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!

The Dragon in the Library

Happy New Year! It has been some time since I last posted a blog entry. 2018 had many unexpected difficulties and challenges, but also had moments of joy and became the year that my book, The Adventures of Princess Jellibean, was published by my new publisher, Crimson Cloak Publishing. To find out why I changed publishers and had to start over with my series, read here.

I dedicated 2018 to writing and seeing my books published. I have seven under contract with Crimson Cloak and have several others I am writing. Since I feel writing is my purpose, I plan to continue that dedication through 2019. I have also been blessed with an amazing and talented illustrator who has expressed interest in illustrating all of my books.

Currently I am participating in my third StoryStorm, an annual challenge on Tara Lazar’s Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) blog to generate 30 picture book ideas in 31 days. Each day in January guest bloggers present inspirational posts with ideas and stories of experiences that seek assist in the challenge by igniting the minds of the participants.

Today’s entry was titled Cathy Breisacher Pictures Her Ideas. In the post, the author talks about looking at any visual image for inspiration. After reading her post I was reminded of the library at my elementary school in Trussville Alabama. When I went there, the library had a massive painting of a dragon next to a village. I had to pass by several times a week and each time I would make up a story in my head about what was happening in that picture.

Sometimes the dragon was attacking the villagers, burning their crops and homes, sending the people running in terror. Sometimes the dragon was misunderstood by the village but ended up defending them against some terrible threat, winning their affection and becoming their defender. Sometimes the village and dragon were completely unaware of each other as their lives were lived separately in peace. In those instances, I usually imaged the dragon had some hobby like reading, scuba diving, or nature painting. I loved that picture in the library and creating the stories became the highlight of my day and the fuel to my daydreams.

Throughout my childhood I made up stories to entertain myself and my little sister. This was several years before I declared to the universe that I wanted to become a prolific author. I hadn’t even discovered a love of writing at that point, it was all in my head or verbal. Looking back I realize I was a budding storyteller.

StoryStorm has re-taught me to seek inspiration in everything around me. I find the process exhilarating and am back to generating ideas in my head around images I encounter. The only difference now I capture those in written word and am honored to share them with my readers. I am delighted that these creative eyes have returned to me so many years later.

Read Like a Reader. Write Like Dr. Frankenstein.

It may seem cliché, but I have loved reading books my entire life. I still have memories of looking through books before I learned to read. I could spend hours studying each illustration from top to bottom and from left to right. Unfortunately, I also remember adding some sketches to books without illustrations because they were too boring. I was never discouraged that I couldn’t read yet and was comforted by the calm reassurance of my mother that one day I would be a reader. She took me to the library, one of my favorite places to be, throughout my childhood.

When I finally learned to read, I developed a hunger for words. I read every street sign, every bottle in the bathroom, and every book I could get my hands on. I read every book in my house including the first aid manual and the dictionary from cover to cover. In fact, the dictionary was my favorite thing to read. Even now, I love to look up words and feel nostalgic when I see a dictionary on a bookshelf. When our dog was hit by a car and I was the one to find him, I went straight to the bookstore because it comforted me to be among them. Books have always been my friends. I was the little girl who could disappear for hours, curled up with a pile of books in a quiet corner. Starting at the age of 10, when I wasn’t reading I was writing poetry. Writing helped me to navigate the dark and difficult waters of adolescence. At 12 years old, I declared that I would become an author and that dream never left.

My son was born with the same voracious hunger for words and just ended his sophomore year as an English Major. Classics were some of my favorite things to read so when I bought a modern book for him I’d insist he read a classic as well. One of my favorite stories became one of his as well: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. My son started writing for fun at the age of 12. Prior to writing, he drew his own comic books with characters he made up. The main character of my children’s book series also has a lifetime love of books and sharing them with everyone she meets. Encouraging reading is something I have loved to do for all my adulthood. I feel like reading is one of the keys to a child’s future. When I was a professional clown and had one on one time with a little one while face painting or twisting a balloon I had three questions: What grade are you in? What is your favorite subject and Do you love to read? I then told them about my lifelong love of reading and encouraged them to read for the fun of it. If they said their favorite subject was science, I would tell them that one day they could grow up to be a scientist or even teach science to other children. Some children shrugged it off or nodded in agreement. I treasured the ones whose eyes widened as they embraced possibilities they’d never thought of. Truly children are a gift and should be encouraged to dream of their futures and pursue an increase in information about things they are interested in.

