So some, who follow me in various other social media channels, are aware that I am currently in Canada recovering from an eye surgery. Nothing that couldn't be fixed but something that has necessitated a need to stay "grounded" for 8-10 weeks. No flying. This meant that my very patient Dave returned to Barbados after my surgery and I have been not so patiently waiting my own chance to return.
But being "grounded" in an aviation sense has also left me with time to ponder and become "grounded" in other ways.
Nothing "grounds" a person so much as gratitude.
I have become extremely grateful for family!
My sister-in-law Cheryl and brother David hosted us for an extended visit at the beginning of our travels in September due to a nasty cold. They kept us fed, warm, and entertained. Also their support in being the shipping terminus for stock of my author copies of books has been immeasurable! They rival my own very patient Dave in their quiet support!
My sister Andrea and her husband Paul have been keeping me housed during my surgical recovery at their home. Paul and I have been busy playing with dolls...all right, action figures...while preparing for various Christmas festivities such as the Gingerbread Zoom I mentioned in my last post. All will be revealed in coming days as the Zoom is tomorrow! Paul has also chauffeured me around to my various appointments and errands. Andrea and I have spent hours reminiscing, took a small road trip, and I hope I've lightened her load by being available to help with meals being ready when she arrives home from work...
I have become extremely grateful for friends and colleagues!
Sandra in Barbados is keeping Dave busy and pestering him. Tito has been helping keep Dave and our company on track. Various others have helped in numerous ways with moral support--especially my writing friends and Hollis--and then there's Deanna!
Deanna deserves her own fanfare! A former work colleague and long term friend, we gathered for lunch this week. Said lunch made it into a Facebook post on her page about a "Meet the Author" lunch, complete with photos of my books and sales material. It's already generated more traffic to my site than I have had before! So grateful!
While talking to other friends about their various struggles, I have become grateful for little things.
I am grateful for good health and a strong family support system. I am grateful for my wonderful sons who inspire devilish children's books even though they are in their 30s now. I am grateful for cold feet in Canada that remind me how fortunate I am to spend time in Barbados. I am grateful for a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and time to enjoy both and share them with others.
I am grateful to have been able to create and share with you all the four--no, make that five--published books that I have been involved in this year. Writing for adults was a challenge but Hollis helped me pull it together! Writing for children is still my favourite.
Also, VERY grateful for my eyesight! Something we all take for granted but I have a renewed respect for! How could I illustrate without it? How could I see the wonderful bugs, snails, frogs, monkeys, tropical fish, and bizarrely behaved birds who make it into my stories?
Best of all, I am grateful that it sounds like I will make it back to Barbados before Christmas to spend the holidays with Dave and our good friends there. I will be missing so many people from Canada while there, but then, they know they are always welcome.
Gratitude. Grounded. Good grief.
Today's blog has been brought to you by the letter G...
Photo below is me with my sister Andrea on our brief road trip to Victoria BC.
Ah! Christmas is coming, and with it my family's notoriously crazy gingerbread house competition.
I come from a very creative family and the entries are always interesting! There have been log cabins made of pretzels, brick houses made from Nibs, cereal treat castles and, of course, traditional (ish) cookie houses. There have been ponds made from blue gummy candies, sidewalks made out of dog biscuits, and, my personal favourite--a gingerbread biffy. (*our family vernacular for privy, outhouse, or rustic "facilities")
Two years ago, I concocted a chocolate cookie house from a kit but placed Hershey chocolate bar minis on the roof as solar panels and made up a tale of Santa going "green" at the North Pole. It's a bit heavy on Elon Musk and Tesla references, but it made my family laugh. I'll upload it to the end of this blog post for those who wish to read it...
Last year, in Barbados, I discovered gingerbread houses are not part of the local Christmas culture. Ants, presumably, being the reason.
I ordered all sorts of bits and bobs in and managed to create an entry that I stored in the microwave to prevent ants finding it until the big reveal.
