The Hilliard Institute

The Hilliard Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation offering sensory education programing, experiential learning, and academic research and publishing while also supporting philanthropic initiatives through fundraising and educational training and activities—all under the umbrella of the concept of Educational Wellness

The Hilliard Institute. 4440 Savage Pointe Drive. Franklin, TN 37064

Email Dr. K. Mark Hilliard at

or Professor Jessa R. Sexton at

Nova and June Catch the Moon

by Hannah Chaney

Jessa R. Sexton’s latest book is Nova and June Catch the Moon, a stunning new children’s book geared towards young girls who have bold and gusty personalities. The imagery of these two female friends on a journey to catch the moon compares to the wild-fire, faith, and free-spirit kids have—their belief that they can achieve anything. Catching the moon eludes to the simple fact that—together—nothing is impossible if we keep enduring and continue believing in our dream.

Jessa explains, “My new book was written and inspired by two introverted moms with very extroverted, spunky daughters. I'm one of those moms. I’ve spent so many conversations talking to the other mom about how we can make sure our daughters use their spunk and spice for the right things, because we both know that this strong attitude can help them overcome obstacles and fight for the good in the future! Nova and June Catch the Moon was kindled by that hope in our parenting and that faith in our daughters.”

Sexton released the book in May at a signing in the Coffee House at Second and Bridge in Downtown Franklin, Tennessee. The next weekend she was at a book signing at Daylight Donuts in Spring Hill.

Nova and June try to catch the moon

on a late-night, star-bright adventure.

With nets in their hands, they go over their plans,

for this fab, nab-grab joint venture.

And so begins the story of two girls who set out to do the impossible . . . but, you see—things aren’t so impossible when we work together. Because together, girls can do anything!

This hardcover makes a delightful present for the little lady in your life—or the best girlfriends who’ve always had your back. That’s right. This isn’t just for kids. It’s a perfect gift for your girl-squad. Say thanks to the ladies who helped you catch your own moon and live out your dreams by signing the dedication page to them! Or, if you want, Jessa can even email the gift book straight to your friend with a little card. You just let her know when you purchase it! And one more thing: currently all proceeds from this book go to empowering women through educational efforts.

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J. Allan Smith's Children's Book

Tiger the Mule, written by J. Allan Smith from Middle Tennessee, is the latest release by Hilliard Press. This new children's book is full of beautiful colored illustrations and a weighty message that all ages can glean from.

Released at this April at the Mule Day festivities in Columbia, Tennessee, the book is based on a true story. Smith’s experience with troubled teens in public education, his work with rescued mules on the family farm, and his faithfulness to our awesome God has led him to share this road of recovery tale of Tiger the Mule. The story not only speaks to how one should properly treat these hybrid equine, but shares lessons we all can use to help young people who face difficulties in life.

The back of the book explains: One cold, wet, windy day in the rolling green pastures of Tennessee, a baby mule is born. With a unique stripe pattern on his legs, he’s named “Tiger.” Sadly, at only six months old, Tiger is taken away from his mother and brought to a new farm with a new master, who is cruel and abusive. When later sold to the kind Mr. Smith, Tiger is initially distrustful. Can Mr. Smith’s patient love heal the wounds Tiger’s past? Grab a copy to find out!

Click on the cover to purchase from Amazon.

Click on the cover to purchase from Amazon.

Announcing The Hilliard Institute’s Newest Intern


Nashville area native Hannah Chaney has been selected as a writing intern for The Hilliard Institute. In conjunction with this position, she’ll be receiving a scholarship from the Starfish Society, a charitable division of the educational nonprofit.

Hannah loves music, fashion, working with children, and being outdoors in warm-sunny weather. She loves to write and hopes to encourage and inspire others through this expression and maybe write her own book someday.

Feeling called to study ministry, Hannah is excited to see where the Lord leads her in the next chapter of life as she prepares to attend ministry school this fall.

The Hilliard Institute is grateful for the work she’ll be doing in updating website content, writing articles, researching for and working with Hilliard Press, and helping with events.

The Woodfine Young Writers Guild

by Dr. K. Mark Hilliard

The Woodfine Young Writers Guild is a division of the Hilliard Institute for Educational Wellness and Hilliard Press. The purpose is to advance literacy skills and encourage a love for reading and writing in young people.

While a well-recognized organization in England, guilds are not as common in the United States. A guild is an association of artisans, merchants, craftsman, or tradesmen who oversee the practice of their trade so they can pass on their skills, talents, and knowledge to the next generation through mutual aid, teaching, apprenticeship, and a sense of enjoyment in the process. The master of a guild is the organization's head or director and is someone who has proven himself as a master within his or her craft or trade.

Who is Dr. Woodfine?

This Guild is named after Dr. David Woodfine. Dr. Woodfine serves as the master of the Woodfine Young Writers Guild. He is a beloved educator in Oxford, England, and the Chancellor of the Hilliard Institute for Educational Wellness. He served in many roles within the University of Oxford system and taught in other educational systems in England and America. He is the author of five published books, two written for children.


I first met Dr. Woodfine in 2007 while taking part in the Summer Research Institute at Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford, England. David was a major part of the Institute's development and served as the High Steward of Harris Manchester College at that time. David and I became great friends as I returned over the years to Harris Manchester College for further study and research.

