In The Air

Misty Copeland via Elle Magazine

Misty Copeland via Elle Magazine

There's something in the air these days that I'm loving - a new kind of empowerment message aimed at young women and girls.  I'm seeing and hearing it in commercials, on Facebook, on the radio, and even at the toy store.  Take the following campaigns:

Always: Like A Girl

Pantene: Not Sorry

Under Armour: I Will What I Want

Goldie Box: Like a Princess

These campaigns are awesome!  (And all seem to draw inspiration from the groundbreaking "Dove: Real Beauty" campaign from a few years ago.)  Obviously these companies are not perfect, no monster corporation is.  Just like no mother is always the perfect example for own daughter.  I know I'm not.  I have my moments where I look in the mirror and sigh at the way my jeans are fitting, only to notice a tiny little face watching me with those big eyes that take in every little thing, that pick up on every little sigh.  All I'm saying is that I love the message.  I love that all the money, resources, and brain power that it takes to produce these kind of videos is being spent on helping girls recognize their own self-worth.  On helping them see the beauty and power within.  

It's really inspiring and it's made me a think a lot about what I put out into the world.  Because even if my voice is a small one (at least for now), more and more girls are reading my words every day.  They are taking in my thoughts and stories and, as much as I want my writing to entertain, I also want it to teach.  That's why every story I write centers around kindness.  That's why no matter where in the world Coco and Lucy go, they don't return home until they've left it a better place, until they've helped someone.  But now I want to take my message even farther.  I've got this idea turning in my head for a new spin-off series based on this awesome message that's floating in the air.  Now I've just got to get this idea down on paper.  That's the fun part.

In the meantime, I am SO proud of Star Sisters and the Best Seller, which is coming out on Monday!  It's inspired by J.K. Rowling, a brilliant woman who has been a huge source of inspiration to me.  The book centers around a little girl (K.J. Dowling) who wants to be a writer.  No one takes her seriously and she's feeling pretty down, until Coco and Lucy come to the rescue and convince her not to give up.  To never stop trying.  It's the perfect book for any girl with big dreams.  And the New York City setting is the icing on the cake.  Don't Coco and Lucy look like so happy on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

The Truth

I sat down at my computer this morning to write a really happy post about fall and how it's the best season to curl up with a cup of tea and a good book, but I just can't get the words out.  Because I'll be honest, this Star Sisters journey is a bit of a roller coaster and sometimes it gets to me.  School's been in session for a few weeks now and everyone seems to be hitting their strides and getting back into the swing of things.  My kids are busy with ballet and art and soccer and more art.  My mom friends are busy getting back to work or with tennis league try-outs and all the amazing volunteering work they do.  

And sometimes I feel like I'm still just here.  Sitting at my same desk, all alone, plugging away.  I LOVE my books.  I'm so proud of my books.  I still can't believe that I took this tiny inkling of an idea and turned it into a beautiful, professional chapter book series that just received an awesome review in Publisher's Weekly (a huge feat for an independently published book, probably one of my biggest accomplishments so far).  But man, sometimes I get so tired of doing it all alone.  I get tired of my head always spinning with ways that I can promote my books and get the word out.  I get tired of obsessing over details and sales numbers and website hits.  I get tired of feeling like I'm always chasing something that I can't quite reach.  I get tired of grasping at every little straw.  I get tired of sitting here by myself.

But here's the thing, I feel a little better already.  That's what writing does for me.  Just getting these thoughts out of my head feels good.  I read a lot of blogs, and the thing I respond to the most is honesty.  I love an inspiring home tour or round up of the latest fall fashion trends as much as the next girl, but I also love reading about what people in creative careers are really struggling with.  Because I've wanted to dive into this world for so long.  For years I would read about women starting their own creative businesses and know that this is what I was meant to do.  I just knew it.  Now that I'm here, I think it's only fair to be honest that it's hard.  It's challenging and lonely and it takes a ton of work.  At least for me, it comes with a heavy serving of self-doubt.  But I wouldn't have it any other way and I'm not going anywhere.  Lonely days and all.

You know that else keeps me going?  The little ladies in the picture in the above.  Yesterday they woke up to find the first printed copy of Star Sisters and The Best Seller waiting for their review.  It was a great moment.  The kind of moment that makes everything else worth it.  The book is coming out next week and I promise I'll tell you all about it.  It's an awesome story that will inspire everyone out there to dream big - something I try and do every day. 

Soul Cycle

Post work-out pic with Todd from Soul Cycle.  