It had blue fondant water, and icing pears for seafoam on the shore. Coarse, locally sourced, Barbados brown sugar provided sandy beaches. My "chattel house" was bright yellow with cereal shingles, fondant shutters and doors, and there was a very typical fruit stand out front full of tiny candy fruit. Gummy frogs provided the whistling frogs of Barbados to my scene and I modelled a fondant gecko of slightly larger than scale proportions to perch on the roof. Fruit-loop cereal tree trunks and edible corn starch palm fronds created palm trees. It was a hoot! Although it was tough not to eat the frog gummies...
This year, I am temporarily located with my sister and her husband in British Columbia, recovering from an eye surgery. This means, I am assisting with entries here as well as planning my own.
I can't give away the plans but will post an update when the competition (which, really, everyone wins...) is over! In the meantime, I created this little video for fun.
Warning (tongue in cheek) that this may contain scenes of violence which some viewers may find disturbing. I found them quite delicious!
And before I sign off today, here's my "Green" Christmas tale from 2021:
It’s been very busy
At the North Pole this year
Amid Covid pandemics and
Climate change fears.
Santa’s team is assessing
And doing their part
To reduce their emissions
While not losing heart.
The sleigh’s eco friendly,
Thanks to the reindeer,
But the lights and the workshop
Must revamp I hear.
So they called Elon Musk
(Santa’s favourite lad)
They said, “You’ve been busy
Making Tesla go ‘Plaid’”
“Can you help us?” They asked,
“To make this Christmas Green?”
Elon said “Yes!” and he
Worked with the team.
Assessing their assets
He soon found a way
By setting up Santa’s
New solar array.
On the roof of the workshop
It soaks up the sun
During 24 hour daylight
While the elves have some fun.
Storing the power In the
New power wall,
When it’s time for work, well,
It powers it all!
So remember dear children
That Satan’s gone green
As you enjoy looking at
This holiday scene!
(Below you will find two galleries...2021 and 2022!)
Stumpy, Griffith and Flash greatly enjoyed a recent trip to Scotland.
Our journey began on the East Coast of Scotland where we explored Old Aberdeen while my husbandattended a conference. The geckos were somewhat surprised that there weren't any geckos in the area but made the acquaintance of a few lovely local people who provided directions and historical tidbits on the area. The little guys particularly enjoyed hiking along the River Don and finding the Brig Of Balgownie, as well as exploring some graveyards, St. Machar's Cathedral and of course exploring King's College....
I also did my best to boost the gecko's bank accounts by marketing my book to everyone I met. This gentleman in particular was quite pleased to know he could order the books from Amazon.co.uk making it easy to ship to his home in Aberdeen.
Next stop was up at Culloden near Iverness. We explored Culloden Battlefield and Clava Cairns although a case of the sniffles made it less than enjoyable for small geckos.
Thankfully the gracious and comforting surroundings of the Culloden House Hotel made a lovely place to have the sniffles and staff provided a terrific platter of fresh fruit to speed along their recovery. Of course, a little hot tea and Scottish Shortbread helped as well...
Now, Stumpy informed me he had sent a letter to his cousin Nessie in the Highlands before leaving Barbados and that she was expecting us to meet her near Castle Urquhart. There were severe rain warnings in effect, but our very patient Dave (who guiltily admitted to mailing Stumpy's letter without telling me) agreed to make the stop.
We looked everywhere, including the dungeons, but did not find Stumpy's cousin Nessie anywhere. Perhaps she was kept at home in bed by the sniffles? Or she could have been avoiding the tourists, who were still hanging about in crowds. She's had to let go some of her personal security due to rising costs, and may move somewhere where she is less "known" to the general public. Stumpy thinks we should invite her to the Caribbean where it's warm and there's lots of open water to hide in!
We warmed up with hot chocolate, tea and crisps. (That's what they call potato chips in Scotland. They also refer to french fries as chips...so silly really!)
