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If you can dodge a wrench …

In the words of Inigo Montoya – “Let me ‘splain … no, there is too much. Let me sum up.” Much has happened since last I posted here. Though I’ve had to cancel events, that doesn’t mean I’m sitting around twiddling my thumbs.

When life throws a wrench in the works, you find a new way to get the job done by restructuring and developing new methods and plans, which is what I did. In March, I had events scheduled almost every week until mid June. I was excited about finishing up my speaking engagements for the current school year and looking ahead to summer and fall events. Then COVID happened and everything changed.

 

I learned that schools were changing their policies on outside guests. Though states are opening up, hosting book signings or events must be gauged as far as risk factors and to one’s comfort level with large groups. What’s an author to do? I can’t speak for all authors, but this one certainly made up her mind to figure out a new strategy.

My husband and I with our masks and tiny border terriers, Packy and Pax.

First plan of action was to finish up work on books close to publication, which I’m still working through. It takes a lot of work to get a book over the finish line, into a hard cover and into your hands.

ApprovedPete

Click bug – main character in Pete the Brave

Next, find new strategies for speaking engagements. I’m now offering Author Zoom, an opportunity for parents to engage their children with a 1:1 author visit.

In addition, my publisher, Pen It! Publications has set up a workshop where I will be teaching how to write and market for children on Thursday, July 23rd, 6 pm EST. Registration for event.

With everyone stuck at home for quite a while, I started a biweekly story time and craft event where I would read children’s classics and teach a craft or do a cooking demo. My audience included not only children, but adults who enjoyed rediscovering the joys of children’s lit.

And now, I’m onto a new project that I am extremely excited about. I reached out to parents with a list of 11 questions. They asked their children and then transcribed their answers and sent them back. I’ll be using these answers in my new book, which I will begin to work on next week.

Each month I’ll write a new blog post, keeping you informed on new and exciting details regarding upcoming books, author events (virtual and live), and hopefully bring a smile to your face or encouragement to your spirit. Things don’t always go as plan, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find a different way to accomplish our goals.

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Unusual Times

Clean slate

Suddenly my calendar is wide open. Where there had once been school visits, library programs and vendor events, now consists of a vast expanse of erasures, strike-throughs and deletions. For now, we hunker down, work on those projects we’ve not had time to complete, plan for the future and wonder if we will ever be able to hug each other without worrying.

I’m working from home for my day job for the time being, but the view is lovely. I face a lovely robin-egg blue wall with a window to my left. I can watch the squirrels and birds play throughout the day, see my company’s test bus pass by once an hour. Cummins Inc. thoroughly tests their engines both at our Technical Center (where I’m a tour guide in addition to my regular duties at my downtown location) and on the road. The test bus is testing bus engines to assure they meet the rigors of a short duty cycle. I see people walk by with their dogs, pushing strollers, jogging, riding bikes because though we hunker down, we crave fresh air.

Each day when my day job is done and I can virtually clock out, I begin the second half of my day, which includes working on writing projects and such. Currently, I’m working with an illustrator on my next book, Pete the Brave. The story of a amiable and kind click bug who displays the virtue of self sacrifice.

I’ve also passed off the fourth rough draft of Cleo and Roger Discover Columbus, Indiana – Book Two – Art to my editor/husband, Paul, for some help. I reduced the text by 1000 words – not a lot if we are talking novel, but this is a children’s book. I knew the book was too long, but did not see how I could reduce the text and maintain the integrity of the story. As I started working through the text, I realized there was more than I thought to clean up. The story is crisper and I know after Paul works through it, it will be even better.

Cleo and Roger Discovery Columbus, Indiana series

Besides working on books, I’ve created new topics for speaking engagement/programs to include:

  • Overcoming Obstacles
  • Thinking Outside the Box Regarding Disabilities
  • Be Unique
  • Architecture of Columbus, Indiana
  • Writing and Marketing for Children
  • Write Your Own Story (in development)
  • Fairies and Dragons and Stories, Oh My (in development)
Fairies and Dragons and Stories, Oh My!

While programs/speaking engagements are cancelled, authors are still busy creating, writing, and editing. I’ll get back to the social stuff when the world’s a healthier place to hang out in.

So stay safe and healthy! And if you are looking for something for the kids to do, consider ordering one of my books from my publisher, Viewpoint Books, Amazon, Barnes&Noble or check out my store page (under Welcome page.

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A Day of Firsts

One of my favorite parts of being an author is visiting schools to present programs and talk to the students. My desire is to make a difference in the students’ lives with my writing. The story accomplishes that, but when I can visit a school and talk with the students, I can convey my passions and take the lessons to a deeper level.

