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Mystic picture for blog1Cheers and jeers erupted throughout the classroom as I read the last two pages of MYSTIC. My emotions were running deep. It had been a long time since I read the ending of my own book. Surprised at my reaction and theirs, happy they were emotionally invested in the story and had opinions on the ending, and teary because the ending…the theme…is about self acceptance and the story hits close to home.

I opened up a discussion on why MYSTIC ends as it does, trying to get them to see deeper into the story. This particular class was a high energy class. A mixture of 6th through eighth graders; the most challenging class I’ve ever taught. They were the class that kept me awake at night wondering how I could do better the next day.

One boy was extremely excitable. I never knew what was going to come out of his mouth next. If I turned my back for a second I could find him across the room initiating an imaginary sword fight with a classmate.  He had many behaviors on the surface but underneath there was great understanding.

After finishing Mystic, while the rest of the class completed their assignment, I went over to the boy to keep him on task. I knew getting him to stay focused and write down all his answers could be challenging so I asked him the questions and told him I’d write. He responded. I asked him what a theme of a story was. He knew. I asked him what the theme of MYSTIC was. “It’s that it doesn’t matter if you have a disability. You’re still who you are on the inside. Oh, and to trust.” My heart was dancing a lil jig. He did it!

When I looked up, I saw his classmate next to him, a very sweet, very patient, girl who had been sitting next to him for seven weeks, often the recipient of many of his antics, raise her arms in the air and do a silent cheer for him. The moment will forever be etched in my mind. One student cheering on another’s success. A fleeting moment in my day that reminded me of an important lesson. Find the thread that connects us, despite our differences, lift each other up by that thread. Celebrate each other’s success. It was one of those moments that made me grateful to be a writer and a teacher.

On my last two days….

The students surprised me with many extra credit MYSTIC projects. The optional assignment was to think of what they love to do–choose an art and create something that relates to Mystic. I’m deeply grateful, humbled, touched, and in awe of all they created. Thank you, middle school students at NFMAA. I loved getting to know each and every one of you.

A Fan Page Creation by a 6th Grader.

Meeno the eccentric wizard. A black diamond. The wolf on Greg’s Ayer.

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Mystic picture for blog3Mystic picture for blog2Mystic picture for blog4

I’m in the middle of a deep sleep, dreaming I’m riding horseback at sunset or sitting listening to David Gray sing Silver Lining when suddenly blasting sirens interrupt my peace forcing me to open my eyes. I reach through the darkness to stop the horrible honking and will myself awake. It’s 4:45 am. Time to get ready for school.

Before my feet touch the floor, I’m thinking of things to be thankful for. This cuts off all thoughts of wanting to climb back under the covers. Coffee! At this moment I’m very thankful for coffee.

It’s been years since I’ve taught full-time. And years since I’ve had the freedom to teach my own lessons, given only the Standards and allowed to create from there. The joy that this brings me is incredible, surpassed only by the joy that I feel being around the students. They’re independent, curious, searching to understand themselves, leaving their elementary years behind and becoming young adults. Sixth graders can go from perfectly peaceful to screeching laughter in two seconds reminding me of my own days in sixth grade when my math teacher, Mr. Jones, would tease the quietest of kids (me) just to bring them out of their shell to have fun with everyone else.

I’ve only been in the classroom for three days. There are over one hundred names to learn and personalities to understand. I’ve been called Ms. R.,  Ms. Raisin, “What’s your name again?” and K.D. I’ve given eight author presentations, and next week we will begin reading MYSTIC. We’ve discussed disability, what it means to be paralyzed, wheelchairs, racing wheelchairs, inner strength, and treating others as we wish to be treated.  I’ve introduced my favorite books and encouraged them to learn about the authors who’ve written their favorite books. We’ve journaled and practiced vocabulary words on Quizlet. I’ve been handed four stories created by students to read over the weekend. Never before have my two worlds, teaching and writing, come together so perfectly.

I’m excited for this two-month journey in middle school. I hope I can teach the six graders as much as they’ll teach me.

Here are some more of my posts on teaching:

Bad Teacher or Bad Parent Teaching Students About Disability

 

 

 

 

 

“All is well.” Esther Hicks

My grandmother used to say it all the time. She told me that when she was little  someone would walk down the street ringing a bell calling out, “It’s 12:00-0- clock and all is well!” I miss her. Virginia Keen–my grandmother–my rock. She taught me to think positive and follow my heart. Thank you, grandmom. All is well.

