We took our family pictures this month for our Xmas cards in December. Our theme is UP from Disney's Pixar film. We had such a great time together and I always like to reflect on all the wonderful aspects of my family. We are a blended family and we have come a long way, learned a lot together, and have a family love that melts my heart. And at family photo shoots, Hayley and I have been getting our own pictures taken together for our bio picture at the back of upcoming books. It means the world to me to have such a great relationship with her as a daughter-in-law as well as an illustrator. I also have a spectacular editor I couldn't live without. Tyler is Hayley's older brother and is the rock which support carries us in our work. He's part of the family and one of my favorite human beings. As Ellie from UP says, " You and me, we're in a club now" my family is the coolest club I have ever been in.
I head to Ireland with my husband and our two youngest kids. It is always a pleasure to see the Book of Kells display inside Trinity College. And then of course, exiting through the library. It stirs such emotion in me I can barely contain myself. The smell alone sends me into a trans and I want to touch everything. While in Ireland I set my biological father's ashes in his final resting place. He is inside a wall in front of a small parapet overlooking the ocean at The Cliffs of Moher. As we leave that area, I am hit with a strong sense of a story brewing and I realize it's time to move on with life and write with a different kind of style. My urgency to find pen and paper moves me to scribble notes and thoughts on napkins, tickets, anything. I believe a myth is coming very soon. And I can't wait to see what I write.
The team has decided to pull back and take a breather after a fast and hectic ten months. We have three books in print, and three Board Books online as eBooks (Mishka's Bears). Time for me to work on writing again for our second wind, whenever that comes. So, I pull up Girl in Blue and start focusing on this young adult novel. I am also inspired to draft Tallulah Froom's Un-Book Two since I have all the energy of the launch and circulation seeping through me. So, I write on the floor, write at my desk, the couch, outside, anywhere I can and I focus.
Oh my goodness. The book that started everything is now published! When Hayley first married my step-son, Jeff, we got together to illustrate a few of my stories to pad her portfolio, nothing more. But, we ended up falling in love with Tallulah, her family, and world. Two years later, we have a website and now our first book. I originally wrote these stories for my daughter Annie when she was a little girl because she didn't like the books that were offered at school. Now, my family is encapsulated into this loving, whimsical, and magical world, in print, forever! Here are the pictures from our Launch of the website in December. Who know in just five months we would have this book in our hands? Time to mail them out to family and friends!
We did it again. Lucy's Umbrella is now for sale online. I received my box of books and am so pleased with the outcome. It's so strange-Hayley and I started the publishing process for Taulluah Froom in December and it's still not ready. I am a bit worried, but realize I need to focus on Lucy's Umbrella right now. And again, I mail everyone I know a copy!
Look what came in the mail! This officially just became real to me. Having this book in my hands is amazing. We celebrated as a family and went to dinner. Now, to mail everyone a copy. What's next? Lucy's Umbrella while I have the stamina and my adrenaline is sky high.
Oh my goodness! What a great month February has been for me. I am fortunate to have a wonderful spouse, family, illustrator, and editor. My four dog babies keep me company as I work, write, and thrive to market myself out in the 'real' world. I have a great new marketing assistant who has been such an asset. I launched Jun Anzu (apparently, my family members' favorite story I've written so far) and am getting ready to launch Lucy's Umbrella, another creation of my heart. As scared as I still am putting myself out there with my stories, I still hold to my personal truth that, if I am brave and take the risks that frighten me, there is no such thing as failure - it's merely experience and added wisdom. So, I will continue to market myself (which pushes the boundaries of my comfort zone), and take the risks. I'll never know how great I can be without taking the plunge. So, I tell myself, Stop being afraid of achievement and be brave. So, I have now jumped (and anyone who knows me understands my fear of heights) And I will either belly flop and start again, or will find the air to hold up my wings. Either way, I will learn and gain wisdom.