With time, he became an integral member of the Hilliard Institute and raising funds for special projects and educational programs, especially for young people. His background is steeped in training them to learn to love the process of learning and to become who they each wish to be within their chosen careers.

The Guild and Hilliard Press

For many years the Hilliard Press has been publishing children’s books as one of our major ongoing educational projects. But we had never published a children’s book written by a child. In 2017, we began developing the Young Writers Guild concept and published the first Woodfine Young Writers Guild book in 2018: The Four Jupiter Brothers, by Charles E. Hilliard, age ten. His book signing, held at Columbia Academy in Columbia, Tennessee, was a huge success, with over 170 people in attendance.

Because of the initial successful partnership with Columbia Academy in 2018, the Woodfine Young Writers Guild is again partnering with this school to conduct a young writers’ competition beginning this summer through October 2019. The goal for this first major project is to encourage children at a very young age to begin to write, and write well.

The initial competition will include participation by students age 8–12. The winners of the competition will have their stories included in the collection of short stories to be published by the Guild in December 2019. The plan is to expand the competition to include more age groups and additional organizations in 2020.

The foremost objective for the Young Writer’s Guild competition is not one of rivalry, but that of a traditional guild—to pass on skills, talents, and knowledge through mutual aid, teaching, apprenticeship, and a sense of enjoyment in the process.

I look forward to seeing how this Guild, and the love of writing among young people, will grow in the coming years.

Compiled and Interviewed by Hannah Chaney

What is Sacred Place and Sacred Space? A Book Reading Video Series with Dr. Mark Hilliard

Last month, Dr. K. Mark Hilliard presented portions of his latest publication at his book launch in Leiper's Fork, Tennessee. Portions of his talk are available here in three video clips.

First of all, Dr. Hilliard defines the terms "sacred place and sacred space."

In a longer clip, Dr. Hilliard tells us the fascinating story behind the book's title, The Crow's Enchanted Dance, which was inspired by a personal experience on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina. He also answers "what is sacred" by dividing the term into three different types before he dives deep into the idea that there is a sixth sense: the spiritual. 

Next, Dr. Hilliard defines what a "place" and "space" are. You'll notice a lot of movement at the beginning of this video clip. Hilliard Press expected 40-50 people at the launch, but the crowd grew far beyond that. Those at Big East Fork Retreat were gracious enough to move chairs around so those who had been standing could squeeze in and sit. What a wonderful "problem" to have!

So what is "sacred space," then? Dr. Hilliard defines it as "a portal or a uninterrupted space or an open expanse within which or around which or through which life's energy flows or is stored and then released." Learn more in the video below. 

"Without mystery, life is an artless journey of the mundane." Mystery, the imagination, and enchantment: all of these are closely tied to sacred space. Find out how on the next clip. 

"Knowledge can tell us about a place. But it cannot lead us in." Sacred places and sacred spaces are real, literal locations. But entering them and truly experiencing them requires us to lose ourselves, in a way, for a period of time. 

Thanks for watching!

If you want to purchase a copy of Dr. K. Mark Hilliard's book, click on the image below. 

We also want to thank director Ryan Estabrooks for his work on this video series. Despite his filming being disrupted by such an unexpectedly large crowd (which we give thanks for rather than complaints about), he still produced exactly what we hoped for. 

Passion, Purpose, and Challenges

by Lori Bumgarner

Last week, I got to witness true passion and the universal desire for purpose. I found myself in the middle of the Amazon jungle gathered with pastors from small villages situated along the vast Amazon River. These pastors have a deep passion for providing care to the forgotten people of the Amazon. Their purpose is to show God’s love to their fellow natives and to share the Gospel, regardless of the challenge or the sacrifice. Through their actions, they let their people know that even though they’re isolated from the rest of the world, they’re not forgotten.

To fulfill this purpose, they traveled by boat, many for days at a time, to the annual  jungle pastors’ conference to learn things they can take back to their villages and their churches. The team I served on also had a long journey to the conference center in the Amazon jungle. We gave up the comforts of home such as air conditioning, hot water, and standard plumbing to teach them. But our sacrifices were unlike the sacrifices I heard of from the pastors and their wives.

Bumgarner presenting with her translator, Harold Pinto

Bumgarner presenting with her translator, Harold Pinto

Through those with the skill for translation, I heard the story of one woman who traveled nearly 36 hours to attend the conference. Her husband had to stay behind in their village to work his other job. She told us of her and her husband’s vision to build a new church in a poor far-away village. When we asked her how far away, she responded in thick Portuguese, “A seven-day boat trip.”

This is no seven-day river cruise on a luxury liner like the ones you see in those “don’t-you-want-my-life?” Instagram posts. She and her husband will soon take this long and treacherous journey in piranha-infested waters, requiring them to leave their grown children, perhaps never to see them again. This is real passion. Real purpose. Real nobility. With real challenges.

Read the rest of Lori's blog post on her trip to the Amazon, plus information on how you can help these pastors and their wives by clicking here

Bumgarner at the book release for her latest  Lori was using the profits from  SUP: Spiritual Understanding and Prayer on a Stand Up Paddleboard  to fund her mission trip; now that this trip is complete, she donates all profits to cover the costs of job search training and more for those served by four local and international non-profits, including Justice and Mercy Amazon. Purchase your copy  here . 