Our final stop was on the shores of Loch Linnhe near Appin and Glencoe. We spent about a week here, where we visited Dave's father and left behind some copies of Geckos in the Garden for some young relatives. We were also able to share our stories about our friends Bunny, Teddy and McDuff the Cat! If you haven't read them, don't forget to order them.
We visited Castle Stalker, and walked along the shores of the Loch. We played with Harris the Dog. And we found the loveliest little book exchange in an old public phone box.
Then we packed our bags and boarded a plane to head home...kind of. But that's the subject of another blog...
A book tour it is not, but we are travelling nonetheless.
Work and family needs mean my husband and I are travelling through Canada and then Scotland for approximately a month.
It turns out, it's quite hard to get gecko sitters, even in Barbados, so of course we had to bring Stumpy, Gryffyth and Flash along.
The initial excitement was contagious and even I found it hard to sit still as we waited for the plane. Once on board, the geckos were very hard to contain. Fortunately other passengers and the flight attendants were quite understanding.
A brief hiccup in travel plans caused us to overnight in Toronto, but we eventually made it to our first stop in Vancouver, BC.
Stumpy was very keen to see everything, and Gryffyth and Flash were along for the ride it seems. We explored some of my old haunts in North Vancouver, including Lonsdale Quay and some of the walking trails. Below is a gallery of North Vancouver highlights, as seen through the eyes of a gecko (or three)...
So, ladies, gentlemen, children of all ages, assorted bugs and creatures great and small. I address you today on the subject of using my adult voice, and using it for the greater good as well.
Several months ago, I engaged with Ms. Hollis Gross-Citron of Express Yourself Publishing. She had several projects on the go and I opted into two of them. The first is the topic of today's blog.
SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS:
POWERFUL STORIES THAT TRANSFORM LIVES
The burning topic for this project? What would I want to shout from the rooftops? What life lesson or realization would I like to share with the world, to empower them and save them some of the trial and error I have gone through?
Well...that provided a plethora of topic ideas.
I am the first to admit that if there was a direct line to get from where I started to where I am now...I missed it! I hit potholes. I broke axles. I travelled by stage coach and was hit by bandits. Where on earth would I start.
So I started with the obvious spoiler alert:
Not to spoil the ending, but everything is going to be okay.
And I won't spoil the ending. You will have to buy the book and learn the hard way...reading it. It's the first chapter because we went alphabetically by author, but you won't want to stop there.
I have read my advanced copy cover to cover TWICE now. Each time I learned so much more about the amazing women I have been writing and interacting with for over six months. There are 15 incredible stories here including mine.
What did I learn from writing this book?
That while I was taking my creative route, I should have been waving to all the people who were on the same, or similar path. It's really more of an eight-lane motorway. That's right, everyone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! We have all been there or some reasonable facsimile of there.
I describe it as "Chicken Soup for the Soul" meets a cup of coffee with your best friend or favourite aunt. You will go in feeling okay but leave feeling energized, empowered and encouraged.
Offered for only $0.99 (US$) on release day, this Friday, September 15th. Releasing to Amazon Kindle only on this day. Paperback to follow.
Proceeds go to Tappan Consulting to assist with their work, related to Human Trafficking. Click the Tappan Consulting button below to learn more about this great cause!
Empower yourself and Empower others. Best $0.99 you will ever spend!
Another way to contribute to this great cause would be to share this post, and make sure to leave a review of the book when you are done reading it.
Shout it from the rooftops--it's a revelation!
Creativity is something that comes more naturally to me than breathing. Making things to hopefully make people smile brings me great joy! Writing a story to make some small person giggle? Amazing!
But even then, it's not always as simple as you think.
For example...Oscar. An orange and white tabby tom in our neighbourhood who simply moved in and won't leave. (We could probably stop feeding him but then, he's a lovely puss-puss, isn't he?) He's even started worming his way onto...AND into...some of the illustrations. You'll want to watch for him in some upcoming titles...
Another example? Squeak. Her real name is Luna, and she belongs to a neighbour but seems to think that it's more fun to poke around and walk on my painted creations than to stay home. She even naps in the cubby on my desk while I write. Cats. Seriously. But she's beautiful and "squeaky" when she talks.
