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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Butterfly Olivia's Debut

Last week, I wrote about the imagination and creativity lesson I had learned from my son while we brainstormed ideas for a picture book for his first grade teacher's new baby girl.

In lieu of any announcement that one of my own picture books has been picked up for publication, I'll instead announce that Braden's picture book is a wrap, and was turned in to the homework basket this morning.

Yesterday, as he was finishing the last drawing, I excitedly announced that I was running to get my camera so I could take pictures of his very first picture book.

"Mom," he responded matter-of-factly, "it's not my first one. I've done another book at school." Such a pro, that one.

I might be overly-excited and, apparently, have much to learn about the inner workings of the first grade ... but I was still very proud of him. So, I grabbed my camera and started shooting.

Not bad for a first (excuse me ... second) picture book attempt by a first grader. I love the vivid colors ... and, can you see the butterfly? She looks the same on each page ... not easy when each of her four wings features a different pattern!


Now ... the picture book writer in me is wondering if this can be developed further ... into a 32-pager?!

I think I'll add it to my idea list ... because, as my son says, "You just never know!" (That's a whole other post for another day!).

Hope your day is filled with creativity, imagination, and vivid color!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This Space for Rent

Actually, the space in the picture - the Kilauea Point Lighthouse in Kauai - is very much not for rent ... though, if it were, I'd be interested. Actually, this post isn't about rentals at all ... or Kauai ...

I've been quite fortunate with the bosses to whom I've reported in my professional life. One in particular ... the last one to whom I reported before becoming self-employed, is probably the most special to me (don't tell the others!). I often think fondly of her when I'm working, because I can't just pick up the phone (we worked in different states) and run an issue by her or chat with her to ease the stresses of the day. It makes me appreciate the role she played in my professional life all the more!

This week, she sent me a lovely e-mail message with birthday wishes. Her message was filled with the wonderfully clever and subtle humor that I miss experiencing on a daily basis. And, it reminded me of one of my favorite stories about her.

We were in the midst of a very large audit (even when things are functioning fine, audits still manage to bring an immeasurable amount of tension to your work life!). The auditor (a lovely individual, don't get me wrong!) assigned to our division would send us e-mails signed with her name followed by every acronym you could possibly imagine, e.g. Mary Smith, MBA, CPA, CISA.

This was a few years ago, and - at about this same time - many people in the company had taken to adding inspirational phrases to the end of their e-mails. Something like ‘Laugh and the whole world laughs with you’ . . . or maybe something a bit more eloquent and moving. Our auditor had one of those inspirational phrases too.

On one particularly grueling, never-ending day, my boss sent me an e-mail late in the afternoon. Normally, she would just sign her first name. But, on this particular e-mail, she included her first name, middle initial, last name, followed by MBA, SPHR, ABC, FBI, CIA. That alone was enough to make me smile. What made me laugh out loud, was the "inspirational" quote that followed all the acronyms: “THIS SPACE FOR RENT.”

Even in the midst of an audit, she could be counted on to bring a smile to my face and joy to my work. How's that for the best kind of boss?

Have a wonderful weekend -
Kelly S. Hoeckelberg, BBA (even as a joke, it feels silly adding that!)
"If your ship hasn't come in, swim out to it." :-)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Lesson In Imagination

My son’s first grade teacher is coming back from maternity leave this week. As a gift to her adorable new baby Olivia, their lovely substitute teacher had the idea of each child making their own mini 6-page picture book for Olivia. What a fabulous gift!!

As a picture book writer, I thought maybe I would have a good shot at being of assistance to him with this particular project. So, I asked him what he wanted the book to be about. He wasn’t quite sure, so I suggested he make baby Olivia the main character. For example, “There once was a princess named Olivia …” (lame example, I know!). The rest of our conversation went something like this:

Braden: “Oh, let’s make her a butterfly!”

Me: “Wow … what a great idea. That will make for such pretty illustrations too. OK, now, what does Butterfly Olivia do?”

Braden: “I know … a plane flies over her and gives her magical powers!”

Me: “Wow … a plane that gives magical powers … very creative. What kinds of magical powers.”

Braden: “She can grow flowers.”

Me: “Oh, yes, that’s a good magical power … being able to grow flowers everywhere.”

It was at this point that I realized it wasn’t Braden that would need assistance with this project. Instead, I needed to take a few pointers from my 6-year old son. Picture book writers know you write from the perspective of the child, not the adult … but that is easier said than done at times.

For me, this was a great reminder of letting your imagination take over. I would have never thought of a plane that flies overhead distributing magical powers!

Realistic? No.

Fun and creative? Yes.

Could the idea use some editing and further development? Yes … if it was going to become a saleable 32-page picture book written by an adult for children.

Is his book for baby Olivia going to require further editing and development? Not a chance … it is perfect as it is!

Wishing you a day of writing filled with creativity and imagination … and, if you’re lucky, a sprinkling of magical powers from any planes flying high overhead.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

When God Closes a Door ...

Last month, on a very cold, snowy night, with the gas-powered fire pretend-crackling and a million things to do before Christmas arrived, I was quickly flipping through the television channels in search of something entertaining to keep me awake while I accomplished ... well, lots of stuff.

I found "The Sound of Music" and was totally drawn in ... I got nothing else done for the rest of the evening, and went to bed way past the time I had hoped for.

