Celebrating my new book launch!

bookLast year during November, I participated and succeeded in the Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) challenge, coming up with a handful of ideas I liked and a couple ideas I LOVED. This book is one of those concepts originally scribbled down a year ago!

The Very, Very, Very Bad/Good Day is a FLIP-BOOK about attitude.

It was very important to me to create this as a flip-book because I wanted the reader to experience physically flipping the book upside down in order to change the perspective of the day. WHY? To drive the message further to the reader that changing one’s attitude takes ACTION. You shouldn’t just sit and wait for something to happen to change your mood around. Don’t depend on people or circumstances. You must make the effort to change your own attitude!

This book shows the reader exactly how attitude affects not only how you view the world around you, but how others may react to you (or NOT react to you).

I guess part of my inspiration was the movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray lives the same day over and over until he finally gets it right. The book takes a boy, Danny, through the exact same day twice, to show what happens when he lives the same day with two completely different attitudes!

I had so much fun making this little book trailer, below:

I’ll be having an official Book Launch Party on the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) website starting December 1, which will also launch a special giveaway contest where you can win original art from the book (I created all art with marker on paper, which I then scanned and manipulated in Photoshop)!

The Very, Very, Very Bad/Good Day is already available for sale on Lulu.com, and I’ll be getting my own samples soon to sell autographed copies.

Talking to Students About Writing, Art, and Dreams!

Speaking at Porter Ridge Middle School

Speaking at Porter Ridge Middle School

Caricature Demo at Porter Ridge

Caricature Demo at Porter Ridge

I made the choice to drive down to NC during my kids’ Spring Break week to spend some much-needed time with my family and to come full-circle by speaking to my old Middle School in Monroe, NC.

Why?

Because the books I have recently self-published were originally written when I was sitting in the courtyard during recess at Piedmont Middle School, Monroe, NC. This was my way of bringing my journey full-circle. The amazing thing is that my nephew now attends Piedmont Middle as a seventh grader… the same grade I was in when my written journey began. How totally amazing!

I was also lucky enough to have a connection at Porter Ridge Middle School, a school I have never visited before. What a blessing! I ended up giving two days of my trip to visiting Porter Ridge – the first day to give a writing talk series, and the second day to speak about art and answer questions. I also gave an impromptu caricature demonstration, at the end of my last talk.

Overall, I gave about 12 30-45 minute talks, speaking to well-over 600 students – in three days. What a marathon run!

Sometimes you just have to test yourself to see what your limits and capabilities are. That’s perhaps one reason I did this as well. Speaking to Middle School aged kids was very different from the wide-eyed audience that welcomed me at Sunview Elementary. I was fortunate, though. I was so engaged in what I was speaking about, there were very few students who nodded off… and there was the occasional snicker in the group, which I was happy to realize didn’t phase me in the least. I proved to myself that I am SO over that level of self-consciousness that used to paralyze me as a kid and young adult.

Again, sometimes I just have to push myself into something to test how much I’ve truly grown.

I’m so happy to have tested myself in this way, and to hopefully reach at least a few kids who are dealing with the same things I dealt with as a teen. It’s the hardest time of life to get through, I think.

What a blessing! I’m grateful to have had that opportunity, and grateful to have some time to recuperate – I pushed myself so far, I ended up making myself sick with a bad cold (ugh!) – well, at least I know my physical limits now as well!  🙂

Below you’ll find a series of clips from my writing pep talk day at Porter Ridge MS.

Giving Writing Pep Talks to Kids ~ At Sunview Elementary School and BEYOND!

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Photo taken during my Writing Pep Talk at Sunview!

On Thursday, Feb.6, I gave what I call a “Writing Pep Talk” to the kids of Sunview Elementary School in Lyndhurst, Ohio. Both of my kids attend Sunview. I also have been leading a mini group of kids in my daughter’s class which I call the “Sunview Star Writers Group.” When the school teachers caught wind that I released my first book series, I was contacted to speak with their Third Graders who have been going through a Treasures Reading Program. I was ecstatic!