The Quote: A Short Story by Sara Madden
My love is for writing, but to pay the bills, I have a few jobs to cover my costs. One of my jobs requires me to travel to Boise, Idaho. It feels like a second home and I love the friends I have made there, making it easier to be away from home once a month.
This January, I was in Boise for an event. It was a normal trip. I even brought one of my kids along with me for the ride, which isn’t unusual. I hate being away from home and from my kids.
One of things I always do while visiting Boise is stay at The Modern Hotel, eat at Guru Donuts, and peruse Rediscovered Books.
The night I got into Boise, I met up with my friend Josh, who was having a hard time with a situation at work. I sent him a text with one of my favorite quotes, but still, when we hung out, he wasn’t into window shopping for glitter eyelashes and smelly soaps. I knew he was sad and I tried to help him rise above it.
The next day, before my event, I took my son Jae to Guru Donuts, like usual. And then we headed to Rediscovered Books. As always, I am overwhelmed and empowered by the books that loom over me, reaching out to me to be picked up and read. The smell of paper, the crack of the spine, the cheesy music playing overhead.
But, after what seemed like six hours, we finally checked out with a tall stack on the counter. The clerk was charming, in her mid-fifties, and we discussed her son’s decision to move to Salt Lake City. I teased that I have bunk beds and he’s welcome to crash while he makes it “big” with his band. And something in me decided to tell this woman that I am a writer.
She immediately called another worker over and gleefully stated, “This woman is a writer and her work will be printed March 20th! Isn’t that exciting?”
This other woman stops in her tracks, looks me up and down, and assesses me on the spot. What does she see? She sees a middle aged woman in her daughter’s beanie and hoodie, no make-up, donut crumbs on her mouth, dirty jeans from the coffee earlier, a stack of queer, fabulous, outrageous, pornogprapic, whimsical knee socks stacked in a mound along with LGBTQ Youth Books and a tote that reads ‘Read by Example,’ as her transgender son looks on, feeling like we’re a pair of deer caught in headlights.
This other woman moves to the computer while asking, “What’s the name of the book?”
“The Adventures of Tallulah Froom Un-Book One. It’s a word book. It’s full of whimsy and….”
She cuts me off. “Who’s your publisher?” she asks while she pounds the keyboard to get to a website to look me up - and letting me know with each key, I am a waste of her time.
“Oh, Green Ivy Publishing. I’m suppose to be in print March 20th. I started by….”
She cuts me off again. “And what’s your name?”
“No ma’am. S-A-R-A M-A-D-D-E-N.” I am deduced to dust by trying to spell my name out without messing up. The letters in my head are always backward. Am I proving who I am? I felt she was purposefully spelling my name wrong. But, I don’t let this shake me.
With the pounding of the keys, she comes to a page she isn’t happy about. “You’re a self publisher? I asked you at the beginning who your publisher was. You didn’t say you were a self published author,” she exclaimed and she slammed the escape key and began to walk away.
“I am self published but then I was picked up by…”
She waves her hand across my space as I speak.
“But, I’m trying.. I’m doing… This book… if you just...”
She gives me one last nasty look for wasting her time.
I look down at my purchase of silly socks for each of my children and daughter in law. Silly really, the things we buy our kids for fun to let them know we love them. The middle aged woman cleared her throat and teased about sending her son to my house again to lighten the mood.
My eyelids seem so heavy. Jae piped up and said, “If Annie were here, she’d have a business card. But, all you have to do is go to Saramaddenbooks or Tallulahfroom dot com and you’ll see all her work.”
My face feels warm, my heart even warmer as I gather my things and smile at Jae. I pull on my absurdly silly polka dot gloves and walk out of the store, my arm wrapped around my son, Jae.
We walked back to the hotel, each step feeling so heavy. But, I remembered the quote I told my friend Josh only the night before, and I raise my head, take Jae’s hand, and then we discussed how maybe she was simply having a bad day and took it out on us.
Later that afternoon, Jae and I met Josh for lunch. We talked about his work issue the night before, what happened at the bookstore, and then became absorbed in the life and trials of Jae, as he poured his heart out to us over street tacos and an absurdly large amount of french fries.
