Blessings in the Chaos

Chad and I had an amazing opportunity yesterday to go and give not one, but eight separate author/illustrator talks at the library of the Elementary school to several different classes ranging from 3rd to 6th grade. Over 300 students!

The week leading up to to this day had been a struggle to say the least. Chad threw his back out and all of my kids were hit with a particularly nasty stomach bug. The first night I hauled their beds out to the living room and parked myself on the couch. Then all night long, I listened for signs of a potential eruption and shoved a bucket under their little faces. I got good too. I got fast. I could go from dozing to holding back hair in 2 seconds flat. Not to brag, but I’m kinda a puke sensing ninja.

It’s interesting to see how your kids personalities come out in times like this. My 6 year old became very sad just wishing it would be over and she’d feel better. My 4 year old became angry and screamed and gritted her teeth when her stomach hurt.  My 16 month old… well she just seemed cuddly and confused.

Anyway, I kept hoping they would be better before the big day, but it really hung on. After about 4-5 days of virtually no sleep, it was time for Chad and I to go do our author/illustrator talks at the school.

We prepared as much as we could the day before. Luckily I already had a pretty solid talk planned from when I spoke for Chad’s classroom. We just added a power point presentation to accompany it, and Chad planned his own little talk about his illustration work that he would give directly after mine. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep or the fact that I had given the book talk once before, but I was a little less nervous this time. At least I thought I was until we arrived.

The first talk was for a room full of fifth graders, but I could swear they looked older than that. I was looking around the room and suddenly wishing I’d had Chad give his talk first, when I was given the cue to start. I started out a little shaky. I could hear the quiver in my voice, but I cleared my throat and went on. I’m thankful for the the power point because it helped me stay on track. About midway through, I was feeling pretty good. The kids were attentive and had some great questions at the end.

There wasn’t much time to celebrate and take a breath though, because as soon as we got done talking to them, the next class was lined up at the door.  My voice started giving out a little during the 3rd and 4th talks, but a lunch break and throat lozenges helped me get through the second half of the day.

Overall it was a great experience. The kids were so excited to hear from a real author and illustrator. I felt like a celebrity. For all they knew I was like J.K. Rowling and Chad was Picasso. Several of the kids had even read my book already. The librarian said that since they got my book in they haven’t been able to keep it on the shelves. They managed to track down two copies for the event and had the kids put their names on slips of paper for the chance to check them out. Pretty flattering! Who knows if it will result in any sales, but it’s so cool to know that my book is being read and enjoyed.

It’s funny, if you would have told me just a year ago that I would be speaking to over 300 kids I would have laughed and then felt sick to my stomach at the mere thought of it. But I did it. I actually did it! When we walked out that door at the end of the day, I felt relieved but I also felt so amazed. God had given me the strength to get through something that absolutely terrified me like nothing else. How great is that?

Now I have another great opportunity on April 8th from 1-3 to do a book signing with Chad at the Tukwila Barnes & Noble. Some of the kids from the elementary school might even show up to say hi. Even though this past week has been rough with sicknesses and injuries, I am so thankful that I keep getting great opportunities like this to get out and meet potential readers and to grow as a person. If you look, you’ll always find blessings in the chaos.

Emily Steward’s Path to Publication

My path to publication story!

Christi Corbett's Blog

Today’s Path to Publication is by Emily Steward. Without further ado, here’s Emily…

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emily-bio

Even before I knew what a writer was, I loved to tell stories. One of my first memories is telling bedtime stories to my mom and brother. After they fell asleep, I would continue to tell the story for a long time afterward. I even used to tell stories to God because I figured he got tired of just hearing everyone’s problems all day.

In kindergarten, I discovered the people who create stories are called writers. I decided then and there, that one day I would become a writer. My teacher was extremely encouraging and I attribute a lot of my early writing passion to her.

Over the years, my dream went by the wayside, but it was always in the back of my mind. After taking a few writing classes from a local college, I…

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Plot Bunnies

If you aren’t familiar with the term plot bunnies, it basically means an idea that wont go away and must be written. Plot bunnies, like real bunnies, often duplicate and they lead to more and more plot bunnies and great ideas.

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Well it occurred to me today, that mine are more like plot gremlins. They seem like a good idea at first.

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Cute, right?

But once they start replicating, and I work on the ideas after midnight, they get out of control and soon I just want to throw them in a blender.

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This week I’ve been trying to refine the plot points in my book and get them to make sense and mesh well with book one. I’m about 14,000 word in and today I’m realizing those cute furry ideas have officially turned into mischievous troublemakers.

It’s really difficult, because my perfectionist side wants this book to come out just right. Not too much exposition, just enough description, and plenty of action. But since I am not a planner, this can be really hard to achieve. Sometimes the plot gets away from me and I end up spending way to much time one one thing, and not enough on another. Or I just plain get stuck and decide to write a silly post about gremlins instead of trying to sort it out. I sure hope I can get these guys under control soon. Even if they are gremlins, they are my gremlins and I believe they are still good deep down.

Wish my luck guys! I’m about to dive back in.

