Author School Visit: Hickory Flat Elementary School

My book tour in Georgia took me to many wonderful places and spaces, including a sweet little town called McDonough, Georgia. I have never experienced the charm of this town and felt so blessed to enjoy its beauty for a short time.

Hickory Flat Elementary School welcomed me with open arms, literally, such a loving and wonderful group of kids and teachers. It was quite a full day with six 30 minute presentations, all before 1pm! I knew a day like this would either make me or break me.

And guess what?

It totally made me.

I left the school feeling extremely high on life and in love with my job as a children’s author.

The very first comment from a student had me chuckling. A little girl walked by and said, “Are you the author? Wow, you’re pretty!” I said thank you and she followed up with, “Well, most authors I know are really old and wrinkly.” So there you have it, I was feeling young and accomplished. 😉

I have two different presentations, one for K-2 and one for 3-5. I don’t read the book to the 3-5 group, but honestly, at the end of each presentation I can see it in their eyes that they want me to read the book. If only we had enough time!!

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My favorite part of each presentation is when I showcase my rejection letters. What I love about the above picture is how intently the students are reading each letter, they were filled with interest. And when I later showed them my two acceptance letters, someone asked me to read one out loud. So, I did and once I was done, the crowd was roaring with cheers, yelps and clapping. Ahh, I got goose bumps. The teachers got goose bumps. I had gotten through to these kids and it was showing in big ways!

One of my most memorable moments with the first grade group was the idea of using your imagination. In Kindergarten the students are learning how to write from their own non-fiction personal experiences and in first grade they begin dabbling into fiction. After I read the book, one little boy raised his hand and said, “But the elephant can’t really come back to bed with you!” And it was the perfect transition into us talking about fiction.

I asked the group to share with me a personal experience from the day. I took that personal experience and added an element of fiction. They laughed and shook their heads in understanding. I explained to them that we all have dreams, but I added a bit of fiction by bringing an element from the dream world back to bed. IMG_6294

I did all of the fancy author things like hugging the students, chatting with teachers and signing books. I was so taken back by the praise I received from the teachers, as they seemed genuinely impressed by the presentations. My goal is to meet the needs of the students and the teachers, I want the teachers to feel like they have talking points to share with their students after the presentations.

Media Consultant, Kristy Sullivan, had a great review of the day and has already invited me back.

“We enjoyed our author visit with Jacqueline Leigh so very much. She spoke with students from 1st to 5th grade and had wonderful presentations that were age appropriate and entertaining. Teachers could not stop raving and speaking highly of the quality and content of the presentation as well as Jacqueline’s ability to maintain student attention. All of our students were so intrigued by the lessons she taught them about perseverance and using our mistakes to make us better individuals. Her love for her work was apparent and I believe will encourage students to follow their dreams and work towards achieving their goals. We can’t wait for our next visit with Jacqueline!”

Author School Visit: Matt Elementary

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Today was one of my favorite days as a children’s author. I visited my hometown. I spent time at the place that helped me grow into the professional I am today.

Matt Elementary School invited me to do an author visit for their nine Kindergarten classes. And what a lively group of kids they were.

I adore Kindergarten students, they are extremely genuine and are filled with hope and light. Their presence simply inspires me to enjoy the greater, the lesser, the sweeter things in life. Just look how sweet they are!

As always, I start my visits with an introduction of what an author is and what an illustrator does. And honestly, the kids are so stinkin’ smart, they know exactly what my job entails!

I show them my very first drafts, fit with the red markings of my editor. I then lead into the illustrations process, showing them raw sketches of the characters. I have them grab their pretend pencils and pretend paper and draw their pretend dad. I often put the dad in high heels and the class erupts in laughter. I tell them to grab their pretend erasers and draw the right type of shoes. This helps them understand the process of illustrating a character.

We chat about storyboarding the book, submitting to publishers and getting accepted. I love to teach resilience by showing the students my many rejection letters. This isn’t to disappoint them but to show them how hard work and persistence can pay off.

Finally, we read the story. I love to make this part interactive by having the students standup and act out each scene as I read the book. This is always fun!

The coolest part of this visit was coming across my past. One of the Kindergarten teachers happened to be MY second grade teacher and the moment was surreal. She was one of the most inspirational and influential teachers I’ve ever had, I’ve thought about her often and believe it was fate that we were brought back together.

In fact, the very first children’s book I wrote and made was in her class in second grade. It was called, “The Dog Who Jumped Over The House.” It was riveting. The kids were tickled to hear that THEIR teacher was MY teacher when I was a kid. I love making and showcasing connections like that! Thank you Miss Skidmore for being you, for being who you were in my life and for being there today.