And, when Jae was finally done venting and dumping the weight of the world off of his shoulders with his decision to live a true life and be transgender, and change from she to he, Josh turned and looked him in the eyes and said, “Your mom said this to me last night, she reiterated it again today, and I’m gonna tell you the very same quote. ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.’ Do you understand that? Do you feel it? Now live it.”
He shook his head at Josh and then Jae looked at me and said, “I guess what goes around comes around.”
Yes, I thought. There’s nothing like a good quote to keep you centered. But, in addition to the quote and the rising above lesson we all felt, I offered this, “But we also do not have to diminish someone’s light to make ourselves shine brighter when we are in a situation to defend ourselves. Blowing out another’s candle will never make ours burn brighter. So, let’s become stronger without diminishing anyone to do it. Harm no one, right?”
I decided at that moment I would continue to go to Rediscovered Books on my monthly trip to Boise. I would continue to embrace the reverence of the books looming over me - not with indignation, but with solidarity. I would feel the author’s story of their journey from pen to publication, the hardship that each story had to overcome to get on the bookshelf. And then I will bow in reverence to each story’s fortitude to withstand the trials of the journey and appreciate its place on the shelf.
And, so I end my incredibly long Blog for January with my gratitude. I launched my book and websites in December. Someone said the knack of flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. This is exactly how it felt up to the final moments that my illustrator and I launched the websites and cracked confetti into the air. Thus, I find that the more grateful I am, the more aware and present I am in my work, my life, and with myself. And with this gratitude, I find joy, a powerful joy, that wraps itself around me every day as I keep moving forward with my dreams, not allowing anyone to blow out my light or make me feel inferior.
And my gratitude would not be complete without expressing it to those I am most thankful for in my life. My gratitude for my illustrator has doubled my happiness into pure wonder and amazement which leaves me speechless with every new project. The love of my spouse and children is more than I thought would ever be enough and it fills me with a sense of appreciation that has changed everything in my writing and my outlook on life. My editor, who has literally become a gift to me, covered in glitter that leaves a mark on my work, my life, and has opened my eyes to a new level of grace.
And as a woman who adores words, I have truly felt the affect and lesson of these words, ‘gratitude’ and ‘for granted.’ For, never has a woman been so full of appreciation, that she will never take the most precious gifts given to her for granted, but rather sing a prayer of joy from her heart every day that comes from gratitude.
And for this experience of the threefold Quote, I am ever so grateful. My heart is full.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” - Eleanor Roosevelt.
Three new stories are outlined. I think my illustrator may quit if I don't stop sending her stories. The launch is in a few days. I've spent four weeks preparing. Only a handful have RSVP'd. I'm in over my head. I have never been so scared in my life. But, I'm pushing forward regardless. Here I go! I'm jumping into the deep end hoping to keep my head above water.
I send out launch party invitations and instantly regret it. Now, I can't sleep, eat, and I am so nervous and scared I may throw up. What have I done? But then, me editor visits and we spend hours taking everything one step at a time. He calms my nerves and re-centers my focus. He is literally my brown bag therapist.
Things are moving along. Do I dare set another launch date? I email my team. Everyone is on board for a launch in December. I'm not ready. But, I decide that my only way forward is to take a risk. I've taken on a second job to support my writing to pay for my illustrator and editor. It's worth it.
Things are starting to pick up again. I have written new stories, modified older stories, working on revising drafts from my editor. Feeling like I have direction again. Having a hard time finding time to write since I do have a full time job.
With Lucy born, everything is on hold and I am glad for the excuse to slack on my writing. But, without even trying, I start drafting new stories-I can't help it.
I hire a new editor. He's challenging me and I love it. My illustrator and I push through as much as we can to complete picture books before her baby is born.
I've set a few launch dates and none have come to fruition. I'm still excited about the progress I'm making. My characters are coming to life. My illustrator is working magic. Learning new lessons in patience I was expecting.
