What’s On Your Bucket List, Some Sweet Ladies, and some ‘healing’ books

jpeg-imag me and Kelly PEO

Kelly and me, at the PEO luncheon

Last Friday I had the opportunity to speak to the PEO (Philanthropic Educational Organization) women’s group at a church in Ferguson, Missouri. I was invited by author and friend, Deb Marshall and event organizer, Kelly Mazzacavallo.

After a lovely lunch of chicken and ham salad, the women gathered in a cozy lounge and settled in comfortable chairs to listen to me talk about “What’s on Your Bucket List” and the story behind my ‘healing’ coffee table book, Folly Beach Dances.

I shared with the ladies, that in preparation for the talk, hubby handed me a paper I gifted him a few years ago. The paper’s first words were “Do you remember when?” and reflected on all the crazy and unexpected bucket list items achieved in our travel adventures…like seeing the excitement in my husband’s eyes when we dove Bloody Bay Wall in the Cayman Islands, sailing a hobie cat from Sandals Negril to a deserted island, or even observing a ten-foot pregnant black tip reef shark on a dive in the Abacos.

Aptly named for the definition as well as the movie, The Bucket List, stars Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Complete strangers, fate lands the two men in a hospital room together. The men discover they have things in common – their desire for adventure, and a need to come to terms with their lives. After they are released from the hospital, they set out to check items off both their bucket lists.

At the end of the movie, Edward (the billionaire), living to age 81, has his ashes carried to the top of the Himalayas by his assistant Matthew. As Matthew gently places the container of ashes alongside Carter’s can of ashes, he takes a pen and crosses the last item off the Bucket List (which is to ‘witness something truly majestic’). Finally, Carter (Morgan) states, “I’m pretty sure he (Edward) was happy with his final resting place. Because he was buried on the mountain, and that was against the law.”

So, someone’s idea of a bucket list item, may be totally different than someone else’s.

That’s how it was for me when Folly Beach Dances was just an idea. In 2014, my idea came to fruition. I was able to cross ‘publishing a book’ off my bucket list.

As I spoke about the book’s mission of self-care, healing and positivity, the women listened intently.

I selected some of my favorite poems to read.

“Circle Dog Dance” written by Pat Wahler, reflects on three dogs laying in a circle on a beach relaxing, not a worry in the world.

“The Drifter” penned and photographed by me, reminisces about memories of days gone by and lazy days spent on the beach.

“The Fandango” – An old seagull (sporting grey hair on this wings, face, and body) who lives to fly, soar and dive, is penned by Marcia Gaye.

“The Twist”, about how often times life seems to be a mess of knots and twisted rigging (by Marcia Gaye). The Twist brought tears to the women’s eyes.

After time had run out, the women stepped forward to purchase books. I quickly ran out of Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits, my newest release, and Folly Beach Dances.

One woman stepped forward and shared how “The Twist” touched her heart, reminding her of a family member going through tribulations. We spoke for awhile, and I offered hopeful suggestions on how to make things better. Our conversation ended with a hug.

I thanked Kelly and Deb for allowing me to take part in this quiet gathering. The women where particularly sweet and seemed genuinely interested in my writing. My wish for the day was to stir some emotions, touch some hearts, and be positive.

IMG_1011 me and peo women

Peace, love and sand dollars,

Sheree

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Sheree K. Nielsen is the author of 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, Folly Beach Dances; coauthor of Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat, and Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets.

 

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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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The Drifter – A poem from Folly Beach Dances

2 The Drifter copyright

Since it’s National Poetry Month, I’d like to share a poem I penned for my 2015 Da Vinci Award Winning book, FOLLY BEACH DANCES – THE INFINITE RHYTHMS OF A SOUTH CAROLINA SEASHORE, inspired by the sea’s rhythm and my lymphoma journey, and endorsed by Karen White, NYT bestselling author.

It’s titled “The Drifter”, on page 5 of this ‘healing’ coffee table book of lyrical poetry and gorgeous photography, with reflections by 5 award-winning women authors, and my husband.