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Thank you to Matt Elementary for welcoming me with open arms. I can still hear the laughter of 6 and 7 year old’s and am thankful that my job is one that promotes an abundance of smiles.

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Author Bookstore Visit: Read With Me Children’s Bookshop

 

Read With Me, A Children’s Bookshop in Raleigh is a young bookstore with (already) great success. The doors have been open for six months and the staff is here to celebrate children’s literacy and education. Upon arrival, you are immediately spellbound by the decor, books and crafts surrounding you.

I was invited to be a guest reader on a Saturday at 11:00am, during one of their regular story-times. I was thrilled to share my craft with the community at such a wonderful bookstore.

They have the greatest seating that back’s up to a wall of windows. It gives the kids an option to pay attention to the reader or people watch (you can, after all, learn a lot from doing both)! As you can tell here, my very own mother-in-law and son were so entranced with the sidewalk that they weren’t even paying attention. I guess once you’ve heard the book a thousand times, you’re kind of over it, right?

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After my readings, I love chatting about the types of dreams that kids experience at night. One little boy was so excited to tell me about sailing on the wide open sea in his latest dream. Another claims he could fly without a cape. This type of imagination and excitement for the make believe world is what I hope for and encourage at my author visits.

Read With Me was kind enough to put together a craft that followed the reading. Kids were pumped to make their very own lanterns to take home. These lanterns were filled with glitter and topped with a beaded handle. I love anything that can help children get excited about bedtime.

 

If you’re ever in downtown Raleigh, pop into this store. The owner, Christine, is very careful about selecting beautifully made books. The store is organized by age and book type, making it dangerously easy to find just what you need. I, personally, left with a make your own board book kit. You’ve got to start them young, right?

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Author Setup: Raleigh Makers Market

The Raleigh Makers Market is a monthly handmade market that celebrates the local makers, creators and musicians in our area. I was beyond thrilled when they invited me to be a part of their October market.

The market is held in the Raleigh Beer Garden event field and it couldn’t be a more perfect space. There are picnic tables, games, and easy access to food and beverages. I was (literally) in Heaven.

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I setup my booth (well, if you want to call it that. I’m not fancy enough to have a tent yet) by the games, strategic right? Where the kids would be toying around. I had many books and the bookmark table, which is always a hit with the kids.

I was surrounded by so many talented people, I was in awe and inspired by their expertise. I saw leather jewelry, paintings, tassel earrings, wood art and even dogs for adoption. In a way, I didn’t feel up to snuff to be in the midst of these hard-workers.

But, you know what, I was up to snuff and I admitted to myself that I MADE IT, I have a product that I created and I am proud to stand behind it!

I met a lot of proud parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles at the event. I am always impressed with their love for local authors and giving the gift of reading to their little ones. I also came across a few aspiring writers and can find myself lost in conversation with them for quite some time. Because, although I’ve made it, I am still an aspiring writer. I am struggling to get my third book down on paper, I am struggling to make sense of it, I am an aspiring writer. I love relating to people on so many levels.

I will be back at this Market, I can promise you that!

 

 

Read & Create At Bull City Craft

Giveaway!!Have you ever imagined a place where mess is allowed, creativity is celebrating and kids are just down right happy? I have some news for you, that place does exist.

Nestled in Durham, NC is Bull City Craft, a crafting and painting studio for kids, teenagers and adults. This space is really here to fulfill the creative need of all ages.

I was invited to come in and host a story time, and of course, I jumped on the opportunity. This event was so special as it exercised creativity of all facets.

Upon arrival, I met a few folks who work there. And, oh my gosh. What a kind and vibrant bunch. I was immediately uplifted and excited to be in their company for the next hour. I was planning, in my head, on how I could get my own children to enjoy that space EVERY SINGLE DAY. This is still in the works. 🙂

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We had a nice size group of kids who ranged in all ages. I love when I have a variety in the audience, I know the book will trigger excitement in a different way for each age.

I read the story and later joked that the reading was my monologue. Because seriously, I have the book memorized and can read it with the right inflections, moods and thrill when needed.

2017 09 22-182017 09 22-25The studio was kind enough to follow-up the reading with a dream catcher craft. The craft perfectly complimented the book and I was pumped to see what the kids would come up with.