Bumgarner at the book release for her latest

Lori was using the profits from SUP: Spiritual Understanding and Prayer on a Stand Up Paddleboard to fund her mission trip; now that this trip is complete, she donates all profits to cover the costs of job search training and more for those served by four local and international non-profits, including Justice and Mercy Amazon. Purchase your copy here


This post is an excerpt from my newly-released book, a 30-day devotional entitled Spiritual Understanding & Prayer on a SUP (Hilliard Press). The book is available online through Hilliard Press and on Amazon. (Profits go to support my mission trip to Brazil with Justice & Mercy Amazon.)

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. (Luke 5:16 NASB)

One of my spiritual gifts is the gift of encouragement. In every type of professional work I’ve done, I’ve been able to use my gift to serve my clients and my students. Likewise, in certain friendships and relationships, I’ve had the opportunity to give comfort and confidence to others in times of sorrow and anxiety, and have also had it reciprocated. To get to operate in my spiritual gift is an encouragement to me.

I remember listening to a podcast series by a well-respected pastor on the topic of encouragement. He said that people are in more need of reassurance and relief today than ever in the history of the world. He described different ways we can be an encouragement to others, and how we can be an encouragement to ourselves when we need it most. The pastor said one way we can reassure and restore ourselves is through solitude.

Solitude may be something some people are uncomfortable with, but I’ve learned to relish it, even when I don’t feel like being alone. Here’s what the pastor had to say about solitude:

Click here to read the rest of Lori's post on her blog. 

Book Tour Underway in Ireland

Dr. K. Mark Hilliard’s book launch in Ireland has started off tremendously with a June 7th release at Castle Durrow in Durrow, Ireland. Hilliard is seen here reading a portion of The Crow’s Enchanted Dance before signing copies for attendees. On June 8th, the adventure continued as The Midlands 103 radio station interviewed Dr. Hilliard on his latest publication as well as the class on sacred space he is currently co-teaching with artist Jock Nichol at the Abbeyleix Further Education Centre.
In this course, Professor Hilliard spends the morning with students discussing various aspects of sacred place and space. Each afternoon the students go out into nature to experience sacred space and then afterwards express their experiences through painting, drawing, photography, writing. Sacred sites include the Slieve Bloom Mountains, the Killamuck Bog, the Rock of Dunamase, the Mass Rock, Saint Fintan's Holy Well, Saint Michael and All Angels Church of Ireland, The Sexton House, etc. The course will end on June 16th with another book signing at the Abbeyleix Heritage House along with an art exhibit by the students taking the Sacred Place and Sacred Space course.
Hilliard will also present a reading and book signing in Mountrath, Ireland, on June 14th. Once his Irish book tour is complete, Dr. Hilliard will return to the States for the official American release of his book. Keep looking for more information about this event!

Hilliard Press's Latest Publication

The Hilliard Institute is proud to announce our latest publication—SUP: Spiritual Understanding and Prayer on a Stand Up Paddleboard by Lori Bumgarner.

Lori Bumgarner began stand up paddling (SUP) in the early summer of 2014 at a time when she was questioning where her business and career were headed. What started out as a hobby became an opportunity for spiritual and personal growth. For Lori, paddling provided a quiet place away from her day-to-day environment to truly hear from God as she was constantly reminded of His Word each time she was out on the water. Her thoughts lead her to beginning a new blog, a way to share some of the lessons she learned in these times of reflection.

“The idea to turn some of my SUP blog entries into a devotional book came at the encouragement of my publisher, Hilliard Press,” Bumgarner explains. “Hilliard Press published my first book, the Amazon #1 bestselling book Advance Your Image, and wanted a second book from me. As an answer to their request, I originally thought about doing an instructional book on how to discover your passions and find work you love, but the Holy Spirit led me in a different direction.”

Lori soon realized that the book sales would offer the perfect fundraising for her first mission trip. This summer, she’ll be heading to Brazil with her church. “We’ll be traveling down the Amazon River on a small boat and sleeping in hammocks while making stops at small communities along the river helping with everything from construction and home visits to ministry at local churches.” Proceeds from this book will go to Justice and Mercy Amazon. Your purchase will not only result in a delightful new devotional for yourself (or a gift for a friend), but it will also make a difference in the lives of others.

author Lori Bumgarner and her SUP

author Lori Bumgarner and her SUP

Even if you aren’t into stand up paddleboarding, this book still has valuable insights to offer. Lori shares, “While your interest may be something totally different from my love of SUP, I pray that, as you read this devotional book, you’ll be able to see God’s Word reflected in your own passions and pursuits. Don’t just listen to Him when you’re reading your Bible and praying, but also when you’re working and playing. He’s still speaking even then.”

To read additional blog entries from “Spiritual Understanding & Prayer on a SUP,” go here.


Click on the book cover image at the top of this article to purchase. Click here to share a tax-deductible donation directly to Lori’s mission trip. 

Dr. Hilliard's Book Release in Ireland

Our very own Vice Chancellor and President, Dr. K. Mark Hilliard, is excited to announce his latest book release this summer--in Ireland!

Below is the announcement directly from Abbeyleix, Co. Laois, Ireland. 

