Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sharing a Writer's Good News - Charlotte Cowan Honored by White House

I love good news. And when the good news is that a writer's work has earned him or her honor, it's GREAT news. Some of you know that for the past few months I've been a reviewer for Through my review writing I've enjoyed the books of author Charlotte Cowan, whose "Dr. Hippo" series of picture books were written to help young children and their parents understand the effects of common ailments and how to treat them. Dr. Cowan just sent me the wonderful press release below, and I wanted to share it on this blog. Isn't this great? Learn more about (or order) Charlotte Cowan's books at or on her own web site.


Selected as one of the Nation’s Leading “Social Innovators” for Healthcare Education; Receives Prestigious Recognition by President Obama at the White House

CONCORD, Mass. – July 01, 2009 – Dr. Charlotte Cowan, creator and author of the Dr. Hippo Series of Children’s Books, has been selected by the Obama Administration as one of the leading social innovators in the country. In an exclusive reception at the White House this week, Dr. Cowan was recognized by President Obama and members of his recently-formed White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

Dr. Cowan was chosen by the Obama administration for her five award-winning, creative children’s books aimed at educating parents and children about ubiquitous illnesses, decreasing family anxiety and reducing unnecessary and expensive reliance on doctor offices and emergency rooms. After training and practicing pediatrics for many years at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Dr. Cowan formed the Hippocratic Press in 2004 to focus creatively on those illnesses that affect tens of millions of American families and cost billions of healthcare dollars.

During the reception, President Obama commented: “There’s only so much that Washington can do. Government can reform our health care system, but we need innovative approaches to help people manage their illnesses and lead healthier lives. Ultimately, the best solutions don't come from the top-down, not from Washington; they come from the bottom-up in each and everyone one of our communities. Today, I want to recognize that pioneering spirit and thank you for the contributions that you're making to our communities.”

Dr. Cowan’s books turn time-honored Hippocrates into a kindly pediatrician and protagonist in her Dr. Hippo Series of children’s picture books. Each of Dr. Cowan’s books, The Little Elephant with the Big Earache, Peeper Has a Fever, Katie Caught a Cold, Sadie’s Sore Throat, and The Moose with Loose Poops, contains its own, separate Parent Guide. The Parent Guide answers common questions such as: “How can I help my child to feel better at home?” “When should I call the doctor?” and “When may my child go back to school?” Inherently entertaining and comforting, Dr. Cowan’s picture books educate both parent and child through repeated readings thereby empowering families to stay at home, to give their children excellent care, and to call appropriately for medical advice or visits.

“I am greatly honored to be recognized by the Obama Administration’s Office of Social Innovation. I hope that today’s recognition accelerates my goal of using children’s stories, the Dr. Hippo Series, to get health education out of the pediatric office and into the hands of American families, thereby increasing the accessibility and affordability of excellent health care across America,” said Charlotte Cowan, M.D.

The illnesses Dr. Cowan has chosen for her first series of stories are those that affect and infect children everywhere. Facts about these illnesses—responsible for the vast majority of pediatric sick visits nationally—are below. (Their references are at Dr. Cowan’s website: .)
• Ear infections are responsible for 30 million office visits and more than 10 million antibiotic prescriptions annually.
• American children have 6-10 colds each year. These cause over 22 million lost days of school annually. Antibiotics are prescribed for 47% of upper respiratory infections -- i.e. the common cold, despite their lack of effectiveness treating cold-related viral infections.
• Fever is the most common complaint of children seen in the Pediatric Emergency Department.
• Approximately 7.3 million outpatient visits attributable to sore throat occur yearly among children in the US, and group A streptococcus is responsible for 15%-36% of cases.
• Sore throats, caused by both virus and bacteria, have significant infectious and noninfectious complications. Group A streptococci, the most common cause of bacterial pharyngitis among children and adults, are the leading cause of acquired heart disease among children throughout the world.
• Acute gastroenteritis continues to be a common illness among infants and children worldwide. In the US, diarrhea accounts for more than 1.5 million outpatient visits, 200,000 hospitalizations and 300 deaths per year.
Dr. Cowan’s full color picture books feature child-friendly animal characters that entertain the reader, and combine empathy with education. In addition to making both children and their parents feel comforted and cared for as they face the inevitable illnesses of childhood, Dr. Cowan’s books also have an impact on child literacy.

“I hope that I am writing books that educate parents and children, reduce unnecessary healthcare costs, and encourage children to read. This is a tall order for a short story!” offers Cowan. “As parents read these books to children, they will begin to feel better. The creation of such warm associations with reading is the beginning of literacy. A child who is read to by a concerned parent, and who is reassured by that reading, will develop into someone who loves to read.”

