A Ladybug Named Leaf

I have an uncle that I believe can do anything! Uncle Hoyt is someone I have looked up to my entire life because of his amazing creativity and interesting jobs. He has been an architect, blacksmith, volunteer firefighter, and a cartoonist for the local paper in my childhood home in Alabama. It’s likely he has done much more than even I am aware of, but those are the ones I know.

It was during my childhood that he drew cartoons. When he visited I would run to draw something to get his feedback. I remember drawing a turtle and his kind words encouraged me and made me feel like I could grow up to be an artist like him.

I recently had a book signing at a kid’s bookstore. There was a five-year-old little girl who was so excited to come meet me because she has a cat named Jelly Bean and my main character is Princess Jellibean!

She and her mother stayed for quite a while, and as her mom and I chatted, she ran back and forth to draw the above pictures. One is Princess Jellibean and the other is Princess Jellibean with her pet ladybug. I told I wasn’t aware that Princess Jellibean had gotten a pet, so I had to know its name! She thought for a few seconds and then answered “Leaf”. I thanked her and told her I just may use that in a future book.  

She seemed very proud and pleased to hear this. I believe as adults we have a responsibility to treat children with encouragement, kindness, and respect. When they bring us something they created we should let them know it’s amazing! Not because it’s perfect, not because you immediately recognize the image, not because the coloring is exactly inside the lines and therefore socially accepted as beautiful. No! It is a treasure just because they took the time to create something and brought it to you because they highly your opinion. What an honor!

The reason I react the way I do is because of my uncle and others like him that encouraged my creativity even as it just began to take shape. I truly feel like my creativity had permission to blossom because of this type of encouragement, kindness, and positivity! When I talk to children book signings they have my full, undivided attention and I always encourage and speak positively about their future. I let them know that their world is wide open and, through hard work and focus, there’s a lot that they can accomplish.

When I said this while standing in front of a class recently after reading my book, eyes widened. They raised their hands to share what they thought they might do. I then shared that my dream of becoming a published author started at 12 years old and have worked hard to see that dream come true with the very book I just finished reading! It is amazing to watch the sparks of excitement in a child’s eyes when they are given permission to dream about what they might do in this world!

I always ask about their interests and encourage them to read as much as they can since I believe it is the key to their future! These moments are so valuable and important in my mind. You never know what kind of positive influence you can have in a child’s future, what they might become simply because YOU took the time to speak encouragement over them! Consider your influence when speaking to a child. As Dave Willis so eloquently stated it, “Be an encourager. The world has plenty of critics already.”                    

Author School Visit

I am an author and a disability advocate. I serve on the board of an affinity group at work that represents people with disabilities. I saw my first book The Adventures of Princess Jellibean book as an opportunity to reach children with the message that disability is a normal part of life through her interaction with children in the story, some who have a disability. I use simple words like “dancing on feet or wheels’ and ‘singing out loud or signing words with happy hands” to introduce the concepts.

Other books in my series have characters she encounters with disabilities and sometimes she helps them and sometimes they help her. I feel like sharing this message with young children can help open minds and prevent bullying through understanding.

Friday February 1st was National Read Aloud Day and I was honored to be at a part of an Author Extravaganza at a local school. I visited three classrooms to read my book and had the time to share information about anything I wished. 

I shared information about tools used by people with disabilities and created an 11X17 poster to help illustrate my point. I also brought my husband’s blind cane, so they had a physical example and explained demonstrated how it is used.

The kids were SO receptive and had so many questions that I loved answering. I taught the kindergarten class the ASL sign for the phrase ‘thank you’ and shared some disability etiquette with the third graders. They were all so excited and eager to know more!!

My character Princess Jellibean was a big hit as well! Two little girls physically jumped up and down to have their picture taken with my 3-foot-tall standee of her at my table during the book fair part. I loved it all SO MUCH and was with the kids!! I didn’t want it to end! ️

I was nervous on my first school visit last December, but I think I’m ready to reach out to other schools to share my book and message!