Carol's Blog
October 1st, 2009
The Story of my First Storytime Book Signing

It was an absolutely gorgeous Atlanta day.  Blue skies for miles and a slight breeze.  NO ONE WILL WANT TO BE INSIDE ON A DAY LIKE THIS. 

I told the little doubting voice in my head to shut up and headed up to the Norcross Barnes and Noble.  I arrived about an hour early and had my assistants load up my poster and handouts and materials to bring in the store. 

Oh, wait.  I don’t have any assistants. So I used creative means to stuff all the bags of stuff over and under various arms and headed into the store.  Every author should be so lucky to work with a staff like the Norcross Barnes and Noble Children’s leads and Community Resource Manager.  Especially …..a virgin storyteller and book signer.  Miss Ann made helpful suggestions and Miss Heather even came in on her day off to be there for me.

The books were all set up by the big armchair and we put the poster and cards around the children’s section.  My daughter Erin and daughter-in-law Leah made an enterprising dash to nearby stores to pass out event cards and encourage mommies with young children to come to the signing.  My friend Cathy started snapping pictures.  Moms and kids starting arriving, along with other family and friends.  Our son Mike and son-in-law Nathan gave me good luck hugs and my husband John planted himself in a nearby chair to offer moral support.

Miss Ann made her way to the stage and gave me a lovely introduction.  I thanked everyone for coming and looked around at the adorable babies and toddlers and their mamas and the wonderful friends and family that came to support me.  I looked at two year-old Ava who inspired this first book and swallowed a lump in my throat that threatened tears.  I am a REALLY unattractive cryer. 

I told everyone that the theme for this storytime was Ava since she inspired the book.  I wore her favorite jewelry; the bracelet she likes to slip on her own little hand, the earrings she likes to play with when she snuggles on my shoulder, and the big aquamarine ring she says is “fancy.”  I told everyone we would read my book and a few of Ava’s other favorite stories.  And then we began!

It was so fun!  I was a little nervous but an animated name game got us started and it was so meaningful to read my book with Ava present.  A few stories later it was over and people started coming up to get a book and have it signed.  I so loved meeting the moms and children.  I can’t wait to do this again!

Grandma, That’s MY Shoulder

Ava did pretty well at the book signing but she did get a tad jealous.  An adorable little two year old girl named Carrington was such a wonderful child to have right up front.  She clapped and danced and made me smile.  I scooped her up and gave her a hug and she laid her little head down on my shoulder and started rubbing my arm. 

Ava saw this and said, “Grandma, that little girl wants DOWN right now!”  I set Carrington down and Ava said “Grandma, that’s MY shoulder!!”   So I picked her up and she put her head on my shoulder like she’s done a thousand times and she played with my hoop earring with one hand and rubbed my back with the other. And very quietly I whispered my favorite line from the book, “I love when you nestle on my shoulder.  It makes me sparkle with love all over.”

Sept 21st, 2009
The Shame of Temporary Blog Abandonment
Oh, no.  I've done it again.  A month has gone by and all the great blogs I wrote in my head never made it to the computer.  I just took another webinar on social media and blog abandonment was listed as a big NO-NO.  It makes your website look naked and abandoned.  Sigh.  I won't even try and give any good reasons why I haven't been posting even though I HAVE VERY GOOD REASONS. 
What I will do is tell you what happened at the webinar.  For those of you who may not know what a webinar is, it's basically a seminar held live on the computer.  You can write in comments and at various points you are muted and unmuted.  Well, some people as they got on the site didn't mute themselves right away so you could hear vague conversations taking place.  Ha! I thought.  Rookies!  The webinar began and the speaker, Author Marketing Expert Penny Sansevieri and her guest speaker started the monumental task of explaining the various kinds of blogging engines and social media outlets and how to install them yourself.  This is not easy information to assimilate if you are new to social media.  As a veteran of two other webinars on this topic I felt like I was following pretty well until the discussion began on how to install it. 
Some people could see the circles and arrows made by the moderator and some of us could not.  I started playing around with my page controls and a few circles appeared!  Alas, I quickly figured out that I was making the circles myself.  Since I like to doodle when I am on the phone or at a meeting I started making a lovely assortment of circles and ovals around various pieces of text.  It was quite artistic if I say so myself.  This went on for about 5 or 10 minutes.  As I was contemplating how to make squares, Penny interrupted the guest speaker to say, "Sorry folks, about all those circles.  I have no idea where they're coming from."  I let out a gasp of embarrassment and flung myself back so hard on my wheeled office chair that I wore grooves into the (formerly) nice sisal area rug on the floor. 
I guess it all comes with the territory of launching a new business and acquiring new information and skills.  Some days you feel you have the world by its tail and other days your doodle is left hanging out there for everyone to see.