However, I digress. My purpose for writing this blog is to correlate writing and reading. Something that frustrated me for years when working on a new book was getting struck with “writer’s block”. Sometimes it was because of an international event that caused strong emotions and sometimes it was because I allowed everything else to get in the way. After attending several webinars and online classes for writers, I had an epiphany. Part of the reason I was getting stuck was an unspoken need to write a story from beginning to end and in that order. The thing is, no one says you must do that. In general, you READ a book that way but a story can be built in pieces and then assembled later into a coherent story that has a beginning, middle, and end. Once I realized this I finished a story I had been stuck on for six months in one night. I was more than half way through but stuck about how to finish the story. I decided instead to cut the first part out and then finish with a completely different direction.

Huzzah! What a liberating thing it is to discover the freedom that brought! I want everyone to feel that freedom so by the fact that you’ve read these words and perhaps a little light bulb has quickly switched on for you as well, consider these words your license to write your story in pieces. Dr. Frankenstein your story! Cut it up, move it around, stand on your head and see things differently. I would proceed with caution on that last suggestion. Be free, writer! Be free!

Write Right Rite

I have received several messages this year requesting guidance on becoming a writer. As an eternal student, I am by no means an expert. I have been working on a 30-year-old dream to be a prolific writer. My first book was published via Amazon Kindle in November 2014, and my first children’s book, The Adventures of Princess Jellibean, 1st Edition, was published in November 2016.

After the closing of my first, I recently signed with a new publisher to publish an expanded 2nd Edition and the subsequent books in my series. What I will share with you here are things I’ve discovered on my journey that I think will help an aspiring writer.

First, don’t become a writer for fame or money. This is going to be a long journey, wrought with peril and adventure so it should come from a place of passion for the art of the written word. If you are writing because you have something to say or because you love researching and sharing your findings, you will do well. If you aren’t one already, become a reader. Reading words helps keeps your own word flow primed.

Now that I’ve shared my opinion, what do you want to write about? Is there a genre you love like science fiction or mystery? Are there interests you’d like to take a deep dive into? Read books in your genre. Read reviews of books in your genre. Learn what your audience wants. Research your topic until you become somewhat of an expert.

When I wrote my second book, I researched possums so that I could write an authentic character. Even though it is a children’s book, I don’t want someone to be unable to connect with that character because I didn’t take the time for authenticity. Even if your chosen topic has already been written about, don’t be afraid to tackle it yourself.

Sit down and write. Make it a habit and create a routine. Have a designated place, music, lighting that you want to revisit each time and then…write anything. The book The Artists Way says to get up early every day to write whatever comes out. Set weekly deadlines and goals. Write X number of words each day. Setting that goal is up to you.

Outline your story. It needs a beginning, middle, and an end. Brainstorm characters and situations.  Even if you use digital to write, carry a notebook with you everywhere. You never know when inspiration may strike. Keep your creative eyes open.

There are many publishing options that don’t cost a dime. Some resources are listed at the bottom of this page. This is especially true if you don’t need illustrations. If you do need illustrations, consider looking at artists on sites like Fiverr. If you want an agent, research agents in your genre on Google. Follow them on Twitter and look for their posts on tips or things they want to read. Research submission guidelines for both agents and publishers.

Learn how to write a book proposal. Take advantage of every webinar and online training for authors. Join organizations like Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators (SCBWI) and take advantage of their website which is loaded with helpful information. Sign up for newsletters and join critique groups. Follow other authors on Twitter. Share your ideas with a trusted friend and be open to their feedback. Soak up every possible drop of information that can help you. Be an eternal student open to the big world of possibilities.

Don’t be afraid of failing. In fact, fall in love with it and celebrate it! It means you’re trying. It’s not how many times you fall, it’s how many times you stand back up, brush yourself off and try all over again! You can do this. Everyone has a story inside of them and yours deserves to be shared.

Sites for free self-publishing: