Picture Book on the Move!

I have exciting news!  I have written a picture book and sent it out for agent support!

I long debated when to share the news that I am, in fact, a much more serious writer than blogging stories on this here site. Make no mistake, blogging is serious business and takes a lot of time, commitment and energy but now I am getting super serious: I am trying to get a book published!

I want to share my book with you but to share the actual book text with you, or even a summary, would be cheating myself.  That is a surprise left for the moment my book is published.  However, what I can tell you is that The Antler Elf is a whimsical rhyme steeped in myth and education. With a brand-new angle on a Christmas story, a charming main character, and laugh-out-loud scenarios it is the perfect tale to huddle around the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa after putting up the Christmas tree.

My story was inspired out of nowhere about two years ago.  I honestly can’t even remember now how the idea came about, but to give you a taste of how I inspired myself here are a few tid bits…

I educated myself about reindeer, particularly through a National Geographic article that featured this photo. (Unfortunately you can’t read the article without a subscription but you can see the full photo gallery HERE.)

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I wrote several of my drafts in a Caribou Coffee.  I figured the north woods, cozy atmosphere and Caribou logo would be inspiring.  I was right.

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And I referenced some of my favorite picture books to decide on writing style and character development.  Mr. Murry and Thumbkin, my all-time favorite picture book, became a main source of inspiration.  Read it.

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Now that you are totally excited to read my book (because you are right?) cheer me on, pray, and cross your fingers that an agent gets so excited too!

P.S.  If you cheer me on by leaving a comment on this blog post I bet one of the agents I gave my info too will take notice!  Hey, it’s worth a shot right? 🙂

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Trick or Treating with Lauren Grace

I love holidays.  All holidays.  What I particularly love about them is the reason to deviate from the norm, to celebrate.  I love any excuse to celebrate!

Naturally, that means I enjoy Halloween.  I don’t enjoy the spooks and the excuse to live a horror movie but I do love dressing up.  The candy is ok too 😉

This Halloween my husband was out-of-town on a co-writing extravaganza in Nashville so I was left to my own resources.  But fortunately I got a call from my sister-in-law asking if I wanted to join her and the kiddos for some trick or treat fun in her neighborhood.  I was elated!

When I arrived at her house on Halloween I was greeted by the cutest little parrot niece I have ever seen!  She was wearing a zip up hoodie of pastel “feathers” with the hood as a beak and a tail trailing in the back and wore pink leggings.

Shortly after Sarah graciously filled my belly with sweet potato chili Lauren and I embarked on our adventure – Sarah decided to stay back with the little one to hand out candy.  It was lightly raining and chilly but I don’t think Lauren even noticed.

The first house we went to I walked up to the door with her and rang the doorbell.  Just before the owner answered the door I said, “say ‘trick or treat’ when they come.”  When the door opened Lauren proceeded to say, “trick or treat please.”  The man gave her a piece of candy and I hear her tinkling voice say, “thank you.” He looks to me and I say”Happy Halloween” and we turn to leave.  I was grinning ear to ear at my adorably polite niece.

With each passing house I started lingering farther and farther away from the front doors until I was waiting on the various sidewalks for Lauren.  Turns out, my two-year-old niece relished the independence and was more than happy to hit the doorbell herself – on the rare occasion the doorbell was well out of her reach I would, of course, assist.  At every home I hear her melodious voice say “trick or treat please” and “thank you” then she would abruptly turn around and barrel down the stairs and across the lawn to me, stumbling all the way, exclaiming “Kaia I got more candy!”

I always responded with a golden grin and a chuckle, “great job Lauren!”

Every now and then we would cross the street.  Each time I would say, “Lauren can you hold my hand?”

“Sure I can!”

Before long her purple pumpkin bucket was brimming with candy.  Every so often I would ask Lauren how she was doing.

“I’m good!”

Then I would ask if her candy was getting too heavy for her.

With a head bob/nod she would reply in her sing-song voice, “I am strong.”

I chuckled every time and replied with some sentiment like “yes you are!” – I’m all about independence so I was proud of my little trooper.

And hour and a half later our trick or treat fun came to and end and we headed back to the house and laid out her spoils for examination.  Quite a haul for a little tike!  I did notice most houses gave her more than on piece because she was so little and cute 😉

I simply adore hanging out with Lauren.  She’s such a joyful little bugger and really fun to talk to.  Happy Halloween everyone!

For more of my storytelling CLICK HERE.

 

Meeting Josh

I’ve been enjoying telling the fond moments in mine and Josh’s history together.  And it seems to me it keeps coming up naturally, I am prompted by a question from a friend or a story I read in a book.  A few days ago Gigi asked how and when Josh and I met.  This is the story I told her.

It was creeping into late evening when I decided to momentarily ditch my friend Kyle to explore his dorm a bit.  At Judson University, girls were only allowed into the guys dorms at very specific times.  Though it was open dorm I didn’t particularly want to be discovered creeping the halls in my exploratory manner – didn’t want to be taken for a creeper you know?  It was only weeks into my freshman year, so I still had an abundance of uncharted and unexplored ground to discover, and I’ve always been a curious soul so I set about wandering the dorm anyway.