“The Drifter”

Not far in the distance I notice an old tree,

now driftwood,

with branches reaching out to a cornflower blue sky and white-streaked cotton clouds.

The image of a beach bungalow appears in my head,

with sounds of laughter,

lazy days in the sun,

peaceful ocean breezes,

smoky barbeques at dusk

and a warm crackling fire at night.

Except from Return to Folly Beach, Sheree K. Nielsen

Folly Beach Dances, copyright May 2014

Peace out and love,

Sheree

Awards, Booksignings, and Libraries

Sorry I haven’t blogged in awhile, but my life has been all about taking care of Miss Adeline and her kitten babies. And I promise to post pics real soon, as three have already been adopted out to wonderful families. Here’s a pic of all six with momma.

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But for now, I’d like to give you updates on my writing.

IMG_1578 Folly Beach Dances at Schlafy

Hubby attended a lovely author event and booksigning at the Schlafy Branch of the St. Louis Public Library while I was away at the Missouri Writer’s Conference Guild on April 30, in Kansas City. I received two writing awards that weekend — Third Place for Best Magazine Article published in AAA Southern Traveler, “How Sweet It Is”, and Second Place for Best Poem published in Well Versed Literary Works 2015 for my poem, “Steadfast”, about my mom.

When I returned home from the conference, I was pleased to find that Kenneth Hardcastle emailed a pic of FOLLY BEACH DANCES being integrated into the library.

This past Sunday, I attended the Well Versed Literary Works 2016 booksigning event in Columbia, Missouri, and received Second Place for Nonfiction for my essay titled “The Stranger” about an incident where a stranger lurked in my parent’s basement when I was a young child. It came with a cash award, which made me smile.

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Finally, we’re doing a FOLLY BEACH DANCES booksigning event at the Roasted Bean, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday June 18, at 441 Main Street, Troy, Missouri. Roasted Bean only serves Blue Print roasters coffee (from U City loop) — the best espresso around. So stop by, learn about our sea-inspired coffee table book of photography and poetry, and sip a great cup of java!

If you can’t make it to the signing you can order books on Amazon, or purchase in South Carolina or Missouri. Just check the book’s website for availability.

Flyer for Photo Exhibit and Booksigning - FBD roasted bean final 2

Music, Poetry and True Glory

20150605_192734powell orchestra pitLast Friday evening, I attended a concert at Powell Symphony Hall with my friend Nancy. Like a child opening a gift, we were ecstatic to see Chris Botti and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra perform together. If you’ve never heard of Chris Botti, he’s only the best jazz trumpeter to walk the face of the earth. I’ve not missed a concert of his since he opened for the silken songbird, Diana Krall over 12 years ago at the Fox Theatre.

With no musicality in my family, I love to listen to music of all genres – jazz, classical, Christian and rock.

Entering the venue, seeing everyone dressed in their best, eyeing the winding staircases and the magnificent chandeliers, made me smile.

20150605_191709 powell chandelier 1As we settled in our seats and the lights dimmed, the audience became silent. I closed my eyes for a moment and listened to the sweet melodies permeating from the orchestra, the smooth sounds of Chris’ trumpet, and the weeping strings of the guest violinist. It was nothing less than magical.

Over the course of the evening, Chris brought out guest singers, highlighted his band, and introduced new up-and-comers. As the concert drew to a close, the lights dimmed deeper, and the spotlight was on Chris and his pianist. The room’s ambiance felt like an intimate jazz club.

On Sunday, I headed to another cultural event at the Unity Center in Columbia, Missouri, Friends Abby and Marcia accompanied me to the book launch of Well-Versed 2015. Marcia and I were receiving awards for our works from the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writer’s Guild. Our poems and prose were accepted for inclusion into the anthology.DSC_0145DSC_0135

Winners and contributors read aloud poems and stories about Moms, mystery, nature, pets, and even family conflicts. I listened intently.

DSC_0136Some stories had me rolling with laughter, others made me think; still others stirred up such raw emotion I found myself sobbing.

Each event had one thing in common. The performers – whether musicians or writers – glorified God.

When a human being is doing what he or she was created to do, then God is honored and glorified.