Already found in the Departments of Public Health of ten states where The Little Elephant with the Big Earache has been used for Antibiotic Awareness Outreach Programs, Dr. Cowan’s books are available nationally in bookstores and on More information about the Dr. Hippo Series can be found at (Logo image by Elaine Garvin)


Media contact:
Sara Buda

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Getting Back on the Writing Horse ~ Whatever Works

I think most people who aspire to write hit those dead periods when the inspiration to create is nonexistent. (Have you noticed how long it has been since my last blog post?) So many things can squelch the urge to write--an unkind critique, family issues, work problems, general busy-ness, absence of the muse; you name it, we've all blamed one or all of these things.

More important than what causes us to stop writing is what it takes to get us going again. Serious writers need to keep going, and I have to remind myself - a lot - that it is easier than I think. The way to start writing after a dry spell (do I hear "Sahara?") is just that: to start writing. I pick up the laptop, carry it away from the phone line (which is how I still connect to the Internet) and go into a quiet room where there is not one shred of committee correspondence, not a single bit of material waiting to be written up for the historical society, no photos to scan, no calendar, no anything. I face a blank wall and start typing letters onto the screen. Despite my absolute conviction that it will do no good, that my brain is truly empty, the letters turn into words, words string themselves into sentences and sentences clump into paragraphs, starting to look like--something. Amazing. If I'm really lucky I'll see a word or a turn of phrase and think, "Hey--that's not half bad!" And then I'm off. An hour or two fly by, and I wonder where they went and why I have been moping around stewing instead of sitting down and doing. For me, that works.

Recently a friend, who had been bemoaning the fact that she hadn't been producing any new poetry, told me what worked for her. Another woman had made a remark--intended as a compliment--that got under my friend's skin. It irritated and burned and festered until she sat down and wrote about it, cranking out one fine poem. That was a solution for her.

I don't spend hours contemplating these things - that would be frittering away too much valuable time - but sometimes it's worth a few minutes to address the question of how to boot ourselves into writing mode again.

Well, looky here. A few paragraphs adorn my screen--not gems, but something, better than nothing. Thanks for bearing with me. If you have a favorite method of jump-starting your writing, please share it in a comment below.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thurman Station Farmers' Market - A Plan Comes Together

I can still see it in my mind's eye now, that impish grin growing on George Peppard's face as he clamped a cigar between his teeth, lit the end, looked around at his team of military misfits and said, "I love it when a plan comes together."

No cigar here, but I know that feeling. There's a special sense of completeness, of wholeness, when a plan is crafted and all its details are executed. That is most apt to happen, as it did with clock-like predictability each week for Peppard, when a team goes into action, each member taking responsibility for some aspect of the project and seeing it through.

It has been my privilege to be part of a team like that--the Thurman Station Farmers' Market committee. This gang, pulled together in late June, has been amazing, and it looks as though our very ambitious plan to open a farmers' market at the historic site of Thurman Station in the small town of Thurman, NY, will come to fruition on August 12. Organized under the umbrella of the Thurman Station Association, this group owes much to the cooperation of the Warren County Department of Parks, Recreation & Railroad, the Town of Thurman and the Upper Hudson River Railroad. There has been enthusiastic response from vendors, and we expect a dozen or more to offer such goods as produce, crafts and antiques. All that remains, after the final paperwork is approved, is to share the excitement with the public when they come to shop at Thurman Station Farmers' Market.

The plan is coming together!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"Coifed to Cook" - A must-follow newbie on the blog scene

It's always fun to share good news about good people, and alerting you to the new blog just begun by writer Irene Sherlock and her friend Gina Weckle brightens my day. Gina and Irene have been working on an innovative book that will amuse you, intrigue you, entice you down memory lane and make you salivate. Irene once described the book as--let's see if I can get this right: "part cookbook, part ethnographic retrospective."

Tell me you aren't intrigued! Tell me you aren't dying for the book to come out! Fortunately for us, Gina and Irene have begun a blog to sustain us while we wait for the birth of "Coifed to Cook: How She Wore Her Hair While Roasting Artichokes." Hair? Did I forget to mention that these creative women both have a longtime history as hairstylists? Now you are really curious. How do hairstyles figure into this work? How does one create a book that wraps up your recollections of Donna Reed, Chubby Checker, mom's mac and cheese and that bouffant you flaunted in ninth grade?

You're just going to have to visit Gina and Irene's new blog, "Coifed to Cook." I guarantee you will enjoy the trip--and after you've finished chuckling, you might find yourself roasting artichokes.

Oh--leave a comment, won't you, to let these authors know you stopped by? Just click the little link that lists the number of comments, and a new window will open for you to submit your remarks. Pass the link on to your food- and fashion-conscious friends, and be sure to try one of the recipes and let Irene and Gina know how it turns out!