Inspiring and encouraging kids to be creatively expressive is my personal JOY, and I was SO thankful for the opportunity. Besides, this is something I’ve been wanting to get started anyway… visit local schools here in Cleveland and around my hometown in Monroe, NC, to not only promote my books, but to tell my personal writing & publishing story to the kids, encouraging them not to give up on their own dreams.

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Thank You notes from the Sunview 3rd Graders!

Giving this talk to the kids was a great experience – and the Q&A was very soul searching for me. I was proud of myself for being so “on,” I was able to answer most questions quickly to get as many in as possible. I spoke to four third grade classes, gathered into two groups. I also created artsy bookmarks as giveaways to the kids, and learned how to quickly create 100 of these little gifties! It was wonderful when I also announced to the kids that I was donating a copy of each of my books to the school library, too. My heart swelled from their enthusiastic response!! About a week later, on Valentine’s Day, I received the most wonderful gift from my daughter’s teacher… a packet stuffed with beautiful handwritten Thank You notes from all the third graders, thanking me for my visit, for donating the books, and for the artsy bookmarks. They also wrote to me about their favorite parts of the talk, which was pretty cool to read about, and through reading their responses, I made an adjustment to the book I’m currently writing (3rd  in the series), to include a story I told to the classes, realizing it’s a very important story I need to tell in the final book of the series.

Now I’m planning a trip during my kids’ Spring Break to visit my old school in North Carolina, Piedmont Middle School, and give the same talk to some students there. I am so excited to do this. And ultimately I’m hoping to take a trip to my Elementary School in Canada, Meadowbrook Public School, to do the same thing, bringing my book journey full circle!

Self Publishing Your Book is The EASY Part!! (HOW TO)

Book1cover.newI was writing a message to a friend tonight and my thoughts wandered (as they often do when I write letters), into motivational speech mode. I ended up writing the following:

It is so freakin’ easy to self publish now that it is kind of embarrassing.

All you really need to self publish is a computer, Word, and internet access.

You don’t even need money!!! (that’s the awesome part)

Writing the book is really the hardest part. Not because it’s hard to write something (although that is a motivational obstacle as well – writing a GOOD book is far from “easy”) – but mostly because it’s the hardest thing in the world just to motivate yourself JUST TO WRITE.

I KNOW. I REALLY KNOW.

I’m a little nervous because now I have Book Two out, with a promise to have Book Three published by Spring, and I still have a lot of writing to do for Book Three. I’m PRAYING that I meet that deadline. I don’t know what my future holds this year. I might be insanely busy with freelance next month or two months from now, or get a new full time job soon – who knows – but regardless I know NOW is the time for me to get these books out, because NOW is the only time I KNOW I have.

Some people have been asking me how I’ve published my books, and I figure right here is a good place to write my “HOW TO” list!

1) Write your book. Don’t worry about the cover yet. Don’t even worry about how to publish it yet. Just write your book, and don’t let anything stop you from writing your book!

2) Create a free account with CreateSpace.com (I only advise it because I used it, because it was referred to me – it feels like a good place because it is so well connected with Amazon and Kindle – one stop publishing!). So far I am very satisfied with my results and experience there – and I’m not being paid at all to say that (not an affiliate).

3) When you’re ready to start, choose “ADD NEW TITLE” and go through the “GUIDED” steps.

4) You will first be asked to set up your title, etc. Don’t worry – you can change the title up until you approve the project to be printed, so don’t let that be an obstacle to move forward right off the bat. Then you’ll be asked to set up your book SIZE, which is important. Choose a size that you feel works best for you. I chose a size slightly smaller than what CreateSpace advised, and I’m happy. After you’ve chosen your book size, grab the TEMPLATE (I used the formatted template) to plop your story into. The hard part is finding where the templates are, so here’s a handy linky-doo: https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/InteriorPDF.jsp – just scroll down to find the size you chose for your book. Easy-piece-y!