Then there are the escapades of certain geckos...Gryffyth, Stumpy, Flash and their live gecko counterparts! Nothing can disrupt the day more than discovering, while preparing your cereal, that there is a certain four-legged, fast-moving neighbour who has popped by for breakfast and wants to explore the kitchen in detail...Or you go to take a shower and there's a gecko in there. You can ignore them of course. Or take multiple pictures, create a poem, write a script and film a TikTok video...(please see the link button below)
These things create issues when you have a work deadline. Or a writing deadline.
But they also create endless story idea files, illustration ideas, and plot lines, which is why it is simply NOT that simple!
So, if you take the time to watch the slide show above, you will note the various stages of creation for me as it regards illustration.
If you want to learn more about the steps of creating illustrations, or at least my method, send me your questions and comments in the "Contact Me" form and I will prepare an upcoming blog on the topic.
Now, Oscar wants fed and a gecko just ran into the laundry room so I have some photography to work on...chat soon!
Apologies everyone, for it has been a few weeks since I posted anything to my blog. It has been a busy few weeks as I am now engaged in saving the planet in multiple ways--inspiring a love of reading and therefore helping to increase the cognitive faculties of my fellow humans, and working for a renewable energy company to help save us from ourselves and global warming. It is time consuming, but I digress...
I woke up this morning and two thoughts immediately sprang to mind. The first was that on this day two years ago, my mother passed away. The second was that I needed to do a blog post, and some work on this book business I have started.
I started with the book business. Emails sent, forms completed, proofs approved (watch for things coming soon!), and had some lunch. While I was eating on the patio, and watching the butterflies hovering in the hibiscus and allamanda blossoms, I thought of mom.
Mom was everything gardening. She would have loved to see photos of the plants down here in Barbados--things that would never grow on her farm north of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
She was also everything story. When I was in the Arctic, she loved my emails and sent back questions and reactions. She liked the tales of giant siksik and cheeky snow buntings. She laughed at the Arctic Robins (seagulls) arriving in the spring. She listened on the phone as I told her Inuit legends I was learning. She often told me I should write a book.
She would have loved the tales of cheeky grackles performing their organized crime routines on the birdfeeder while the general public, a.k.a. bullfinches, stay out of the line of fire. She would have laughed at the story of the giant moth tapping at the window. She would have likewise laughed at my tales of another late night visitor, a cane toad, that sneaks out to eat the cat food local strays leave untouched. She would have told me I should write a book.
She would have visited and helped me hunt for geckos and snails. She would have made a squidgy face over some of the creepy crawlies, like milipedes, but watched them with fascination. She would have been happy that I finally wrote a book!
She always read to us as kids. She encouraged reading and sometimes you could even dodge chores if it was a particularly good bit and you promised to someone else's chores the next day. Books were Christmas and birthday gifts. Books were shared around the family. Each time we moved, she would get us library cards in the new town and we would find new books to devour as each community had different collections.
A chair placed in the sun, mom with a book in one hand and a cup of coffee or apple juice in the other. This is how lazy days were passed. In the living room where she could see outside, or on the deck surrounded by flowers and the buzzing of bees, a book close to hand.
She introduced me to Laura Ingalls. She bought me every new "Black Stallion" novel as they came out. She showed us James Herriott's humour and love of animals. She showed us Little Women and Little Men. Anne of Green Gables and friends lined the shelves. There were tales by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. She helped introduce my siblings and I to worlds beyond.
In one home, I would be in my treehouse reading while mom worked in the garden below, occasional offerings of freshly pulled carrots flying up into my hideaway to rouse me into action and helping.
As an adult, books arrived in the mail with crumbs between the pages, sticky notes saying "you'll LOVE this bit" or "get a tissue box, this next bit is tricky". She would tell me a book she enjoyed and I would find a copy. I would send her the same. Books and story became a big thing.