The kiddos were busying themselves with string, markers and beads (by the way, Bull City makes all of their own beads!) I was having a blast signing copies of the book for the families who were on the hunt for a new bedtime read. And a word to the wise, if you are signing your books with sharpies, maybe try to find a hiding place from the kids. Unless you want various items decorated with metallic sharpie.

All in all, this was a wonderful event. We even chatted about craft projects for my next book, so be on the lookout, the party train will be back! And if you’re on the hunt for fun activities for your kids, check this place out, it’s only $6 to play for the whole day. They have paint, crayons, paper, playdoh, toys, etc. And they truly love it when the kids make a mess. A messy kid is a happy kid!

Thank you Bull City team for being that special light in so many lives. I am blessed beyond measure that I got to meet you and experience your happy place.

And a quick thank you to Morgan Henderson Photography for capturing the event!

 

 

 

 

Author School Visit: Laurel Park Elementary

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Becoming an author does not end with the publishing of your book, in fact, that’s when the fun really begins. That’s when the author becomes a public figure, a personality for the book and a face for children’s literature.

I was thrilled to spend 7 hours straight with the students and faculty at Laurel Park Elementary. Was it a bit tiring? Sure. Was it immensely rewarding? Absolutely.

My day began with the lively Pre K students. This bunch was so excited to pass out the hugs and get their hands on a book. I read a few scenes from Ford & Red and talked a lost about dreaming. It was a great way to start the day.

I raced back to the Library where I was to present to the first group of the day. The second graders. They trickled in with whispers of “Is that her?” “Is that the author?” I have never felt more like a celebrity, kids have that magic about them, kids know how to lift someone up in an organic way. The organizer introduced me and I ran up to the stage, for my first author school visit of my life.

I was shaking in my boots. Like, literally, shaking. Who knew a group of children could be so intimidating? But there they were, staring up at me with their curious, wandering eyes. And let me tell you, they laugh only when something is truly funny and they fidget when they start getting bored.

I have three different presentations. One for 4yo – Pre K, another for K – third and my last for fourth – fifth.

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My K – third presentation explores the process of creating a story. We explore the nature of getting book ideas, and the kids learn how simple it is to find inspiration. I often start with, “What did you have for breakfast this morning?” Most answer with, “Oatmeal, Cereal, Yogurt.” I breathe life into their responses by creating a wild story of a little girl who couldn’t find the spoons, she’s now starving and can’t possibly eat her oatmeal. The children love this and will shout out silly responses like, “The spoons are on the ceiling!!” And that’s what I’m hoping for, they are tapping into their creative thinking and having fun.

We talk about the editing that goes into writing a story and the illustration process. I like to relate this part to their own personal drawings. “Pretend you are drawing a picture of your dad and you accidentally give him Oger arms!!!” The kids laugh hysterically and I have them pull out their imaginary erasers to remove the Oger arms. We do this a few times, so much so, that there’s a pretend hole in their pretend paper from pretend erasing so much. This helps them understand what it takes to get just one character for a children’s book right. (And they’ve laughed a bit, if you go too long without making them laugh, your presentation is a dud).

I always read the book to this age group and make it interactive. I have the kids stand-up and act out each scene as I read the book. My book flips from sleep, to dream, to sleep, to dream, to sleep. The kids love acting out the dreams and then quickly falling asleep. And I have to admit, it’s adorable.

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Following the second graders were the fourth graders. Talk about jumping up in age group. I have a different presentation for these students and had such a great time with them. Their little faces were filled with interest the entire time, it was very fulfilling.

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When I ask the fourth and fifth graders if they have big dreams of being a writer one day, you can hear a pen drop.

 

And this is when I truly blow their minds. I share my experiences in Advertising, Journalism and Online Writing. I talk about all of the big brands I’ve worked with and the famous people I’ve interviewed. I even share stories from different parts of the country. All because of my writing degree.

I ask the question again, “do you want to be a writer?” And you can’t control the excitement, every hand shoots in the air and they can’t contain their questions. All of a sudden, we have aspiring journalists, copywriters and authors.

I show them my query letters to publishers and even showcase my many rejection letters. We talk about dedication, persistence and success. I explore fiction writing with this group and encourage them to have wild thoughts that they can turn into stories. They each have a blast creating a story with me, and the more ridiculous you can make it, the better.

The day continued with a catered lunch (thank you Laurel Park Elementary Staff), Kindergarten, First Grade and Third Grade. The third graders were by far the most energetic. At the end of my session, I was literally bombarded with students who wanted me to autograph scrap paper (and homework, of course). Each student wanted a hug and I could see the panic on the teachers faces. I, however, loved every minute of the attention and my brief moment as celebrity. And to know that I made them THAT excited about writing, well my goodness, sign me up for another session.