I feel like I've lost the light at the end of my tunnel. I know that I have a lot going on with life right now, but I feel as if I am stuck in a rut. We moved to the new house. It took us two weeks to move, in between business trips and the end of the school year - but, we're finally set up. May 31st is today and I sit at my new desk in my new front room, hoping to gain momentum to complete my projects. I have a great team on my side and I am relying on them heavily to carry me because I am lacking the confidence to write another story - ever. But, today is a Tuesday - my favorite day of the week. So, I carry the little hope I have left in my heart to get me through the week. I am ever so grateful for how far I have come. And I am entirely in love with my illustrator and editor for all their support to get me where I am at this moment.
Working on the website. We have gone through quite a few edits, but finally feel great about our final product. But, to make things more interesting, my husband and I decide to move houses. Looking for a house while our current one is on the market. Learning to write from my Chromebook in the oddest places.
I've just spent two and half weeks in Ireland. Seven days were at an all female writing retreat. I found something I wasn't looking for and I accept it, wholeheartedly. I am no longer afraid of who I am, what I write, and what I have to offer. I am creating my own heroine's journey, in whatever form it takes now - and now, it is as writer. I may not have much to offer the world, but my offering myself to the world means everything to me. I finally relinquish my fears, my anxiety, expectations, and embrace every hope I've ever held in my heart.
I head to Ireland to find inspiration to complete my writing. I doubt myself. I doubt everything about my writing. I meet an Oracle that tells me a character's name in one of my books that asks that I finish it. Belief or non-belief, I feel an urgent need to put myself out there and create for myself. I am also inspired to learn to write new-age mythology. I am intrigued.
Photo shoot for the website. Like I really think anything will happen, but it's fun to dress up with my daughter in law for fun pictures, right? Maybe going through the motions will help me move forward.
My daughter in law and I decide to illustrate a few books, for fun. Something is created, something larger than I expected. I’m invested in Girl in Blue. I can't handle the emotions. I don't want to write a particular scene. I put it away.
I decide to ask my daughter in law to illustrate a board book. I love it. I then write two more. I'm oddly addicted.
Girl in Blue comes across my screen while on Pinterest and a new story emerges. I am again consumed. December 2014 - I sit and read my thirty six story outlines and am overwhelmed. So many characters I am in love with and not enough time, not enough courage to write them properly.... yet.
Girl in Blue comes across my screen while on Pinterest and a new story emerges. I am again consumed.
December 2014 - I sit and read my thirty six story outlines and am overwhelmed. So many characters I am in love with and not enough time, not enough courage to write them properly.... yet.
Geppetto's Shoe Box is born while I am in Florence, Italy. It consumes me for nearly a year and then I get cold feet - I question myself, my story and I set it aside. It breaks my heart.
Again, while at Singer Island, another story comes to me. I can't deny this anymore. My characters are beginning to keep me awake at night, fighting for typing time. Something's got to get down on paper. Eight generations of gypsies women and it’s set in Morro Bay, California.
Inspiration in the oddest places - Singer Island, Florida. It sits in the back of my mind, waiting. It will happen. I know it. WWII, female pilots, intertwining stories.
My daughter gets into trouble with her cousins. But we celebrate because we're weird instead of punishing ourselves.
I sit at the table with my new extended family. We cut and create book covers for stories I've written. The question, "Why don't you publish?" comes up. I have been challenged. But, feel I am not ready.
Work on multiple outlines for stories. Discouraged because I can't convince myself I'm a writer.
My daughter feels she's losing a friend because she is different. In the end, her friends comes to her side, glasses and braces, until the end.
My soon to be step-daughter is fraught with worry because she isn't growing. But she's stronger than she realizes - she has the entire universe inside her soul.
My daughter walks home from school with her cousins. I have inspiration come to me in the depths of my despair and divorce. Do I write for her or for me? Tallulah is created, but she needs a last name. What rhymes with Broom? Oh yes, Froom. And so it begins.