- Abbeyleix / County Laois Talks/Book Signing Events, 5-18 June, 2017 - 

Dr. K. Mark Hilliard, B.S., M.S., D.Arts

Dr. Mark Hilliard, a behavioral science professor, will be back in Abbeyleix and traveling throughout County Laois this June 2017 to release his new book, The Crow’s Enchanted Dance: The Phenomenology of Sacred Place and Sacred Space.

The book will be launched in Ireland one month before its released in the United States. Dr. Hilliard retired in 2014 from O’More College, a college with deep Irish roots, founded by Eloise O’More and her children Donna and Rory O’More of the O’More clan from Laois. You might remember Dr. Hilliard from the many summers he oversaw O’More-Ireland, bringing students to live and study in Abbeyleix each year. 

After retiring from thirty years as a public educator, Dr. Hilliard opened The Hilliard Institute, a non-profit academic and philanthropic agency that conducts research and offers unique educational training opportunities throughout the United States, Ireland, and England. He is the author of seven books on everything from holistic wellness, to spirit-ritual, to global-competency, and now his latest book on the concept of sacred place and sacred. 

Professor Hilliard will be teaching a course at the Abbeyleix Further Education Centre on 5-16 of June (Abbeyleix FEC Art Department). 

He will be available for multiple book signings and talks about sacred place and space during the evenings and weekends during his time in County Laois. This unique summer education program plans to end with an art exhibition provided by the FEC students who take the course, along with a talk and book signing by Dr. Hilliard on 16th June 2017. 

Confirmed venues with dates and dates TBC are listed below.

Sacred Place and Sacred Space Talks and Book Signings, County Laois

June 2017
1. Abbeyleix Further Education Centre: Friday, June 16
2. Abbeyleix Heritage House: TBC
3. Blackhill Woods Retreat: TBC
4. Castle Durrow: TBC
5. Mountrath Community Forum: TBC

photo by Emily Mae Bergeron

photo by Emily Mae Bergeron

The Creative Process: Hand Lettering

By Rehanna Mae Grant

The creative process is a difficult thing to explain or understand, and everyone’s process is slightly different. In this post I will share my creative process laid out using the accepted five steps of creativity. 

- Preparation
- Incubation
- Illumination
- Verification
- Elaboration

The first four steps may be repeated a few times, and are not necessarily set in stone.

Step 1: Preparation
I consider this the initial idea and research stage.  For this post I am using a quote from the Cinderella sonnet in Stories of Enchantment as my example of the creative process. The first step in preparation is knowing what the quote is and where it originates from. Knowing these two things helps during the research part.

Once I know what the feeling of the quote is (i.e. romantic, creepy, inspirational), I can start researching fonts and other hand lettered quotes. This is where Pinterest becomes my best friend. I look at everything from inspirational posters to logo design. My goal here is to fill my brain with different layouts, hand written fonts, and little added embellishments. Once I have absorbed as much info as I can it’s time to move on to step 2.


Step 2: Incubation
Or as I call it: break time! In this step I literally walk away from the project. I’ll read a book, go for a walk, bake cookies, or tackle my To-Do list. Whatever gets my mind off of the job that is evading me. It’s very important to stop consciously thinking about the project. Research has shown that letting your mind wander leads to greater creativity, and day dreaming is one of my favorite past times.

This step shouldn’t take too long. If I have not had an insightful moment within twenty-four hours, it’s time to move on to a new project and revisit this one later. However, I don’t always have the luxury of moving on. If the job at hand has a set deadline, I have to find a way to make it work. This is when I will go back to step one and use some problem solving skills from step four to try and force myself into the illumination stage.

Step 3: Illumination
This is that “eureka” moment we crave as a creative. If I am being perfectly honest, my “aha” moment usually happens in the shower or driving my car. When creativity strikes, the urge is so unbelievably strong that I can lose track of everything around me. I know it’s kind of cliché, but this is one of my favorite feelings in the world. That need to get whatever is going on in my head down into whatever medium I’m working in is so powerful and so freeing.

This step might possibly be my favorite. It can happen anywhere at any time, and it fills you with a sense of excitement like being on a roller coaster. Now I am ready to sketch out what I want the end product to look like. Sometimes I get it right on the first try. Other times I go through a few sheets of paper.

Now that I have it drawn in pencil it’s time for step four. The most dreaded of the five steps.


Step 4: Verification
Or some may call it Evaluation. Basically this stage is where I take a step back, self-critique, and reflect on my initial sketch and the established work that I have put in at this point. Usually this stage comes when I have exhausted the surge of energy the Illumination step gave me, but, depending on the project, this step can happen at any time during the creative process.

As I said before these steps are not set in stone. Sometimes verification and incubation merge into one step. This especially happens if I am questioning the project as a whole. However, in the case of the Cinderella quote, everything went relatively smoothly, and when it came time to evaluate the project, I had completed the hand lettering and was contemplating the overall look, and how or if I should add extra details or color. When considering this I went back to the preparation step. My original vision was simple, handwritten script, and that’s it. Upon further evaluation, I felt it was too plain and needed something more added. So I took a detour into the incubation stage and decided that flowers and vines placed around the words would add dimension. 