Instead of selling and autographing books the day of, I had the school collect order forms beforehand. This worked out extremely well and saved a lot of time the day of the event. Students were able to go home with personalized copies of the book!

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And, to close this lengthy blog post are a list of my favorite questions from students:

  1. Are you a mom?
  2. I have a dog.
  3. How do you make your book so wordable?

Are you in Georgia, South Carolina or North Carolina and interested in signing your school up for a visit? My author visits are truly a lot of fun! Follow this link to inquire.

Watch the two videos below to hear what Specialists at Laurel Park Elementary had to say about my author visit!

 

Storytime at The Honeysuckle Teahouse

Today, I had the great pleasure of reading my book to the folks of Chapel Hill. The kids and I loaded up the car and made the trip to The Honeysuckle Teahouse for a beautiful Fall morning reading.

Isn’t it so wonderful that I have the type of job where my kids can tag along? Now, I’ll be completely honest, they were a bit of a handful. I felt a little less like a big time author and more like a juggling mama. But seriously, that’s who I am. No matter what my job is, I am a juggling mama. I think I disciplined my children 3 times during the reading… cue the shame.

However, beyond the rowdy toddler moods, look how cute they were! Such great little helpers.

As always, we had a bookmark craft setup. I find that with this young age group, having an easy craft that can busy their little hands is wonderful. You can see the thankful eyes of all parents when they see something that will occupy their children.

The reading itself was fantastic. Do you see this gorgeous setting? I adore this little tea shop for its scenic views. I’m always a big fan of letting your toddlers be free, I never expect children to sit still the entire time, that puts so much pressure on the parents. If they want to listen to my story, great. If not, go ahead and play little guy. That’s fine!

And as always, the kids adored the Elephant part of the book. If you haven’t read the book, I won’t spoil it for you.

Afterwards, we all took a little break to run the grounds of Honeysuckle. Everything from their beverages, food and landscape is all-natural and homegrown. I am so thankful for them hosting me at their location this morning. I will be back with my second book in tow!

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The 20 Minute Creative Journal

How do we remain creative in a world full of Pinterest boards and beautiful Instagram accounts? It’s true, whether you’re a writer, illustrator or doctor, you have the ache for creativity. We all do. Even my Air Traffic Controller husband gets excited when he sees a fresh new box of crayons.

I hear to get better at something, you must practice, everyday. I’m a writer. I actually have a degree in writing, oh yeah, my parents put me through college to become a write. Whaaaaa!? I hear you doctors, I hear your chuckles.

My goal is to provide interesting, exciting, refreshing and fulfilling children’s books. I was sitting at my desk one day with a blank piece of paper, pen in hand and determination to write a great story. My mind was empty. There was a small red cursor, blinking constantly behind my eyes. Ok established authors, where did you get your book ideas? How in the world did you come up with the idea to have a dragon pop out of a kids mailbox, or send a bear on a multiple page hunt for his hat? (Those are best sellers by the way).I decided I needed to write everyday, not only to practice my skill, but to keep that creative bug nourished. That’s when I created the 20 Minute Creativity Journal. I encourage EVERYONE to make a creativity journal. Everyone from rocket scientists to authors need to nourish that creative bug. It’s incredibly refreshing and changes your outlook on the day. You begin looking at everyday items with zest and purpose.

The 20 Minute Creativity Journal
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What You Need:

    Blank journal, size does not matterPens4x6 EnvelopeTapeScissorsList of Words & Phrases (I provide a list at the bottom of this entry)

Assembly:

  • Tape the envelope on the inside of the back cover, the flap should be facing up.
  • Cut the words & phrases from the printout into little strips.
  • Place the strips into the envelope and close the flap (don’t seal it, just close it)

Directions:

Once a day, grab your journal and a pen and head to a quiet place. Leave your cell phone, ipad, laptop, computer, ok, if it has wifi, leave it. This is an exercise for your brain. With your eyes closed, pick a slip of paper out of the envelope (no returning, what you grab is your assignment). Spend the next 20 minutes writing a short story on that topic. It can be a poem, children’s story, YA, sci fi, etc. For the artists, spend 20 minutes sketching that topic.

Do you feel creative yet? You will after doing this daily. Most of my entries are quite terrible, but it encouraged vigorous thought. Some entries may surprise you, in fact, one of the lines I wrote ended up in my first picture book. And the simple word, “Milk”, encouraged my second manuscript.