When I reached the first floor I saw some guys milling at the end of the hallway.  The only one I noticed was a guy clad in bandmate apparel – black pants, black button up dress shirt and white suspenders.  He was so cheery and full of energy.  I thought he was cool.  Come to think of it, he left an impression on me like no one else ever had.  All of these observations and thoughts filled my head in a matter of a split second before I spun on my heels and started scurrying back down the hall, assuming I’d reach the bend in the hall before anyone would notice I was there.

Then I heard him call out to me, “Hey what’s your name again?”

I turned around to face him again, not moving back down the hall even an inch and replied, “Kaia.”

“I’m Josh, I like the way you dress.”

“Thanks.”

And that was it.  I turned back around and escaped back into Kyle’s room.  I didn’t think much of it besides how embarrassed I was, but little did I know that this man would keep impressing upon me for the rest of our lives.  Our next encounter was also particularly memorable… read about that HERE.

When He Proposed

I made a brilliant discovery to nudge myself into a state of contented enjoyment while spending excruciatingly long and tedious amounts of time editing wedding photography.  Audiobooks!  I love audiobooks.  And it turns out, that my photo editing side of the brain is separate from my listening and comprehending side of the brain so I can now multitask.  I work while I enjoy leisure.  Cool huh?

Anyway, I was listening to a sweet proposal story in my latest book yesterday morning when it occurred to me I discovered a gem for my blog.  And now it occurs to me that today is the perfect day to tell this story because it is our 4 year wedding anniversary!  So here, you go, my proposal story.

When He Proposed

Josh had a plan.  But, as many of us know, it is the most important of plans that typically seem to fight back.  In this case, Josh became violently ill so instead of coming up to my parent’s place in Minnesota, where I stayed during the summers, to surprise me with a full day of fun with him he was a puke puddle.  Not just any puke puddle, he was a headache ridden emergency room patient in his mother’s care for the night.  The new hurdle was covering his tracks because he and my parents had arranged the day off of work for me.  So, I awoke to my mom rapping on my door just minutes before my alarm would go off to send me to work.  She declared they got me out of work so the family could all spend the day out on the lake.  I thought this was strange but couldn’t make anything of it.

The next day I sat cozy in my PJs on the deck working on some homework, I was enrolled in three online summer courses. My mom popped her head out with a request to hit up the mailbox.  I said ok then turned back to my work.  She hovered a moment longer so I turned to her again and she said I needed to go now because the mail man comes around 1pm.  I obliged and hopped on my brother’s goofy, recliner bike to head down to the mail box.  What, our driveway is long.

Half way down I spotted Josh.  He had somewhat mastered surprise visits already so I was expecting his appearance to be simply that.  I was ecstatic.

I ditched the bike and ran at him in preparation for a giant hug only to be interrupted by him thrusting a CD out to me.  Still unfazed I took the item and turned it in my hands.  It was The Least of These’s new album.  Meanwhile, he was commenting that I was in the acknowledgements.  I was satisfied with my gift and preferred a hug over searching the acknowledgments at that minute but Josh prompted me to take action on reading them pronto.  I obeyed and when I was halfway through he got down on one knee.  “Oh, boy what am I missing!” I thought.  I skimmed and saw it, “Kaia, my dear, I love you.  Will you marry me?”  I looked down at him and he held a ring.  I said yes and hugged him. He told me the ring was 111 years old and had belonged to his great great grandmother.  It was a thin band covered in fine etching and it fit my ring finger just right.

Then suddenly he broke free of my embrace and walked back to his car mumbling nonsense I couldn’t hear.  He pulled out a garment bag and I heard something about how my mom purchased the dress we spontaneously looked at that summer in Elgin and had fallen in love with.  He assured me he did not see the dress, that the shop had it all hidden in the bag when he went to retrieve it.  Then he told me we were scheduled to wed on October 17, nine weeks from then, in my parents backyard and that he blocked out a week to be with me in Minnesota and to help as needed with the planning.

And that was just a new beginning!  But for the sake of story telling…

THE END

A season of change and of blessing

I am officially moved in, or at least mostly, to our new home in Milton, WI!  The place is cozy, quite, spacious, and home.  We only have some things on the walls but everything else in in place.

This is a big season of change for this Calhoun clan and we feel blessed beyond measure!  Our 15-year-old Mazda died but because of the generosity of my Mom and my Grandpa we were able to buy a new car right away – and our new ride gets 42+ mpg!  Our mattresses were damaged by a basement flood but with the insurance money we were able to buy a super cozy brand new one!  Then, with a realization that living in Wisconsin is a possibility due to the status of Citizen Way, we were able to move here to a quieter, slower world where we have found the home we have been hoping and looking for.    And, finally, I was blessed with a part-time job at Craig High School working in the library so we can hunker down on our two year goal to pay off personal loans to family members and save up for a house – all of which would not be possible on the sustainable but not yet reasonably abundant flow of cash I make through photography.

As a part of this season of change I am thinking I’ll drive myself crazy trying to keep up with week day blog posts.  However, I am thinking I can and want to maintain 3 – 4 days/week.  What I would like to know from you is what days are your favorites to check up on my material and why? This will help me gauge what day/s to take of from the blogosphere and focus solely on editing before going to the library.

I would also love to hear what has blessings have entered your life lately?