Step 5: Elaboration
At this point I have been through the first four steps possibly more than once. Now I am ready to make those finishing touches. For the Cinderella project that meant going back and sketching in some vines and flowers; then finishing with ink and hatching.

The elaboration stage is what the world sees and calls creativity. It’s truly the work stage of the creative process. Other people only see the creation when it is finished; they don’t recognize the process that generated the idea. This can be the hardest part, but it’s truly the most gratifying. Without the work a creative mind would go to waste. 

A Quick Sonnet Lesson

by Jessa R. Sexton

This year I released Stories of Enchantment and Little Stories of Enchantment. Each of these books is filled with twelve fairy tales I’ve condensed into sonnet form—these have been gorgeously adorned with portraits of the main characters by illustrator Rehanna Mae Grant. There are two versions. The red copy contains the sonnets, illustrations, and the classic fairy tale itself as well. The green copy is for littles: it’s more of a picture book style with just the twelve sonnets and illustrations.

So one of the first things you might think when you’re looking at the book cover is What is a sonnet? Don’t feel too bad for wondering that. I’ve been asked this question before. And what I want to do in this blog is give you the quickest poetry sonnet lesson, using “Little Red Riding Hood,” below, as an example.

Sonnets are a poem form, like a haiku or limerick. There are really THREE MAIN elements that you need to know when writing a sonnet:

1) number of lines,
2) line lengths or meter, and
3) rhyme scheme.

So—#1. A sonnet has 14 lines. That’s right—I looked over an ENTIRE fairy tale and tried to summarize it or capture the main themes and feelings in just 14 lines.

#2 is the line length or meter. Each of those 14 lines is ten syllables.

If you want to know the technical term, it’s called iambic pentameter. Just like a pentagon has 5 sides, this is called iambic pentameter, because there are 5 iambs. And an iamb is the combo of two syllables sounding like du DUH (one unstressed and one stressed).

It’s crazy how much math sonneteers have to do, huh?

If you didn’t catch the multiplication there:

an iamb is two syllables x five iambs per line = 10 syllables per line.

If it seems complicated, just remember that: 10 syllables per line.

And a sonnet, if read with the meter exaggerated, sounds like this:

Come here, Little Red, always covered by
warm velvet, take this cake to your Gram’s home
now—you two sweets will lift her spirit. I
warn you, dear one: stay the path. Do. Not. Roam.

Kind of like a galloping horse. But the beauty of this poem form is that the meter is there, but you don’t read like an equestrian—you read to the punctuation.

Say that with me, because it’s really the most important poem lesson I could ever give you ever: READ TO THE PUNCTUATION. That’s how the poem should ebb and flow—not like a jolting horse ride, but like a lyrical story.

Watch my film debut in the video below to hear how the "Little Red Riding Hood" sonnet should be read.




Okay, we’ve talked about the sonnet having 14 lines.

And we’ve talked about each line having 10 syllables.

So the final thing I need to point about this poem form is #3 rhyme scheme.

There are several different kinds of sonnet rhyme schemes, but the one I find easiest to write is called the Shakespearean after, you guessed it, William Shakespeare. You know he wrote Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet and those other plays, but you maybe didn’t know he was an incredible poet who wrote sonnets.

His rhyme scheme is





What is that gibberish?

That is the rhyming pattern of the end words of each line. And notice that I gave you 14 letters because you have how many lines in a sonnet?  14—you’ve got it. 

So look at this sonnet. If I dissect the rhymes, you see the first ending rhyme is

By, which gets the letter A. Since the next word doesn’t rhyme with by, it gets the next letter in the alphabet, B.

But then I rhymes with By, so it gets the letter A as well. And Roam rhymes with home, so it gets a B.

If you follow that pattern, see the rhyme scheme below: 

Come here, Little Red, always covered by        A
warm velvet, take this cake to your Gram’s home      B
now—you two sweets will lift her spirit. I            A
warn you, dear one: stay the path. Do. Not. Roam.        B
Come here, Little Red—tell me where you’re go-        C
ing. To see your Gram? Hmmm. You should pick her      D
flowers! Far from the path, many kinds grow.        C
(While you’re gone, I’ll make a tasty transfer.)        D
Come here, Little Red—what big hands I have,       E
ay? Well, let me show you how they’ll hug you—      F
Big teeth? They make eating easy. I’ve had      E
one snack so far, and you’ll be number two.      F
Come here, Little Red—climb out; the beast’s dead.      G
Be careful whom you trust and where you’re led.      G

That’s the Shakespearen Sonnet rhyme scheme.


In the end, if you can remember those three things,

1)   14 lines
2)   10 syllables per line
3)   rhyme scheme like Shakespeare’s

you can tackle writing a sonnet, which I think you should try.

But even if you don’t, I hope you can better appreciate sonnets. If you want to see how I put 12 fairy tales into this form, you can get my book by clicking on the covers at the start of this blog. I want to thank you for learning about poetry. Happy reading, and happy writing! 

Fairy Tales for Teaching and Learning

By Professor Jessa R. Sexton

An educator and author of ten years, I’ve spent the last year studying fairy tales as I worked on Stories of Enchantment: Twelve Sonnet Fairy Tales and Little Stories of Enchantment: Twelve Sonnet Fairy Tales for Children. Some believe this genre’s purpose is to teach lessons to children. In some cases, this theory makes perfect sense. What better way to explain the proper and improper decisions a child should make than to show wildly exaggerated examples? Obedience, humility and hard work, and goodness are three of the many qualities fairy tales promote through storytelling. 