I like to think that, whatever your belief system may be, mom is somewhere quietly reading in a garden. Maybe she used her newest library card to check out one of my books. Maybe she had a copy shipped to her Express Post. I like to think that she is smiling and enjoying it.
I like to think she's telling her friends..."Ruthie finally wrote a book!"
While considering the vagaries
Of his wife's immaturities,
A very patient Dave just rolled his eyes...
For while it is sometimes trying,
He admits there's no denying
That she really isn't much of a surprise!
Reading fine print is not needed
If her warnings, they are heeded,
Her craziness is there for all to see--
Snails and geckos make her happy,
Dogs and cats make her quite sappy,
And she's often outside filming birds and bees.
She tests his patience daily
While smiling quite gaily
But through it all he's come to realise
That though she's a delight
(and she laughs both day and night)
It is Dave, who really wins first Prize!
For patience is a virtue great,
Understanding is a valued trait.
Although this message is precursory...
Ruth is lucky that she found him
And she puts her arms around him
Happiness on our Anniversary!
Forgive the horrible poetry, dear reader. Our anniversary is coming up very soon. Our second anniversary in fact, but the first one we will spend together as family issues necessitated my being away last year.
My friend Hollis says she's waiting for a book about my Very Patient Dave and I think one will be coming. Kicking some ideas around regarding that, but not sure how he would feel about being represented by a tortoise or a lizard so I may have to shelve those ideas and create something more prosaic and human. Horrors!
Very very grateful, however, for this Very Patient Dave who has been here to support me and encourage me with my writing and illustrating. In fact, I wouldn't be illustrating at all if he didn't like my doodles and insist they were good enough for a book!
You are the very best of Dave's and I am so lucky to have you!
Marketing one's book is the thought that gives all authors nightmares, or, at least, that is my impression from numerous blogs, TikTok and YouTube videos, as well as conversations with some of my fellow writers.
It is more to be feared than Writer's Block, Typist's Tendonitis, Illustrator's Interpretation, or, *gasp* the dreaded cramping of Plot Twists! Carpal Tunnel is the least of our worries...
I am not immune to any of the above conditions and I am, in fact, one who suffers from chronic Copious Melodramaticus* and Marketus Horribilus.** (I kid you not...just ask my Very Patient Dave.) So, trepidatiously (adverb meaning "with great amounts of nonessential nervousness"), I embarked on my marketing strategy.
The goal? New York Times Best Seller List for Children's Picture Book.
These lists are based on sales. Sales are based on advertising. Advertising is conversely based on salesmanship. Vicious cycle. Plot Twists incoming...fetch the Advil® ! (no endorsement from the makers of Advil® is implied in this mention, but I will accept fees for promotion if they wish to provide some...)
Enter into the radar a helpful list of book awards for which you can apply or have your publisher apply for you. There are many. If you are a fellow author, use my contact me form and I will send you a list as I've gathered it. There are likely more. Google® is our friend.
I filled in some application forms. I arranged for books to be shipped to the review panels***. I marked dates on my calendar which I then began to check obsessively for deadlines or expected announcement dates. It's worse than wanting your TikTok video to go viral while you sleep, thereby doing all your advertising for you!
Monday dawned. I ate my cereal (which shall go unnamed as General Mills has declined to send me spontaneous cash for mentioning their product previously) and, with great restraint, finally, opened my email app on my phone.
Ta-da! An email with the subject line "Mom's Choice Awards® Decision - Geckos in the Garden". Goosebumps.
I attempted to rip it open with a flourish, but lacking the texture of a paper envelope and accompanying sound of tearing, my cell phone remained intact, with a satisfying but anti-climactic "ping", and filled the screen with the news.
"2023 Mom's Choice Awards® Gold Award"
I was tickled. I bounced around. I interrupted a Very Patient Dave at his computer to give him the news. He was tickled. He bounced around. Well, that may be an exaggeration, but he emailed many people with the news so I know he was chuffed!