 

My First School Visit

Today was the big day! The day of my first school visit. For any of you that know me, doing anything involving public speaking is a big deal. I’d been practicing what I was going to say over and over until I could practically say it all in my sleep. In fact I think I may have said it in my sleep at some point.

Yesterday I even bribed the girls with Otter-pops if they would sit down and listen to my presentation. I figured if I could hold the interest of a 5 year old and a 3 year old, the third graders would be no problem. The 3 year old only ran off once and the 5 year old sat enthralled the whole time, so I’d call that a win. They had some great questions when it came time for the Q&A period too. I think one of the questions was, “I like Minecraft!” Not so much a question, more of an informative declaration. Overall it was a great test run.

A few days ago, Chad even brought home some questions the kids in his class were thinking of asking me. This gave me a great opportunity to see what I might expect. Apparently I needed to nail down who my favorite Pokemon was because that was on several kids’ question cards.

This morning I woke up feeling prepared, yet still a bit terrified. I arrived at the school a few minutes early, and after checking in at the office and getting my visitor badge, I soon found myself sitting in a tiny chair outside the classroom, waiting for Chad to get the students prepared.

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While I waited, I tried to remember one last time what I had prepared to say. Wait, what did I prepare??? It took me a moment, but I managed to remember the gist of the first part of my talk. I just needed to remember the beginning, and hopefully the rest would flow.

They were ready, so I walked up to the front, all eyes on me. I started out a little rough, but the kids were really engaged! So engaged that it was a little intimidating. But after I got going I started to get in a good rhythm. When the time came for me to do the reading, they were doing so well that I read the slightly longer version because I thought they could handle it. I was a bit concerned it would be too much and I might lose them, but they were great! I could tell they were really listening. So cool! When I came to the end they even wanted to know the exact page number so they could find out what happened next. I also got to use this cool spider prop of a mechanical Hangman Spider from my book. The kids loved that!

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Oh also, my highlight of the day was when I asked them what their favorite books were, and one boy said his favorite book was mine. I asked if he had read it and he responded “No, but I like it!” I hope he feels the same after reading it. After I was done I handed out some coloring pages of the artwork in the book, along with some bookmarks.

All on their own, the students started lining up for me to sign their bookmarks, coloring pages, and random slips of paper. It was very sweet and flattering. What a great first experience!

There was one point I really tried to hammer home during my talk. When you are writing as with most things in life, you can’t expect it to be perfect the first time. Sometimes you just need to jump in and get started, knowing that with each thing you write the better you will get. The same could be applied my school visit today. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but if I waited for perfection or if I waited until I was comfortable, I would never talk in front of an audience. As with writing, I hope I can learn from my experience and get better and better each time. There are no mistakes, just revisions waiting to happen.

Book Release

Hi guys! Sorry I haven’t updated in a while, but life has been a whirlwind. My book was released in eBook format in September and this October it came out in paperback! Of course the moment it was available on Amazon I was tempted to order a copy even though I put in an order to get some directly from the printer. I resisted, but Chad couldn’t and ordered one on Amazon just in case it might come quicker. 🙂 It didn’t and I got a cute little single book on the exact same day my boxes of books arrived. I can’t even begin to tell you the joy I felt opening that first box and unwrapping that book… MY book. So surreal. It looked so professional and the artwork on the cover looked even better on the actual book than I imagined!

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Following this amazing moment, my book release party was scheduled and it was a great success! So many friends and family came out to show their support of Chad and me. It really made us feel loved. We are so blessed to be surrounded by people who want to see us succeed and are truly happy for us.

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Now I just need to keep up the momentum! Currently, I am trying to get the word out on my book. I’ve been leaving a trail of bookmarks everywhere I go, plus I plan to do my first school talk next week at Chad’s class. I am so nervous, but I know it will be a good thing. I just have to completely push myself and hope I don’t actually die. It does seem possible. I can see the headlines now. ‘Local Author Dies of Mortification While Speaking in Front Of 3rd Graders.’ If you don’t hear from me after next week, you’ll know what happened.

Cover Reveal!

Hi everyone,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any updates, but I’ve been keeping busy. With help from some amazing friends, I’ve finally sent it my final, final edits. My illustrator, Chad Steward (who also happens to be my husband) has also been busy. He not only finished my amazing cover, he also added fifteen illustrations to the book! I am so happy with how everything turned out, and I absolutely cannot wait to see it in print. Today, I am ecstatic to finally share my cover with you all!!!

So, without further ado, here is the cover for my upcoming middle grade fantasy, ‘Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure.’

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BONUS: Additionally, here is a sneak peek at just a few of the highly detailed, wonderfully drawn illustrations you will find inside the book.

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Don’t forget to look for ‘Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure’ September 8th on Cleanreads.com, Amazon.com, and Barnesandnoble.com.

Chocolate Cake and Lessons from Roald Dahl

Got my line edits turned in to my editor today! I think there is just one more round of edits after this, which is a good thing because I am getting a wee bit sick of my own novel… I feel a little like poor Bruce Bogtrotter from Matilda. If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend reading it or at least watching the movie. It’s by my favorite author, Roald Dahl.