1) One life lesson is to obey your parents. The story of “Red Riding Hood” is told in different fashions by various authors around the globe, but the general obedience message remains. When Red disobeys her mother, she is punished: usually being eaten by a wolf. In some instances she dies; in others she lives to repeat the moral to the reader. Children may or may not walk away from this tale with a fear of the woods and wolves, but they hopefully will see that respect must be given to authority.

2) In another example, Cinderella teaches us that humility and hard work will bring a great reward.  After her father marries a terrible stepmother, Cinderella is forced to work like a poorly-treated maid instead of the equal she is in her own household, but she doesn’t complain. In the end, she, and not the bossy stepsisters, steals the heart of the prince and is rescued from her horrible living situation: brought from actual rags to riches.

3) In a possibly confusing example, Snow-White shows children that goodness triumphs over evil. Though Snow-White doesn’t make the best decisions for her own safety—I mean, she trusts a strange women three times though harmed in each instance—she is portrayed as a symbol of goodness. The wicked queen, no matter how cunning, cannot conquer her virtuous foe. The queen is filled with a pride and murderous envy that leads her to her own destruction. 

In all of these stories, children are taught through the art of the written word. Children are drawn to storytelling: they live to hear and eventually create stories. Therefore, a story becomes a powerful instructional tool that should be used to help them think, grow, and learn to teach others.

When properly executed, fairy tale lessons become cloaked within the mystical and the magical. Children travel into faraway places and return from that journey with a better reverence for both reality and fantasy. When wisdom and whimsy marry in this manner, they live happily ever after.

A portion of this article is presented in Global Competency by Anastasia Morozova with Dr. Mark Hilliard. This book will be released this May 2016. 

A Quick Guide to Dinner Parties

By Emily Mae Bergeron

Hosting a dinner party can be a way to impress important people in society and the industry, or to just have an enjoyable time with friends. Formality ranges from a delightful meal with a few co-workers to an extravagant homage to the Victorian era soirees like those portrayed in Downton Abbey, complete with a dashingly clad butler and at least ten courses. Whichever you choose, the food and drink menu is of utmost importance, along with details such as the guest list, décor, and invitations. The main point, no matter how big or small your party, is to create a pleasant and memorable dining experience.  

illustration by Sarah Keaggy 

illustration by Sarah Keaggy 

When I think dinner party, the first image that comes to mind is the grand traditional English dinners of the 1910s. The aristocratic families would gather round a long, hand-carved table with the head of households at each end. Whether guests, or just the family, were present, they had elaborately planned meals, spotless dinnerware, and impeccable attire; perfect dining etiquette was a must. A menu for a traditional English dinner party is comprised of six courses, according to the High Steward of Oxford University, David Woodfine, in his cookbook, From Kitchen to High Table: The British-American Edition (184):

Course One: light appetizers or hors d’oeuvres
Course Two: soup and bread
Course Three: main course, which usually includes meat or fish, along with vegetables
Course Four: salad (a British Tradition to serve after the main course)
Course Five: dessert
Course Six: cheese and fruit

If you are attending a dinner party there are a few rules of etiquette you should know:

  •  Place your napkin in your lap only after the host or hostess has done the same.
  • Use the silverware farthest from your plate first.
  • When leaving the table temporarily place the napkin on your chair.
  • You should take hints from the host or hostess in all things. 
  • If passing food, always pass from left to right. Do not reach across other guests.
  • If you drop a utensil, don’t pick it up. Ask for a new one. 
  • Hold your wine glass by the stem.
  • At the meal’s end lay your napkin to the right of your plate. 

These simple rules will help you be prepared the next time you host or attend a dinner party.

Bergeron references Dr. David Woodfine's cookbook. Sarah Keaggy's illustration appears both in this book and Dr. Woodfine's children's etiquette book: ABCs of Etiquette for Young People. 

Illustrating Fairy Tales: A Childhood Dream Come True

by Rehanna Mae Grant

When author Jessa Sexton first approached me about illustrating a book of fairy tale sonnets, I was over the moon. I had worked with Jessa on a few of her previous books, and working with her as a friend and author is always a treat. For me, illustrating children’s books has only been a reality for about four years. Prior to meeting Jessa, it was nothing more than a dream.

My love of animation and character art goes all the way back to my childhood. Bedtime stories included fairy tales like “Cinderella” and “Goldilocks,” and our family television entertained a constant parade of Disney movies. Even now the illustrations that surrounded me as child inspire my work.


I was originally only going to Illustrate only one of the twelve stories, but I was so intrigued by her idea to condense these beloved fairy tales and give them new life that I simply had to be involved in the whole project.  

I received my BFA in fashion design from O’More where Jessa taught all of my language arts courses.  It was at O’More that I fully realized my desire to illustrate children’s books. After taking fashion illustration classes and growing my skill, having a future as an illustrator became a reality. I got my first taste of the business when Jessa commissioned me to illustrate the cover art and logo for Live the Blessing. With every book I worked on after that came a stronger pull to make the leap into the world of children’s books. When Jessa shared her brilliant fairy tale sonnet idea with me I was blown away by the originality of the concept, and naturally began dreaming up illustration ideas. At the time I didn’t know that this book of fairy tale sonnets would be the book that made my dream come true. (Super cheesy I know, but I couldn’t help it.)