Post work-out pic with Todd from Soul Cycle.  

Star Sisters and the Great Skate comes out on Tuesday!  I love each of my books for different reasons, but this one has special meaning for me because it's about something that dominated a lot of my life - the sport of figure skating.  Loosely inspired by the Nancy Kerrigan/Tanya Harding incident all those years ago, Star Sisters and the Great Skate finds Coco and Lucy at the United States National Figure Skating Championships where they help a little girl learn a whole lot about sportsmanship and the importance of saying "I'm sorry".

But you can learn all that from the back cover.  What you may not know is that I was obsessed with figure skating growing up.  OBSESSED.  I spent every afternoon and some very early mornings on the ice.  I was never good enough to be a top national skater, but that didn't matter to me.  What I loved was the feeling of being on the ice.  The speed, the strength, the grace.  I loved throwing myself into the air and knowing, without a doubt, that several rotations later I would land backwards on a tiny steel blade.  I loved that I was out there on my own.  That when some mean girls were tormenting me in middle school or boys were ignoring me in high school, I could escape to the ice and, with some good music playing in the background, take control.

I hope that some of that passion comes through in this book.  I'm pretty sure it does because, as I was writing it, I thought a lot about how much I missed the sport.  College, careers, marriage, and, oh yeah, kids, tend to shift our focus from competitive sports to working out.  Over the years I've gone through yoga kicks (too quiet) and tennis kicks (too hard to schedule), until recently finding Soul Cycle.

And I love it!  It took me a few classes of pain to figure out why.  But once I got the hang of it and built up some endurance, I realized that the feeling I get from Soul Cycle is a lot like what I got from ice skating.  The room is dark, the music is awesome, and it's just me on my bike getting strong and zoning out the rest of the world.  The pic above is of one of my favorite teachers, Todd.  He's a former volunteer firefighter and yes, my husband is very tired of hearing me talk about him.  But he also gets in your head in a way that forces you to push yourself past what you think you can do.  It's that same feeling of speed and power and strength that I loved growing up.  Only I now get it on a bike minus, thankfully, the scrunchies and skirted leotards.

But guess who is rocking the skating outfits with major style?  Coco and Lucy!  Check them out below and please look out for this book next week.  Let's keep the Star Sisters love going with another great kindness spreading adventure!

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The Rock Star on the Shelf

Writing a book is often compared to giving birth.  I'm not going to go there because way too many people already have.  (Pop quiz: which Real Housewife threw herself a book shower as pay back for all the baby showers she had attended?  Answer at bottom of the post.)  But I will state with authority that having a book out in the world is nothing like having a child out in the world.  When I walk into a bookstore and see Star Sisters and the Royal Wedding on the shelf, I don't simultaneously kiss its sweet head, want to know everything about its day, offer to hold its sweater, and field a bazillion questions about what's for dinner and can its new best book friend come over for a playdate.  I simply look at my first book and smile, knowing that when it gets invited over to some nice family's house it will remember all its manners and be a wonderful addition to their bookshelf.

However, if I simply had to compare a book to a child, then Star Sisters and the Big Show (which will be out in just a few days!) would definitely be a rock star kind of kid.  She would have started sleeping through the night at approximately six weeks of age, wake her parents up at 8 am with the sound of singing, and have an awesome sense of style that includes aviator sunglasses and pink cowboy boots.  (See inspiration photo of my daughter above).  I LOVE this book.  I've read it dozens of times to my girls because we all can't get enough.  Really, I smile just looking at it.

Star Sisters and the Big Show is inspired by a certain fashionable blond-haired star who writes killer songs about the men who've toyed with her heart.  It features the hit song, "We Are Never Ever Going Down The Slide Together" and provides lots of important lessons about how words, no matter how well intentioned, can hurt people's feelings.  But it's also a book about the joys of summer and the feeling of being young and jumping into a cool swimming pool on a hot day.  If you need more convincing check out one of my favorite images from the book:

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And here's a peak of the star of the story, Trina Fast.  Anyone else think there's nothing better than a little girl in cowboy boots?  My middle daughter had a great hot pink pair with sequined stars from Target that she wore all winter long.  It's quite possible I will save those darling boots forever and ever and ever.       

Pop Quiz Answer: Carole Radziwill from Real Housewives of NYC (which is my favorite Real Housewives city of all time just in case you needed to know that sort of thing)!

