Children of the Gifted Network – The future Mary Oliver’s and Basho Matsuos of tomorrow

On Saturday, September 21, I taught a writer’s workshop for the children in the Gifted Support Network at Spencer Creek Library in St. Peters, Missouri.

My husband assisted me… nine and ten-year olds tend to be a little energetic.

The first part of the workshop dealt with the components of a picture book, developing a story, and using a storyboard. Some of the children chose to pen their ideas first, then draw. Others drew, then created. Some of them found this part a bit challenging. But by first break, six children completed six stories and offered to read them aloud.

After break, we dove into “What is a poem?”

I explained to them how a poem can be about anything – it may or may not have punctuation, it’s  how you feel, what you see, what you hear, or even what you touch.

I brought objects for them to help stir ideas for writing – a pearl, a seashell, a small piece of rope, a pebble from a lake, a building block, and an ink stamp. I spoke of different poetry styles – free verse, rhyming, Haiku, and shape poems.

Their creativity kicked into high gear with this exercise, all very excited to use their talents and imagination. As they finished their poems, they called me over to read their poetry. What beautiful masterpieces they produced. I asked if they would like to read to the class, and after they shared, they went on to work on another!

Sophia penned an emotional free verse poem about nature, adding illustrations to her words.

Jace chose to write two shape poems that rhymed – one inside of a mushroom cloud, the other inside a campfire. Amazed at how small he could write, the poems fit perfectly inside the shapes.

Anna wrote a very sweet free verse poem about pearls. I watched as she touched the pearl thinking about how to pen her thoughts.

Mya wrote a funny poem about getting rope burn, in keeping with her carefree personality.

Andrew wrote ten Haiku poems, many about nature and the sea. He loved reading to the class (and me).

Lucia designed an apple shape poem about an apple. She insisted on using markers, and the poem turned out very colorful and detailed.

On the whiteboard, my husband, designed a shape poem using the word L O V E. (I think he wrote it for me.)

Collectively, the children (and hubby) all created a poem, which I scribbled furiously on the whiteboard (because their minds were in overdrive). Each child recited the first thing that came to mind. I was moved to hear a poem about nature.

Using their words, I edited by placing only line breaks.

The final masterpiece is below  –

 

The wind is whistling

through the trees

and swirls through the grass

that sways.

The breeze

makes the waves ripple.

The smell of the ocean

has me in a daze.

 

The seagulls quietly murmur,

and soar

near the seashore.

Small

silver

fish

dart in the water.

 

In the far distance,

the water shimmers.

A dolphin catches my eye

and it appears

to glimmer.

 

Why is the tide never so high?

 

By Jace, Andrew, Lucia, Sophia, Mya, Anna and Russell

——-

I’m proud of them thinking so quickly and working together as a team.

At times, some of the children lost focus, with half of the group erupting into a giggle fest. Once they understood their time limits, they pushed pencils to paper.

I can definitely say that some of them may even grow up to be future Walt Whitman’s, Mary Oliver’s, Barbara Kingsolver’s and Basho Matsuos.

Peace, Love, and Sand Dollars,

Sheree

______________________________-

Sheree K. Nielsen is the award-winning author of four books  –

Her newest poetry and photography collection, Mondays in October, is her love song for the beach, and her eternal companion water. She’s dedicated the book to the Siteman Cancer Center Nurses who helped her make chemotherapy more bearable.

Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets, based on her adventures (Chanticleer Semi-Finalist for Nonfiction Guides – Insight and Instruction)

Folly Beach Dances is her 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, a healing coffee table book inspired by her lymphoma journey

and coauthor of, Midnight the One-Eyed Cat, 2019 Chanticleer Little Peeps First Place Winner for Early Readers, Montaigne Medal Finalist, and Foreword Indies Review Finalist

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is here! Happy Book Birthday!

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is finally here! Her book birthday is today!

Five years ago if you had told me I’d be publishing a children’s picture book with an author friend, Pat Wahler, I would have said you were crazy.

But at that time, a little seed was planted by my husband who made the comment that Midnight, our black cat, looked like a one-eyed cat with a feather in her hat, the way her tail plumed above her like a periscope when she pranced about the house.

“That’s a really great book title,” I said with confidence. “I’m going to scribble that down and pin it to my bulletin board in my office.”

He said, “Why thank you for thinking that.” Of course, I chuckled.