So this big, illustrious dream I keep talking about: the first time I remember really knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up was after watching the movie Anastasia. I was about eight and completely obsessed with the animation and the portrayal of Paris fashion designers. I spent the next year drawing Anastasia-inspired dresses on everything. So when Jessa asked me to work with her on this book, my eight-year-old self nearly lost her cool. I took a deep breath and very calmly accepted the invitation, but I was so excited to get the chance to reimagine the characters I had grown up loving.

Originally I was going to be one of twelve artists chosen to illustrate one sonnet. I had already been pulling inspiration for a “Little Red Riding Hood” illustration, so it was my first choice when it came time to pick a sonnet. Upon reading several of the early sonnets Jessa had finished, I was inspired with illustration ideas for all of them. I could see it in my mind’s eye: a portrait drawing of each story’s main character. I was so passionate about this project, and I really wanted to try my hand at illustrating an entire book on my own. After sharing my desire to expand my work in children’s books and the inspiration I had for the illustrations, Jessa suggested I be the sole illustrator on this book.

Every part of working on Stories of Enchantment has been magical. This project is so dear to my heart. I feel like I have come full circle. Jessa and her brilliant mind have afforded me the chance to be a part of something brilliant and beautiful, live a childhood dream, and be an inspiration to someone else the way my childhood and current muses have been for me. Fairy tales are essential to our lives. They teach us about strength, love, loss, and fighting for what you believe in. For me fairy tales also mean chasing your dreams and creating the life you want to live. If only one person follows his or her dream after reading this book, then I will feel that we were a success.

Here's your first look inside  Stories of Enchantment!  Enjoy this illustration and sonnet of "Cinderella." The book will be launched Monday, April 4th.

Here's your first look inside Stories of Enchantment! Enjoy this illustration and sonnet of "Cinderella." The book will be launched Monday, April 4th.


In Defense of the Sonnet

By Professor Jessa R. Sexton

When I was in elementary school, I can remember arguing with my teacher that a poem didn’t have to rhyme. My first attraction to poetry as an art form was the freedom I felt in writing it. My mom would quickly say that made incredible sense, given my calmly-rebellious nature. I like rules—when I make them. 

As I grew older, I began to experiment, but in the backwards way from how many artists do. I decided to test my limits, first because a teacher told me to, and second because I was curious: how creative could I still be within the confines of a set poem structure? 

The thrill of seeking an answer to this question still inspires me today. And in 2015, I fell madly in love with the sonnet. Though I wouldn’t claim them to be the most difficult poem form to craft, they’ve become my favorite form of poem-unication.

Not everyone feels the same love, and I can understand. However, I’d like to share a little about why you should give sonnets a try, both in reading and—if you are so inclined—in writing. In any case, by looking at the basics, the blending, and the beauty of this form, I hope you can develop a higher admiration.


What is a sonnet?
All sonnets have fourteen lines, each line with ten syllables. 

This ten syllable line is said to have iambic pentameter. (An iam means two syllables; pent means five; two times five equals ten, so the meter is ten syllables!)

The three most popular sonnet form rhyme schemes are listed below:

a b b a     a b b a
The remaining 6 lines is called the sestet and can have either two or three rhyming sounds, arranged in a variety of ways: 
c d c d c d
c d d c d c
c d e c d e
c d e c e d
c d c e d c
c d c d e e

a b a b b c b c c d c d e e 

a b a b  c d c d e f e f g g 

Oh—and I made up my own, because I dream of one day being a famous sonneteer as well.

abcd abcd efgefg


Now that you’ve seen the basic mechanics behind the sonnet, you might be thinking something such as this: But…why? Why would you write within those set parameters and restrictions?

I’m so glad you asked. So many reasons abound. I’ll share a few.

  1. The challenge! As I mentioned before, being creative within confines is an excellent exercise. Just as your body grows stronger and more tone with physical exercise, your craft will develop when you mentally challenge your abilities by playing with poetic mechanics such as the way words sound, lie on the page, or flow—or by working through various poem forms. 
  2. The connection! Form and function are both important terms in art. In poetry, the blending of these brings a deeper meaning. A sonnet seems strict and rigid. When you pair this form with the function of discussing something holy, deep, or lovely, you create a marriage of form and function. When you pair this form with the function of discussing something funny, broken, or mundane, you create a juxtaposition in form and function. Either way, you are using the form of the sonnet to communicate on a deeper level. 
  3. The conception! When I have an idea, for some reason I find an incredible journey of discovery when mulling it over through sonnet-writing. Other artists have their favorite modes of  brainstorming, of breaking down thoughts and putting them back together. For me (and maybe for you, if you’ll try), sonneting helps me begin and end an idea I want to examine.


I have two poems solidly memorized. The first is by William Carlos Williams.

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

I think you can see why that one has easily stayed with me. But the second poem is Shakespeare’s sonnet that begins “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” The stark contrast between these two poems is obvious. For the longest time, I feel we’ve jumped up to defend the beauty of the simple, the every day. And while this has merit, we also need to remember the beauty of the complex.

