Friday, June 22, 2012

Trying My Hand at Promotions-and other Confessions

     I have been very fortunate this past year. I discovered an opportunity and was actually prepared to grab that opportunity when it presented itself. It may seem like a lucky break. In a lot of ways it was. I had entered an online contest through NPR. Someone happened to post in one of their online forums about another contest, one for children's storybooks.
     I have spent years scribbling away in private. I have worked and re-worked several stories. I have one screenplay that I have been working on for eighteen years, in fact. I have written stories as gifts for friends or their children. I have even tried my hand at illustration. Until recently, the writing was my secret passion, my happy little hobby. Now it has become something so much more.
     When I saw the notice about the storybook contest, I took a look at all my fragments of stories and polished a few of my favorites and then surveyed family and friends, asking for critiques and guidance. Through these conversations I determined which two stories I would edit once again and then submit for consideration.
     Both stories made it through the first round. One of the stories made it through the second round. It was picked as a finalist for the third round. I knew weeks in advance that there was a possibility it might be chosen, but could not say a word. Anyone that knows me or my family, knows that at times certain members of us have a tendency to be canaries. I sometimes sing my little heart out. I have been known to avoid people for weeks if I have a news scoop that is not ready for public consumption yet. This possible good news was an easy thing to keep quiet about, however, as I was so close to finally having one of my dreams come true. I was able to reign in my natural tendency to chatter.
     My story did not win the ultimate prize of the contest, but I received a great prize none the less. I found out that my story earned a publishing contract. On my birthday, I received the notice that it had been posted for online sales. Truly one of the best birthday gifts ever!
     Now I am busily trying to learn how to market and promote my storybook. I have a page set up for the book. I am trying to grow that page. As part of that, the publisher of the storybook is helping me sponsor a contest. If my storybook page gets 236 fans before the 4th of July, there will be a contest on or about the 4th and a lucky winner will receive a 4th of July gift pack of 6 downloadable books about America for kids from the publisher MeeGenius.
     This is the event invitation-please feel free to join the contest, "like" the page, and share with others. We really want to be able to give away this gift pack! :)


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More about Cookies

     My mind is buzzing. There are so many things I want to write about, to explore, to share, and to learn more about from others. It is hard to know where to start in this quest. It seems so daunting when I look at the empty blog space stretching before me. I almost feel as if my mind will collapse from being overwhelmed.
     That is when my self preservation mode kicks in, or perhaps a slight tendency toward being easily distracted is a better description. Just as I begin to panic about relevance and message, staying on point and being focused in storytelling, I again start thinking about cookies.
     What shall I make for July's cookies? Will I do the traditional stars? Will this be the first time that I attempt to make flag cookies? That panicky feeling quickly fades away as a wave of calm washes over me. I love to bake/make/create cookies. I enjoy eating them, but decorating them brings me just as much pleasure!
     The creating of cookies brings me so much happiness that I want to share that feeling in the next children's story that I am working on editing right now. One of the main elements of the story has to do with cookies. I am thinking this may become part of my "thing" as a trait that is common to all of my works. My previous children's storybook that has been digitally published through, "Green Goo," also features a food that I really like.
     I thought about sharing a recipe for "Green Goo" in the storybook, but did not. I will definitely feature my grandma's cookie recipe in the new storybook I am working on submitting. This will be one small way for me to honor someone who means so very much to me.
     I also am hoping that some of my favorite decorated cookies pictures can be featured in the new storybook. For now, I will share some of those photos right here. The pictures are of cookies that I have made for the Red Cross Veteran's Home Project or for some other charity events that I have donated to over the years. I hope you enjoy looking at this as much as I enjoyed making them.

     These dear little snowmen are fun to make. I made the hats and scarves maroon and gold as per the school colors for an at event for fundraising for this particular school.

     These cookies were my take on the classic "Conversation Hearts" candies that one sees at Valentine's each year. These were for the veteran's home.

     These are a fun way of "coloring" eggs at Easter.

     These are my regular star cookies.

     Some acorns, leaves, and pumpkins for autumn.

     Turkeys and more pumpkins at Thanksgiving.
     Packaged Christmas cookies that are ready for delivery.

