Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing

Nostalgia for the future

Listening to some relaxing music, closed off in an improvised study, and the mind wanders to and fro… A familiar Doris Day song comes to mind, Que sera, sera, and although the lyrics reflect what I should be motivating myself to think and do, it is not easy and my voice does not naturally doze off into the tune to sing it out, as it has so many times before…

Trying to stay positive in this utter mess of a world has become so tiring. I admit. So what can we do?

Focus on the good, our loved ones, the nature, the beautiful in life… Try to create more of the beautiful… Only by remaining positive can we eventually conquer and overwhelm the burden.

Less than 2 years ago I had a huge, life-threatening, life-altering and sadly long-lasting event take control of my life. There are moments, when all of this is perhaps easier to stand, because of the horrors that happened then. Even though, trust me, there are times when I too wonder when it will be enough. Wasn’t that ordeal quite a test in its own right? Wasn’t that enough? Obviously not.

Therefore, I tell myself this is it, this is the crunch time. True, when we think of these life altering moments, we rarely picture them as a long line of moments, all stringed together into months, with no ending in sight, as it is now.

However, multiply the good. Persist in positivity and kindness. Pick each other up when it gets hard and when we falter and stumble and fall. All things come to an end. All. So will this difficult and illusive pandemic and its side effects. It will. Let’s wear it down, let’s tire it out as it is trying to exhaust us.

Let’s make some lemonade. Let’s make some lemon sherbert.

Leave a comment »

The little things matter

Good morning, all! These last few months have not been easy on anybody and, from the looks of it, we are in for a longer while of adapting to the changes in how the world operates and how we should behave. In such times, kindness and optimism are of crucial importance, and to each of us it’s the different things that bring us joy. Apart from being a teacher (a salute to all my comrades in arms who have spent countless hours in front of computers instead of directly with learners these last few months), I am a writer, so here is one thing that really made me all mushy today – such a wonderful review for my novel The Forest of Trees! Reviews are such a blessing to all creators of anything, and yet so hard to come by, and getting a review like this one really warms my heart. Thank you, Bookpreneur! You have enjoyed the trees in the forest as much as the people, and you shared it with the world – I am so grateful for that:)

Leave a comment »

Courage is the size of your heart

Time to brag! The proofs for my fifth children’s book have arrived and they are so goooooood! Yes, let me be proud and share the joy with you. The smaller one is a picture book with colourful illustrations, and the larger one is a funbook (full story, plus photocopiable worksheets & educational materials, all black-and-white). My fifth children’s book, if you count the picture books and funbooks as 1 edition. If you count them as 2 books each, then this is 10 children’s books of mine out already, plus the Treasure Chest of Children’s Stories anthology by Plaisted Publishing. Wow! Yes, I am proud! A bit less than 2 years ago I barely stayed alive after a severe medical episode, then spent almost a year with barely any vision at all, and this time last year I was waiting for a possible surgery to restore my vision… Diana contains illustrations our son taught me to make digitally, then our daughter helped me make them and colour them, and eventually our son assisted with the final formatting and cover! This only adds to the level of my pride. None of this would have happened if it weren’t for my husband who always fights and supports me from the shadow. Thank you for the support, all of you who did and do support me. I wouldn’t have done any of this without you:)#books#kidlit

Ever been too small but had a big idea? So did Diana.

#dinosaur #dragonfly #fun #reading




Leave a comment »

Gosh, it’s been a while…

This quarantine period has been quite a shock for everyone. Not going to go into detail (you all know how things are and what difficulties we have all been facing), but what amazes me is that this year, well, half of it, has felt like at least 2 years already, and yet… time somehow flew. I mean, I’ve just realized the other day that I haven’t been here in a long while and still so much has happened and I have been trying to push so many things to keep afloat – in more ways than one.

i grew older, true, but I am still alive and kicking.

As you can see, I have managed to keep afloat, good health being the major part of it, if somewhat crazier at times and more depressed at other times… still – afloat. To be honest, it has been difficult. But I decided back in March that I would fight insecurity with creativity, and I am still fighting like that. It has been my best weapon in everything. My superpower. Well, my strength at least.

So let’s see which changes occurred meanwhile.


Day job has not changed (yet:), but its method certainly has. Teaching English as a foreign language. After a brief home office period, we were allowed back into classrooms without our students, and the period of distance learning began. Laptop time, platforms, videos, presentations, old-fashioned teaching materials in front of the screen when all else failed, learning online-lessons etiquette and teaching it to learners and their parents, webinars to learn new things… Overall – what seemed like ‘not working’, turned out into unlimited shifts extending long into the night and early into mornings to be able to at least catch up. Pulled it off, naturally. However, call me old-fashioned but I’ll take the classroom any time. You feel the room, you feel the way your learners breathe, you know from their posture if they understood something or not. Going back into the classrooms, with all precautionary measures in place, was a blessing both for me and the kids. Kids being all my learners, regardless of their age.

