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So excited to be a small part if this project with our indie kids press, Handersen Publishing!

Saint Beckett

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I’ve drawn up the tile pages for Elizabeth J.M. Walkers fairy tales. Just a few more pictures to finish off by the end of the month.

The it’s up to Handersen Publishing to make some sort of sense of my mess. At least the stories will be good.

Then I can rest. Until the next thing.

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Shipping them to Grandma’s

It’s May . . .

That means

-Nice Weather

-End of Year Field Trips

-Wired Kids

-Later Nights

-Endless Laundry (I don’t think this has anything to do with May)

It’s the calm before the summer storm, if by calm you mean a schedule that has you driving to Family Fun Night, Girl Scouts,  a field trip at the Children’s Museum, a field trip at the Nature Center, end of year Preschool celebration. On top of orthodontist appointments, work meetings, swim lessons, checkups, and the constant question (because it’s finally nice outside) “Can we go to the park? Not the one by our house, the one CLEAR across town that we haven’t been to in forever because it’s been snowing for the last six months!”

My husband’s latest song keeps playing over and over in my head:

Let’s face it, we’re all exhausted!

So, what do you do when the school year is almost at an end? You plan to send the kids to Grandma and Grandpa’s the day after school is out.

The best part is, they’re really excited! They get all the spoiling: chocolate, no bedtime, one on one attention, candy, and snuggles, what’s not to love?

We get a few days to regroup before starting the summer fun.

I think we’ll all be in a better place for starting our summer apart.

When the kids come home we’ll be ready for popsicles, and trips to the park.  It will be time to go to the beach, have picnics, visit the zoo. There are so many things we want to do this summer, and by starting it apart we will have time to appreciate each other more. The kids can leave the school year behind, and mom and dad can take a breath to regroup and be present for the next few months of “vacation” . . . at least that’s what I’m telling myself!

National Poetry Month: One more for Sandra

It’s the last day of April, and time to say goodbye to National Poetry Month. April really is my favorite, and to end it, I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite people, my amazing cousin, Sandra.

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As you can see, if anyone is deserving of their very own poem, it is her. She dances in her chair with amazing tutus (in various colors depending on the season), she always has a smile (which is contagious), and her hugs are beyond compare. I love you Sandra, and I am so glad that you are a part of our family.  I wrote this poem just for you. Next time we are together, we will wear star-shine glasses and sing this song to everyone that walks by!

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National Poetry Month Week 4: Let’s get real!

Obviously, poetry has been an important part of my life. Both reading and writing have gotten me through some tough spells.

As punishment, my mom once made me take my journal outside and write. I was taught to work through difficult situations and emotions by expressing them, owning them, and figuring out a way to deal with them if they decided to stay.

When I lost my grandfather words poured out onto paper. If I had trouble with a boyfriend, best friend, work colleague . . . I would grab my laptop and type. When our family moved across the country to a state I had never even visited, far away from known relatives, I wrote . . . usually in rhyme.

Journaling isn’t something that I do anymore (although, I should probably pick it up again), but if I’m somewhere and something hits me, I immediately search for the closest scrap of paper and begin to write. Then, I try not to lose it, so that piece of paper can make its way to the folder that contains these bits of my soul.

But what I’m finding, as I grow older is that sometimes you indirectly write about a problem. And if, with age comes wisdom, then wisdom also comes with a sense of humor.

My first collection of children’s poetry, was filled with silliness of childhood. I had moldy dancing food, dust bunnies, and smelly brothers. PS, I’m pretty sure I’ve got one of these dancing green guys in my fridge right now!

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When I started my latest book, though, I still wanted to capture those moments of childhood, but I wanted them to be real. I wanted this book to represent lots of different children, not just the ones in my house.

I’m having trouble with one poem in my book. It’s my favorite, and it gets very real, very quickly. I’m wondering if it’s too real for a children’s book. I think that kids can handle it, in that obscure positive way that they tend to look at the world.

But as a parent it breaks my heart. I’ll paste it below, and you tell me what you think.

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Counting stars up in the sky, close your eyes and wonder why.

Feel the fear, and maybe cry, it’s okay to wonder why.

Counting stars up in the sky, close your eyes and dream today,

Picture someplace far away, free from questions, free to play.

Counting stars up in the sky, close your eyes and make a wish.

Imagine floating through the night in a giant rocket ship.

Take a breath, count down from ten, feel the rocket trip begin.

See the planets, see the moon, see adventure coming soon.

Counting stars up in the sky, imagination overdrive.

Take you where you want to go, when life gets tough and you don’t know.

When questions don’t have simple answers,

When days are long and time has stopped.

