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I’m sporadically participating in the Clear Fork Publishing challenge where my publisher Callie Metler-Smith offers prompts to the Clear Fork Authors and Illustrators. Today’s challenge is Throwback Thursday – “Post a throwback picture that has something to do with you personally.”

Since, I live on an RV, my old photos are in storage. However, I did come across a scanned photo that seemed to relate to the challenge. The photo directed me to a photo journal that I started back in 2004. We were purging our home of fifteen years in preparation for a move from Chicago to North Carolina. I struggled emotionally with letting go of “memories.” I decided to take photos of the “memories” and write about them. Today, I share my Throwback Thursday photo and memories. As I was uploading my photo, I realized that it isn’t my photo. It is one I found somewhere (can’t remember where). But it is very much like my old skate box.

!cid_000a01c746f6$98b29cd0$f300000a@Jen

MY OLD ROLLER SKATES
by Alayne Kay Christian

I’ve clung to them for thirty-five years
Through every move, every closet cleaning, every job, love, birth and death
Each time I run across my old roller skates
I return to my youth
The days when I was wild and free
Unafraid
Willing enough and daring enough to exploreskate
Have fun
Just be

I was happy – not a care in the world
Learning about myself and life
Being myself
My authentic self
The skates were magic
As long as they were with me, all was good
And once I put them on my feet
They empowered me
To be confident and free

I can still feel myself in the golden glow of dim lighting
Gliding across that old wood floor to the rhythm of Motown
Moving effortlessly, leisurely, and happily
The world around me slowly drifts away
Leaving me to fly like a bird
Alone with my heart
Feeling the peace, the oneness, and the joy

Today, I release my old skates into the Universe
Perhaps they will work their magic on someone else
I realize I have done my skates, and the Universe, a disservice
By keeping them prisoner all these years
So, I send them out into the Universe with love
And preserve the magic of my roller skates with this picture
I keep my memories with me as a reminder of who I am
Now, my old roller skates are free

I AM FREE
1/4/04

I shared the above for a couple reasons.

  1. To participate in the challenge.
  2. To share something personal about myself.
  3. And to suggest to anyone who struggles to let go of “memories” represented by stuff that a photo journal is a great way to let go. In addition, any kind of journal writing can be a really good friend during times of letting go.

I hope my sharing has either brought back some memories or inspired you to let go in a different way.

 

Today, I am sharing a presentation that I made showing how a picture book is made. It shows what the picture book looks like when first printed on an offset printer, it shows how signatures are made. It shows fold and gather, cutting, and stitching. It shows how the cover is attached. And more.

I plan to one day make a video so that the folding process will be easier to see. But I need to enlist the hubs as a photographer. He is sometimes harder to corral than a herd of cats 😉 So, for now, I hope you enjoy this video. Click here if you need a larger view of the video.

 

About Freedom

by Alayne Kay Christian

This week people, trucks, boats on trailers, and RVs swarmed into the peaceful quiet RV resort were we are staying. Today, the lake is a abuzz, too. A steady stream of boats rock the sailboats docked nearby. The beginning of summer. Fun in the sun. And I think, Memorial Day weekend is a little like Christmas. We sometimes forget what it is really all about.

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Arlington National Cemetery

Memorial Day – A day set aside for remembering and honoring the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. I am grateful, everyday, for those who have given their lives, those who have been severely injured, and those who have left their families, friends and homes — all to protect us from harm and to uphold freedom. The following is a modified and abbreviated version of an essay I wrote many years ago. Today, seems like a good day to share it.

Years back, I watched a documentary that followed the life events of several inmates on a prison farm. An elderly man spoke about how freedom comes from within. He made a comparison to all the people out there in the ‘free’ world who are not as free as he who spends his life locked away in prison. He was talking about how we are often prisoners of ourselves. Here we are as free as birds, yet shackled to choices made based on belief systems we have learned from others. We can find freedom from within. We have a choice. Our thoughts and beliefs can imprison us or they can free us.

When the man mentioned the free world, I thought about some of the freest people on earth . . . Americans. We have the freedom to exercise free will. We are free to think for ourselves, question things, and voice our opinions.