In the story, Bruce sneaks a piece of chocolate cake, so the evil Miss Trunchbull makes him eat a whole huge chocolate layer cake in front of the assembly at school. When he eats the first piece, he doesn’t seem to mind too much. Chocolate cake? Yeah, why not? But then the cook brings out the rest, and after awhile he doesn’t look so good.

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Editing is not difficult in small quantities. Not as good as chocolate cake of course, but it can be fun. After the third forth or fifth read through though, I find myself relating to this feeling. Uhhh, so much cake… I mean, editing.

But right when Bruce looks like he’s about to explode, something amazing happens. The other students start cheering for him and chanting his name. Bruce takes on that cake with a renewed enthusiasm, and against all odds, he vanquishes the chocolate beast. He is triumphant and all the students cheer!

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You inspire me Bruce. If you can do it, so can I. This whole writing journey really has been a lesson in determination and trying to beat the odds, and that’s one of the main themes throughout Matilda.

Of course, Trunchbull is furious with Bruce for beating her and smashes the cake platter over his head. Then he lets out an enormous burp. Not sure how that applies, but not all analogies are perfect. In any case, I am getting really close to finishing my literary cake. Just a few more mouthfuls of  misplaced commas and typos to devour!

Cover art coming soon…

Greetings! I have a few updates to report to my loyal and devoted followers (all two of you last time I checked, with one of them being me.)  I announced some great news on Facebook last week that I want to share here as well. It has been a dream of mine for quite a while that somehow my husband Chad might be able to use his artistic talents to create either a cover, or illustrations for my book. Deep down I didn’t think this could actually happen unless I self-published my novel. Once I signed with a publisher, I resigned myself to the idea it was just a pipe dream.

One evening, after talking to Chad about a few ideas I had in mind for a cover, he decided to give designing it a shot. I hadn’t spoken to the publisher about the idea, but even though it could mean all the work might be for nothing, he still wanted to try. For many nights he drew and re-drew the front cover until it was just right. The result was amazing and even better than I imagined! So then it came down to the moment of truth… showing it to the publisher.

I typed up what I’m sure was a rambling mess to Stephanie Taylor the owner of Clean Reads. Then I attached the picture, held my breath, and hit send. Within seconds a reply was in my inbox. She loved it, and could he remove a small line she didn’t like. Well of course he could! I had him remove that line so good all the other lines are still shaking in fear. I couldn’t believe it! My dream. Our dream. Chad’s art is going to be on the cover of my book! I’m still smiling about it and it’s been a week. I can’t wait to show it to everyone. Stay tuned for a cover reveal! Soon, very soon.

Things are moving quickly. I just got assigned an editor for content edits. I have an editor! How cool is that? Maybe even cooler, she gave me a deadline. I had a writing deadline. Seems so official and grownuppy doesn’t it? Just for fun I told Chad, “Yeah, my editor is breathing down my neck.”

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It sounded awesome when I said it out loud, trust me. I’ve already gone through the first round of edits. I expected these to be the most lengthy, but they were quick and painless. Now I’m waiting on the next round which will hopefully go just a smooth.

 

Onward!

I finally got my pre-edits done for Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure! These are the edits that the publisher recommends to all authors to save time before they get assigned to an official editor. It includes things like removing excess use of your character names, excess pronouns, removing unnecessary adverbs and commonly overused words like really and very, making sure each sentence in each paragraph begins with a different word, and formatting the manuscript to certain specifications.

I had to read through the silly thing several times to hit all these points and I’m sure I still missed a few changes I could have made. To give you an idea how much I cut out, here are some stats (don’t you just love stats?)

The word “Very”  -37 times

The word “Really” -64 times

Misc. words: -78

The name “Crane”-131 times

The name “Penny” -293 times

Adverbs: -754

That makes a grand total of 1357 words removed!

Whew! You are welcome future editor assigned to my piece. hqdefault

YEEAH, YOU ARE WELCOME.

So now the waiting game begins. After I’m assigned to an editor I work with them to do three more rounds of edits. First they edit for content, then line edits, followed by proofing and a final galley read through. According to the publisher, the whole process usually takes about 3 months. That means it could be out as early as September! For now I plan on getting some work done on the next book in the series.

Onward!

 

Time Capsule

I wanted a spot where I could really concentrate on writing, so Chad helped me get an area in our room ready. While we were cleaning, I ran across an old purse of mine still stuffed with various bits of junk I was too busy (or lazy) to go through at the time I switched to a new purse.

At first I dreaded the idea of going through it, but as I pulled out old gum wrappers and dried out make up, I discovered a few fun pieces of my past. It was like a time capsule buried in the bottom of the closet, waiting to be uncovered.

imageFrom left to right: Paint chips from when we first moved into our house after we got married, a movie ticket and 3D glasses from the movie we saw at universal on our honeymoon, a to-do list of all the things that needed to be done before the wedding, and a paper of me practicing writing Emily Steward either before or right after we got married.

It was so cool to uncover this nearly 8 year old capsule from such a fun, exciting time in my life. A lot has happened since then, both good and not so good. But even our most difficult moments have been full of love and I wouldn’t change a thing.

I highly recommend everyone bury a full purse or wallet in your closet for eight years. It’s really facinating!