Counting stars up in the sky, helps when you are wondering why.

National Poetry Month Week 3: Finding Inspiration

If you Google the top five questions that authors are asked one would probably be: Where do you find inspiration?

For me it’s a combination of a lot of things. Things that are happening in my life, people I’ve met, places I’ve been, the world around me . . . all of this inspires me. But I’ve also found inspiration in other poets.

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I’ve mentioned Robert Louis Stevenson and Shel Silverstein in previous posts. I will always love these poets, but as I grew older, I found myself drawn to female poets. Emily Dickinson and Maya Angelou being the two most prominent. I even painted a “Hope” mural on my bedroom wall.

 

The picture above is not my artwork, I’m no artist, but the poem inspired some of my best awkward high school/college poetry. I fully intended to open up the old journals and spill my 16 year-old heart out, but alas the notebook cannot be found. I am so sad because there were some doozies. For now, you will have to use your imagination, or maybe break out your own journal to rediscover your own teenage angst.

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I did find this picture of me with two of my amazing grandparents, yet another inspiration, but totally underappreciated in my youth. I’m sure I wrote a poem that went something like:

 

 

Cold day, Easter egg hunt,

Hawaiian shirts, and family fun.

Wish I could feel the sand on my toes.

Had to put sunscreen on my nose.

Instead I’m helping kids hunt eggs.

Running on their little legs.

Next time let’s just hit the beach.

Skip the eggs and have a retreat.

Fast-forward to 2018, and I’m helping my own kids hunt eggs on an equally dismal day. There weren’t any Hawaiian shirts, though. My, how times have changed.

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Today is also Earth Day, so I thought I’d share a poem from my new book, Bumble Bee Sneeze, that was inspired by a nature scene. Thanks again, to my amazing husband, Tevin, for the illustrations. I gave him a challenge this time around. The illustration that follows this one is a “finding/counting things” that are from the poem.

Jump Grasshopper,

Slither Snake,

In the grass down by the lake.

Sunshine warm,

Gentle breeze,

Flowers full of bumble bees.

Fish are splashing,

Birds in trees,

Thankful for this nature scene.

 

Happy Earth Day!

 

National Poetry Month Week 2

It’s week two of National Poetry Month, and I’m still excited!

Swing

The first poetry I remember hearing was Robert Louis Stevenson. My favorite was The Swing. I remember getting lost in my mom’s voice while she read it to me. I loved to swing, and this poem captured the movement and the joy. I don’t think I really understood the language, but the feelings were there. This poem is one that I share during events, and love reading to my own children. I even captured a bit of the magic in my children’s counting book, Kids Count.

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Kids Count is a repeating, rhyming picture book that teaches counting. There is a character that is the age of the number they represent. Livingston is one, Clementine is nine, etc. For number three we meet Annalee, and just like me when I was small, she loves to swing!

Poetry can be a great way for children (and adults, too) to connect with emotions and feelings. It can be something as simple as the love of swinging. But sometimes feelings are more complicated like anger, sadness, or loss. A few of the poems in my upcoming book hint at these feelings. What happens when a new baby sister suddenly appears? Or when you get into a fight with your best friend? What if mom says, “no” when you want a pet, or maybe she says, “yes” and you don’t know which one to choose? Emotions and feelings are hard to process, but by talking about them, sometimes through poetry, they can be easier to manage.

I’ll be back next week with more poetry!

Hi, Winter. It’s not you, it’s me.

It’s the second week in April, and the weather outside is looking bleak. I have a message for winter:

“Hi, Winter. We’ve been together for a while now, but we need to talk. It’s not you, it’s me. We just want two different things. I’m moving forward, on to something different. It’s not that we didn’t have some fun times. Sledding was a blast! And there is no one better at building a snowman than you. It’s just time for a change.

Okay, I’ll be honest, I’ve met someone new. It was a week ago, when suddenly the sun was shining and it was warm outside. I even put on a tank top. It was just so new. I felt something that I hadn’t in a while. I just don’t think I can feel that way with you anymore.

It’s just time for us to go our separate ways. You’ll be okay, I promise. And who knows! In eight months things might be different, and we may find a way to make this work again. Thanks for the good times. I’ll never forget you.

Now get out!”

Happy Poetry Month

April is national poetry month!

Most of you are probably aware of my career as a mother of two, and might even be aware that I’m the CEO of Handersen Publishing. But I also write children’s poetry.WhenIWasAGrown-up

My first collection of poetry was released in 2015. “When I was a Grown-up and Other Poems” was inspired by my two kids, and what it’s like to grow up. It includes poems about everything from parents who are too busy to play, leftovers that sing karaoke in the fridge at night, and dust bunnies that might carry you away.