Goodreads cover

 

MYSTIC

For those that have read MYSTIC now you know where Keen came from. Queen Fredonia (the grandmother) lives in Keen. A bit of MYSTIC trivia.

All is well in my world. Arielle is on her way home for spring break. I just had a four hour breakfast with a good friend I hadn’t seen in months. Kai has his license and my child who’s been itching to be independent since he was two is extremely happy with his new freedom. I’m writing and thoroughly enjoying our beautiful Florida weather.

I figured it would be a good idea to write about my writing life since it’s such a huge part of my life and I don’t mention it often. For those that are new to following this blog, I’ve written a middle grade fantasy called MYSTIC. It took me six years and I worked with a professional editor named Emma D. Dryden of dryden bks. She’s the absolute best, I highly recommend her and I can’t wait to send her my new book!

By the way, if you read MYSTIC and enjoyed it, please consider leaving an Amazon review. It definitely helps me out. I hate asking, I really do, but not everyone knows that a positive review on Amazon gets the word out to others about my book. Thank you. Oh, I have a Mystic the novel, Facebook page too. If you have a child who’s read MYSTIC and has a question for me, they can send me a message (public or private) on that page.

My New Book!

I’m writing a YA (Young Adult) romance. I love my characters! I’m halfway done… I think. And most importantly I’m having a BLAST writing it. The working title is…drum roll please…. Unforgiven. When it’s finished I will go back to writing the sequel to MYSTIC which I started and then set aside when the characters of the YA took over.

ELLE and BUDDY

Muza and I are still working on ELLE and BUDDY. Muza is creating a different cover and I’m working on the back matter. Our Facebook page will have updates on our progress. Please “Like” our page and follow along on our picture book journey.

My Blog

This blog is about everything from our family to healthy recipes to really unhealthy desserts. Life’s all about balance. Authors and illustrators are always welcome to write guest posts and share their work. I post on Sundays and Wednesdays and try really, really hard not to miss a post. I highly recommend (hint,hint) clicking the FOLLOW button at the bottom right of the screen and entering your email. That way if I do miss a Wednesday and post on a Friday or forget to put my post on Facebook, you’ll get my posts delivered right to your INBOX. I never give away email addresses. It’s safe.

So, that’s what I’m up too when I’m not substitute teaching, running errands, going to spin class and taking care of my many pets. All is well! Life is good!

 

The letter that made me cry

When I have author visits with schools I tell the students my inspiration behind writing MYSTIC. Arielle. Before I knew I was going to write a fantasy, I knew I would have a protagonist who used a wheelchair. Arielle was reading many books as a fourth grader in the Accelerated Reader program and not one of them had characters using a wheelchair. Meanwhile, I watched as Arielle’s life changed and she had to persevere through many obstacles while surrounded by able bodied people who she continually had to educate about these obstacles. Kids as well as adults could behave in ways that were insensitive. Playgrounds were not accessible and often her friends would run off and leave her. Sometimes things were said that were not appropriate like: “So if I shoot you in the leg, you wouldn’t feel it?” And then there was the substitute teacher in 5th grade that yelled at her for not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. Arielle had transferred to her desk and he didn’t notice the wheelchair in the back of the room.

I wanted to write a book that showed the inner and outer struggles of a child using a wheelchair. After six years, many edits and seven full rewrites, MYSTIC was published January 5, 2013. Since then, I’ve received many letters and emails from children telling me how much they enjoyed MYSTIC and asking when the next book will be out. I love hearing from kids and I’ve kept all of the letters and emails they sent. Yesterday, a letter came addressed to Krista Rausin from Illinois. I was very curious because I write under the name K.D. Rausin and it was an adult’s handwriting on the envelope. I opened the letter and read it out loud to Eric. Tears streamed down both our faces. The words told of three young girls who read MYSTIC.  All three used wheelchairs and lived in small towns where they were the only ones using wheelchairs. They were, “SO excited to read a story about a girl who uses a wheelchair ‘just like them.'”

Suddenly, a sense of closure came over me. After a year of worrying about how many books I sold, whether I was doing enough marketing, and whether or not I was taken seriously as a writer since I published MYSTIC myself, I let it go. MYSTIC made a difference.  Three girls that may be feeling the same things Arielle felt at their age had the chance to read about a young girl “just like them.”

Disability Resources and Educational Services

I didn’t recognize the symbolism of growing an avocado tree at the same time I was beginning my journey of becoming an author. I simply loved avocados. Four years later as I set a new seed on my windowsill at the same time I was stressing over how to market Mystic I realized my avocado trees represented change and growth from within myself. They were my reminder that even though I could envision the giant tree that would fill my yard it wasn’t going to grow overnight. I needed to care for it every day while enjoying each day and know that eventually my seed would be a majestic tree.

Here’s how to grow an avocado tree.

av. seeds from 08 or 09 that grew into trees

This picture was taken the summer of 2008.

First: Plant a seed.

The summer of 2008 I felt such a sense of freedom and of new beginnings. I had decided to switch careers from teaching to writing. I knew it was a risk and I faced scrutiny from others who thought I was simply becoming lazy, or that writing a novel was easy. I knew better. I knew what was right for me. As soon as I devoted time to my craft the ideas flowed. I wrote daily and began taking care of myself as well as my family. I was a better, more present, mom and wife because I was embarking on the right path. I had no idea how we were going to make ends meet without our second income and I had no idea how long it was really going to take me to publish Mystic. I simply let go and trusted that if I followed my heart everything would be okay.

Second: Wait for signs of growth

av tree one root 2008 2009

It takes a month to two months for the seed to sprout. Be sure to give the seed fresh water daily.

There were days when I questioned my decision just as I questioned whether my avocado seed would ever turn into a tree. I started a blog in September 2008. I continued working on Mystic, attending writing conferences and I wrote several picture book drafts. Sue Monk Kidd became my author of choice. I delved into her books as well as Eckert Tolle and sought self discovery. I was growing even though some days the fear of failure was great. I kept on. The joy that was sprouting inside me was a constant reminder to keep going.

Next: Water and nurture.

av. tree roots 2008 2009

I began to see life as a privilege. I learned the importance of gratitude. Every success from having a closer relationship with my family, to listening to others tell me I inspired them through my writing, helped me break through the doubts and fears that still crept in. I was stronger.

Then: Plant your tree and watch it grow.

Av. tree picture from June 2012
June 2012

It took four years to go from the seed on my windowsill to a beautiful tree in my yard. In those years I worked on Mystic. I watched my children progress through school. We explored Barcelona as a family. I reconnected with high school friends on Facebook and met authors and illustrators who shared my passion for writing for children.

Finally: Your tree is growing. Keep nurturing it and remember to see its beauty.

av tree  March 2013

 March 2013

To do anything well it takes time. The magic begins when the seed is planted and the excitement bursts with each new root or branch grown. It’s the days in between that count the most because those are the days that make the others possible. Those are the days you have to believe in yourself. Believe that one day you’ll sit under the shade of your giant avocado tree and know that you added beauty to this wonderous world.

The inspiration for this post came from: Kristen Lamb’s Blog

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Here I’m showing the kids my mad illustration skills. Thank goodness Mina Sanwald was the illustartor for the map and Timothy Banks the illustrator for the cover.

This past week I found myself fluctuating between extreme fear and exhilaration. The date was set for me to have my first author visit in a school. For years I’d dreamed of when I could be in front of students as an author instead of a classroom teacher. Now it was really happening. Really happening!!! My stomach was churning all week. My gym workouts were easy. I had enough nervous energy to run for miles!

I created a PowerPoint, packed extra books of mine, and of other authors who had inspired me, and made a list of everything I needed to bring. I watched many TED speeches. Then, I rehearsed for hours. I even planned what I was going to wear and painted my nails. For me, the woman who loves sweats and jeans, that was a huge deal.

I kept asking myself why I was so nervous. I taught in a classroom for five years and then was a substitute for another four. I was used to being in front of students. This was different. First, it was something I had dreamed of doing for many years. The simple fact that it was coming true was overwhelming in itself. Add to that my passion for MYSTIC and getting to share it with kids…well, I knew it was enough joy to bring me to tears or cause me to run for miles on a treadmill.

school visit Feb 15 2013

Even though I describe myself as an introvert something happens to me when I’m around kids. They bring out a love from within that masks all my fear. I want to talk to them and understand them, make sure all is well in their world. So as soon as I was in front of those smiling faces I immediately went into teacher mode. I told them about MYSTIC and the writing process and of how lucky they are to have a library full of great books to read. I shared Arielle’s story and why I decided the character of Amelia would use a wheelchair. Afterwards, I signed books and bookmarks and watched kids get excited to read. It was a day I’ll never forget.

The most popular question from all three presentations: “Will MYSTIC be a movie?” My answer: “Do you know any directors?” Second most popular question: “What does Ralient do?” Kids love bad guys!!!