Library Time

I drove around L.A. with the kids the other day while my wife had an appointment. I really wanted to explore this part of the city and hoping to find a cool coffee shop (without the help of my phone.) So I was on this discover Los Angeles theme with my girls, but that lasted 15 minutes before we passed a library. There was no debate at that moment when I asked my twins, “Do you want to go in?”

What can match the experience of an old neighborhood library? We walked past a busy room with a handful of friendly senior citizens inviting us in to browse through used books to buy. The girls declined and headed straight to the children’s fiction section on a mission to find a book. I had to modify their mission and told them that this library wasn’t “our” library, and they wouldn’t be able to use their library cards to borrow books. They were unreasonably disappointed but understandably so.

As we looked through the picture book section for classic and new titles, I couldn’t help resist reminiscing about my much younger days in the library. I remember the similar scents of printed books and the sounds of books being shuffled and hushed conversations. One of the newer sounds I recognized that didn’t exist in the library when I was a kid were beeps of barcodes being scanned, and keyboard taps on laptops of students studying. Do you remember the due date stamped inside the cover of the library book to remind you when it would need to be returned? I loved that part!

My children got Kindles for Christmas to read eBooks, but they know that nothing replaces a good ol’ printed book and nothing replaces being in a local library. 

Are there any  other “universal” childhood experiences and activities that still exist today? Have you brought your child to that place or introduced them to that experience?

  • Take them to the skating rink and rent roller skates. 
  • Find a used record store and show them your favorite album covers. 
  • Play Scrabble or buy your favorite board game and play it on game night. If you don’t have a game night, then make one. 
  • Rent the original classic movies of the remakes your kids watch now. 

Just some ideas to get you going. Your kids are interested in your childhood. Get going! Make it a great week!

Wedding Singer Worries

Just an hour earlier the wedding singer zipped through the city like a wedding singer should if he is running late to his gig. He glanced at his to-do list on his phone and was determined to make it to the wedding reception in time. He picked up his suit at the dry cleaners, grabbed a cappuccino 4 blocks further, and bought breath mints & water at the gas station 7 blocks after that. His band greeted him with boos and smart remarks, but they were ready to rock the reception. Their opening set was a smashing success with the wedding guests begging for more. The wedding singer looked out the window overlooking the city, and the sinking feeling overcame him as he noticed his pockets were empty. Where did he leave his phone?

Thanks for reading my latest 1-minute fiction. If you like my content, please write your opinions and thoughts in the comments below. I appreciate your feedback.

The Opportunity to Share Stories

I knew that I wanted to write when I was about 20 years old. I was working at the park as a recreation leader, and the kids and teenagers wanted to have a talent show. The staff wanted to do a skit about the challenges of being a staff member at the park. I remembered insisting that I write the script which I did. About 5 of us rehearsed the skit, and I think the story was about kids at the park being out of control and the recreation leaders having a meltdown as a result. We performed this skit on stage in front of the kids, and it was a really enjoyable time. When I heard the kids laughing, I realized this is something that I like to do.

I finished the initial draft of my first children’s story 15 years ago, but didn’t know how to publish it or even how to share the story. I didn’t have the drawing skills to illustrate my own photos, so I looked for help. After working but never finishing the project with a couple of artist friends, I shelved it for a few seasons.

Then the iPhone happened in 2007, and I got hooked on mobile photography. I realized that I could illustrate my stories with photography. The funky-filtered, over-processed pictures that the photo purists criticize about are the images that I want to illustrate my stories. I get to be my own illustrator. How about that?

Today’s explosion of social media gives me the opportunity to share my writing to a much wider audience than I ever had before. Even if it’s just a handful of folks that ready my story and tap on the like or favorite or reshare button that is still a handful more than I ever had before that enjoyed a story or poem I created.

Collaborating on Illustrating The Story

I finished the initial draft of my first children’s book, Violen 15 years ago but didn’t know how to publish it or even how to share the story. Today’s technology with the explosion of social media gives me the opportunity to share my writing to a much wider audience than I ever had before. I don’t have the drawing skills to illustrate my own photos, but not too long after I got hooked on mobile photography, I realized that I could illustrate my stories with photography.

I asked Albert Montes to photograph my first story. We had met years ago through church, then we reconnected on Instagram. After seeing Albert’s incredible work, I asked him to be the main photographer for the story. We shot in 4 locations in different parts of Long Beach, California. I wanted to illustrate the story in black and white. Albert shot with Hipstamatic on his iPhone 4S. Now, looking back I realize that I should have been shooting a lot more behind the scenes. I only took a few, and this one was during our first photoshoot.


Violen p. 11

Those who sat closer to the stage mentioned that they saw tears in Uncle Tim’s eyes as the song came to a close. At the end, the audience roared with approval. The entire crowd gave Lenny a standing ovation!

Lenny looked at the audience, but the spotlights were too bright for him to see his classmates. All Lenny could see were dozens of small silhouettes. He recognized at least one of the shadowy figures with fists pumping the air. It was Miguel.

As Lenny bowed, the same boys who once jeered him now cheered him. He smiled towards the source of cheers and took his final bow as the curtains closed.

Notes: You are reading an excerpt from my 1st children’s picture book, Violen. Violen is a story about a young boy who has an extraordinary gift and passion to play the violin. Even though this may be the last page, keep following along for more pics and notes, and if you like my story, please share it. Thanks for your support. Image shot by Albert Montes and edited by me using Glaze.

An Excerpt from Violen

This story is currently sold on Blurb as an eBook and printed book. 

My book in hard cover!


I finally got my first published children’s book in the mail. It’s currently sold as an eBook download or printed book on

Read more about it on Backspaces (@joe_montoya) and the Violen Project page of my site. 

Hipstachallenge Feature

Thanks HipstaChallenge for the feature on my children’s book. The #makebeautiful project was the catalyst that tranformed me into a Hipstamatic shooter.