August 16th, 2009
Dreams on a Shelf

Sometimes I feel like launching this company is a big race.  The deadlines in publishing are relentless: catalog reservations, catalog copy, artwork, tipsheets, printer specs, sales kit mailings, marketing, publicity, review copies.  And that’s just the business side.  The creative side is somewhat of a race, too.  Books are always perfectly written in a writer’s head.  It’s when the words hit the page that the perfect story looks…well, imperfect.  That’s when the workman like revisions begin to tease out the best possible synergy of words, story and, in the case of children’s books, pictures.

That’s me with the wonderful Children’s Lead Ann at the Barnes and Noble in Norcross, GA.  Ann, Heather and the community resource manager for that store Carla Wilson have been so supportive of our young press and have offered valuable insights and suggestions.  Thank you!

But then there are the moments.  The moments that sneak up on you in the midst of all the hard work that make you realize that dreams are starting to come true.  I had a moment like that last week at Barnes and Noble.  My book.  On a shelf.  In Barnes and Noble.   Some dreams look good on a shelf.

August 16th, 2009
Shadow of the Moon

My husband John and I got to experience the first time seeing the book on a BN shelf together and we couldn’t wait to see Ava’s reaction.  She is two and a half and still doesn’t quite understand that she is the person that inspired the first book.  She walks around with the book when she visits and calls it the goo-goo ga-ga book because of a line from the book she loves to repeat.  She just about knows the book by heart now and says it along with us some of the time.  She also thinks it’s fascinating that there are so many of the books laying around and is quite possessive of them.  When she saw a poster in our office that was for a book signing, she ran to and screamed Oh my Gosh!  IT’S THE BABIES!!! 

My muse Ava with the book that launched this press.

I don’t know what exactly I expected when my daughter-in-law and I took her to see the book in Barnes and Noble but I guess I kind of hoped for her to understand it was a big occasion.  We pointed it out to her on the shelf and she said OH MY GOSH!  GOODNIGHT MOON, Grandma!  Goodnight Moon has gone missing in our house for the last few months.  We wanted her to pick up MY book for a picture but she kept talking about how we found GOOD NIGHT MOON.  Oh, well.  I have to admit it was pretty funny.  In the end, I scooped her up and set her on the shelf for the picture that sums it all up.

August 3, 2009
The Business of Baby

Recently I went to a baby/maternity networking event organized by The Bump, a companion website and magazine to the The Knot.  As I walked around and met people it made me realize why this is such wonderful business to be in, even in this challenged economy.

It’s inspiring to work for and with families who have enough faith in the future to bring another child into the world.  There is nothing else I can think of that shows more hope.  It was so interesting to see the different services.  Among them, were baby photographers, a maternity apparel shop, a merchandise rep for the maternity business and even a company that takes 3D pictures in the womb.  I wondered about their personal stories and what led them to their businesses.

That led to thinking about what drives me to write books for babies and young children and the adults who read to them.  And I think the answer is primarily two things:  I love the connection I get reading to children, especially Ava our granddaughter.  It’s electric.  Her little face lights up with wonder and curiosity and excitement.  She loves the undivided attention.  It makes me feel like a small part of her future.  The idea that something I helped create could further that kind of bond between other children and adults…well, it’s exciting and moving.  Reading has been one of my favorite hobbies from a very young age and it has benefited me in so many ways.  I’d like to think our books will help encourage an early interest in reading.

