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My name is Lisa Wade McCormick and I'm an award-winning journalist and children's book author. I have more than 20-years experience as a newspaper reporter and investigative television producer. I've also written sixteen children's books for Scholastic, Capstone Press and Rosen Publishing. I'm marketing my chapter book, "Typo The News Hound," too. I now freelance full time and my recent stories have appeared in The Kansas City Star, Volleyball magazine, Bark magazine, Dogs For Kids magazine, Appleseeds magazine, and the consumer news Web site, ConsumerAffairs.com.

Check out my latest release, a biography on Christopher Paolini
This highly entertaining and enlightening biography features the story of Christopher Paolini, whom Guinness World Records has recognized as the "Youngest Author of a Best-selling Book Series." Paolini wrote his debut novel, Eragon, about a boy and his adventures with a telepathic dragon when he was just fifteen. The author has taken the publishing world by storm with his four-book Inheritance Cycle. Fans of science fiction and fantasy will enjoy learning the fascinating backstory of the books, including the author's creative methods and sources of literary inspiration. Click here to buy the book. Via Rosen Publishing.

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Insider’s Guide to the Summer Olympics Volleyball

2012 June 1
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by Lisa Wade McCormick

Volleyball magazine

Team USA volleyball players are heavily favored to rule the beach and women’s indoor courts during this summer’s 2012 Olympics in London. But the U.S. men’s team, the reigning champions of the 2008 Games in Beijing, could lose its position as head of volleyball’s royal family.

Volleyball announcers for NBC Sports recently shared with Volleyball magazine some of their predictions about the upcoming Summer Games.

Queen Elizabeth II officially will open the “Games of the XXX Olympiad” on July 27 and welcome more than 10,000 competitors from around world to this majestic sporting event this summer.

Beach volleyball promises to be the “crown jewel” of the 17-day competition, which physically and mentally challenges athletes in 26 different sports.

This year’s “sand-sational” showdown takes center stage from July 28-Aug. 9 at London’s historic Horse Guards Parade. A total of 24 men’s and women’s teams will battle for gold in the shadows of Buckingham Palace.

“I think beach volleyball is going to be the place to be for the London Olympics,” said NBC announcer Kevin Wong, who will call the matches with sportscaster Chris Marlowe. “I can picture it already. Buckingham Palace is there in the background. You can see the London Eye. Prince Harry will be with the royal family in the VIP area watching the games. And maybe even the Queen.”

 

Women’s Beach Volleyball

 

But all eyes will be on America’s queens of the beach courts – Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. They’ve dominated the sand and the top of the Olympic podium in the last two Summer Olympics.

Can this dynamic duo permanently etch their mark in the sand—and the Olympic record books—with an unprecedented third gold medal finish?

“Misty May and Kerri Walsh have got to be your No. 1 choice to win gold,” said Wong, who made his professional beach volleyball debut in 1995. “If someone is going win gold it’s got to be Misty and Kerri.”

Brazilians Larissa Franca and Juliana Felisberta Da Silva are the likely silver medal winners, Wong said. This No. 1 ranked team on the FIVB Swatch World Tour defeated May-Treanor and Walsh in 2011 to capture its first beach volleyball world title.

“They’ve proven they can hang under the bright lights,” Wong said.

China’s 2008 Olympic bronze medal winners—Xue Chen and Zhang Xi—prove another pair to watch.

“They’re a solid team,” Wong said.

Volleyball fans shouldn’t discount Italy’s Greta Cicolari and Marta Menegatti from the medal hunt, either. “Italy is a young team that has done great things,” Wong said. “They’re one of my sleeper teams.”

Another sleeper team, he said, is the Netherlands’ Marleen Van Iersel and Sanne Keizer. “They can do great things.”

Hana Klapalova and Lenka Hajeckova of the Czech Republic are also on Wong’s Olympic radar.

“They’re a team that seems to play without pressure,” he said. “They seem so mellow and down to earth. I think they can play in the Olympics and not be phased.”

Americans Jen Kessy and April Ross—the No. 2 U.S. team—are also poised for a huge Olympic win.

“I like to call them the big game hunters,” Wong said. “They have their eyes on the big prize…they’re a team that could win gold.”

Is it possible the United States could have two teams vying for gold? It all depends on how the teams are seeded, Wong said.

“I don’t know what the seeds are going to be. That’s something we need to watch.”

If it’s an All-American final duel on the sand, Wong gives the tip to May-Treanor and Walsh.

“You’ve got to go with Kerri and Misty because of their experience,” he said.

Continue reading the entire story at Volleyballmag.com.

Click here to read my other stories for Volleyball magazine.