5) After you finally have the interior of your book proofed to a point you are satisfied, then you move on to the cover design. And here’s the good news to people who are afraid of this part… If you don’t want to pay someone to make a cover for you, and you are not a Graphic Designer/Illustrator yourself (or if you don’t have a friend named Wendy who would be happy to help you out – hint hint), you can simply choose from a gallery of PRE-designed cover templates right there on CreateSpace.com. Yep. Just add the written info on the template, customize (for some templates, if you want) with your own image/photo and VOILA! You have a cover for your book without any stress or cost. OKAY… granted. As a designer, I am well aware of the fact that the cover is a very important part of the book… but I am also a huge advocate of JUST GETTING THE JOB DONE. If you choose the route of creating a cover yourself, there is a template for that as well. Again, the hardest thing was FINDING OUT where to get that template. So, HERE: https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do

6) After you’ve either filled out your cover information on the template or uploaded your own custom cover, next is the proofing stage. It takes 24 hours for CreateSpace.com to review your files and check for print-problem areas. You’ll receive an email notification when it’s ready for your final proofing.

7) At this point, when your proof is ready for your final approval, you can review a digital proof, or order a printed copy to proof. The digital proof has worked for me so far, because I like the convenience of it, but it’s up to your personal preference.

8) Once you’ve approved your final proof, you’ll be asked to fill in the final information about your book which will appear on your CreateSpace.com sales page for your book. You will also have an option to create a Kindle version for your book (easy too).

9) CONGRATULATIONS! Your book is ready – time to promote the heck out of it! 🙂

If you are interested in independent publishing and still feel a little daunted by this process, I want to reach out here! Please comment to connect with me and I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about it. I’m no expert yet, but I’m happy that now I can say I’ve actually gone through the process and have been getting started with the last part which is marketing/promoting my books! I have a feeling that is truly the hardest part. And don’t let people tell you that when you traditionally publish you don’t have to be involved with marketing/promoting. The more involved you are in promoting your own book, the better your book will do in the marketplace!

So I’m off to contact a few bookstores today. See ya later!

The Publishing Dream of a 12-Year-Old Girl FINALLY Comes True!

1499473_10202539900319288_2051712005_nLet me tell you a story.

This is a story about a book that took 28 years (YES… YEARS) to become a glossy-covered reality!

In 1986-87 I hand wrote my book in two blank books when I was thirteen years old. Then I typed it up (104 pages typed – with a typewriter) to send out to publishers. I don’t remember how many manuscripts I sent out, but I received 3-4 rejection letters back. The first letter was a Canadian publisher and was quite a nice, supportive letter. The last one was merely a postcard form letter with my name written in the blank.

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Young author, Wendy, in Monroe, NC (that’s me in the flowered skirt in front) – sister Laura behind me, and Daddy at the grill!

I quickly lost hope of getting my book published and plummeted into a pit of self loathing for even trying. I burned several pages of my book (the ones I KNEW were horrible), and I cannot thank my younger self enough for NOT burning the whole thing.

In the year 2000 I took a Creative Writing course at my community which turned my writing life around. I needed material to bring in every week for eight weeks of the course, and with a lack of inspiration to write something brand new, I turned to my old manuscript to see if it was worth saving. There were bits of it that I still thought were good, and one chapter that even won an award when I was in high school. I decided to use the course to see if I could turn the book into something I could be proud of.

The course, taught by Debi Bucci, was the best writing course I’ve ever taken – not only because of Debi, but because of all the amazing and gifted writing friends I made through the class. I took this 8-10 week course TWELVE times during a 5-year span, and by the end I had two out of the three books COMPLETED, and learned more about editing my own material than I’d ever learned before – and I say this having graduated with a Minor in Creative Writing from CASE Western Reserve!

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CAWG writing group turkey fry gathering (around 2005-ish). Left to right: Craig, Christy, Christine, Alan, and me. Craig’s dog, Tucker, in front wearing the cone of shame.