When God is honored, “Other people take notice. The world wakes up a little bit, sees things in a clearer/holier light, and seeks the source of that light,” says Coffee with God author, Sarah Arthur.

Performers glorify God by “using their talents to their utmost,” Arthur says.

Sometimes I don’t feel fully alive. I’m either wandering aimlessly throughout the day, depressed or unmotivated. (Like yesterday)

When I take the time to glorify God (right now with my writing), that’s when I feel alive.

And that when I think He is happiest.

Peace, love, and all that Jazz,

Sheree

Booksignings, Southern Authors, Beaches, and New Friends

The first week in March, hubby and I set out on a two-city booksigning event for FOLLY BEACH DANCES.

First stop was the Tides Folly Beach Hotel. I’d stayed there last September when my long time friend and author, Tina Solomon, visited Folly Beach to market our ‘healing’ coffee table book FOLLY BEACH DANCES. Recognizing familiar hotel faces, I was happy to be back.

The view from our hotel balcony was the ocean. (Sigh)

In our spare time, Russell and I made it a point to enjoy leisurely strolls on the beach. The first morning, we met a twenty-something Lizzie on the pier. As the three of us walked, we conversed. She spoke fondly of her boyfriend in the military. Browsing through the pier’s gift shop, we noticed FOLLY BEACH DANCES on display. Picking up a copy, Lizzie flipped through the pages of the book, and ended up buying a copy.

Lizzie and me, at FB pier

Lizzie and me, at FB pier

That afternoon we headed to The Preservation Society of Charleston for a booksigning. At first, sales were slow, but by late afternoon we’d hit our stride. What the customers didn’t buy, Evan, the event coordinator, ended up purchasing for the store. A successful event!

The next day, we drove to the end of the island to visit the Folly Beach County Park. As I stepped foot on the sand, I felt transported to a Caribbean oasis. The white sand and muted landscape hues, drew me closer to the water’s edge. And the crisp air beckoned windsurfers to ride the ocean’s waves.

Walking the shoreline, I followed the island’s natural curves. With unbridled anticipation, I was anxious to uncover visual treasures with my camera’s lens. A weathered tree with branches that mimicked windblown hair, awaited me around the next bend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe bid our goodbye to Folly Beach the next morning, but not before stopping at Bert’s Market – an eclectic hipster produce store. Speaking with Julia, the store’s owner, I was happy when she said she’d carry FOLLY BEACH DANCES!

Next stop – Columbia, South Carolina. After checking into Homewood Suites, we met fellow writer C. Hope Clark and husband, Gary, for dinner at Mr. Friendly’s. The time passed quickly as we spoke of writing, publishing, conferences, the beach, and the lake. I thought the waiter was going to kill us for lingering at her table for more than 2 ½ hours!

Hope and Matt

Hope and Matt

The following day we headed to Irmo Branch Library for a 15-author event. Matt Matthews, author of Mercy Creek, and the First Carolina Novel Prize sat to our right. Hope sat to our left. With her Low Country mysteries, there was a constant stream of visitors to her table. I felt comfortable wedged between these wonderful writers. At the end of the event, I took inventory of our book sales, and realized we did okay.

I told hubby, I’d be back, and took some time to find Southern writer, Tom Poland’s table. Co-author of Reflections of South Carolina. I’d seen his book everywhere – even in Missouri. Along with Robert Clarke, Tom created a wonderful journey of photography and essays, weaving personality and character into the book’s colorful pages.DSC_1220 Tom Poland crop copyr

Tom and I chatted for awhile, and I learned of his humble beginnings in writing. Back in the 70’s, he had a wild idea to take to the road with Robert. With no plan in mind, they’d write and photograph whatever they found interesting. And they never looked back. We shook hands, exchanged business cards, and agreed to meet again whenever in the South.

The car loaded with suitcases, we set course for our next destination – Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Three hours later, we pulled into the parking space of our beach rental, the Graham Sporting Goods house.