Give it a shot! If you have children, encourage them to create a journal. Most importantly, HAVE FUN!!!

Journal Entry Words & Phrases

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Cary Living: Food Issue

Grab Cary Living Magazine’s July / August food issue. I was thrilled to write three pieces for this issue: Eating Around The World (a spread on wordly cuisine found in our area), Bargain Bites (Everyday is a deal) and Kids Eat Free. Enjoy, and more importantly, get out there and support the local chefs, farmers and restaurants.

Follow this link to view the articles via interweb: http://www.caryliving.com/articles.asp

Five Reasons to Expose Your Children to Philanthropy

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We teach our children an abundance of skills, from playing well with others to respecting authority. But, are we showing them how to give back and what it means to put the needs of others above themselves?

It’s a tricky topic to discuss. Having to explain to the young minds why a dog was abandoned, why a child stays hungry or why that man doesn’t have a home. Hurt and sadness can (and does) show its face in many places, and so often, adults are eager and willing to make those situations right through giving back. What about our children, how do we teach them about the complex act of serving others?

Alan Briggs, North Carolina’s Executive Director of Feeding America Food Banks, highly values family volunteering. “In this busy world, where even a family meal is a challenge to carve out of the day, volunteering offers a chance for families to share time together, connect and learn and feel good about themselves and each other.”

That’s the reality of families today. We are all under the firm pressure of the word, “busy.” It affects many areas of our lives, especially areas that don’t fall under the category of being “necessary.” That’s where volunteering lies, in a category behind school, play dates, sports and family events.

Maureen O’Leary, Associate Director of Youth and Young Professional Engagement for the Habitat For Humanity, sees a strong benefit in family volunteering, “families have a shared experience as well as opportunities for parents to promote civic and community engagement with their children.” Hearing this may encourage families to move volunteering to the top of their priority list.

Briggs and O’Leary both provided many powerful points when it comes to family volunteering. If you have yet to thrust your children into the world of giving back, view these points and see how they would apply to your family.

Teaches Children to Problem Solve

When in the position of serving others, you’re in a position of proficiency. Those being served may look to you for guidance and expertise; this includes your children as well. They begin looking for solutions to the problems at stake. Your child may notice an empty dish at the Food Bank that needs refilling. They are quick and passionate about solving the problem, knowing that it will help others.

“When children volunteer at an early age, they tend to become more aware of needs and challenges,” O’Leary states. This quality is carried over from the volunteering space to the home or school, as well as impacting their later years.

 Builds Confidence in the Children

“Children become confident that they can make an impact on their community,” O’Leary states. Kids today battle with abuse, bullying and harassment. Giving them a chance to shine and build confidence is gifting them with the ability to be fearless and self-assured. This will translate to the people and animals that are being served, a positive attitude creates a positive environment. Once the child visualizes the transformation he or she is making, that’s the moment they have faith in themselves to change the world.

 Creates a Bond within the Family Unit

This goes without saying. Serving others as a family is a substantial way to create a lasting bond. It’s true, the ultimate goal here is to give back, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun. Take this opportunity to laugh with your kids and make memories. Our organization’s mission is to bring people together to build safe, affordable housing for families in need of decent shelter,” O’Leary States. Bringing your family together to build homes or feed the underprivileged is an opportunity that can’t be missed.

 Exposes Children to Diversity

“Volunteering instills and reinforces the idea that you don’t have to have wealth, power or any special skills to be of benefit to others,” Briggs explains. Let’s break it down. You will be serving African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Chinese, People, Dogs, etc. Your children will hear different languages and see different races. They may be serving with the wealthy and the poor. Spending an hour or two on a Saturday to teach our young minds about the different cultures is a skill that will help them with the school bus, classroom and future jobs.

 Children Experience the Natural High of Serving Others

Watching a smile spread across someone’s face is euphoric, knowing that you’re the one who influenced that smile is heroic. Volunteering is gratifying. You forget about yourself for this brief period of time and focus on others, this is an extremely selfless opportunity. Some studies have shown that children have a philanthropic instinct that peaks at about age 12,” Briggs explains. “Reinforcing that instinct with the hands-on experience of helping others in need lasts a lifetime.”

If your interest is heightened and you want to look further, below are a few organizations that allow children volunteers. In addition to these National Organizations, check your local area for people and places close to home.

Where Can We Volunteer?

Habitat For Humanity

Feeding America

Children’s Hospital

Humane Society

Nursing Home

 

 

Image Source: http://www.soulhotsauce.com/give-back/