When our teacher, Debi, decided to move on, I was fortunate enough to be included in a writing group formed by my writing workshop classmates. I continue to meet with most of these people and we call our group CAWG (Cleveland Area Writers Group). Our group still meets monthly at The Coffee House in Cleveland’s University Circle, and I try to make it as often as I can (which has been seldom these past couple years, but not giving up).

Finally in 2012 I discovered NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo as convenient and cost-free resources to motivate me to add to my collection of chapters and to revisit them once more to fine tune and explore how I should actually complete the book(s). I decided I wanted to include illustration and ultimately decided to use loose doodle art in the book to make it look like something I would have scribbled down in my journal when I was twelve.

All along I’ve kept the original humorous and adolescent tone as was originally scribed. That was important to me, to keep it authentic to what the story was originally – a collection of thought-provoking memories by a 12-year-old girl. I was just as thoughtful at age twelve as I am now – I just know a lot more about writing, thank goodness!

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My finished cover!

I’ve known for years that self publishing was the way to go for this book. Really, I have to admit… What publisher would say yes to an autobiographical story about a 12-year-old girl who moves from Canada to the States? I’m not interested in trying to morph my story into something a publisher would say yes to.

No.

What I am interested in (and this brings tears to my eyes) is to make Little Wendy’s dream come true. To publish her intimate stories of struggle, and to tell her she doesn’t need a busy editor behind a desk to give her validation that her story deserves to be printed and shared around the world. I love this little girl, Wendy, and I admire her for her courage and gusto to never give up on her dream.

So what was the final “boot in the rear” to getting this book OUT?

Perhaps it is because I’m turning forty soon.

Perhaps it is because I look at my own daughter, age eight, as she also exhibits an interest in writing and passion for books.

Or perhaps it’s because I have a huge pileup of book ideas that I need to get moving on, and this series just HAS to get out the door before I can move forward with the other projects.

Regardless, I’m glad the “boot in the rear” finally came.

Please check out my book website – the platform I set up for the book series. You can order an autographed copy directly from me, a print-on-demand copy from CreateSpace.com, or a Kindle version – links are all on the book website!

If you are a writer who is interested in self publishing your book, feel free to contact me. I am happy to share more about my experience with you! We writers need to stick together!  🙂 We need to CREATE-A-WAY!!!!

Blessings and YESsings to you!

Celebrating and Encouraging Young Writers!

nano stats 2013I am on cloud nine today after presenting some girls in my daughter’s class with their much-deserved awards and certificates of participation for going through NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program. We had our own online virtual classroom on the YWP site where all the word count stats were kept, and I printed out our webpage for the teacher to post in the classroom.

I only had a 15-minute window of time, so I knew I couldn’t share every inspiring thought to the class, but at least I was able to promote the club and showcase the girls’ efforts, since ALL the writing they did for this club was on their OWN time, not for the classroom in any way.

What I really wanted to share with the group were my musings on how important it is to write.

You know the old phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”… Well, not exactly true. Words can hurt more than sticks or stones. And the written word is IMMORTAL.

Words are POWERFUL. It isn’t important necessarily WHAT you write, I wanted to announce to the class.

It’s simply important that you WRITE.

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Anne Frank

Suppose 15-year-old Anne Frank decided not to write merely because she was “just a kid” and “just writing in her diary.” Anne Frank is a huge inspiration to me, personally. A child writer who had a LOT to say, and shared it all intimately with her diary pages.

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Rachel Joy Scott

And a more modern example is 17-year-old Rachel Scott who kept journals (some would call them premonitions). She was the first victim in the Columbine school shooting, and had a strong message of faith to share with the world. Her writings have been published in a few different books, one of which is Rachel’s Tears which I have at home.

As Cleveland author, Les Roberts, used to tell my creative writing class:

“Nobody else can tell your story.”

So, young writers, I urge you:

TELL YOUR STORY.

Because only YOU can tell it.

5-Year Blogiversary Week! – Day 1 – My First Blog Post Ever and Honoring My Blog Mentor!

