I just received samples of some of the actual illustrations that may appear in my picture book, Am I Like My Daddy? The illustrator sent the illustrations to the publisher with paragraphs under the pictures explaining the medium she used to create the art and the interpretation she made of my text. While most authors get no input into the selection of the illustrator, I have been understandably quite anxious. However, after reading the illustrator’s thoughts about my story and seeing her beautiful thoughts depicted on the page through pictures, I am so happy! One picture nearly brought me to tears. She not only nailed the theme of my book, that there can be hope after a death, but she showed the presence of the dad in the life of his daughter Grace and Grace’s desire to fill in the missing blanks in a way that I could never even have dreamed of doing. Did I say before, I am so happy? We will be skyping this weekend as we “meet” in person for the first time. I can’t wait to learn her story and to tell her mine. And I can’t wait to share with my readers the missing pieces that I am keeping evasive until all of the “t’s” are crossed and “i’s” are dotted. Thanks for your patience, and thanks for joining me on this journey.
There is something special about spring in the Midwest. The birds are chirping at sunrise, the walkers are out early, the afternoon air warms from the early morning chill, the squeals of children on the playground carry in the light winds. People have an extra step to their walk, shoulders back, smiles on their faces. Yes, spring is good.
In our house spring also means baseball. We live near the baseball field, and there really is quite nothing like the crack of the bats and cheers of the crowd that carry into our windows every night. The hotdog diet starts soon as we rush from concession stand to concession stand of neighboring fields following our kids as they travel from base to base. We love it! Sometimes we carry our folding chairs to set up along the first or third base line. The chairs rarely leave our van, a permanent fixture in the vehicles of hundreds of others just like us.
This week I realized some things about my “friend” at the cemetery.
1. He carries a chair, too. But he’s not going to baseball games. No, this week I learned that he carries a chair. To sit at the cemetery. To talk to his loved one. To settle in for a game he plays alone, wrestling with the pain that so obviously lives within his heart. He’s not relishing in the joy of being with others at a ballgame. He’s not yelling at bad calls. He’s not upset when his son doesn’t hit the ball. Does any of that matter anyway, really? He’s just trying to make it to the end of the game. And last week, when I saw him with another person at the gravesite I had real hope that he’d win this “game” of life and make it to home plate with hope in his heart, too. But then last night, I learned this second bit of information about my friend.
2. He doesn’t just go to the cemetery every day at 4:00 pm. He’s also often there at 5:00 am in the morning, too. Yes, twice a day, probably before and after work. The sun is not up at 5:00 am. Illuminated only by the parking lights of his dark pick-up truck, my friend starts his day grieving. I have not seen this myself, but the husband of a close friend shared this news with me. He has often thought of stopping. Putting our 5am and 4pm stories together makes for a much larger story, in my mind. While I have never been a cemetery griever, I do not judge those that are at all. For many it is so very important to visit there. But somehow knowing that my friend feels the need to visit twice a day, perhaps every day, breaks my heart.
Will he make it to home plate? Does he need a caring coach? Does he need a team to carry him through? Does he know that the baseball commissioner in life, otherwise known as God, wants him to score a home run again? I can only hope and pray.
To Kindle or Not to Kindle?…That is the question. For Christmas my oldest son wanted an I-pod touch. We said, “Why do you really want an I-pod touch?” “To play games with the aps,” he answered. Ah…easy solution. Get a Kindle-Fire, a colored, touch activated electronic book reader that also has internet accessibility with the ability to download aps and movies, too. While he has been thrilled with Plants vs. Zombies and Doodle Jump an unexpected delight has occurred, too. Our very capable, yet unhappy reader is reading. Like whole books. And asking for more! My only guess is that my video game, electronics loving son convinces himself deep within his psyche that reading on a Kindle is just like playing games. Shhh…. Please don’t make him wise to the reality that he is still reading. Whatever the reason, my husband and are thrilled with the results. In anticipation that the Kindle Fire would be popular, my husband surprised me at Christmas with the basic Kindle so that I could read without fighting with my kids. Brilliant move. While the color is black and white and the pages are advanced with the push of a button vs. touch activated, it is quite easy to use. Another nice feature is that downloaded e-books can be shared between Kindles, so my kids can read from either device.
E-books can be easily downloaded from many local libraries, so the cost of books can be controlled. All four of us have books downloaded to our Kindles now and enjoy gettin’ cozy with the Kindle.
Do I miss the feel of a book in my hands, the crisp turning of pages, the visual of how much I’ve read and how much I have to go? Honestly, I do, at times. But that’s an easy fix. I work in a library, so I still feed my hardcover habit by reading real books from time to time, too. But the effect the Kindle has on my kids is awesome. I love to see them read, and I don’t care if it takes electronic trickery to make it happen. Plus, my book shelves aren’t quite so full. Downsizing is a good thing.
