Standing at the Edge of the Diving Board…

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Rose on the Lyndhurst Community Pool diving board, July 11, 2015

I watched in amusement over and over again as my 9-year-old daughter, Rose, repeatedly climbed the tallest diving board at the local community pool. She made it all the way to the very edge of the diving board platform. She even plugged her nose, edging and swaying to ready herself for the jump. She would get SO close to jumping… and inevitably decided to turn around and go to the back of the line again.

We were all cheering for her – family, friends, and strangers alike. It’s exciting to watch people take their first big leap! We watched in anticipation, smiling, and saying, “You can do it!” And we would all let out a disappointed sigh when she turned back around to the beginning again.

The first jump off that diving board is the hardest, of course.

Rose told me the reason why she “chickened out” was because when she looked down at the clear water, she couldn’t judge the distance to the water surface. It was that uncertainty which made her hesitate – over and over again.

She kept trying, nevertheless. But she has yet to make the plunge.

Rose went back to the line of divers a few more times, watched from behind while others (including her baby brother) made their carefree leaps and plunges off that tall diving board into twelve-and-a-half-deep water below. What I found curious is that it really wasn’t fear that made her turn back every time… it was UNCERTAINTY. Her brain couldn’t visually judge how high she was, so there she stood, looking down, ready and wanting to plunge, but hesitant because of that uncertainty. She wanted to KNOW – to be sure.

Rose WANTED to jump. She watched all the other kids doing it. They seemed so carefree. They were having fun! I can imagine her thinking:

Are they all just braver than I am?

Am I just a chicken, being silly not to jump?

Or are they the foolish ones?

Why aren’t they scared like me?

Rose, the reason why all those other kids are jumping over and over with confidence is because:

IT IS NOT THEIR FIRST DIVE.

Everyone feels the same way the first time they take the plunge. It’s scary! Looking down into that water there are many uncertainties:

  • How long will it take to hit the water?
  • Will it hurt?
  • Will I be able to hold my breath long enough to get back to the surface again?

All these uncertainties YOU CANNOT KNOW – UNTIL THE PLUNGE IS MADE.

We can have all the information we need to make decisions. Research all we want. But in the end, we stand at the edge of the diving board looking down at the deep dark water, and at that moment we realize there is still so much that we don’t know. And how can we make that last step off the diving board when we feel so much uncertainty?

It’s all up to the individual.

Some people spend their whole lives looking down at the water, trying over and over, testing their courage, but they never do take that last step off the edge.

Some people make that decision to dive in, and from that point on in their lives the unknown is gone, and they gain wisdom from it. They proceed to cheer others to take the plunge at that point, encouraging them because they have the wisdom in knowing “it’s going to be okay!”

And then there are some people who look off the edge of the board into the waters of the unknown. They stare down, shake their heads deciding “I can’t do it,” turn away, and choose to never try again.

I know Rose will make the decision to step off the edge of that diving board eventually.

Sometimes it takes several visits to the edge, but after enough time, you have to just say, “this is it!”

You’ll just never know what it feels like until you close your eyes, take that last deep breath, and jump!

Hope is a GOOD Thing!

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I’ve been thinking a lot about HOPE lately, and my past and present feelings about it.

I used to be quite a tentative “hoper.” I would hear all the time AND say to myself frequently:

“Don’t get your hopes up!”

But I have a new attitude about HOPE recently.

My thought is that life is scattered with hopeless moments. There are times when you wish you had even a fragment of something to look forward to. Those are depressing times. I’ve lived those times… OFTEN, and far too recently.

I’ve decided that when I finally have something to actually hope for, DANG IT – I’m going to get my hopes UP! I want to stand on the rooftops and shout it out! “I HOPE!!” I LOVE how I feel when I am HOPE-FILLED.

It feels SO GOOD!!

Sure, what I’m hoping for might not actually happen.

Often I end up being disappointed, and that’s my forever excuse for not being hopeful in the first place. But isn’t it worth it to just allow yourself to feel joyful with HOPE? At least for the precious time to wonder and imagine that maybe something GOOD is about to happen? It is in our moments of hope when our imaginations soar. We see life as an endless sea of possibilities! It’s such a wonderful place to be… even if only for a fleeting moment.

At least you HAD that moment. You felt it. You held it. A moment to raise your face to the sun and smile, grateful for the feeling… because for so long you have felt such void of hope.

And because you allowed yourself to feel that hope, maybe you’ll allow yourself the treat of feeling it again.

I know I will.

It’s a wonderful place to be.

“Hope is a good thing,” Stephen King writes in Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. “Maybe the best of good things.”

I totally agree.

 

30 Book Ideas in 30 Days! (I’m a WINNER!)

vinvogel_piboldmo_winnerEvery year I participate in NaNoWriMo and have yet to actually meet the 50K word goal. I am always busy with projects in November, so Nano always ends up being a losing battle for me.

HOWEVER…

Coming up with 30 Picture Book ideas in 30 days seemed like a challenge I could really dig my creative teeth into!

I was right!

On day one, I immediately realized how this was going to stretch me. Coming up with ideas is the easy part for me. Concentrating FULLY for a WHOLE MONTH on purely idea generation was the true challenge for me. Normally when I get an idea, I work with the one idea, bring it into something great, and then move on to the next thing before I’ve been able to really figure out how to make the idea into something solid. I’ll wear the idea out or overwhelm myself, and another idea will start pestering me and interrupt my flow of executing the current idea.

So I LOVED this challenge, and gave myself permission to move on every day to a new idea, staying with the flow of idea energy. On day TWO I struggled big time with tis, coming up with a book idea that I totally LOVED. I ended up writing the whole manuscript (picture book length). It rhymed and everything! I even had the main character sketched out. When that idea came to full fruition, I moved on to the next day. It was frustrating and freeing at the same time. Everything inside me wanted to start sketching layout plans for the book. But I had my permission slip to say NO. I HAVE TO KEEP COMING UP WITH IDEAS. WHEN THE MONTH IS OVER, THEN I CAN SIFT THROUGH MY IDEAS AND HOPEFULLY THIS IDEA WILL STILL LOOK GOOD TO ME (as it does, thank goodness!).

I also have another idea brewing which I am looking forward to bringing to life in 2015. A Monthly challenge of my own to share with the world… purely based around idea generation for professional creatives. It’s an idea I had last year and shelved it when once again I became too overwhelmed.

I am very excited to enter 2015 with 30 book ideas and a new Create-A-Way project to introduce to the world!

The HOPE & SUPPORT Challenge – for Suicide Awareness Month – WHO’S WITH ME?

2878660a0be6531e2b579500927cf379One of the most fundamental reasons why I call my business “Create-A-Way” is to communicate to others that there is always a WAY. There have been painful times in my life when I felt totally STUCK, even in recent years. Struggles are overcome and new struggles take their places.

It’s just life.

We ALL go through times in our lives when we need encouragement. Sometimes EVERY DAY.

So I suggest a CHALLENGE for September.

Send a piece of snail mail to at least one person every week this month (starting today) who you know is having ANY kind of emotional stress. It can be a Facebook friend (message them and ask for their address), a loved one, or maybe even an acquaintance (does someone at work/school seem depressed/overstressed lately? Leave an anonymous supportive note on their chair).

Why send/give a physical note or snail mail? An email or an electronic message or even a text is too quickly dismissed. It might make them smile for a moment, but sending a letter or card or even a postcard means SO much more. It means you care THAT MUCH MORE, and you are SERIOUS about sending them your message of support and love. A physical note can be kept as a memento. It can be tucked into a journal or under a pillow. It can be treasured.

Please leave a comment as a way to mark your commitment to the challenge to send a message of love and encouragement to someone you care about. Even if you only do it once this month… BRAVO.