A spider can weave all day, and a single thoughtless swipe of my child’s hand can destroy her work. That delicate complexity must be rebuilt. And when I write a sonnet, I try to craft something solid enough to withstand the apathy it might attain. Of course disinterest can destroy, but half the time I write for myself. Though I love to share a poetic success, the reason I step up to the sonnet in the first place is to find what beauty I can discover when I give myself the chance to walk through the iams and the rhyming and the fixed fourteen lines. Because if I make it through all of that, and my final product flows off my tongue like a song, then I’ve proved to that calmly-rebellious elementary school poet that there’s a different kind of freedom in form. 

COMING SOON are two new books by author Jessa R. Sexton and illustrator Rehanna Mae Grant: one for all ages (pictured above) and one aimed more towards kids called Little Stories of Enchantment: Twelve Fairy Tale Sonnets for Children. Click on the cover to learn more. 

The Lecture A Viable Teaching Methodology—Yes or No?

By Dr. K. Mark Hilliard

At one time, the lecture held a place of honor and esteem in academia. Yet today, the lecture has been delegated to the basement, so to speak, in the inventory of viable teaching methodologies—stuffed away in old boxes with our platform shoes and leisure suits. But is that where it belongs, and why has it been so consigned? 
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “lecture” as “an educational talk to an audience, especially one of students in a university,” but it also offers the definition of “a lengthy reprimand or warning.”  Could it be that somewhere along the line of fine lecturing we somehow digressed from the first definition to definition two, and our “talks” to our students became the psychological equivalent of lengthy reprimands, more so than meaningful dialogue—“educational talks?” 

I would hope that we could all say that we have experienced lectures that captured our attention: lecturers who captivated us with their words and experiential expressions.  But, I know that we have all, likewise, experienced lectures that had the same negative effect as a reprimand on our intellectual capacity to learn to the extent that we shut out the speaker and transfigured our mind into a state of meaningless contemplation—day dreaming.

As a result of a multiplicity of bad lectures over a period of time, I am afraid we have, in the words of my mother, “thrown out the baby with the bath water.”  We have all but eliminated the lecture from our repertoire of teaching and learning styles, and I am concerned that we are raising a generation of students and new teachers who might never experience, or learn how to offer, a quality lecture. This distresses me immensely and is the major reason for this exploration into The Lecture, A Viable Teaching Methodology—Yes or No?

Let’s begin with an analysis of some of the broad, major components of a lecture, actually not of the lecture itself so much as all the elements that surround the lecture:  

  • the subject matter;
  • the interest of the audience in the subject matter;
  • the pre-knowledge and experiences of the audience and ability of the audience to comprehend, translate, and apply the information delivered in the lecture (which can relate to age, previous level of training or education, sex, cultural background, preconceived notions about the speaker or the subject matter, and a multitude of other characteristics which affect the ability of the audience to appropriately listen and learn);
  • the time of day for the lecture;
  • the environment or location of the lecture;
  • the speaker;
  • the knowledge of the speaker;
  • the experiences of the speaker;
  • the training of the speaker—on teaching and learning, and on the subject matter; and
  • the ability of the speaker to relate to the audience and the audience to relate to the speaker.

1) The Subject Matter
While the subject matter is quite relevant in giving a lecture, I know from experience that a good lecturer can make any subject matter a valued and worthwhile encounter.  As speakers, sometimes our topics are assigned—hopefully based on our area of expertise; sometimes we are able to select our topics from a pre-determined list; and sometimes the subject matter is ours for the choosing.  At whatever the level of choice the lecturer has, it is important to either select a subject for which you have both knowledge and experience, or to create the time and opportunity to obtain some degree of advanced knowledge and experience before offering the lecture. 

I cannot overemphasize the importance of some level of experiential expertise in offering a quality lecture. And while direct experience with the subject matter is incredibility beneficial, experience does not always have to be directly related to the topic, but quite often is simply a by-product of a multiplicity of life experiences that give you the ability to communicate effectively and meaningfully. 

What we don’t always understand is that each of our experiences becomes a part of our collective memory and is accessible to our brain to help us express a point, expand on a thought, provide a metaphor, or tell a story (even if these experiences do not directly relate to the subject matter), and these experiential expressions are needed to make our subject matter come alive.  In practical terms, the more smells we smell, the more tastes we taste, the more sounds we hear, the more sights we see, and the more shapes and textures we touch, the more our experiences are expanded.  And the more experiences, the better our ability to lecture. 

By experiencing the smell of a pipe, the speaker is better able to describe smells. By traveling to a foreign county, the speaker is better able to speak on the excitement of travel.  By experiencing a variety of emotions, the speaker is better able to express feelings.  And by reading an assortment of books, the speaker is better able to express a variety of evocative words.  Through our study, research, and active participation in life, we are better able to assemble our words into meaningful dialogue that will connect with the experiences of our audience. 

Dr. K. Mark Hilliard speaking at the Oxford Centre World Peace Symposium at Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford, March 2015

Dr. K. Mark Hilliard speaking at the Oxford Centre World Peace Symposium at Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford, March 2015

This article, in its entirety, appears in the second edition of Educational Wellness.