Friend and fellow author, Jacqueline DeGroot, stopped by for a visit the following night to talk, watch the sun set below the horizon, and drop off her recent book releases – The Cemetery Kids series. I snapped a photograph of Jack for an upcoming story.

The next three days were bliss. Lazy days spent walking the beach – in the morning, the afternoon, and at sunset. Oh, the sunsets. The sunsets were divine.DSC_1452 birds under pier sunset copyrWhen not on the beach, we’d hop in the car and putter along Shoreline Drive, gazing at the gorgeous homes, with the intercoastal waterway in the distance. We’d stop at our favorite coffee shop, or just shoot photos of flowers, birds, or landscapes.

Oh how I love Sunset Beach.

We made some new furry friends along the way. Sassy and Libby, whose owners live in Little River, came down for a beach visit. We met Emmy, a sweet golden, who lives a short five minute walk from the beach.

Emmy

Emmy

Libby

Libby

Needless to say, we’ll be back in Sunset in May with our fur babies. They’ll get to meet Sassy and Libby, and maybe even Emmy. I know they’ll see their friend Mosa, a boxer, who vacations the same week every year.

Oh yeah, the first day of our trip, FOLLY BEACH DANCES was nominated for the Eric Hoffer Award, including a finalist for the da Vinci Eye Award, for excellence in book cover design.

So, all in all, I’d have to say, we had a great trip.

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Pleasures await you by the seashore…

This summer I had the opportunity to sit and observe nature while on vacation in Sunset Beach, North Carolina.

I love watching birds, their graceful movements, and sometimes silly actions. I wrote a poem on this cold winter today which actually fits quite nicely with a fortune cookie I received awhile back.

Here’s the poem – I hope you like it. It’s called “Pleasures at the Seashore”

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Six little sandpipers
dip long spindly legs
and feet
in the shallow mud flats
and
watch tourists
on the shore.

Preening, gleaning
angel-like wings
and brown-tufted bellies,
resting idly
at ocean’s door.

A gentle waveDSCN0353 birds crop adj
pushes foamy surf
across wet land
in a lover’s
lullaby
of the sea.

And the feathered
reflections of nature –
six mirrored silhouettes,
dance on the glistening sand.

© Copyright Sheree K. Nielsen 2015

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Fur Babies Alarm Clock….

Those of us who are dog lovers, are familiar with our fur babies routines. Some of those routines include urging us humans to “get out of bed” in the morning, when we’re not quite ready to face the cruel world.

This poem is for dog lovers and for those who like to linger, just a few more minutes, in dreamland.

I give you, short and sweet,

“Fur Alarm Clock”

Dogs are like
An alarm clock
On the brain.

Soft tongue kisses
on a waking face.
Wimpers of joy sing,
While eight paws pace.

It’s time to rise,
you ‘lump on a log’!

Tick tock,
Tick tock.
DOGS!

Copyright Sheree K. Nielsen, December 2014

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Videos from FOLLY BEACH DANCES book launch

Hi everyone,

Sorry this took so long, but here are the two videos from the FOLLY BEACH DANCES book launch from May 4, 2014.

Debbie Kersting, Gateway Chapter Director for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society speaks in the first video about Sheree’s cancer journey and her new normal.  YouTube Video

In the second video, Sheree talks about how important it is to stay positive, take care of yourself, and remember to dance.  YouTube Video

If you like the video, please share on facebook and twitter. And please support your local charity, whatever it may be.

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Folly Beach Dances – October events – South Carolina

Good things are coming down the pike!

We’ve got a full schedule for our book tour and events, and will be in Folly Beach real soon promoting FOLLY BEACH DANCES – The Infinite Rhythms of a South Carolina Seashore.

Here’s a list of some upcoming events in October.  You can find a full event listing at the official FOLLY BEACH DANCES website

We’re currently in the process of shipping more books to Amazon, but you can order from the book’s official website above. Books will be autographed and will include a surprise with each order in September and October!

 

October 19, 2014 Black Majic flyer 8

Folly Beach Dances booksigning

Black Majic Cafe

10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

103 West Erie Avenue

Folly Beach, SC

 

October 18, 2014

Follypalooza Cancer Fundraiser

Stop by our booth.  We’re sharing a booth with author, Diann Shaddox, “A Faded Cottage”!