Whatever technology you use, your heart is the most important.


Having decided back when I was blind not to give up on my writing, and then when I could see again – to push even harder, and then facing lockdown made me want to stubbornly not give up even more so, I started this ludicrous thing called YouTubing and I am still trying to pull it off. My channel has been there for a long time, but I split it into my English version and my native Croatian version, creating two lists Anita’s Haven and Čarolarije, simultaneously pushing both on Facebook as separate pages. By the way, Čarolarije (sort of a Croatian blend between 2 words – magic and playfulness – čarolije & igrarije) is also the name of a volunteer project I am working on with my local branch of the Croatian association of programmes for children – even wrote a book for this project (alas, it has been on hold along with most projects due to the COVID-19 crisis). My methodology book, The Question Mark Method, has been lurking in the shadows as well, but its time will come again, even though I’ve had no strength to ask for all the promised reviews.

But I learned.

I learned digital illustration from my son. Then my distributor changed some formatting options so I learned again. Along with my son. And we pulled it off. So I published a new children’s book – my fifth independent kidlit, no more and no less. So now, along with Winky’s Colours, The Good Pirate, Mimi Finds Her Magic and Spikes for Hank, there is also Diana the Daring and she’s got her 3 versions, like all my other children’s books – the colourful picture book paperback and the e-book, plus the black&white funbook with extra worksheets and photocopiables.

No, I was not bored.

No, I am not giving up.

They may not be perfect, but perfection is often overrated.


Saving the best and most important for last – living the everyday life, trying to give my best to friendships, parenting, marriage, myself.

The home office is a blessing and a curse for family life. You are there and yet you are not. You see everything and yet you don’t always like what you see. You seem to have the time to relax and yet you notice all the things you could have done, you still should do, all the things your partner and your children deserve… And every single day you feel gratitude that you have them all, that they are well, that you are blessed with the opportunity to spend time with them, for better or for worse. You and your partner grow older and hopefully wiser, your children grow and grow, your friends battle life in their own ways, your pets get injured and march on… And those who matter remain in your life. Even when some of them die – we lost my godfather a few weeks ago due to cancer; he will always be in our hearts and memories.

In the beginning of all of this unpredictable chaos, people kept saying this will change everything and everyone. I believed, and I still do, good people will remain good people and bad people will remain bad. Those who recognize the difference between right and wrong still recognize it. Those who don’t care, never will.

Kindness matters. Still and always. This, too, shall pass. Let’s be kind to each other.

Leave a comment »



It is so difficult to write fantasy for any age group, to create something that’s never been read before and yet something that has the elements a fantasy fan would relish. It is like with music – sometimes it seems as if everything’s been said already, because how many more new combinations of musical notes and rhythms can one create in centuries?

And then somebody makes it and creates something worthwhile, different yet familiar, and challenging to the mind and heart alike. Jean Gill did it with this unusual fantasy. I takes a while to grow on you and, when it takes hold, you appreciate the strong roots it has developed.

The author has managed to create two opposing new worlds, both dancing the thin line between what you’re told and what you feel you should believe, each with its own set of rules, each with its own heroes and villains, both constantly in a strange battle yet  interlaced and dependent on each other. One world is set to rules, ‘perfection’ (fantastic play on words here, because what IS perfection, right?), the other one a natural wilderness. And then a heroine who not only wants to mix the two but feels compelled to from her inner most core.

Mielitta’s inner most core is what will surprise you – her connection to the bees. (Had I read this book in my teenage years, I would have developed a keen interest in biology, trust me!) Usually heroes are provided with supernatural powers – in Mielitta, it is her natural powers that are unbelievable. The author manages to weave Mielitta’s growth and development from a bullied misfit to a natural force so carefully, never giving off to much in advance, so that you sometimes feel just as confused with it and just as full of questions as Mielitta herself. This is very clever, because this is a heroine who is in it for the long run, not just a one-book wonder. Her relationships with other characters are so intriguing, especially her adoptive father (that one impressed and shocked me so much) and her protégé Drianne (who better to take up a protégé than a bullied girl herself, only to discover that her protégé is in fact… no, no spoilers…).

It is difficult to write a review and not give out too many spoilers. So let me just mention that, as always with Jean Gill’s books, the readers will not be left wanting (except for a sequel), will not feel cheated or underestimated, will get a glimpse into different worlds and creatures, will fall in love with some and hate other characters, will feel vindicated when it is needed, will learn a lot about interesting things (the philosophy of archery, the intricate power play in the world of bees, to name just a few), will be kept guessing about some things (I love the what-ifs and maybes you are drawn into), will be treated to exquisite language use, and will thoroughly immerse themselves into the story.

Imagine me loving a fantasy book that had no dragon in it? An amazing achievement by the author, I must say. I would truly recommend this book. It will make you think about how we treat nature – not just the outer world but our inner one as well. Make your time count with clever stories.



Leave a comment »


Right? So much has happened since I last posted here… So much has happened. With you, with myself, with the world. Not all nice things, especially these last months, and yet – here we all are, still breathing, still creating, still ourselves (some more so than others).

The bad things WILL pass. They will. They always do. They make room for the good things, and then some other bad things, and some other wonderful things… it is life. Sometimes more difficult than other times, but always with a certain purpose. Do we know which purpose? Well, I don’t think I do, but if you do, feel free to share. (We might be better off not knowing though.)

I have chosen to be positive and optimistic. I have decided to battle negativity and pessimism. Why? So many reasons.

First of all, those of you who know me or have followed me a while ago, you know that about a year and a half ago I experienced a health issue which almost killed me, kept me nearly blind for almost a year, caused immense stress to my family and made me rethink and recreate my life. No, I have not changed my entire existence because my entire existence was not wrong to begin with. But I have not survived that to give up now.

Secondly, our kids are watching us and imitating or hating what we do and how we behave. If I want to see them grow up as persistent, proud, creative and kind people, then it is exactly what I must display – persistence, pride, creativity and kindness. No way am I going to be depressed, moping, negative, hysterical or irresponsible. At least never on purpose, as my daughter likes to say:).

Will this change me? Will this change other people? Will this change the world? Who knows! In my humble opinion, good people will remain good people, kindness will remain kindness, bigotry, sadly, will remain bigotry. For any of it to change, it requires a willingness to communicate, and this willingness may not have anything to do with crisis. It is a shift in consciousness. It is a decision. It is a choice. This is why I said I have chosen to be optimistic.

This moment in history will one day (soon, I hope) be exactly that – a moment in history.

Life has to go on. Let’s choose to make it a beautiful one!


Questions help us think

Yesterday, I was asked by an experienced university professor about something I wrote in my book, The Question Mark Method. About the difference between learning and studying, and how to approach it in teaching.

The lady professor, a wonderful and esteemed colleague, stated she had never thought about it like that. At first she thought I was merely talking about little learners, but when I explained I teach all age groups and levels, she was puzzled. ‘Yes, I see. But it must be difficult teaching like that every time… it drains your energy to be so motivating and to try so hard every time…’

After a while, we agreed it was, but then again – we agreed it was not. Just lecturing and testing is NOT teaching. Teaching them (how) to (want to) learn IS.

This is a tiny book packing a lot of wisdom – for #teachers in all phases of their career – #nonfiction #tips by this here teacher trainer with 25 years of teaching #experience! Change the way you #think about yourself, your learners, your teaching and your #trainees! Simplify your work to let the #heart conquer over paperwork!

The Question Mark Method can be used by learners and educators. If I could tell you one crucial thing about it to instigate your interest, this is it – IT WORKS! It really does. It really, truly simplifies things!

*Apple Books
*Lehmanns Media
*Kobo Rakuten

Leave a comment »

NICI’ S CHRISTMAS TALE by Jean Gill – my review


And I am not talking about Nici the dog, the main character in this short story. Although I may as well, all things considered. I am talking about the author, Jean Gill. As a long-time fan of Jean Gill’s writing, I can honestly say this lady is one of the few people who leave me speechless and grateful to be able to witness their genius at work. She respects her characters and readers, and does her absolute best every time, without being arrogant or smug about it. This story is yet another proof of it. It is written just as it should be, wholesome, decent, discrete and revealing at the same time, offering you the life of a character in all its humbleness and relevance. I am not going to retell the contents to you, just offer my views on its creation.

The way this story is written is such a clever way of fitting a prequel into a spin-off sequel, to use the words so often used for various series of stories, be they movies or books. It can be read as a stand-alone, but, in my opinion, its richness will best be appreciated by fans of The Troubadours series (this reader included), as it tells parts of the original stories from the point of view of the main heroine’s loyal canine companion Nici, a character and protagonist of all the 4 books in the series in his own right. It will be like watching a familiar movie filmed with a different camera, from a different angle, and discovering things you hadn’t noticed before.

Reading Nici’s tale, at first, my mind must have felt like that of a dog’s, when it sniffs trails and traces around, looking for nothing special yet waiting eagerly to hit that special spot and then follow it through. And it did, of course. As Nici tells his story to his puppies, and you read about him hearing a girl sing, the entire thing just leaps into its rightful place and you blaze through the text with your heart warm and that feeling of peace in your chest. The tone is evocative of The Troubadours, the details and events well-paced, and overall – it is a wonderful haven for fans of the Troubadours series… As you reach the end, and I mean the very final line, it is just perfection. Full-circle for me, as the last line of the story links to the first book by Jean Gill I had read and fell in love with.

What I love about Nici’s Christmas Tale, as well as all of Jean Gill’s writing, is the way you can relate to the characters and events, regardless of the time or species in the book – she has that amazing, effortless ability of sneaking in lines about life and its timeless issues that just stop you and make you think, not just about the story, but about life and your own choices. I will try to explain, without giving away any spoilers. At one point, Nici tells his children about a herd tragedy, and you can feel his survivor’s guilt in the words, just as you would a human’s. It might even help you understand somebody in your surroundings.

We can all learn a lot from Nici, and from Jean Gill, too. About how to respect all life, how to cherish friends, family and kindness, and how to learn from our mistakes and appreciate our own growth.

I will leave you all with just one quote this time, with the author’s permission, but this one speaks to me the most.

‘Such a small thing to cling to, hope.’

(On a more personal note…

This story arrived to me last Christmas and it would have been a delightful read even then, were it not for the fact that I was unable to see then, due to a health mishap. As many of Jean Gill’s reader fans, I am delighted with her newsletter every time it hits my inbox (one of the few I actually do read and even answer sometimes), and this tale was the author’s gift to readers. See? Delightful surprises sometimes lurk in newsletters, where you least expect them;). I am happy to have been able to read it now. So well-fitted to the entire timeline.)

1 Comment »


(Written on the 12th July, 2019, back when I couldn’t see)

It often surprises me when people think I am younger than I am, or when I am in the company of people my age and I feel younger than they are. Not physically, mind you – the face reveals everything. No matter how much we may try to hide it. But younger in spirit.

And then a day quite like this one takes place – the results of high-level English exams arrive, for children I’d worked with  since their kindergarten age, and who are now 18 or so. And in all that excitement and enthusiasm, I suddenly realise that those children will not be attending lessons again, that those children are not even children any more, and what’s best and most important, I know how much they’ve grown up, and how much still lays before them. And they are so well-directed or life and simply wonderful.

For some people it may seem strange for anybody to get attached to other people’s children like this, children you’d only seen maybe once or twice per week, but this connection is extraordinary and magical, filled with emotions, severe turbulence, changes and progress. And it lasts. And this is where I reach my key point – how this relates to my feeling of youth.

When there are such amazing young people growing up around you, you feel proud that life has given you a chance to be at least partly their guide, their teacher. And now that they are setting out on their journey of adulthood, it gives you a feeling of hope that the world will be a better place, that there will still be good, caring, kind and smart people around. Because you know that they are. And this hope makes you young at heart.

(There is lots more written on this paper, but it is empty and only shows traces of me moving my pen – the pen had run out of ink, but I could not see that then. Never mind. All is well now.)

#teaching #education #love #joy #work #cvrcak

Leave a comment »


We all have our reasons for doing something. Some cook, some sing, some draw, some build… I write, among other things. Every now and then I wonder what it is about writing that makes me love it so. Here are a few, more or less serious, ideas.

1.      I talk way too much. In order not to allienate everybody around me, it is sometimes better to keep my mouth shut and write. My thoughts need clarification even for myself, so writing and editing literally make sense.

2.      Sometimes I cannot even believe my own ideas until I see them on paper.

3.      I need the practice – without writing, my handwriting and typing skills would be horrific.

4.      For some weird reason, I think my ideas matter, so I like to keep them documented. I need evidence even for myself.

5.      It’s my trip to another universe. After all, even Marvel realizes that there is such a thing as a multiverse around us.

6.      Writing is cheaper than therapy, plus, I wonder if a human therapist could stand all my ‘ideas’.

7.      If I don’t write it down, I will not remember it the following day.

8.      The voices in my head want, no, they demand proof of their existence.

9.      Writing makes me a better person, because even I notice how complicated I sometimes get.

10.   It makes me happy.

Got anything to add?

(written in April 2019, back when I couldn’t see)

Leave a comment »