting their second mother to arrive in much the same manner. She somehow heard of Mary's Mantle and will be taking a bus from the streets of Detroit to Southfield.

Please pray for these young women and for the staff of Mary's Mantle. Faced with unimaginable desperation and fear, they choose life. Thanks be to God for that!

Mary's Mantle:
A Catholic home for expectant mothers in Michigan

Mary's Mantle was born out of the tragic loss of a baby to an abortion. An 18-year-old girl felt she had nowhere to turn upon discovering her pregnancy last spring. She felt so alone, unloved, and frightened that she ended her baby's life. This kind of tragedy is preventable and we are called to act. By caring for each precious life, hope is restored and untold possibilities unfold. Mary's Mantle is a residential program rooted in the Catholic faith. Mary's Mantle is unique in that our approach is to nurture the expectant mothers' spiritual needs as much as her physical ones. Based on our research, no such Catholic residential home exists for pregnant women in the Archdiocese of Detroit. This is a harsh reality and something that needs to change if we are going to live and preach the Gospel.

We believe residential programs are a faith-filled response to life beginning at conception. Housing will be provided for up to four expectant mothers at a time who are at least eighteen years old, regardless of their religious affiliation. Our desire is to have a deacon and his wife in residence or religious sisters. Mary's Mantle will be a safe haven where expectant mothers can fully realize their potential as children of a loving God. Our expectant mothers will experience and witness love and healthy relationships. They will come to fully understand their responsibilities as mothers. With the help of staff and volunteers, Mary's Mantle will work diligently to help them plan for their future. We will connect them with community resources and help them find local churches who will welcome them as part of their faith community. No mater what the need is, the work will be done in the Lord's name and under the protective mantle of the Blessed Mother.

Financial Donations can be made by sending checks to:

Mary's Mantle

P.O. Box 115

Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303

or thru Paypal at

Contact Mary's Mantle at:


All information and top photo from Mary's Mantle and its website,

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