I am writing this on Memorial Day weekend. The Indianapolis 500 blares from our television as I write. A woman’s rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner rings in my heart. Next, a twenty-one gun solute honors the memory of our fallen soldiers. The cheering crowd grows silent when a young man steps forward and blows Taps on his trumpet. In honor and gratefulness to all our soldiers, I stop typing. Through a teary haze, I watch thousands of Americans, and some visitors from abroad, gathered in one place for a day of competition, patriotism, and fun. The crowd looks like a sea of red, white, and blue swaying dots. I imagine that they are as free as a flock of colorful birds that have come together through free will.

“The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude.” – Jeff Miller

“These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation who has a long history of patriotism and honor – and a nation who has fought many battles to keep our country free from threats of terror.” Michael N. Castle

“As America celebrates Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those who have given their lives in our nations wars.” John M. McHugh

Can you write a children’s story in 50 words? Would you like to try? Are you up for the challenge? If so, check out Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words challenge. The deadline is March 6, so get moving! Great prizes! Twenty-one winners – 21 prizes! Includes 50% off coupons for Art of Arc or for Art of Arc alumni 50% off coupons for a critique.

Here is my entry.

WINTER WALK

by Alayne Kay Christian  winter-walk-night-2

Cold air – warm sun
Feet crunch
in snow.

Fragrant pines.
Icy river groans.

Sun slips
behind pines.
Nightfall flaunts black-velvet skies
Evening star
Soft moon glow

Feet crunch
in snow.
Up steps
Through the door
Boots fall
to the floor.

Toasty fire – cozy quilt
Puffy pillow
Muscles hush

Pleasant dreams

 

 

 

SHOULD MY PICTURE BOOK BE A CHAPTER BOOK?

by Alayne Kay Christian

I’m excited to reveal the cover of my forthcoming chapter book SIENNA, THE COWGIRL FAIRY: TRYING TO MAKE IT RAIN – coming April 2017! This is the first book in the Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy series. Didn’t Brian Martin do a fantastic job?

sienna-cover-1

In this story, Sienna is not your normal cowgirl. She’s half-human and half-fairy. But Sienna wants nothing to do with fairies. When her ma sends her to fairy camp instead of cowgirl camp, she ain’t none too happy. Not only must she deal with cliquish fairies who reject her spunky spirit and outspoken ways, she must also noodle out how to help Mother Nature end the Texas drought. Can Sienna balance cowgirling with some tried ‘n’ true fairy skills to both fit in and make it rain? This is a story about perseverance, friendship, teamwork, self-acceptance, and acceptance of others.

This book and the second book in the series AUNT ROSE’S FLOWER GIRL started as picture books. So, how did they become chapter books? It all started in 2012. I was invited by the Institute of Children’s Literature’s (ICL) faculty to participate in their advanced program, Writing and Selling Children’s Books. About that time, I visited my then five-year-old granddaughter in Chicago.

“What if you could fly?” my granddaughter asked.

I responded, “I’d come to see you more often. What if you could fly?”

“I’d fly up to that ceiling fan and take a ride,” she said.

Boing! Idea time! I thought, There must be a picture book in there somewhere. So I started brainstorming. My first version was titled THE GIRL WHO COULD FLY, and it included a protagonist that took a ride on a ceiling fan. Then I changed the title to THE GIRL WHO SAVED TEXAS. My ICL instructor wasn’t really sold on the fairy angle I had developed, but she did say that she’d like to see me Texas the character up. That thought led her to suggesting that I make the protagonist a cowgirl fairy. I ran with those ideas and fell in love with Sienna.

In 2013, I took my SIENNA, THE COWGIRL FAIRY: TRYING TO MAKE IT RAIN picture book manuscript to the North Texas SCBWI conference. And I was lucky enough to have the first page read on stage and commented on by Lin Oliver. I could see by her smile that she liked the voice. But in her comments, she wondered if the story was too old for the picture book audience. I later found a few minutes of one-on-one time with Lin, and she encouraged me to consider expanding the story into a chapter book.