The second part comes from a comment an editor we hired to help us with Dear Baby, Let’s Dance!  which will be released early next year.  She made the point that children’s books can articulate how people feel about being a family and, in some cases, actually teach young parents how to be a family, if they did not have the benefit of growing up in a functional household. I come from a large and loving, sometimes loud and contentious, and always loyal and fun family headed up by our amazing parents Vince and Gloria.  We genuinely like to be together and root for each other. 

That same family sensibility has been passed forward to our kids.  My husband and I feel there is no other accomplishment in our lives that makes us feel more happy and proud.  A little bit of that family dynamic finds its way into pretty much every story I write for children.

August 1, 2009
Grandma Talks Back

(Author’s note: The Bump had a recent article on its website entitled Back Off, Grandma!  It offered advice on how to smooth a rocky relationship with a meddlesome grandma.  It was good advice but I felt compelled to add a little more perspective from “Grandma.”)

Poor Grandma. Poor Mama.  We do get ourselves in big muddles sometimes, don’t we?  It’s all part of being our awesome multi-tasking, all-knowing grownup/little girl dictators of our domains.   If we relinquish too much power our worlds may spin out of control. 

Okay, let’s take a deep breath on both sides and look at each other.  No, don’t run screaming because you see that it’s actually a mirror image! Grandmas, don’t you see your younger selves?  So proud, so happy, so tired, a little bit insecure, maybe a little bit irritated with YOUR mother-in-law?  And Mamas, project yourselves into the future, NOT being in charge and NOT having any control over that precious baby in your arms after making the raising of this child your life’s work.  Kind of scary, right?

We are playing for the same team.  We just need to remember our positions.  Do you know what my daughter-in-law says to me a lot when I ask her if she has any particular instructions when my husband and I babysit?  She says, “You know what you’re doing.  I trust you.”  Isn’t that brilliant?  It makes me want to honor any instructions she and my son do put on a list.  Ironically, it elevates them to EXPERT because they show confidence in themselves and in us.

On the flip side, I try not to say much if it’s not important.  And if I do comment it’s often in the form of a question.  Doctor recommendations DO change over time.  Most of us Grandma’s just want to be acknowledged when we make a comment. 

Mamas, recognize that if this is a competition you are the undisputed winner from the start.  There was a TV show a while back about a family of dinosaurs. The baby dinosaur only knew one name.  MAMA.  When asked who anyone else is, the baby would say NOT THE MAMA.  That about sums it up.  You are the SUN to your baby, the hottest brightest most important planet in his or her universe.  Daddy is the all important Moon.  And God bless you if you have to be the sun and the moon to your child.

As Grandmas, most of us know we had our day being the Sun.  We just want to be a twinkly star in your child’s universe.  As I write this, we are preparing for our 2 ½ year old granddaughter Ava to come for an overnight visit so that Mama and Daddy can have some alone time.  Remember that?  ALONE TIME.  Now isn’t Grandma looking better and better?

June 10th, 2009
Worst Blogger Ever

I think it’s possible I am the worst blogger ever.  I post too infrequently and my blogs read like newspaper columns.  I can’t seem to get the hang of the casual update.   In today’s world, there is literally an avalanche of social media that new businesses are supposed to be embracing.  I have recently signed up for many of them but I am active on none of them.  I am ashamed to admit I can’t even remember the passwords for most of them. 

I was gratified and mystified to see a few new people have started following me on Twitter.  I think the only toe I’ve ventured in the Twitter river of information is a timid missive the day I signed up along the lines of “Ummmm….hello?  I’m not really sure what I supposed to be doing on this.”  Bless you optimistic followers, all five of you.

It’s so interesting to me how when you reach certain goals on a project there is this feeling of pride and contentment but it seems that very quickly it’s on to the big NEXT on the to-do list.  I am so proud of our website.  It was a lot of work to put it together with our web guru Doug.  But now it seems that websites are so last year.  Now we need a Social Media Newsroom.  Oh, dear.  I’ll figure it out.  No, better yet.  I’ll get an intern to figure it out for me. 