11 a.m. to 5. p.m.

Center Street

Folly Beach, SC

 

October 15, 2014

Folly Beach Branch Library

Folly Beach Dances booksigning

2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

55 Center Street

Folly Beach, SC

 

October 14, 2014

Hollings Cancer Care Family Support Group Meeting

(Guest Speakers – Sheree and Russell Nielsen)LLS cancer care meeting oct 14 charleston001

86 Jonathan Lucas Street., Room 121

Charleston, SC 29425

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 8, 2014

O’Fallon Photo Club Meeting

The book’s journey – Folly Beach Dances

7 p.m.

Renaud Spirit Center

2650 Tri Sports Circle

O’Fallon, MO 63366

 

 

 

Contributing Writer to FOLLY BEACH DANCES – Patt Hollinger Pickett

Patt and I go back about five years.  We met through Saturday Writers, St. Peters, Missouri. I immediately liked her great sense of humor, and her matter-of-fact personality.

When I was looking for poets and writers to contribute to my ‘healing’ coffee table book, FOLLY BEACH DANCES, Patt was one of my first picks.  Actually, all of the women in my writer’s critique group were first ’round’ picks.

Here are Patt’s reflections on one of the poems in the book titled “Pole Dance.”

Hope you enjoy!

15 DSC_0438 Pole dance darker copyr“The messages in the verses I wrote for Folly Beach Dances are rooted in my decades of experience as a professional writer, life coach, and therapist.

However, my imagination was instantly ignited by the crisp unique quality of Sheree and Russell’s photos.

I do not have a favorite of the five I contributed, but the life lesson in Pole Dance on page 30 is one to which all can relate. The stark angularity and tangled crisscrossing of the poles reminded me that life is never simple or running in a straight line.

And that while savoring success is important, embracing lessons from mistakes and crosses in our life is an enriching process that leads to newness and growth.”

Patt Hollinger Pickett, LMFT, M.Ed., Ph.D.
Author of The Marriage Whisperer
TheMarriageWhisperer.net

Patt Pickett - portrait

Goodreads Giveaway Winner, a Booksigning, and a Barrista

Good morning, everyone! A few things to share.

Well, I just completed my first Goodreads giveway. I was happy and elated to discover that 437 people requested my book, and more than 186 of those lovely readers have added Folly Beach Dances to their list.

I received the winner information via email today, and I’m happy to say I’m sending a complimentary copy out to Carolina M (sent you a direct message) in the next week.

I’ve opened up the Goodreads Q&A panel for the first 3 weeks of August, at one question per week, so feel free to pick my brain.

Connect me with at Goodreads, on twitter at @ShereeKNielsen and @follybeachdance.  Click on Folly Beach Dances to visit and follow our facebook page.  And our official website is Beach Dances to order books.

Our photography exhibit and Folly Beach Dances booksigning at Van Buskirks Chocolate Bar went well last evening.

A constant stream of people, including friends, and new faces Vb's booksigning - Sheree and Russellcame by to chat with Russell and me.  They enjoyed espresso, chocolate, libations, and purchased books supporting our mission to donate 10 percent to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Some  shared their love of Folly Beach with us. Others admitted the book would make a great addition to their guest room.  And a friend from high school, Steve, said he was going to kick back and enjoy Folly Beach Dances on his deck with a good cup of coffee. Another friend was the winner of another giveaway – a lovely matted print with prose from the book.

Our booksigning was a little bittersweet, as well. We said farewell to our favorite Van Buskirk’s female barrista, Alexis, who is moving on to big and better things.  She was the sweet smiling face you’d see when entering the cafe. She crafted some of the best espresso drinks west of the Mississippi. With her super personality, natural good looks, and street smarts, I’m sure she’ll do well.  Hope she comes back to visit once and awhile.

Alexis & me

Alexis & me

Another event is scheduled in the next week, August 9 – a booksigning at Main Street Books, St. Charles, Missouri on August  from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

See you there!