I actually began my first version of my Create-A-Way blog with Blogger, so you won’t find the very first posts on this blog’s archive, but here is my first official blog entry (I originally used my blog as a communication tool for my Artist’s Way Retreat).

HERE is my first official blog entry on my old Create-A-Way blog (I like how even the color of the blog looks nostalgic):

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300702_10150847087885076_1774949737_nI think it’s very fitting that my first blog entry was promoting a fellow artist – something I still enjoy doing! Jenny Rohrs actually taught me the ropes about blogging – she was my mentor!

I’ll never forget her sitting with me at Panera with her laptop, introducing me to the tricks of the blogging world, and what to do to gain more traffic on your blog simply using links, tagging, and clever titles. She was so generous to take me under her wing like that – a good example to learn from.

At the time she had (and still runs) her own blog, CraftTestDummies.com. I couldn’t have asked for a better blog mentor! She went on to become a professional blogger as head of Crafts Unleashed for Consumer Crafts, and now she’s a big to-do in the craft world, appearing on television, and recently appeared on HSN! In 2011 I was thrilled to also see her rub elbows with Martha Stewart invited to Martha’s Blogger’s Night Out Party in NYC at Martha Stewart Omnimedia offices!

Jenny was also my very first commenter, too (THANK YOU, JENNY!).

Here’s hoping that another five years brings me to a “I knew her when” level, just like Jenny! Congratulations on your success, you craftilicious babe, you!!

Supporting an Aspiring Young Author, Rose!

I am getting a little carried away, perhaps, but I don’t care. When your kids show interest in something you have an equal passion for, you just have no choice but to get excited!

My daughter, Rose, has shown a high interest in writing and illustrating her own books, and she’s only seven years old.

I remember I was just like her when I was little. As soon as I learned to write, and read my first story in front of my class, I was HOOKED. I knew exactly what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a writer and illustrate my own books. So what happened? I was gung ho all through childhood, and my writing was highly encouraged by my teachers and my peers (in Canada). However, when I moved to the States, nobody knew me. Nobody knew that I’d been writing ever since the first grade. But when I started drawing in art class, it was extremely obvious to people that I had a talent in art, and that became what people focused on in my new life in the States. It wasn’t until I bought a blank book from the bookstore and started writing my autobiography during recess time that people started to notice my writing passion in the 8th Grade. But still, writing isn’t as cool as being good at art, so my passion for writing remained something mostly I knew about, along with a select few of my friends. Hence my decision to pursue art as my career choice rather than writing. I decided to sneak into the back door of the professional writing world by entering through it with my art (creating illustrated children’s books first, perhaps). In a way, that is what seems to be happening, but not exactly the way I planned.

So on to my daughter! I feel like I want to take what I learned from my own life and pass that knowledge on to her. I learned that sharing my work to others was what excited me. It isn’t enough to simply write the words. A writer isn’t much without readers, just as an actor or musician isn’t much without an audience. So I joyfully created a blog for Rose on which she can see her work up in front of the world for everyone to see and read. Getting comments on her blog is so exciting to share with her. She’s learning so much so early. I certainly didn’t have the internet to use as a resource when I was little. I’m happy to introduce it to her in a supportive way, so she can see how the internet can be used as a support tool.

I’ve created a few different pages for her. The latest is this one, created for her and her friend Jamie: GirlTeenagerBooks.wordpress.com

Rose also created her own little writing desk area in her room. SO cute!

I am thrilled to see that her teacher at Sunview Elementary School is extremely encouraging, just as I remember my own elementary school teachers when I was little. This just delights me! BIG thanks to her teacher, Mrs.Johnson!

I’m looking forward to teaching her to feel empowered and not rely solely on traditional publishing as the ultimate way to go. I guess I focus so much on that because I think that’s what killed my own confidence about getting published as a young person. I knew I wasn’t the best author – I was just a kid – but there was no other way I knew to get my work out there.

Independent publishing can be just as lucrative, and in some cases, more lucrative! Besides, we writers don’t write for the money. We write because we love to write. Just the way any creative person does what they do – Artists love to express themselves creatively. Actors love the thrill of performing in front of an audience. Musicians have passion for the audio art they create. We are all artists and we do what we do because WE LOVE TO DO IT.