Do you have a Kindle (or Nook)? Do you miss real books? Will the increase in electronic book readers spoil our kids to the joy of reading a hardcover book?
I learned two things about my friend at the cemetery this week.( http://marcyblesy.com/2012/03/12/while-life-goes-whizzing-by-for-one-man-it-stands-still/ )
1. He is not deterred by bad weather. Today as it lightly drizzled, he stood, with head reverently bowed, hands in pockets, looking upon the memorial of his loved one. He wore no jacket. He used no umbrella.
2. He had company on Wednesday! People have offered their advice as to what I should or should not do about my “friend” at the cemetery. Some say I should stop by, say hello, leave a note for him to find… maybe. I have certainly considered these options, but if I did that he would know. He would know that someone has been watching him. Wouldn’t that take away from his special time? Maybe make him self-conscious? I could not take that risk. Of course there is another side of me that thinks, what if he has no one? What if no one tells him that he is special, too? This week he had company. I first came upon the scene when I noticed two vehicles, not just the dark pick-up truck, parked near the gravesite. The young woman had very long hair, past her waist. She talked with my friend. I do not know if the two knew each other or if she was simply visiting her own special gravesite. But I was so happy to find that at least for one day, one moment in time, someone else shared his story. That makes me happy.
Accountability…Unless you are a writer under contract for a book needing revisions, there really is little accountability for the writer who is still at the beginning of her writing career. While I have a picture book under contract and submitted all necessary revisions, I don’t have any current book deadlines looming. I don’t want to be a one book author. I have other stories to tell.
I have a young adult novel, completed, sitting in a drawer after getting nowhere with publishers or agents, though I beat out 4000 people in last year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Competition to make the top 1000. It needs major rewrites, which is quite daunting considering the novel is 65,000 words (roughly 250 pages).
I started a middle grade novel over a year ago. It is literally in the last chapter of the rough draft, and I daily think, “Today’s the day I will finish the rough draft.” And every night I say, as did my favorite literary character Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”
Time marches on. It’s amazing how I find time to blog, time to check facebook, time to twitter, time to do laundry (sometimes), time to make dinner, time to be with my family… You get the picture. So, why don’t I just finish the last chapter? Because of accountability. I have none. That, and I am afraid. Afraid that I will finish the novel and the rewrites that follow, that I will send queries to agents and publishers, who will, in turn, send me curt rejection notices that say, “This is not for me. Please don’t take this to be a reflection of your work, but…” Blah, blah, blah.
And just like my young adult novel, this new middle grade novel will be destined to use up office drawer space, buried away for no one to ever read. Yes, I know, if you never try, you’ll never succeed. Right? After all it took 99 rejections before my picture book was offered a contract. So, tomorrow is another day. And tomorrow I will finish this novel. Well, maybe by the weekend. And now you all know, so please hold me accountable. Ask me about it. Make me squirm with embarrassment if I don’t finish. Be parental. You have my permission. Thank you.
An update from my blog post earlier in the week, http://marcyblesy.com/2012/03/12/while-life-goes-whizzing-by-for-one-man-it-stands-still/ .
Yesterday the pick-up truck at the cemetery sat parked in its normal spot, near the grave marker that means so much to someone. I worried as I drove by as the man who usually stands with his hands held in his pockets, looking solemnly at the headstone, maybe talking, maybe not, was not there. I looked closer and found him crouched down near the ground. I must admit I felt a sense of relief that he was there. Today he sat cross-legged, as my students do in the library during story time. It was the first time I’ve seen him sit. But I imagine there was no one he would rather spend this beautiful, abnormally warm winter day with that the person who is memorialized there. There he was… settling in, getting comfortable, with the memories that warm his heart like the sun now warms his skin……
In today’s publishing world even authors from large publishers have to do self-promotion to sell more books unless you’re an author like J.K. Rowling or Nicholas Sparks. It’s even more crucial for new authors from small presses to market themselves. What better place to start, (other than family and friends who really have no choice) than with local authors who share your passion for writing?
When I started to seriously consider writing as more than a hobby, the first classes I took were in the local Coloma library from local author Ami Hendrickson. She has a strong passion for writing and great expertise about everything from the writing process to social marketing. A published author of many non-fiction books about horses, Ami recently published her first children’s chapter book, Wilson the Dalmatian: Victorian Carriage Dog. I offer my honest review of the book below.