The conference gave me the confidence that I needed to submit the picture book manuscript. Three agents offered me representation. One agent was actually interested in shopping it as a picture book. I didn’t discuss it with the second agent because I chose the third agent to represent me. This agent agreed that it would be wise to turn the Sienna story into a chapter book. We worked together for about a year and then we parted ways amicably. As time went by, not being able to attract a new agent caused my confidence to wane. I spent a year floundering and nearly another year halfheartedly submitting.

In 2016, I went to a weekend workshop with a highly-respected literary agency where we presented our work in a roundtable forum. The senior agent who led the group loved Sienna’s voice and asked me to send her the whole manuscript. Yes! Perhaps my beloved Sienna would be published after all. But after months of nothing but crickets, I nudged the agent. Finally, I heard back with a form letter rejection – not one clue as to why it wasn’t right for her. I had a brief setback, but instead of letting it get me down, I immediately started submitting again. Two months later, I had a contract for the Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy chapter book series with Spork, an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing.

So, why were the Sienna picture book stories better suited for the chapter book audience? The characters were too old for a picture book. As much as I wanted to limit Sienna’s age in my mind to a spunky eight-year-old girl, she wanted to be older. Her voice was older. Her actions were older. And since the story was written in first person (Sienna narrator), the storytelling voice was better suited for an older audience. Another reason a chapter book was a good idea is because I was able to expand on the story and further develop this fantastic character. These are only a few reasons why a picture book manuscript or picture book idea might work better as a chapter book.

Do you have any picture books that really should be a chapter book? It might be worth thinking about.

Check out Is Your Idea a Picture Book, Chapter Book or Middle Grade Novel? By Hillary Homzie and Mira Reisberg on Tara Lazar’s blog.

Anastasia Suen answers the question “Should I write a picture book or a chapter book?” on her blog.

giftPRIZE ANNOUNCEMENT

In my last post MY GIFT – YOUR GIFT, I asked people to share inspirational quotes or short stories as gifts to others. In return, those who participated were included in a drawing to win complimentary admission to my picture book writing course Art of Arc. I also offered two Art of Arc students or alumni complimentary picture book critiques. I’ve decided to give a bonus gift, so three people have won the course and two have won critiques. Congratulations to the following winners!

COMPLIMENTARY ART OF ARC COURSE

Ann Magee

Julie Bergmann Lacombe

Chris M. Regier

COMPLIMENTARY CRITIQUE

Gabrielle Schoeffield

Linda Schueler

 

A fun drawing by Teresa Robeson from her blog ONE GOOD THING.

A fun drawing by Teresa Robeson from her blog ONE GOOD THING. Click on the image to see more of her work.

 

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JUST SAY NO TO NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS 

I first offered a version of this post in 2012. It was titled THIRTY-ONE JUST FOR FUN. Each year since, I’ve modified my original post and reposted it. Before I share the 2016 modified version, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported my blog and me throughout the year. I wish you all a very Happy New Year. May the New Year bring each of you all that your heart desires.

Now for JUST SAY NO TO NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS. . . .

A common question in life coaching is, “What’s the difference between a life coach and a therapist?” The answer goes something like this: Imagine you are driving a car through life with a psychotherapist as your driving instructor. The psychotherapist will spend a lot of time instructing you to look through your rearview mirror at where you have been. A “life coach” driving instructor will encourage you to look out your windshield at where you are going.

A NEGATIVE DRAIN

Today, I am going to swim against the life coaching current and ask you to look back at where you have been. New Year’s resolutions often have roots in the past. We look back, with a certain amount of regret, at what we failed to accomplish in the outgoing year. Focusing on our shortcomings, we resolve to make up for them in the New Year; usually with bigger and better plans than before. Although setting these goals can leave you feeling hopeful, looking back with self-judgment can sap your confidence and drain your spirit.

ENERGIZE YOUR SPIRIT

Instead of looking back at your shortcomings with regret, look back at your successes with confidence and gratitude. Looking back and acknowledging your accomplishments will give you the opportunity to celebrate your successes and energize your spirit as you look forward to your new year.

YOUR LIST

Over the next couple of weeks, take some time to reflect on 2016 and list the things that you accomplished throughout the year. I hope you will celebrate your successes by coming back and sharing some of your discoveries in the comments section of this post or share them on your own blog. The most important part of this challenge is recognizing the positive, energizing events of 2016.

QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU GET STARTED ON YOUR LIST

  • How did you grow personally, professionally or as a writer?
  • Did you have a positive impact on others?
  • What writing skills did you learn or strengthen?
  • Did you improve organizational skills?
  • Did you find the secret to time management?
  • Did you complete any writing challenges?
  • Did you join any groups?
  • What personal strengths did you gain?
  • What goals did you achieve?
  • What unplanned accomplishments did you achieve?
  • What character qualities did you strengthen?
  • Have you improved your communication skills?
  • Have you gotten better at saying no to others, to yourself, or to activities that drain you?
  • What acts of kindness did you share?
  • What special, memory building moment did you have with family, friends, writing groups, by yourself and so on?
  • Did you submit any of your writing? If you want to challenge yourself to submit more in 2016 join my Sub Six private manuscript submission support group on Facebook.
  • Did any submissions get accepted for publication?
  • Did you get any rejections with encouraging notes?
  • Did you find a positive way to accept rejections?

For tips on celebrating your achievements see CELEBRATE YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS BIG AND SMALL. Be sure to scroll down to the section about the achievement jar, so you can celebrate all through 2017.

Below I share some my 2016 achievements.

  1. I signed a four-book deal for my chapter book series SIENNA THE COWGIRL FAIRY with Clear Fork Publishing. In the process, I met some great new friends and my fantastic editor Callie Metler-Smith.
  2. I attended the Big Sur Cape Cod workshop and spent time with my lovely friends Sylvia Liu, Victoria Warneck, and Teresa Robeson.
  3. I continued to help other writers via my Art of Arc course and critiques. And other writers helped me with some great critiques and brainstorming.
  4. I completed the Nonfiction Archaeology course.
  5. I made my first serious attempts at writing two different nonfiction picture books. And I found the courage to submit them!
  6. I celebrated many, many friends’ successes – book contracts, book releases, agent representation and so on. Go Kid lit Community!
  7. I took care of myself during rough times and celebrated my fun times with joy.
  8. I continued to practice one of my favorite author survival skills, which is write from the heart – submit with detachment. I also encouraged others with positive and inspirational quotes on Facebook and Twitter.
  9. I completed my 5th 12 X 12 writing challenge and had the pleasure of working as a 12 x 12 Critique Ninja.
  10. I ended 2016 by gifting my picture book writing course ART OF ARC: How to Analyze Your Picture Book Manuscript (deepen your understanding of picture books written with a classic arc) and some picture book critiques.

Now it’s your turn. Celebrate with us by sharing your accomplishments.

Best wishes in 2017! Wait, there’s more. This would have been my sixth year of participating in Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) challenge, but there have been some changes. My sixth year will have to wait until January 2017, and I will be participating in STORYSTORM instead. To read about the changes and how to register click on the following badge. Thirty story ideas in thirty days, with inspiration, great faculty, and prizes, too!

storystorm-badge

I want to end the year with a little gift giving. I’m offering two winners complimentary admission to my picture book writing course Art of Arc. In addition, I’m offering two Art of Arc students or alumni complimentary picture book critiques. The winners will be determined by a drawing.

love-sweet-love.

How do you enter in the drawing?

By giving the gift of inspirational and touching words to your blog readers and my blog readers. Please read through to the end of the post for all the instructions. Leave a comment, sharing your favorite quote, short poem, or essay (100 words or less for each) related to any of the following topics:

 

Giving/Generosity
Peace
Love
Gratitude
Believe
Magical/Miracles

 

mlk

 

Your entry does not have to include the above words. It only needs to convey the heart of any one of the words. Don’t forget to include attribution if the work you share is not your own. And if the work is yours, be sure to add your name at the end.

miracles

In addition, your entry should be posted on your blog with a link back to this post between Sunday, December 4 and Sunday, December 25. Please include a link to your blog post in your comment.

great-love

The winners will be announced on December 27. I will be traveling at that time, which means if for some reason I have problems with an Internet connection, the winner announcement may be delayed.

“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.”               – Henri Nouwen

Happy Holidays!

heart

Some of the quotes in this post were found at brainyquote.com

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