     One of my favorite activities is decorating "ornament" cookies. I love to think of little details and designs.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cookies- My Little Bit of Artistic Expression

     I have a little hobby I really enjoy, baking cookies. I have a secret family recipe that I use. I suppose anyone that bought a can of Calumet Baking Powder back in 1948 may be using the very same recipe. My grandma copied down the recipe and used it for 50 some years. My mom and dad used the same sugar cookie recipe for years as well.
     Every holiday we would make the appropriate cookies-hearts at Valentine's Day, frosted colored eggs at Easter, and stockings, snowmen, stars, candy canes, and Christmas trees at Christmas. My repertoire has grown considerably over the years. I also do jack o'lanterns and ghosts at Halloween, turkeys and fall colored leaves for Thanksgiving, and shamrocks (clubs) for St. Patrick's Day.
     I enjoy the whole process; from mixing the dough, rolling it, cutting out the cookies, baking them, making up the frosting, and applying it. I find it relaxing and soothing. It connects me to my past and keeps me calm here in the present. I have made these cookies with my niece, my friends' children and my younger siblings. I hope they will make these cookies in the future.
     My mother-in-law was the one who introduced me to a way to use my favorite hobby in a volunteer capacity. Our local chapter of the Red Cross has had people from our county baking cookies once a month for a local veteran's facility since the late 1940s. It is such a privilege to be able to do something I enjoy in a volunteer capacity that allows me to show at least a bit of the enormous gratitude I feel towards our veterans.
     I just finished my batch of 5 dozen cookies that I have now packaged for my husband to deliver for me tomorrow. I made cookies shaped like ice cream cones and tried out new flavors for the various ice creams. It seems like a good idea for a summer cookie!   

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Intrusive Pestering or Necessary Promotion?

     I am having a hard time immersing myself in this new process of blogging, which is actually symptomatic of the difficulties I am having as I try to enable myself to become the writer I have always dreamed of being.
     I long to be witty, engaging, and insightful; creator of an online conversation that will bridge gaps and leave the reader of my humble little blog feeling the truth of the importance of his or her role in this whole process.
     My friends and family have been so patient and supportive as I try to develop my voice, my platform, and my meager skills at self marketing. I often resort to sending them emails and messages with links to my latest blog posts, essays in contests, and other online projects. They are faithful to "vote", "like", and/or share as I often request. Their support has meant everything to me as I chase this life long dream and long to make the transition complete-from production factory worker to working writer.
     I certainly could not travel this road alone. I truly appreciate the wisdom of it "taking a village" to raise a child. It has taken not just my efforts and years of perseverance to get ahead but the critiques, support, prayers, and faithful friendship of so many, many people.
     I worry. It is something I often do at times. I worry that my need for help and guidance will overwhelm others. I know it has overwhelmed and humbles me. I worry that I really am doing nothing more than pestering instead of promoting. That is the dilemma that troubles me most about my forays with social media. Hopefully I will become more at ease with this whole process as time goes by and I publish more stories and essays.
     I am so thankful for all the communities I belong to; friends, family, co-workers, writer's groups, and online communities. Every single person has had an impact on my ability to better be able to share and tell my stories. I am truly grateful for this.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Just a Cat

     What could I possibly say about him? He could be adoring. He could be aggravating. He could be funny. He could be finicky. He could be loyal. He could be lazy.
      The most important thing he could be for me was my friend. He fulfilled that role quite well. Even though we didn't speak the same language, we certainly had a mutual understanding. He seemed to know just when to cut me some slack. He would curl up by my stomach and gently knead at it. Somehow he always knew to do this when I had a stomach ache. The ache would soon fade away as his body heat eased my cramped muscles.
       He would give me a look of disdain when I did such ungainly things like belching. He was rather refined in his striped suit. He was graceful as he would stalk about the desk, nimbly hopping around the computer keyboard, occasionally changing my internet destinations for me.
        And then a sad thing happened. Around the same time I began to have struggles with the health of my kidney, so did my small (it's a relative thing) fury companion. I always knew he understood my issues, as we faced down this common enemy.
         It took me almost a year to realize a substantial recovery. I wish I could say the same thing about my friend. I watched him lose more than half his body weight. It became evident that it was time for him to part from this life. My husband and I made the difficult choice to take our dear companion to the vet for the last time.
         I am sharing about our bubby as a tribute to him. I realize that there are those that would wonder why I grieve over a cat. Some people don't really consider cats to even be proper pets. I have heard someone say he was just a cat. It is true. Taz was a cat. He was also a sweet friend and a valued member of our family. He will be missed. He will always be remembered.