To celebrate poetry month, I want to give you a sneak peek – every week – into my new book, and also share some of my favorite poetry books from my childhood.

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My biggest inspiration growing up was (and still is) Shel Silverstein. “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is the first book that I remember getting as a gift. Although we had lots of books in our house, this book was SO magical that I wrote my name in it…with a multi-colored pen. (You know the pen I’m talking about!)

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Lazy Jane was a stand out, and I remember thinking, “This can be poetry? I want to write poetry like this! I want my poetry to be fun!”

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I still feel this way, and hope that I can bring even a quarter of the whimsy and creativity that Shel Silverstein brought to his work. I want kids (and adults, too) to want to write poetry and know that it doesn’t have to be complicated or pretentious. Poetry can be approachable. It can be relatable. It can meet you where you are.

That is what inspired “Bumble Bee Sneeze,” my upcoming collection of children’s poetry. Once again my very talented husband, Tevin Hansen has done the illustrations. This book will be a little different than the last. Each poem is still about growing up, and many of them still have silly elements, but sometimes growing up isn’t always funny. Some things are a little bit tricky to navigate, and this book has a few of those poems, too.

But today’s poem is all about smiles. This is the title poem, “Bumble Bee Sneeze”. Everything from the short length of the poem, to the cute little guy in the illustration, hints at the fun of the book.

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Thanks for checking in, all! I will be back next week with more great poems from my past, and another sneak peek at the upcoming book!

I also have an awkward high school poem reveal planned, but you’ll have to keep following along to see when that gem makes its appearance!

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Happy April!!!

 

Stranded in an airport . . .

Sometimes you have the best plans, an exact schedule, and you are absolutely certain that things will be perfect. But perfection isn’t easy to come by. Especially when you’re taking your first international flight to London, UK.

The whirlwind of life has swept through our family and our business over the last few months, leaving me exhausted. I had a summer full of broken arms, trips to the zoo, a tonsillectomy, author events, farmer’s markets,  promotion, and learning about running an independent children’s publishing house.

Our fall has started, and nothing has slowed down. School started, more author events, book events, story times, plus four new book releases (so far), a new issue of our magazine, Stinkwaves, and more promotion, more learning, more chaos.

Now, finally, a break. A trip to London! The first for both my husband and me. Ah, I can smell the tea, taste the scones, hear the beautiful accents. Yet, here I am . . . for the second day, in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. No Big Ben. No tea. Only a soggy sandwich and luke-warm tea for dinner.

This is our third attempt at catching a flight, and if we don’t make this one, or it is delayed, I may have a bit of a tantrum. There’s been mechanical problems, weather issues, runway construction, along with other small things that have lead to the delay. But I know that once we get there, even though there will still be any number of hiccups, it will be worth the wait.

Just like running our publishing house, with each new release comes a thousand and one bumps in the road. There are quarrels about editing and design, misprinted books, and beta feedback that isn’t what you thought it would be, which bring about rewrites, recoloring, and complete redo’s. Nothing ever goes as expected.

Just like running a family. You can plan all you want, but sometimes you’re going to have a 30-minute meltdown about socks. There will be broken bones and hurt feelings. You may never be “on time,” but you will also have silly dances, amazing new books, and unexpected smiles. The highs outweigh the lows, and we keep moving forward. We keep making plans, only to find that they will change. And eventually we realize that those changes were actually better.

So my husband and I will wait five more hours (on top of the five we’ve already waited) to hopefully catch a flight to London. We will get there and I will be a part of my friend’s wedding. We will see things that we’ve only read about or seen in pictures. We will eat scones and drink tea, and it will be AMAZING. Our time in London will be special because it is an adventure, everything that neither of us planned it to be.

Coming to You from Spain: Guadix Troglodytes

Tangled Magic

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In the mountain above the city of Guadix, people live in house-caves.  The white pillars that you see sticking up are either air vents or chimneys.  We arrived before the museum opened, but a woman who was cranking out the awning of her store directed us to her “cueva”, to have a look inside for free.

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Her husband was waiting to welcome us in.  He’s there in the photo, behind the gatepost.

IMG_4980   IMG_4981 Kitchen, dining area, IMG_4983bedroom   IMG_4984 and bath.

The man’s family has lived there for four generations.

We explored the church, also a cave dug into the mountain.

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The Museum of Traditional Culture was a gem, situated in a cueva that was furnished as it had been in 1928 when the family bought it for less than $2.00.  We saw a film about the history of caves, from practical to religious.   The rooms were full of artifacts.

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