Edvard Munch said, “Art is your heart’s blood.”

SO true. Creative expression is something we just have to do.

And I am so happy to be sharing all this with my daughter. I’m looking forward to journeying with her through this artistic path, and even  learning a few new things myself as I watch what happens with her own new journey.

Art in My Mailbox (AIMM) – NEW Charitable Program at CAW!

Examples for the “Draw Me Happy” AIMM Program

I’m sending fun little cartoony postcards in the mail to my nephew this week to support and encourage him as he gets used to his new school. And a new idea suddenly hit me.

I have always enjoyed sending postcards and letters in the mail, but I have definitely slacked over the past couple years, sending cards mostly at Christmas now. Facebook, Twitter, and email has replaced the postal system to many people when it comes to personal communication (I regret to say for me as well). We so rarely get to open our mailbox and be greeted by a friendly letter or postcard from a loved one.

I think, “Why haven’t I gotten a letter from someone in so long?”

Well, DUH!

Because I haven’t SENT a letter to anyone in so long! People are much more likely to be prompted to write to you when you take the lead and send them a letter first (even a postcard). So my suggestion is, if there’s someone you want to get a letter from, start writing to them first!

And the truth is, it delights me simply to send a letter or a postcard, just knowing I’m going to surprise someone I love with the gift of a letter. Getting a response in the mail is a bonus to me. I truly think of my letters and postcards as GIFTS. No response required.

ENTER my NEW “ART IN MY MAILBOX” Program!

Whee! This TRULY delights me!

Sign up on my website to subscribe to AIMM for 4 months (only $5) or 1 year (only $15) and you will receive a monthly AIMM postcard, custom designed for you! The categories to choose from are: Draw me Happy, Inspire Me, Surprise Me, and Angel/Fairy in My Mailbox.

AND – 100% of the profits (after paying for postage) from the AIMM Program go to fund the Young Artist CAW Scholarships!

If you want to learn more about the Young Artist CAW Scolarship Program, please visit my “CAWses” webpage!

I plan to create these postcards with anything from markers, to watercolors, to collage, depending on where the muse takes me. YOU GET THE ORIGINAL hand-created postcard art in your mailbox. FUN, eh?

I also offer a FREE SAMPLE of AIMM just because I’m so excited about it.

SO, YIPPEE! YAHOO!! I’m having fun with this!

I hope to delight some people soon in the mail!

Camp Nanowrimo – Writing Frenzy!

I’ve been NaNoWriMo-ing it this summer!

If you are a writer who needs some motivation, definitely check out Nanowrimo (November) and Camp Nanowrimo (June and August).

I participated for the first time this June in Camp Nano and am getting very excited that I’m finally making progress on my writing. The goal of Nanowrimo is to write 50,ooo words in 30 days. Yep. Quite a bold goal.

I didn’t get to the 50k goal, but happy enough to get a total of SIX new chapters for my memoirs!!! My memoirs have been quite dusty these days and I’m just happy to make ANY progress. So I feel VICTORIOUS!!

In my excitement to get back into my memoirs, I decided to push myself even further by creating a website to track my progress, keep myself accountable, and simply do something FUN to motivate me forward.

So…

What has lit this fire? Why am I doing this when I already have a full time job, two kids, and a developing side-biz? Am I not busy enough already?

Um… yeah.

But here’s the thing…

I promised myself I’d finish my memoir by the time my kids were old enough to read it… and my almost-seven-year-old daughter is already reading grade 2 level chapter books, so I am seriously running out of time!!!

So a big thanks to Camp Nano for the motivation!

Since Nanowrimo is a FREE service, and helps motivate kids as well as adults, I have a donations page for Nanowrimo that I should share with you in case you would like to donate to help them out. HERE IS THE LINK.

Here’s a little video I made about my experience back in June, with really BAD hair, and wearing my jammies: