For Barbara

This is a difficult blog post to write. 

My heart is heavy. Which in turn makes my fingers feel heavy to write what I need to write.

You know when people ask Which teacher most impacted you? I never had a really good answer to that question. I always thought the question referred to teachers you had before college, either the teachers that told you the play area for the week was kickball, or the teachers who helped you navigate the confusion of changing classrooms for each class period, or the teachers who wrote you the recommendation letters you needed for college.

I had gotten it wrong. 

A teacher is one who teaches. At any level.

Now I know my answer to that question.

Which teacher most impacted you?

Barbara Abercrombie.

And with a heavy heart and my heavy fingers I must add may she rest in peace

Barbara Abercrombie recently passed away. I learned of her death through an email newsletter I received from Jennie Nash, current CEO of Author Accelerator, former instructor in the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension.

About twenty years ago, I took my first class in the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension. A weekend course about Writing the Personal Essay taught by Barbara Abercrombie. I remember writing a somewhat humorous post about the women’s restrooms not having toilet seat covers. I remember hearing Barbara Abercrombie tell me she could hear my voice coming through. At the time, I didn’t realize what a huge compliment that was.

 It was shortly after that course that I became a published writer with a piece I wrote being published in the Los Angeles Times. (You can read it by clicking here.)

Barbara was a cool lady. She was honest and calm. She encouraged everyone, believing everyone could write — and publish — a personal essay. She was the only teacher I knew who wore a lot of jewelry like I do. Silver jewelry like I do. 

Occasionally over the years I enrolled in Barbara’s classes when they aligned with my teaching schedule. Back in 2005, I was fortunate enough to miss two days of teaching to enroll in UCLA Extension’s intensive four-day Writers Studio Barbara taught.

When I retired from teaching, I was then free to take Barbara’s weekday, daytime classes. And it was in one of those classes that I met one of my closest friends. 

Barbara also offered four day writing retreats up in Lake Arrowhead. I used to wistfully read her emails and think someday. Someday became two different occasions. Each time, I left my family for four days and three nights to go read and write and talk about reading and writing up in Lake Arrowhead with a group of writers.

It was Barbara who told me the essays I was writing could be — should be — a book. 

March of 2020. We all remember it as the month and year when our world ceased to be as we had known it. Originally I was enrolled in one of Barbara’s classes which would have started at the end of March. The class, of course, switched to a virtual format. With my husband working from home, and my son doing his schooling from home, I had to drop out of Barbara’s writing class. 

I hadn’t spoken to Barbara for quite some time though I followed her on Instagram and always liked and commented on the photos she shared of her grandchildren. 

But I know Barbara knows how much I appreciated her, how fond of her I was. Because I always told her — through a letter. At the end of each class, Barbara told her students to write a letter explaining what grade they deserved. You wanted an A, you wrote and asked for one. I always wanted the A. In these end-of-course letters, I didn’t just reflect on my writing during the class, but also on Barbara’s teaching methods. Barbara created a safe space for writers. Writers, who often didn’t know each other well, came together and created a supportive environment to write and share aloud some of the most personal, intimate parts of our lives. 

It always worked, because of Barbara.

Weather Girl

You know that feeling when you read a book by a new-to-you author, and you enjoy the book so much you feel a sense of relief knowing the author has written other books that are just waiting for you to read them?

That’s how I feel after reading Rachel Lynn Solomon’s Weather Girl

I had heard good things about this novel and had purchased it on one of my #22in22 bookstore visits. (If you’re not familiar with the #22in22 initiative, you can click here to learn more about it.)

While the novel could be described as a feel-good rom-com, it’s really so much more. It’s a peek into the life of a television meteorologist, and it’s a depiction of a woman with depression. And it’s even more than that. 

Here are just a few of the passages I have marked:

“There’s something especially lovely about an overcast day. Clouds dipped in ink, the sky ready to crack open. The air turning crisp and sweet. It’s magic, the way the world seems to pause for a few moments right before a downpour, and I can never get enough of that heady anticipation — this sense that something extraordinary is about to happen.”

“‘You’re not naive. You want to believe the best about people… you want to see the good.’
I like the way he says it. That optimism, both false and genuine, has been weaponized against me before, but not now. And maybe this makes me doomed to be a sunshine person for the rest of my days, but so be it. I’ll be seventy-eight and sunny, a cool breeze and a place in the shade.”

When the male character speaks of his daughter, it is with the same awe that I think of my son: 

“‘She surprises me all the time, and she makes me laugh, and she’s this whole person with fears and ambitions and likes and dislikes, all completely different from mine. She’s so f – – – ing funny, and she’s smart, and it’s just … kind of amazing.’”

“Both of us fall quiet, basking in this world and this moment and the sheer magic of finding that person who gets you the way no one else does.”

“Before we leave, Alex waits in line to grab a few dozen donuts for his fourth-grade class. ‘Guilt donuts,’ he explains. ‘It’s state testing week.’”  (This sounds so much like the things I used to do with my students. Snacks each day of state testing, a celebration when testing was done.)

And a joke from the book that I couldn’t resist sharing with you:

“‘Did you hear about the meteorologist who broke her arms and legs?’ one of the camera guys calls to me as I position myself in front of the green screen. ‘She had to wear four casts.’”

Los Angeles With Kids

For my readers who live anywhere but Los Angeles — Los Angeles is a big, complex city. 

For my readers who live in Los Angeles — Los Angeles is a big, complex city.

It’s easy to get into a routine — visiting the same Italian restaurant, always going to the same movie theater, enjoying ice cream at the same shop. 

That’s where a new book comes into play — Los Angeles With Kids: 250+ ideas for ways to have fun, explore SoCal, and never have a boring weekend again. has created a book that serves as the guide for families. It’s full of fun things to see and do, much like what you’ll read on the MomsLA website, but now in book form. 

This book has it all, in an easy-to-read format. Maps, photos, illustrations, brief descriptions. It’s the perfect gift for visiting family members. Let them take a look at the book and mark some of the locations that they definitely want to visit with you. 

And, it’s also a great resource for families. A reminder that part of what makes Los Angeles so special is the fact that it’s a big, complex city. A city home to a space shuttle and external tank (at the California Science Center) and an Air Force One you can walk through (at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum). 

I’m proud to write for, and I’m proud to share that I contributed to this special book.

And I’m excited for families to check out this book and start making new memories all around LA.

Bibliophile: Diverse Spines

There are some books that are true gifts to literature. 

They are books that are perfect gifts for those who regard books as magical, powerful, delightful, important, and necessary. 

In other words, these are the books for true book lovers. 

Bibliophile: Diverse Spines by Jamise Harper and Jane Mount is such a gift. (In fact, I gifted a copy to a couple of my book-loving friends.)

This smallish book is really a beautiful work of art. Filled with delightful illustrations  by Jane Mount, the book is a celebration of diverse stories.

“The authors, illustrators, designers, store owners, and bookstagrammers highlighted in this book are all Black, Indigenous, and people of color, most existing in spaces where they have been marginalized by a dominant white society.” 

Whether you are looking to diversify your own reading list or you’re looking for recommendations for a particular genre this is the book for you.

If you’ll be traveling and are interested in visiting a bookstore while you’re away, this is the book for you.

If you’re a teacher and/or parent and are wanting to make sure your children see themselves represented in the books on their shelves, this is the book for you.

If you’re curious about an author’s writing space, this is the book for you.

If you’re looking to expand your want-to-read list, this is the book for you.

A Lesson I Didn’t Want to Teach

My readers who follow me on Instagram (@wendykennar) already know this. But for my readers who aren’t on Instagram, I have some publication news to share.

Though, I wish I didn’t have to write this particular essay.

I wish gun violence wasn’t a fact of life.

But wishes don’t change the facts.

You can click here to be redirected to Moms Don’t Have Time To and read my essay, “A Lesson I Didn’t Want to Teach.”