Social Side of Indie Publishing

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Holy moly spicy guacamole! as my darling fictional Coco would say.  Star Sisters and the Royal Wedding is really selling!  I can't believe it!  I mean, I can believe it because I love this book and think every parent out there will as well, but it's still kind of a shock because for such a long time this project was a private labor of love.  As I told one of my friends recently, writing these books was my dirty little secret.  I kept them very private.  And yes, I am fully aware that a dirty little secret should be much more scandalous.  

But the thing about writing is that it's a solitary process.  Let's be real, I'm not writing the next great American novel here.  I don't write twelve hours a day from a cabin in the woods and I've accepted that Star Sisters will probably never make the short list for a Pullitzer.  But I do log a ton of hours alone with my computer.  And when I made the decision to publish Star Sisters independently, I voluntarily signed on for an even more solitary experience.  Or so I thought.

For those of you who don't know, publishing independently, or indie publishing, is just a cooler way of saying self-publishing.  (Just how cool?  Read more about that here.)  It means that a book is produced not by a conventional publishing house like Simon & Schuster or Random House, but by a small publishing company or the author herself.  In my case, I'm a one woman show.  I published all my work under an LLC that I created, hired my own illustrator, and did all the layout, production, and printing through Createspace, which is Amazon's self-publishing arm.  I did all this because I believed in my project with all my heart and I wanted it to be executed according to my high standards.  I wanted quality writing and story lines with an edge, tons of illustrations, and a book that physically looked and felt awesome with a killer cover and great paper.  In the end, I got what I wanted.  But whereas most books are produced by a team of professionals who work with the writer and each other, I did it all alone.  And it was kind of lonely (and a tad bit terrifying).

But not anymore.  Ever since the books have come out I have been blown away by the number of new people that have come into my life.  There's Wayne at the Post Office who I see on a daily basis as I send out more and more books.  We compare parent/grandparent stories.  There's the incredible staff at numerous local bookstores who have been so supportive and have already invited me to participate in special events this summer.  I've gotten to know two awesome ladies, Sarah Winchester and Amy Hendren, who spent all day at my house on Wednesday photographing and styling it up for a feature that will run soon online.  Sneak peak of the fun here:

Through a party I hosted I met two talented local moms with a new catering business and another mom who does her own floral design.  I could have talked to those ladies all day and about the joys and challenges of running a small business.  And then there are friends I haven't seen in years who have been recommending my books to all their mom friends.  Wellesley Books has sold out twice in 10 days and I literally got a call from a bookstore I wasn't even in asking if I could drop some books off after someone came in asking for them!

I'm gearing up to head back to my desk - I have a great idea for book #4 that I'm just dying to write and produce - but this time it's going to be a lot less lonely.  And I am so very grateful for that.  So, so grateful.

On The Shelves

This whole Star Sisters process has been rather awesome - except for the sleepless nights caused by anxiety over every little detail that goes into making a book.  But hey, I'm a mama, I have a lot of experience functioning in a state of exhaustion.  One of the single best moments in this whole journey, however, happened on Friday morning when I saw my book on the shelves at my favorite local book store, Wellesley Books.  

I love book stores.  Not the kind with Starbucks inside, I find those way too overwhelming despite the fact that I do enjoy a good magazine display featuring every home decor magazine known to man.  I'm talking about independent book stores, the ones that have their own unique smell, well worn oriental rugs, and the owner's dog sleeping in the corner.  I LOVE those kind of places.  Yes, I sell my books on Amazon.  And I think the ability to get a case of diapers, a pack of fresh onesies, and a great children's chapter book shipped to my doorstep for no additional charge is one of the best things to happen to parents in the past gazillion years.  But the excitement that I felt seeing Star Sisters and the Royal Wedding available on my computer screen did not hold a candle to the insane joy and pride I felt seeing it on the shelves.  It just didn't.    

If you feel the same way about book stores, you have to read the The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.  It tells the story of the most endearingly grumpy bookseller you'll ever come across, AJ Fikry.  Fikry owns Island Books, a book store located on a fictious island that reminded me of Martha's Vineyard.  Fikry is set in his cranky and lonely ways when an abandoned baby left in his store turns Fikry's life upside down.  The book is good, but what makes it great are the letters that begin every chapter in which Fikry writes his personal thoughts about the books that have impacted his life (the one that starts the final chapter made me sob).  This book oozes a love of literature.  It's what I wish every English class had been about - the way books make you think about life.  My only complaint is that the child in the book is just way too perfect.  She's the most mature toddler you'll probably never meet.  But I guess that's the beauty of fiction - we can all dream that our children would be content to spend hours leafing through picture books while we browse the shelves!

 

Happy Anniversary, Guys!

