Staying Uphill

I have to face facts. I've been in a downhill funk with my writing for over a year now. My dad passed away February 2015 and ever since then, I've been finding it extremely hard to write. My whole 2015 felt like I was walking around in a tear filled fog that went by so quickly, I barely remember it.

All in all, I didn't do much writing last year but have regained my momentum, somewhat. However, for 2016 I am trying to spend my main focus on promoting the books that I have published versus concentrating so much on getting another manuscript accepted. This year, I have two more picture books coming out so I need to find more productive ways of promoting myself.

But it's a constant struggle. I am not a sales or marketing person so selling myself is extremely hard. I've been trying all that I know, but that isn't much. And it's not paying off very well. I've spent some money this year on advertising, but so far, that isn't paying off either.

I'm almost convinced that you have to be someone to sell a book. It's very disheartening since I'm a complete unknown nobody! Most of the people I know, which isn't many, have been sweet enough to support me but it's the ones that I don't know that I can't seem to reach. Being a writer is a constant uphill, downhill battle and the saying that "you really have to love it to do it" is absolutely spot on! I do love most things about this business and I worked extremely hard to get to where I'm at today, so I don't intend on ever giving up. I just need to find a formula that will work for me so I can climb the hill back up!

One of the biggest rewards in this business of writing for children for me is when I see a child who loves my books. When I'm at a book signing and a child comes up and loves the way my books look and their little face lights up when I tell them what it's about, is all the clarity I need to convince myself  this is my calling. I'm doing this for a reason! No matter how frustrating it gets.

Last week was a bad one for me. I was feeling defeated and depressed after working on my taxes. Well who doesn't, right? Anyway, it didn't last long because I received two beautiful photo's that brightened my day. This first one is my great nephew, Lincoln. He just got a new baby sister so I sent her a "welcome to the world" gift but didn't want to leave little Lincoln out. So I sent him my newest picture book, Cookies for Punch, along with some pretend dog ears to play like he was turning into a dog like the character in my book. Poor little Lincoln was born almost 2 years ago very prematurely. He spent the first few months of his life in the hospital. But he's a strong boy and bounced back with the speed of lightening! He has quite the personality too, one in which picture books should model their character by (and yes, my little mind is brewing up ideas). Anyway, to see him doing so well and enjoying my book so much, makes everything I had to do to get that book published, more than worthwhile.

Isn't he the cutest!!

This second photo is the grandson of my friend, Deborah Lynne. I don't know him personally, but feel like I do from everything his grandma has told me about him. Thanks for letting her take your photo, Eli!!

I just wanted to share all of this with any of you writers out there that might be feeling frustrated. You aren't alone, Not one bit. I think even the most successful authors have these same uphill, downhill battles. So don't give up. Any reward you might receive, even a photo, will show you that it's all worth it.

Spotlight on Children's Author, Maria Ashworth

I'm so pleased to be bringing to your attention a new children's picture book author, Maria Ashworth. I sat beside her at a recent book signing event and was so impressed with her work that I wanted to feature her on my blog.

Here is what she had to say about her new book Step One, Step Two, Step Three, and Four, her process, and what made her write this very entertaining story.

A young girl's world is turned upside-down when her mother tells her she's getting remarried. Along with the ring comes a few more, Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four. The girl will do whatever it takes to keep the "steps" out of her life. She eventually realizes there are some benefits to her new blended family.

This picture book was nominated as a finalist in the picture book category for the 2012 National Association of Elementary School Principals contest.

I divorced after 18 years of marriage. It was devastating for the kids and me but we managed through it. My two kids didn’t mind me dating, and I didn’t think blending children would be an issue. I met a man who had five kids. When my daughter saw the seriousness of the relationship things changed. She didn’t want step-siblings touching her things, sharing her bathroom much less her mom.  We married despite her reservations.

I viewed libraries and bookstores looking for books on blending families. They had books on having a new mommy or daddy, or living in two houses. But none touched the subject of blending children. I didn’t plan on writing a book but tried my hand at making her a little story about her transition. I showed it to my husband and he thought I had something. 

My daughter beamed because now there was a story about her transition. We blended our children before the story got put into a book.

She adjusted early on and learned there were some good things about having these step kids. She realized she could boss them around, dress them up and when in a bind, blame stuff on them.

I wrote it lyrically to make it more appealing. I tried it in prose and it didn’t feel right to me. The book emphasizes sharing, caring and acceptance. I wrote the book to make children understand that it’s not all bad. That there will be an adjustment period but your parent will always be your parent. And they will always love you. No one will take that away from them. I wanted them to see that things can change for the better. That some good can come from it. The unknown can be pretty scary especially in children. The book can help with the transition. I believe Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four has a place on a shelf in every household whether blended or not.

I had always had a love for writing since I was young. I didn’t take it seriously until I journaled my divorce. I thought that women would really benefit from my story. There is an empowerment to my journey. Right after, Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four was born. I told myself then that I was going to get serious about my writing career. And my husband was behind it. I became a member of SCBWI in 2009. My first conference was in Houston/Katy, Texas. It put the fire in my belly. A week later I formed a weekly critique group with other writers. We’re 7 years strong with a lot of success stories under our belt. I acquired an agent two years ago. She worked on getting TOMMY JAMES and MY BIG TREE into a house. TOMMY JAMES went to the editor’s round table. So close but no contract. I know one day TJ and the rest of my manuscripts WILL be in picture books soon. I’m agent free now and independently published.

All my stories come from experience. I have forty-eight manuscripts waiting to get in the hands for children and adults to read. I love to tell stories and can’t see myself doing anything else.  

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Allyn's Review

I’m so impressed with this first time author, Maria Ashworth’s debut picture book, Step One, Step Two, Step Three, and Four. I would give this a huge 5 star rating.

Not only is this an important story for any blended family, but it’s also just fun. Written in rhyme, the author gets a strong message across that things aren’t as bad as they might first seem. In fact, life can be even better than it was before!

At first, the little girl is terribly worried that her mom is going to get married and she’s just not sure she likes this new man named, Larry. “What’ll happen to our family of two?” She likes the attention centered on her. What if this new man has boys to bring in to the family? “There’d be frogs and worms, smelly socks and disgusting germs!”

With colorful and detailed illustrations, this charming story made me laugh. It also had a very satisfying and fun ending.

I not only highly recommend this adorable picture book to anyone who might be introducing their children into a blended family, but to anyone who enjoys a well written and funny read.