There is something satisfying in receiving an Award, as there is with a great review from a reader, or the smile on a child's face when I tell them one of my silly stories. A validation that what I do is not without value. A knowing that I am good enough. A pride in what I do.
When people ask me what I do, instead of "I play all day and call it research for my book..." or "I make up silly stories and draw things to go with them...", I can now say:
"I am an award-winning author and illustrator of children's picture books!"
Now I have to go check my email for 827,463,123.738th time today in case I have finally made that New York Times Best Seller List! And, before I forget...please go buy my totally amazing and 100% organically written children's book! Geckos in the Garden. You'll find it on the Bookstore tab above.
*Copious Melodramaticus is a debilitating condition in which sufferers often make a much bigger deal of something than it is. For example, getting excited about a gecko hanging out on the curtains while you work at your desk and deciding it is your personal friend...or creating an entire blog post out of a book award email.
** Marketus Horribilus is another debilitating condition in which you are forced to brag about your work in the hopes that someone will appreciate it enough to buy it and give it great reviews or perhaps just to shut you up....
***Eternal gratitude to my sister-in-law Cheryl for her assistance with mailing out copies of the book for me. Her patience is endless and she's the World's Greatest Moral Support!
HOLLIS STARTED IT!
I participated in a podcast today with my good friend Hollis Gross-Citron (www.aimcreativephilly.com and her podcast is on Podbean under "Creative Conversations with Hollis Citron") in which we discussed creativity.
This truly got me thinking about creativity and how it affects each and every one of us. What I am going to do today is answer some of those questions.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE CREATIVITY?
My answer on this one is quite simple. I do not define creativity. Creativity defines me.
Any incident or situation. Any conversation or glimpse of something unique. Literally anything can spark something in me. A thought I express will sometimes merit immediate notation in my notebook. A flower or the curl of a vine may merit immediate recording with my phone camera.
Summing this up, it's that being open to those inspirations and ideas, and being willing to see them through childlike curiosity, is in and of itself creativity. What you do with those ideas (performance art, painting, writing, music) is magic. Everyday magic that comes from small things and blossoms into something that may or may not be your magnum opus...
Creativity hits me and I must react.
HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE IT IN YOUR LIFE?
Well for one, dear reader, I write books and silly poetry which you, graciously, purchase and, hopefully, enjoy! I also draw and paint. I take photographs. I make videos. I create!
I carry a notebook everywhere and I make sure I have more than one pen with me as well. (There is nothing more catastrophic and angst inducing that having your pen dry out or run out of ink mid-stream of a creative outpouring.)
I create videos to make my friends smile or to convey a message to them. I make up words to songs when the tune is stuck in my head but I don't know the real words. When my children were small, they were part of these exercises because the magic of creativity must be shared. Also because collaborations are wonderful!
I've even used it in auditing when working as an accounting tech because if you lose the trail, thinking outside the box can help you find it again.
The key here is that you must incorporate it in your life. It is part of the magic and adventure. Creativity is the seasoning in your sauce! The sprinkles on your ice cream! The snooty plating that would make a Michelin starred chef weep. (Even if you only made macaroni and cheese with a side of hotdogs...it's all about the presentation, dahling!)
WHY IS CREATIVITY IMPORTANT?
Creativity is important because:
That last one is the most important one for me. If life is not an adventure, then why are we even here?
YOUR MISSION, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT:
Be child-like in the way you experience the world. See it as if you've never seen it before. Relive that magic of discovery. You can do the adulting later on. Now eat your peas!
Be open to the inspiration the world around you is sending your way. You don't have to write or draw or dance or sing or act. You just have to be open to magic. Maybe the smell of fresh earth made you think of garden vegetables and rekindles your love of cooking. Maybe that flowering shrub you passed on the way home from work makes you think about those vibrant coloured cushions you saw for your patio. Maybe you will just fall asleep deeply and soundly for the first time in years to dream of worlds you've never been to.
Be your truest self. When you express how things make you feel (communicating them to those around you through conversation or through some other creative form), people see the real you. The real you is AMAZING!!