And if you’re reading this post AFTER/BEFORE September, I challenge you to send that snail mail to someone TODAY.

Trust me… there is always someone around you who is in need of a little emotional support.

Oh Captain, My Captain…

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A quote from Dead Poets Society rings in my memory this week, in reaction to the passing of Robin Williams. It was the excerpt to be read at the beginning of every D.P.S. meeting:

I went to the woods because I
wanted to live deliberately…
I wanted to live deep and suck
out all the marrow of life!
To put to rout all that was not life…
And not, when I came to die, discover
that I had not lived…

Robin’s untimely death tears at my heart and soul as I remember my own battles with depression, past and present.

I think the saddest thing about this for me, is that when I was at my lowest, I would watch some of my favorite Robin Williams films to uplift me or to just forget my inner pain. The messages in his films were so inspiring to me.

It’s a sore reminder that even our heroes – the people we turn to for help – are suffering as well, and facing their own demons.

So many thoughts are running through my head since the news of Robin’s death. I think about my own demons. I think about a dear friend I lost this past year to suicide. I think about people close to me that suffer from Bipolar and/or depression, and my concerns rise… again.

When I was sixteen, I watched Dead Poets Society MANY times. The character Neil in the film was an inspiring one, much like Williams. He was filled with passion. The character inspired me SO much. When I saw the movie for the first time, it was on TV at home. I remember exactly where I was standing at the side of the living room couch while watching the scene when Neil began to descend down the stairs to his father’s den to shoot himself. I remember vividly because I felt I was watching myself. I knew that character. I knew what he was thinking and I knew what he was going to do.

And when I realized I was right, my stomach seized up on me. Queasiness hit. That film, to me, was all about the message to NOT give up and give in to those inner demons that tell you life is hopeless. Because when you give up and give in, the possibilities that are waiting for you just around the corner are GONE… And the legacy you had the chance to leave will never happen. Lives you had a chance to touch and change… gone.

Again, I tend to resort to a powerful Dead Poets Society quote:

…life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse…

That the powerful play GOES ON and you may contribute a verse…

What will your verse be?

 

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!

The Last Canadian ~ My Father’s Dream Remembered

513wYOkKMjL._SL500_AA300_This piece of music was co-written and produced by my dad, Robert Carrick from Toronto, Ontario (in the very early 1980’s). My dad and his friend, Paul Conlin, were on a mission to produce a film about the book, The Last Canadian, by William C. Heine. They ended up coming short of their financial goal to gain rights to produce the film and the project was instead granted to another company, Americanized completely, and re-named “The Patriot,” starring Steven Seagal – his first “direct-to-video” film. (Wow – yeah, THAT was worth crushing a man’s dreams for, eh?)

Honoring my dad by posting this piece of music for the world to enjoy! A haunting piece of music, intended as soundtrack proposal to the original “Last Canadian” story.

The story of my dad’s lost dream is not an uncommon one, but as dreamers we often feel very ALONE (as on the book cover pictured). This music comes into my mind when I feel sad and lonely or when I feel downtrodden – like the world of REALITY is trying to stamp out my dreams.

As I listen to this music and write this, I see many dreamers like my dad (and me) out there who often feel the sting of reality bite away at their dreams. Each of us stand in this empty, vast sea of despair at times. Cold. Frozen. Does it make any difference to move forward? – We ask ourselves – Why should I even BOTHER? Nobody cares about this dream other than me anyway. In the end, what will all this pain cost me? I should just bury myself in the snow and die here. What’s the freakin’ point?

And then a voice beckons us forward.

It urges us to move on through the frozen wasteland of doubt and fear.

Because if we stop moving, we will freeze here and die… like all the others… the millions of others who have succumbed to the plague.

So I dedicate this music I’ve shared here to all the dreamers out there like my dad, and like me… who get discouraged, fearful, and angry.

It’s okay. Feel the pain. It’s all real. But don’t stop moving, because it is in moving forward through the snow that warms us… and brings us closer to hope.

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!