It's a big day in Star Sisters world.  No, The New York Times hasn't named Star Sisters and the Royal Wedding the break-out children's chapter book of the year.  The editor told me to look out for that news closer to December.  It's Will and Kate's third wedding anniversary!  Happy Anniversary, you guys!

What?  You forgot.  When you spend as much time as I have over the past year writing about this great couple these kind of dates stick out.  (The other benefit of spending so much time writing about them is that I get to call them "Will and Kate" because in my mind we're really, really good friends and Kate calls me for all kinds of parenting and fashion advice).

Now, in my house we tend to go all out for anniversaries and birthdays that fall on the fives, except for the birthdays of my middle daughter which are a big event every year and a subject of discussion every single day for at least six months before the actual day.  But this year I find myself thinking a lot about this particular third royal wedding anniversary.  Three years ago we had just moved into a new house in a new town.  I had NO friends and I was sure that our move was a massive mistake.  I remember very clearly that we moved on a Friday, exactly one week before the wedding.  My husband had to leave for a work trip that Monday and I remember sobbing to him that I just needed a TV installed before he left so I didn't miss the wedding.  (FYI - I was not sobbing out of fear of missing the wedding, I'm not that crazy.  I was sobbing out of general in-over-my-head-life-upheaval-with-two-young-kids feelings).  

I didn't sleep much that week so it was no problem for me to be up in the middle of the night when the wedding began.  I remember sitting up in bed and turning on the TV as the broadcast started on a crystal clear day.  It was truly picture perfect.  Somewhere in the middle of the ceremony my oldest daughter climbed into bed with me as she didn't sleep much in general those days.  I remember the look of awe on her face as Kate walked down the tree strewn aisle of Westminster Abbey.  She was particularly enamored with the flower girls, wanting to know how she could get chosen for the next royal wedding.  For a few hours I was not in an empty house facing a day alone with two young kids and no friends, furniture, or family.  I was in a grown-up fairy tale.  

Three years later, I've come a long way.  I've made a life for myself, with friends and a house full of little girls and, thankfully, furniture.  And I've written and published three books!  Three!  Maybe I chose to kick off my children's chapter book series with an adaption of the royal wedding because of that lonely morning three years ago and all that it represented to me.  Or maybe it's just a great story that I know every mom will love reading.  Or maybe I really am a little too obsessed with the happy couple.  I don't know.  But I do know that, as a parent, building a life for our kids and ourselves is tricky.  The two don't always go hand-in-hand.  Many decisions that are right for them, like moving to the suburbs, can feel wrong for us.  Anyway, I have a long way to go, trust me, but looking back I'm proud of these past three years.  It's been a tricky road, but a good one.

P.S.  Want to see my most favorite illustration from the last chapter of Star Sisters and the Royal Wedding?  Want to see even more?  Buy the book here!

Bye, Bye Baby.

This week I send pre-release copies of my first book to some very wonderful authors whose work I really respect and I am 90% thrilled, 9% nervous, and 1% terrified.  This Star Sisters project began as a simple dinner conversation between me and my husband.  He had just come downstairs after reading our oldest daughter a chapter book and, when I asked which book he read, he said he had no idea because his mind was somewhere else entirely.  Sadly, I understood the feeling.  (Side note: I know there are many fabulous chapter book series out there.  It just so happens that some of the ones our children love don't quite reach that bar.  Just my opinion, feel free to disagree).  My husband and I started joking around that there should be a chapter book series about all our favorite television shows.  A few weeks later I banged out three full books starring the women from Sex and the City as little girls.  Those were some funny books.  Each one was based around a television show like Modern Family, 90210, and a certain reality show that I'll keep to myself because it may offend some of the purists out there.  But sadly, there's this little thing called copyright infringement so I'll never publish those books.  But I love them because they got me started down this path.

It took me many, many more months of writing and rewriting and editing to come up with the final three books that I have now.  All those months were just me and my computer in the early morning hours (and occasionally my poor husband who I forced to read every single draft).  I've since shown the books to some wonderful friends but this is the first time they're going out into the world on their own.  I obviously hope everyone likes them.  I hope they love them and tell all their friends about them and give the books wildly glowing reviews on very social media platform known to mankind.  But I also know that I'm going to be okay if that's not the case.  Because that's the way this business works and I'm just honored just to be a part of this creative world that I've admired my whole life.  It's totally thrilling to put my work out there.  Seriously a dream come true.  So I'm sending these babies off with a pink bow and green star stamp and the rest is up to them.