Illustration Art Video For Our Next Book

Great news! Our hardback proof of The Shoebox arrived on Wednesday, and it looks really good! So that was the final print proof. No more changes! And a hardback book? What could be better?!? CluckŸ-BuckŸ!

The video is completely in black-and-white because all of the illustrations are also. We didn’t want to give the impression that anything will be in color, so even the title slide is in black-and-white. (The book jacket does have color.)

We really hope you will enjoy the video!

hardback with matte jacket, paperback with matte cover, 6” x 9,” 50 lb. white paper, 270 pages, 27 chapters with a full-page black-and-white illustration for each chapter

September 30th is the official publication date. Why not sign up for our weekly newsletter for more exciting news?!?

Thanks so much for reading—and watching!

John, Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia

One final note…Gracie is doing okay. She has her good days and her not-so-good days. That is, there are some days she relies on me more than on other days.

She and I are working together to get as much of her life down in notebooks while we can, but that does limit how much time we can spend on WordPress and social media.

We really appreciate those of you who have stuck with us even though we are not the best WordPress community members.

The Worm Olympics and a Short Lesson About the “Inner Critic”

This week’s issue of The Gracie Press Newsletter was sent out yesterday morning. If yours did not arrive in your email “inbox,” you may want to check your “junk” or “spam” folders. BUT there were some that were not sent at all, including my own (to a different email address than the one that I used to set up my newsletter account).

I have to say that is concerning! And in corresponding with someone here on WordPress, I discovered it has happened to some people for the past few weeks. That’s not good! We have been consistent in sending out newsletters every Friday at 9:30 AM for the past 14 weeks.

So if you have been wondering, “Where’s the newsletter?”…Gracie and I are going to do our best to get it corrected with the folks at Revue.

In the meantime, if you’ve been missing issues, you can catch up by using the links below.

The featured image, which you also see above, is in black-and-white, just as it will be in our next book. Reader feedback was overwhelmingly in favor of full-page chapter illustrations.

Due to the length of the book which is currently 246 pages, color is not an option. But then again, I don’t think black-and-white illustrations are such a bad thing…unless of course, I listened to my “inner critic”!

And I do think many of us do have an “Inner Critic.” Mine was working overtime about three years ago when I started drawing pictures of Gracie and my other chickens on sticky notes and scratch pads.

“No one is going to want to look at those!” said my inner critic.

But, of course, people did want to look at them.

“No one is going to want to read stories you write to go with those pictures!” said my inner critic.

But, of course, people did want to read them.

“Go ahead and waste your time writing and illustrating those books. No one is going to pay any attention to them!” said my inner critic.

Well, you can see where this is going, can’t you? The Shoebox will be our fourth book and our first book in a series titled Once Through a Garden Gate.

At 248 pages and over 34,000 words, I think it is fair to say, “Don’t listen to your inner critic!” Or as Gracie says, “Dance with your heart, and then take a leap of faith!”

While you are catching up with our newsletter, why not sign up as a subscriber? August will mark the Third Anniversary of sharing drawings and stories about Gracie, and we will have a special gift for our newsletter subscribers! Wow! Three Years!

You may wonder, “What’s different about the newsletter?” The newsletter shares what I am working on directly with our fans. Because it is an email, our fans can share it with others, particularly those who are young readers with no ads, no distractions, and no strange content. In a way, it’s sort of like sharing a bedtime story!

Also, unlike “My Life With Gracie,” there are no health updates like the ones I have given here from time to time. (In the newsletter, Blanche is still with us. Gracie doesn’t need my help to get up onto her favorite roosting spot at night.)

Another way to say this is that the newsletter anticipates these stories lasting beyond the lives of my chickens and well beyond my own life. That is our hope. We want to make the world a better place for everyone. And so we dance and then take a leap of faith.

Emily, Our Living Treasure

Emily with her drawing titled “Amelia And Emily Flying Together”

This week’s post about Emily pairs with last week’s post about Amelia. They tell of the same journey across a speckless blue sky. This is a revision of a post shared almost two years ago. The way I am using “living treasure” in a slightly different from how the Japanese people use it, but I could find no better phrase to describe Emily in this post.

“I want to learn to draw,” Emily repeated more emphatically. She seemed startled at her own boldness. “You will teach me, won’t you?”

“There is nothing I would rather do,” I said.