Today was a treat as I was invited to speak at CSA Central Middle School. Up until this point, I had spoken to groups of preschoolers, elementary students, adults and senior groups, but had not yet spoken at a middle or high school. The students were eager to listen and had some great questions.

Another first for today was that my husband, Paul Hoffman, and I were asked to speak together. We’d never done this before, but rocked out our program as well as sharing the slide remote control very well (we both attended kindergarten – a prerequisite for learning to share).

The CSA Central students are preparing to write historical fiction stories done in the “choose your own adventure” style. Paul and I were able to offer advice on creating a theme, how to gain inspiration, and outlining as well as some other handy writing tips.

At the end of the second group, one of the young ladies approached me with a broad smile on her face. She asked at what age did I start writing. She stated she had already started her writing career, creating stories for her younger brother to read. She also had something else to share, a characiture of my husband and I (seen at the top of the page). I was very honored that she shared this with us and allowed me to photograph it. Yet another first, a drawing of the two of us.

I never know what surprises await me when I speak, but they never disappoint.

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Diapause

When Paul and I returned from Ukraine & Ireland, I was pleased to find my parsley plant covered with Black Swallowtail caterpillars. We had several caterpillars last year, but this year a total of 32 were eating, hiding, and enjoying my herb garden. I brought them into my butterfly house, provided them with organic parsley, cleaned out the frass daily and waited. They grew…and grew…and grew. Finally, they were ready to form their chrysalis and prepare for the time they would eclose.

But this year was different. There were a few that didn’t make it to the chrysalis stage. Four formed their chrysalis, but then were invaded by Chalcid wasps (equivalent of our Invasion of the Body Snatchers). When the first butterfly came out, its wings never developed for flight. I cried. Butterflies were made to fly. Several more emerged and flew off to the East. Currently I have about 8 chrysalis left, which have decided to diapause or over-winter (insect’s version of hibernation).

I researched and discovered I must place the butterflies outside, still in their house, in a protected space such as a porch with an overhang or a garage. I choose my garage and placed them up off the floor with a towel covering two sides of the house. They need protection from predators as well as some humidity and ventilation. Now, as the butterfly waits for spring, so do I. I am hopeful that they will emerge triumphantly next spring and fly off, perhaps returning to lay more eggs in my little herb garden.

As I contemplated my butterflies this year, I thought of how their metamorphosis is a perfect picture of ours. Some mature more quickly and emerge ready to fly. Others are attacked by the enemy or consumed by vices or the troubles of life and never emerge. Some think they are ready to fly, as they have made it through their metamorphosis, but still cling to the earth and don’t let their wings develop enough to fly. They are afraid, unsure of their newfound abilities. They cling to the life they knew before, even if it was painful because it’s what they know and it seems more comfortable. Then there are those who only need more time. They are changing and growing, but winter approaches. They know it’s not time to fly. It’s time to rest. Eclosing now would mean death. So, they wait.

What phase of metamorphosis are you in? If you are allowing growth and change, if you are resting when the winter of life comes, you are on the right path to becoming who you were meant to be. But, if you are afraid of the changes, if you complete your metamorphosis, but you’re afraid to spread your wings and fly, don’t despair…others have been there before, as well. You’re not alone. Don’t be afraid of this change. It’s new and strange, but it’s where you’re meant to be. You were meant to spread your wings and fly. And if you’re in the stage where you are allowing harm into your life whether from others or yourself, make the decision to stand up and say, “No More. This stops today.” Don’t let the “parasites” consume you. Finish your transformation.

Embrace the change. Eclose or diaspause. But grow. Be at peace and find gratitude and joy in your metamorphosis.

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Exploring New Possibilities

I’ve published poetry, two children’s books with two more coming out soon, but had not yet taken on writing for a magazine. My friend, Kyrian London, who publishes e-zine, Brave Wings Magazine, asked if she could interview me for the magazine. I agreed and quite enjoyed thinking through and writing out the answers to her questions. Interview

After the interview, I agreed to write an article for her March issue on my adventure in Ireland – The Magic of Ireland. I found that I quite enjoyed writing magazine articles and was ready to take on another one.

My next article took on the subject of coping with fibromyalgia, Balancing Act.

Writing for a magazine can be a bit challenging as you are writing in a concise, informative venue in which you need to keep the reader’s interest. I was quite pleased with my first few attempts and am ready to take on more assignments. I’ve learned more about my abilities, broadened my scope of writing, and hopefully written articles that others can learn from and enjoy. I hope you enjoy reading the articles and will check out other articles in Brave Wings Magazine.