Behind The Scenes With Harry Potter

2012 May 1
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by Lisa Wade McCormick
Appleseeds magazine (May/June 2012)
No magical spell or Nimbus 2000 flying broom handy? Don’t worry. You can visit the enchanted world of Harry Potter
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, based on the books by J. K. Rowling, opened at Universal’s Island of Adventure in Orlando, Florida, in June 2010. The theme park brings the magic of the Harry Potter books and movies to life. Now, Muggles — nonmagical folks like you and me — can roam the hallways of Hogwarts Castle, grab a frothy Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks restaurant, and narrowly escape the chilly clutches of the dark and dangerous Dementors.
The “wizards” at Universal Studios spent five years designing this 20-acre attraction. It took three years to build this re-creation of the young wizard’s world — from the towering Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to the cobblestone streets of Hogsmeade Village. The “magic potion” that created this wondrous world is a mixture of modern-day technology and a supernatural attention to the details from Rowling’s books.
In the window of Zonko’s joke shop, for example, a game of wizard’s chess comes to life. Moaning Myrtle haunts the public restroom. And a red book magically puts itself back on the shelf in Professor Dumbledore’s office.
The shops in Hogsmeade are small by design because that’s how they’re described in the books. The cramped stores sell such enchanted goods as chocolate frogs (Honeydukes), golden snitches (Dervish and Banges), and, of course, magical wands (Ollivanders). Street vendors also sell pumpkin juice and Butterbeer from wooden carts.
The park’s recipe for Butterbeer is a closely guarded secret. Even J. K. Rowling doesn’t know what’s in the butterscotch-flavored elixir, which is “charmed” to give you a foamy mustache until the last drop. The theme park sold its one-millionth glass of Butterbeer in December 2010 — six months after The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened.
The park’s most spellbinding attraction is Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.This state-of-the-art ride combines robotic technology with cutting-edge filmmaking techniques. You spend at least an hour “exploring” the dimly lit Hogwarts Castle and see talking pictures of famous wizards, Professor Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, the sorting hat, and hundreds of floating candles in the Room of Requirement. Harry, Ron, and Hermione greet you in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and ask you to join them on a little adventure. This is when the real magic begins:
During a four-minute “forbidden journey,” you feel like you’re soaring over Hogwarts with Harry and his friends. A robotic arm spins, tilts, and twirls you past live-action scenes of a fire-breathing dragon, evil Dementors, and the Whomping Willow. You also zoom through a Quidditch match and even come face-to-face with the giant spider, Aragog.
As one ten-year-old Muggle from Kansas said, “It was awesome.”
(Check out the teacher’s guide for this story: www.cobblestonepub.com/pdfs/APP/APP1205.pdf)

‘Peanut’ pitching for Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

2010 September 11
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by Lisa Wade McCormick

Special to The Kansas City Star

Photos courtesy of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

A legend in baseball history — one of only three women to play in the Negro Leagues — is stepping up to the plate again to help her beloved game.

This time, however, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson will swing a golf club instead of a bat to raise money for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

The 74-year-old former pitcher with the Indianapolis Clowns tops the “celebrity leader board” in the  2010 Buck O’Neil Golf Classic on Monday at the Shoal Creek Golf Course.

“Buck was a good friend of mine, and now that he’s  gone it’s an honor, I mean a great honor, to represent  him in his golf tournament,” Johnson said during a recent telephone interview from her Washington, D.C., home. “There wasn’t a nicer gentleman than Buck and there’s no one I’m more proud to do this for.”

The Negro Leagues Museum is just as proud to have this right-hander, who refined her curveball while training with Satchel Paige, headline its annual golf tournament.

“We’re trying to raise the visibility of the other Negro League players, particularly the female players,” said Karen Boyd, the museum’s vice president of marketing. “With Mamie, we have an opportunity to do that this year because of her stature. There are about 175 Negro League players

still with us and Mamie is the only female still living.

“We’re also expanding our demographic reach to include women and families and we thought this was the perfect time to feature Mamie in that effort.”

Johnson’s celebrated baseball career started when she was a little girl in South Carolina. “I played with the boys every day,” she recalled. “I made my own baseballs (by wrapping tape around rocks) and bats (out of tree limbs), and it wasn’t a big thing for me to play with the boys.”

Some parents at that time might have discouraged their daughters from perfecting a slider or fastball, but Johnson said her mom and dad supported her baseball dreams. “They said whatever you think you can do, do it well. And that’s what I did.”

But segregation and prejudice during the 1950s prevented Johnson from playing in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

“I’m glad they didn’t let me play because I wouldn’t be who I am today if they did,” Johnson said. “If I would have played with the women, I would have missed out on the opportunity that I received, and I would have just been another player. But now, I’ve done something that makes me stand out a little bit.”

Don’t be fooled by that curveball.

Johnson, who pitched for the Clowns from 1953-1955, is part of an elite group of players who overcame gender and race to earn a place in baseball history.

Consider:

•Johnson is the first female pitcher in the Negro Leagues. She had a 33-8 record with the Clowns, according to the Negro League Baseball Players Association. Her batting average ranged from .262 to .284.