Apr 11th, 2009
Kitchen Adventures

Today I would like to talk about…..scones.  Scones and my 100 pound Kitchen-aid Mixmaster.  Every bride covets one of these.  It’s like a rite of passage to own the big gleaming mixer with attachments.  What nobody tells you is that it weighs a TON and is an awkward size to store in your cabinets.  And if you’re not a baker you use it maybe once a year.

Well, I decided to dust mine off to make scones for a bridal tea I was co-hosting for a friend’s daughter. I think it had actually been 5 or 6 years since it had been invited on to the kitchen counter so after washing it thoroughly I set to work.  Hmmm, the recipe makes 14 to 16 scones and there are 20 guests, so I’ll add another half recipe to the batch.  I got all the ingredients ready and put the butter and dry ingredients in the bowl and plugged in the mixer. 

POOF!  My face was suddenly covered in white.  Apparently the last time I used it I left the power button on level 10.  Oh well.  I added back some flour and notched the speed down to one.  So far so good.  I carefully added the eggs and cream.  Then I turned around to check something on the stove.  Bad move.

When I turned back to the counter the batter had turned into one giant glop that would rotate out of the bowl hanging precariously about six inches and then get sucked back in just as the glop threatened to fall on the counter.  I felt like a deer caught in the headlights.  Should I catch the runaway dough?  I watched in fascination.  After about 30 seconds I decided it was mixed enough.

Since I was little traumatized and the guests were coming in a few hours I decided to bypass kneading and rolling out the dough.  I gave it a massage for a little while and called it a day.  When one of my shower co-hosts questioned me later on why I didn’t roll them out I announced confidently that these are RUSTIC SCONES.  They turned out great, especially served with the warm homemade jam I had made earlier in the week.  Why was the jam served warm?  Don’t ask.

Mar 9th, 2009

It’s little harder these days to crank up that full feeling of joy.  Like everyone, we’ve taken our hits with this crazy economy and let me tell you…launching a business during these turbulent times can be a bit frightening. Y’think??

Anyway, I am happy to report that I am back on the good side of Joy.  And it has nothing to do with the economy. Last month, our daughter Erin and her husband Nathan moved back to Atlanta.  In a minor miracle of timing, they both got an opportunity to transfer within their companies.  It has been supremely satisfying to be able to call each other up and say, “Meet you at Starbucks?”  “Want to come over for dinner?”  “Feel like taking a walk this afternoon?”  All those things you can’t do when you live hundreds of miles away from each other.

I feel absolute UNREASONABLE joy from these small interactions with our daughter.  And now we are presented with another minor miracle.  Our son Mike got a chance to transfer back to Atlanta and will be moving here in six weeks with our daughter-in-law Leah and our family obsession, the 2 year-old Ms. Ava Marie.

John and I have a good life together, filled with friends and activities and work.  But to have our kids back in the same city, especially in these uncertain times, now that’s a life with a full measure of joy.

Well, I just wanted to share this happy news.  Lord knows we need to share ANY happy news with each other.  There certainly isn’t any on T.V.  Mostly I want to run screaming in terror after watching CNN or Fox.   The debate on what our government should do will rage on for years.  But we are not powerless.  The minute we start believing in ourselves and each other and the future, is the moment the true recovery starts.   I know my recovery started the moment I got those two phone calls, “Mom, we’re moving back to Atlanta.”

Feb 5th, 2009
Goo Goo Ga Ga over Gumpa

I'm starting to feel like the Jan Brady of Grandma's.  Just a week ago I was the favorite but the tide has turned and all I hear from our 2 year old Granddaughter Ava is "Gumpa, Gumpa, Gumpa!!  Oh, she still patiently sings all our songs together like the "Good Morning" song and the perennial favorite "Old McDonald."  But the minute we finish she says, "Gumpa?"  She even called him over the weekend. 

I have to admit he's come up with a few good bits with her lately.  His favorite is to cough, and she'll immediately ask "Are you okay?"  Then she fake coughs and he asks her, "Are you okay?"  She answers "Fine, thanks."  We're pretty sure she's a genius.

My favorite Gumpa and Ava story happened during my birthday weekend last November.  My daughter and daughter-in-law and I went out and left Ava with the "boys."  When we came back home John called us over and with a very smug smile said, "Watch this." 

"Ava" he said.  "Do you want to play with Grandpa's hee-hee stick?"  I swear to you I'm not making this up.

The girls and I looked at each other a bit speechless while John whipped out his back scratcher.   "Wheeeeee," Ava squealed as he pretended to tickle her with it.  Then he handed it to Ava who poked him with the backscratcher while he went "Hee Hee Hee," very loudly.  Now, any of you reading this who know my husband are probably falling on the floor in shock.  He is not a "hee-hee" kind of person.  I love that Ava brings that out in him.  But we all decided it might be a good idea to rename the hee-hee stick.

Right now Gumpa reigns supreme.  But I'm not worried.  Some day Ava will realize Grandma wrote a WHOLE BOOK about her.  So Gumpa, "You can just go scratch yourself."

Feb 2nd, 2009
The Birth of a Company

Birthdays and Gratitude

Welcome to the DearBaby birthday party!  Let’s start with some well-deserved thanks. Thank you to the early readers of this series who lent their support and valued critiques.  Thank you to family and friends who were so encouraging along the way, not just of this book but other writing projects over the years.  Y’all know who you are and I greatly appreciate your encouragement.  Thank you to people in the children’s book business like Martha Collins who gave us faith that we were on to something good.  Thank you to Bob and Sue at Stork Avenue and thank you Doug Mazur, website guru.  Thank you to Jason for his wonderful illustrations.  We are having so much fun putting these books together.  I hope it shows in our work.  And, of course, thank you to Ava, our granddaughter, for being such a sweet and funny inspiration.

Important Birthdays have been kind of a theme in our family over this past year.  Ava turned 2 a few weeks ago.  My sister-in-law LouAnn turned 60.  My mom turned 80 years young.  Our son turns 30 in a few weeks. And I turned 40... ten years ago.  I like explaining my new age with the number 40 in it.  Also, LouAnn didn’t really turn 60.  She’s a spry 49.  This blogging stuff is fun!

Let’s see.  I feel like I’m forgetting something.  Ah, yes.  Today, on the day we launch, it is also Groundhog Day.  Also known as JOHN CASEY’S Birthday.  Happy Birthday, husband and business partner.  For your present, all these kind people who are stopping by are buying a book and you can have all the profits.  Except for the small portion we need to pay for the lamp I bought in an effort to fuel the economy.

Jan 24th, 2009
The Birth of a Book

The UPS truck pulled up in front of our house.  I ran down the steps and pretty much snatched the package out of the driver's hand.  "Big Moment" I called over my shoulder.  I couldn't stop a smile from spreading over my face.  It was just shy of one year that this crazy fun frustrating exhilarating journey began.

Inside the padded envelope lay five advance copies of What I Love About You.  Hmmmm, what to do, what to do.  IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION. That’s the ticket.  I pulled out a pair of scissors and got ready to cut.  Then I put down the scissors and called my husband John.  "The books are here." 

“I’ll be home in 15 minutes.  Wait for me," he said. 
"Of course!" I replied. "I wouldn't THINK of opening them without you."

I wandered over to the kitchen and started chopping some onions and celery for the spaghetti I was making for dinner.  One minute I was chopping and the next I found myself holding the package. I don't know how that happened but as long I was there I picked it up and shook it.  I heard the door open so I quickly put the package down and decided to act casual about the whole thing.  "HURRY UP, you were gone 18 minutes!"

I will never forget the thrill I felt pulling the first book out into the light.  It was so smooth and shiny and…perfect!  I hugged it.  I hugged it for all the stops and starts and rewrites and endless hours of production research.  I hugged it for living up to all that I thought, all that I hoped it could be.  I hugged it because of how I feel about the baby on the cover.

What I Love About You was written about one particular baby but the message it contains is universal.  It is a privilege to witness a brand new soul learning about the world.  And it isn't the huge milestones that make us fall in love with these new little beings.  It's the small ordinary moments that give us little glimpses of their personality and character.

It's been a few short weeks since those advance copies arrived but a lot is happening very quickly. I invite you to check back every now and then for updates.

Oh.   And don't worry.  I hugged John, too.