Wilson the Dalmatian: Victorian Carriage Dog is a short chapter book that introduces the reader to Wilson, a carriage dog in the 1840s, whose job it is to protect his wealthy owners and family from highway robbers by riding alongside their fancy carriage to warn of and ward off danger. Wilson forms a strong bond with Robert and Anne, the children in the family. When they visit town for the day, Wilson experiences the sights and sounds of the hustle and bustle around him and helps to bring his family safely home again at day’s end.
The reader will fall in love with Wilson. I did. The author does a wonderful job capturing Wilson’s loyal character. We learn not only about the job of a carriage dog during Victorian days but also of his ability to do his job well while still enjoying the life of being a dog. The pace moves quickly, and the reader roots for Wilson and knows he will uphold his duty well. While I admit I found myself wanting Wilson to be challenged a bit more, I realize that the author was most likely attempting to introduce the audience to a different kind of “working dog” while giving him a personality at the same time. She did that well, both educating and entertaining. I hope she has a series in mind to teach children about the various uses of dogs historically.
I recommend Wilson the Dalmatian: Victorian Carriage Dog to history and dog enthusiasts alike. Children and adults will love learning about Wilson, the unique guard dog of his time.
The book is available for Kindle download on Amazon at this link. http://www.amazon.com/Wilson-The-Dalmatian-Victorian-ebook/dp/B005V0BCII/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331818090&sr=8-1
The cost is 99 cents. Please support a local author and enjoy your dollar well spent.
Another blog on grief, the theme in my picture book. I know it’s a beautiful spring day, but for some the weather outside does nothing to improve or detract from the day. It’s just a matter of getting through the day.
I have been observing a situation for several weeks now that I have wanted to blog about. Every day when I come home from work I pass a cemetery outside of town. And every day I see the same dark pick-up truck parked in the same spot. At first I thought he was just the maintenance man, the grounds keeper. But he’s not. I looked closer, slowing down as I passed. He stands still, always looking down. He wears a hat. On many days lately he’s worn a brown jacket, his hood pulled over his hat. Today it was short sleeves and no jacket. His hands are always pushed into his pockets, as if there in no natural position to put them. And he stares. At least from my vantage point driving by, that is all that I can see. He stares at a grave marker, with a name, and a date, a name and a date that matters to know one else passing along Red Arrow Highway, but him. I imagine that he’s talking to his wife. I don’t know if this is true, but he is there every day at 4:00. I thought last Friday he might not be there, as it was very chilly outside. But he was there. And today when the sun is shining and people are enjoying the day, he is there. He is with his wife, or whomever he needs to be with, at the same time and same place every day. I say a prayer for him every time I pass. I want to tell him that I hope he’s okay. I want to ask him to tell me about his wife, to tell me how she died, to tell me how she lived. But I won’t intrude. This is their time.
I don’t really know what I am asking you to comment on today. It is just such a poignant scene I pass. As I’m rushing home, sometimes energized by what I have planned for the night and sometimes deflated by a long day, I always pause when I come upon this man. It puts everything into perspective. We rush, rush, rush, while others just are. I remember when my mom died, I was driving in the car to the funeral home (I was 24.). Music was playing on the radio, Celine Dion, actually. I remember feeling like I was in a bubble, and I couldn’t believe that the world was going on around me. Everything seemed muted. I suppose time stops for this man when he’s at the cemetery each day at 4:00. I hope he finds peace. And God’s grace…..
She walked slowly toward me, standing close. Her arms tightly held her body, tensing timidly as she spoke, “My Dad died, too, when I was 5.”
That’s exactly what happened to me yesterday. That’s why my book matters. Beginning to think God might actually have bigger plans for me, and 26 years later the pieces are falling into place….. But, sadly, loved ones still move in and out of our lives. Make a memory today.
In addition to blogging and working on my middle grade novel, I have been doing a lot more freelancing recently. I love it. In the last two months I’ve interviewed the director of Lory’s Place, a police officer, a private investigator, a lab tech, a gym teacher, a deli owner, and a Whirlpool engineer. Whew! Not only am I honing my writing skills, but I am learning a lot, too. I have a great working relationship with a local editor, so I have been blessed to get many of my pitches accepted. She is even assigning me stories including a story I just completed on night safety for women. It really stretched me out of my comfort zone, but I’m really happy with the final product and a little stretching is good every now and then, wouldn’t you say?
My most recent published article is about geocaching. This world-wide treasure hunting “sport” is a newfound hobby for my family. We love, love, love it! Want a surefire plan for making your kids think you are cool? Then introduce them to geocaching. They will love it, and learn, without even knowing it! And even if they figure that part out, they won’t care because they will be having so much fun!
Check out this link to learn more about geocaching. Thinkspring!