Yes, I've seen it a dozen, maybe more, times (though never from start to finish); yes, I know the story (though, for some reason, the details of their escape ... well, escaped me ... so I had to stay up until the very end to refresh my brain on that little, useless detail!); yes, I know the songs ... but I still had to watch it. Maybe because it is such a gentle, hopeful movie about the love of family, standing up for what you believe, and holding on to the hope that "when the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window..". But, I think it's also because it reminds me of my time as an exchange student in Austria, including a funny little incident involving a certain gazebo in Salzburg.

We traveled to Salzburg in November. My most vivid memory is that of hillsides jam-packed with trees in every shade of Autumn you could possibly imagine, against a brilliant, clear-blue sky. It was like walking into a painting. It was gorgeous.

I also remember our long and comical search for the famed gazebo from 'The Sound of Music'.

Just when we were about to give up looking, we found it. LOCKED! Hours of walking ... and it was locked. I could see inside, but it wasn't the same. I wanted to be inside ... where they had filmed that touching scene between Maria and Captain von Trapp.

So, as you can see, I did what any reasonable college student would do ... I started pulling and yanking on the door. Not that I thought I would get in ... my roommate and I were laughing to the point of tears when she took this picture.

Nonetheless, I still do believe that when God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window ... just not the one to 'The Sound of Music' gazebo.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Creative Minds ...

Mary Engelbreit calendars always have a way of brightening up your desk space. Today's calendar page made me chuckle ... can you see the quote? It says,

"Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training." Anna Freud

Look at the scrunched-up face of the teacher as she eyes the out-of-the-box artist in the front row ... it just cracked me up. My classes were all business classes ... so that's not terribly creative from the get-go.

I did take a pottery class during Jan-term in college. Luckily, though, the fabulous professor had a much more relaxed face and never-ending patience for us 'trying-to-explore-our-creative-side' business (and other non-art related major) types.

Oh, did I create a lot of heavy-bottomed vessels in that class! My dear, sweet family proudly endured, no ... I mean, displayed them on their desks after I distributed them as gifts. So kind of them ... those pieces of 'art' did a fine job holding pencils and pens for many years.

Wishing you a successful day of creative writing, despite any bad training (or scrunchy-faced teachers) you've endured along the way!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Perfect Picture Book for a Cold, Blustery Night

The cover of this book immediately caught my eye as I walked down the school hallway lined with Scholastic Book Fair books. I mean, really ... just look at it. How can you pass by a picture like that without stopping?

"Bedtime for Little Bears!" (written by David Bedford; illustrated by Caroline Pedler) takes the reader on the sweet, nighttime journey of Little Bear and his mother. Little Bear has had a big day and must be exhausted, but is certainly not going to admit to being sleepy. (A nightly occurrence in our household!)

So ... his mother takes him for a walk to see Little Owl, Baby Hare, Little Fox, and Little Whale all in the midst of their bedtime routines. The story is perfectly sweet (not too much; not too little), and the illustrations, like the cover, are stunning ... a perfect fit for this soothing story.

Friday, January 2, 2009

On the 9th Day of Christmas

Happy 2009! Every year, I forget that the 12 Days of Christmas doesn't fall on the first twelve days of December; nor on the twelve days leading up to December 25 ... but, rather, begins ON December 25, lasting through January 5 ... which is then followed by Epiphany on January 6. My New Year's resolution this year is to remember this little tidbit come December 2009!

Remembering this fact about Christmas made me happy. Personally, I don't like the thought of all the happiness, peacefulness, generosity, thoughtfulness, and kindness ending abruptly on December 26. I like the thought of Christmas (and all of its wonderful qualities) 'officially' spilling into the New Year. I'd like to think that people could just act like it's Christmas ALL year long ... doling out extra smiles, giving generously just because it seems like someone needs a little something special ... all that good stuff.

I'm not sure everyone sees things the same way, as was slightly evidenced when we ventured to Target the other day. The parking lot was FULL of cars which, for some reason I can't quite explain, surprised me. Drivers swerved quickly into coveted parking spots, ensuring they made it there before the driver coming from the opposite direction. And the line of people waiting to return Christmas gifts ... I didn't see a whole bunch of extra smiles. We were just there for deodorant and laundry detergent. I actually debated, for a moment, whether the potential for B.O. and dirty clothing was worth maneuvering through the crowds. Those being my least favorite things, however, I decided to proceed.

Despite the fact that Christmas is still officially 'on' ... we took down our decorations yesterday. It was necessary, really, as we are traveling again this weekend for a Christmas celebration with the other side of the family; and, when we return, it's immediately back to meetings, work, and school.

I love Christmas decorations ... so, taking them down is bittersweet. I miss all the lights and sparkles they bring to the home. But, the clutter-phobe side of me secretly enjoys it. Our decorations take up about 4+ large bins ... so, removing that much from our house makes it seem kind of ... empty ... and ultra-clean. Not that the Christmas decorations make it seem cluttered or anything ... it's just that the removal of all of it makes the house seem more open than before.

Of course, my poor children then have to deal with the rotation of toys (see 'clutter-phobe' comment above). Obviously ... there was sufficient 'in with the new' this Christmas ... and, in my house, that means 'out with the old'! Have you ever noticed that a toy not played with in approximately 9 months will suddenly become a child's FAVORITE toy the minute it's about to join the 'to be donated' bag?! It's quite a phenomena, and is currently happening in full force in my house.

Speaking of 'in with the new' ... check out the expressions of joy on these faces! Isn't that the best? Did you get a gift that gave you a similar expression this Christmas? I hope so!