Every day as I walked past that bulletin board, I stared at the piece of white paper written with the book title written in blue colored pencil.”

Two years passed.

Suddenly, one morning I awoke from a dream I had about Midnight. I quickly grabbed my notepad, thoughts pouring out easily, and wrote an entire story in fifteen minutes. The ending and certain parts of the storyline needed tweaking, so I called my author friend Pat Wahler to collaborate on the story to make it perfect.

After querying agents and publishers, we received a response from a small indie publisher in St. Louis (Amphorae), who seemed interested. They mentioned how they loved the message of courage, confidence, and overcoming disabilities. Would we be willing to making a few changes, and resend the manuscript back to them for review? We agreed. That was three years ago.

Believe me when I say it wasn’t easy. There were at least six edits (maybe more) on this children’s book of approximately 450 words. All the while, we were hoping for a certain illustrator to come into the picture — Janelle Dimmett. We loved her style and use of color.

After Janelle was hired to illustrate, it was then up to her to interpret our story. Janelle also went through many illustration updates to coincide with the book’s message.

Fast  forward to today.

I am so proud of this book and the message of “it’s okay to be who I am, just the way I am.”

With the help of Midnight’s best friend, a three-legged white rat named Starlight, and a bunch of bird buddies, she gains the confidence and courage to realize she was already okay, just the way she was.

So welcome Midnight to the world.  Happy book birthday!

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Midnight, 18 years old, (pictured above) was extremely impressed she was the inspiration for this story!

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is available on Amazon, and can be requested at your bookstores and libraries.

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Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat – How a Cat (or Dog) Can Soothe Your Soul & Inspire You to Write a Book

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The soft nudge of a cat’s nose against your cheek, the sloppy wet kisses of a blue-eyed Australian Shepherd on your eyelid – no wonder we love animals so much.

I have a friend that sometimes comes over and watches tv, and often tells me, “It’s so comforting to have your pets around.

Our big goofball (part Bernese Mountain Dog, part Aussie) loves to flirt, belly side up and wag his tail.

Our little girl kitten hops up on my lap, and snuggles on her grey security blankie.

I could go on and on about my pets, but there’s one girl in particular, who my husband rescued on a snowy, wintry night nearly 13 years ago, covered in motor oil, hiding under his car, who holds a special place in my heart. With the intentions of merely fostering, Midnight spent 10 days in the master bathroom de-fleaing, de-worming, and getting to know us. By then, we were in love with her sweet disposition.

Midnight, our black cat, just turned 18 years-old this week. That’s something to celebrate.

Something else to celebrate – she was the inspiration for the children’s book Pat Wahler and I co-wrote together, MIDNIGHT, THE ONE-EYED CAT.

For two years, I stared at a book title scribbled on a piece of paper, pinned on my office bulletin board. A book title that my smart, cute, clever husband came up with – THE ONE-EYED CAT WITH A FEATHER IN HER HAT.

They say sometimes if you write down your goals and read them every day, eventually they come to fruition.

The story, inspired by a dream I had, came true after I penned a poem, and phoned my friend Pat to brainstorm about creating a picture book.

A book deal and several years later, MIDNIGHT, THE ONE-EYED CAT, is available on Amazon pre-order, with a printing publication date of September 2018.

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The ‘real life’ Midnight, who loves her butter and whip cream, inspires me to be a better person every day. Yes, a ten pound, 18-year old cat, inspires me to be a better person.

She loves her canine stepsister and brother so much, she cleans them every day. And when I rescued a pregnant stray two years ago, Midnight adjusted her comfortable life to include more cats. (We kept two of the kittens.)

Real life Midnight is resilient, positive and confident. She ‘talks’ to me when she wants something, has the loudest purr, snuggles on your lap, gives cat scratch kisses, and holds her own with the other pets.

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat (the book version) who is bullied by other cats, learns to be ‘the best she already is’ with the help of her best friend, Starlight.

I hope the real life Midnight sticks around to see the book version in print.

Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Peace out and love,

Xoxo

Sheree

 

 

 

 

Feeding Yourself – Increasing Positive Energy; Decreasing Things that Suck Energy

Yesterday, I met a writer friend for coffee, tea and conversation at our favorite coffeehouse – Van Buskirk Chocolate Bar, Cottleville, Missouri. The conversation was easy, as it always is with this friend.

Serendipitously, another friend, who I hadn’t seen since in a couple of months, just happened to be hanging out, working on his laptop. I noticed him as I stepped inside the door.