Just like that, Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp began. We used white chalk from the workbench and some brown grocery bags for practicing with everything spread out across the garage floor. As her skills grew, she began to use small pieces of colorful pastels for her special drawings of flowers. She had always loved the garden plants.

Then one day before our lesson, Emily asked, “Is it true what you said about drawing? Does drawing really let you do things you would never be able to do any other way? You did say that.”

“Yes, that’s true. At least, I believe it’s true. Not everything is true just because you believe it, but there are some things that are true whether you believe them or not.”

She thought this over then went to where we had a stack of colored pastel papers. We saved these only for special drawing, not practice drawings. She tapped a sky-blue piece of paper with her beak and said, “I want to make a drawing of Amelia and me flying together.”

I pulled out the sheet for her. She began drawing carefully from memory without saying a word. Her concentration was intense. Her lines were sure and confident with no sketchiness in them. They began definitively, travelled across the paper definitively, and ended most definitively as well. Everything she had ever learned about drawing was in each line, and each line spoke to my heart just as surely as if it had been made of words for a poem, a poem of love.

Finally she said, “I’m ready.”

This was not what I had expected to hear, not yet. She had only drawn Amelia flying. She had not drawn herself. This was not a drawing of Amelia and Emily flying together.

What if she was too embarrassed to tell me she wasn’t sure how to draw herself because she didn’t know how she looked?

“Do you need anything else? Like maybe a mirror?” I asked.

“No the drawing part is finished. You just need to write the words of the picture for me.”

“What words would you like?”

“Make the words say ‘Amelia And Emily Flying Together’ because that is what this drawing is about.”

And so, I did. Even though it was only a drawing of Amelia flying, I wrote what she asked.

“I’m ready now,” she said. “Let’s prop it up against the workbench like we always do.”

As soon as her drawing was in place for us to look at, she stood beside it, closed her eyes, and then she opened them again. She closed her eyes for a bit longer, and then she opened them again. The third time, she closed her eyes and kept them closed.

Slowly she stretch her wings until they were fully extended. Then she spread her tail feathers.

She trembled with excitement.

Her eyes opened wide, but she wasn’t seeing the garage or me. It was as if all she saw was sky and Amelia beside her with the fields and forests and rivers below them.

She swayed from side to side as if being carried along like a kite by winds high into the sky above. She dipped. She drifted from side to side. She opened her mouth wide as if she was tasting the air in some far off place.

She looked to her right, then she began opening and closing her beak. No sound or words came out, but I knew she was calling to Amelia. She looked down towards the concrete floor of the garage and pointed to something with a wingtip. Then she looked towards her drawing and laughed aloud.

She would stand on one foot and then the other. Occasionally, she would flap her wings for balance while standing on her toe tips. She looked as if she might fall at any moment, but I was hesitant to steady her. My touch might interrupt whatever was happening. To end this magical moment seemed worse than allowing her to take a tumble.

It seemed as if Emily was in two places at the same time, but how could that be? She was in the garage with me, but she was also somewhere else far away and up high.

I am unsure how long I sat there on the garage floor watching her, but I didn’t dare speak or move. Even if had known for sure she was imagining it all, I would not have tried to stop her. She had not been so happy for the longest time. Nor had I.

Suddenly, Emily did several strong, fast wing flaps as if she was landing. She blinked her eyes, tucked her wings close to her sides, and looked at me.

“I was flying with Amelia,” she said. “Just like you said would happen.”

This was not what I had meant when I had told her drawing lets us do things we can never do any other way, but it didn’t matter.

“I know you were, Sweetie. I know. That’s why you said you were ready. That’s why you didn’t draw yourself with chalk like you drew Amelia, isn’t it?”

“It was all so beautiful, and seeing Amelia was the most beautiful part of all.” She hopped into my lap and sat down.

“But it’s good to be back home,” she said as she rested her head against me.

“It’s good to have you back home.”

I was unsure what had happened there in the garage. I only knew it would be best not to tell Emily it was not what normally happened with drawings. What if our two hearts had wanted to be close to Amelia so much we had simply imagined it all?

If only I could discover what had happened with Amelia so many miles away at this same moment in time, then I would know for sure. But I wouldn’t know until Amelia came back and if she ever came back.

You may remember a mention of Amelia being aware of a gift inside Emily but not knowing what it was in “Amelia On The Wild River.” This post explores that gift which comes from love and faith. I hope this was believable enough to carry your imagination along with Emily. Thank you for reading.