•Johnson considers herself the first female major league pitcher — not Eri Yoshida, the 18-year-old Japanese “Knuckle Princess” with the Chico Outlaws.

•Johnson is one of only three women to play in the Negro Leagues. The two other female players are the late Toni Stone and Connie Morgan, who both played second base.

“Those were a wonderful three years,” Johnson said of her days in the Negro Leagues. “And it was awesome for the simple reason that I was with a group of gentlemen who helped me. I’ve got all the respect in the world for them. It made it so nice to be around such nice gentlemen.

“And to be good enough to be out there (with such baseball greats) made it even better.”

Some players, though, questioned Johnson’s pitching arm. On her first trip to the mound for the Clowns, one batter told the petite Johnson she wasn’t any bigger than a “peanut” and doubted she could strike him out.

The 115-pound Johnson sent that batter back to the dugout in three pitches. “That’s a true, great story,” Johnson said, adding it’s how she earned the nickname ‘Peanut.’ “And people today still call me Peanut.”

During her barnstorming days, many people also called Johnson and her teammate derogatory names and racial epithets.

“When somebody is ignorant, you ignore them,” she said. “And that’s what we did. If you’re ignorant than I ignore you — period. And I go on about my business and do what I’m supposed to do.”

Johnson still follows that credo today and encourages children — especially young girls — to heed that advice whether they’re playing baseball or pursing some other dream.

“Do whatever you want to do regardless of what anybody else says,” said Johnson, who is also a licensed nurse. “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.”

Rescue, Doubled

2010 September 10
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by Lisa Wade McCormick

How the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation saves lives

Cody was an uncontrollable puppy nobody wanted. But now, the spirited Golden Retriever is one of the most highly trained search dogs in the country. This is his amazing tale, the story of a rescued dog who is rescuing people. The nine-year-old Golden who nearly lost his life in a Wisconsin animal shelter is now part of an elite group of emergency workers specially trained to respond to disasters and find people buried alive. Cody’s tale, however, would undoubtedly have had a different and tragic ending if an organization called the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF), in Ventura County, Calif., hadn’t stepped in and taught him how to use his boundless energy to save lives.

“He is the luckiest dog in the world,” says handler Linda D’Orsi, a captain with the Chula Vista, Calif., fire department. “It could have been the end for him in the shelter in Wisconsin.” Cody lived with six different families before his first birthday. Each brought him back to the shelter because he had too much energy—they couldn’t control him. “He was a throwaway dog,” D’Orsi says. “He probably would have been put to sleep if someone hadn’t seen his potential.”

That someone was Dawn Christenson, a volunteer with Golden Retriever Rescue of Wisconsin (GRROW). She understood that Cody’s endless energy and strong play drive made him an excellent candidate for search-and-rescue work. “Cody was not your average Golden,” she says. “He was a Golden who needed a job.” But where would this feisty dog find one? The answer to that question was provided by SDF, which works exclusively with rescued dogs and trains them to find people who are lost or buried alive. Christenson contacted the organization about Cody, and her call saved his life. “The day after Dawn’s call, Cody was on a plane heading to the foundation’s training facility in Gilroy, Calif.,” explains D’Orsi.

Today, Cody and D’Orsi are one of 236 canine search-and-rescue teams in the country with advanced certification from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This certification, the pinnacle achievement for canine search teams, means that Cody and D’Orsi can respond to any disaster. Not a bad feat for a dog nobody wanted.

Tales like Cody’s aren’t unusual in SDF’s 14-year history. Since retired schoolteacher Wilma Melville founded the organization in 1996, she and her staff have worked with scores of dogs from shelters and breed rescue groups, turning them into highly trained search dogs. They’re dogs like Andy, another spirited Golden Retriever rescued by the same group that saved Cody. This energetic canine is trained to rescue people buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings—fitting and bittersweet, because Andy is named in honor of 25-year-old Andrea Haberman, a young woman killed during the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

“What a tremendous honor it is for us to have Andy the dog named in honor of our Andrea,” says Andrea’s dad, Gordon Haberman of West Bend, Wis. “It’s one of the few positive things that I can point to out of this whole tragedy.” Haberman discovered the vital role search dogs play during disasters when he and his family scoured hospitals in New York City “hoping against hope” that Andrea was alive.

“We were standing outside St. Vincent’s Hospital,” he recalls. “It was eerily quiet; there were no injured coming in. All of a sudden, we heard sirens coming up the street. Our heads snapped, hoping it was someone coming out of the Trade Center.” The sirens, however, came from a truck carrying some of the dogs who had been searching for survivors at Ground Zero.

“Some of the dogs were injured,” Haberman says. “Many had burns on the pads of their feet. These dogs had searched tirelessly and without regard for their own safety.”

Click here to read the rest of the story at Bark.com.