We greeted each other with a hug and a smile. I asked how he was doing, and he spoke briefly about his new endeavor.

At one point, we invited him to pull up a chair and chat with us. I knew this man designed beautiful websites and inspirational videos. I asked for some marketing advice about our forthcoming picture book, Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat, due out in September (Amphorae).

It was effortless listening to him speak, and before we knew it, three hours had flown by. We agreed to think about his ideas and get back to him.

I bid my writer friend goodbye with a hug, knowing we would see each other soon – connected by a project and similar interests.

I also hugged my male friend and bid goodbye. But the goodbye morphed into another conversation. A conversation about being fed – spiritually, emotionally, visually and creatively – and the energy that accompanies those specific points.

He often suggested to friends or clients to reflect on their own lives by making a list to identify which people, places and even actions, feed energy levels, or suck energy levels.

I began to think about his advice in terms of motivation, focus and goals in my own life.

I quickly realized that my fur babies, nature, song, dance, art, sunshine and exercise are a positive force in my life. At different times, my husband can be positive, neutral and even negative. (Sorry dear) Certain friends are always positive. Some friends fall in all three categories at one time or another.

So, what’s a person to do?

Spend more time with those people that give you positive vibes. Hang out where people are uplifting. Spent more time in nature, if that’s your thing. Needlepoint, paint, draw – whatever lifts your energy level.

The opposite is true for things that suck energy. Decrease those aspects.

For me lately, social media sucks energy. Often times, it’s so depressing. So, I’ve vowed to limit my social media time to a minimum per day.

As a writer, it’s hard to get away from social media, altogether. It’s an important aspect of networking, connecting with readers, and even selling yourself.

Since nature uplifts me, I spent more time with the pooches yesterday walking our property. Normally, I rush right through it, hoping they will do their business, get some exercise, so I get can back to writing.

Yesterday was more of a ‘meander’. Sure, it took longer, but we observed nature’s splendor and noticed the small things along our journey.

Things like –

The way the sun reflected on the slightly budding, yet naked trees and caramel-hued earth in my favorite part of the clearing.

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The carvings in the smooth telephone pole, and shiny metal inspection tags left by the lineman over the years.

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Twisted, tangled, fairy tale branches, leaning into another tree trunk for support.

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A hollow depression in a log carved by some creature exhibiting ragged edges, wedged horizontally against a knobby trunk.

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The way my blue-eyed Pretty Dog pondered life intently studying the landscape.

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The wet, pungent leaves underfoot, and how Red Dog stepped gingerly to avoid the sticky Missouri clay on his paws.

Their noses to the ground, Red Dog and Pretty Dog explored new growth in the clearing, and coyote scat laden with seeds.

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Yes, this was exactly what I need today.

I needed to be fed.

I’m curious to see how you increase positive energy and decrease things that take energy from your lives. Please feel free to comment.

Peace out,

xoxoxo

Sheree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A book deal! “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat”

For two years, I stared at a particular phrase on the cork bulletin board in my office that my husband conceived as a book title about our 16 year old black cat, Midnight thinking, “I need to write a book about this…”

Midnight loved to prance throughout the house, her tail held high, the end sometimes waving or curling like a soft feather.

Last fall, on a gorgeous crisp morning, I awoke and penned Midnight’s tale to paper. But it wasn’t quite finished, and I couldn’t quite finish it without the creative words of fellow animal lover and friend, Pat Wahler.

I said to her, “You see, there’s this cat, and she has disabilities….”

Thus began a beautiful friendship where “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat” blossomed on paper, and in both of our hearts.

Over coffee, tea, and chocolate at a favorite hangout in Cottleville, we edited, wrote, and re-edited. Months later, we sent off queries. A well-respected local publisher responded, touched by Midnight’s story, and offered words of encouragement, positive feedback, even suggestions for revisions.

Of course, this called for more coffee, tea and chocolate as we edited away.

When Pat and I felt we were ready, we resubmitted and sent off the revised story to the publisher.

About a month ago, we signed a contract with Amphorae Publishing for “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat” – a picture book about overcoming disabilities, building confidence, and realizing it’s okay to be you, just the way you are.

We’re so excited to embark on this journey and can’t wait to bring Midnight’s story of courage to children near and far!

Here’s a pic of our pretty girl….(In real life, she is not disabled)

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