Yesterday, I received copies of The Sumner (IL.) Press newspaper. Cristy Wilson is a photographer for them and she took time out of her busy schedule to join our adventure in Ms. Whites class. Reporters and Photographers have busy schedules, many on the go from sun up to sundown and beyond. Two find two amazing journalist take time out of those busy schedules to enter the magical realm we created that day is with an appreciation I think must be given. I feel grateful for their time and for their kindness!
I opened my eyes this morning at 5:30 a.m. and laid in my bed, under my nice and warm blankets, as the cool breeze from the air conditioner blew up from the floor and beside me, making my blankets feel that much more relaxing. As I laid there, I stared up at my ceiling and began to think of the events that was to take place this particular day in my life. Work was a given, as it is every Monday through Saturday. However, I did not feel the drowsiness and sluggish feeling that has normally welcomed my mornings for the past couple of years.
This morning was different, because wrapped up inside this day was an oasis of creativity that I have not experienced, or more truthfully, have not allowed myself to have. Today was the day that I (L.B. Fox) was going into my daughter, Ruby’s, first grade class to talk with her and her classmates about Marky, Slash & Levy, Barney & Lexi and The Boondock Kids.
I then closed my eyes and laid still, thinking of how exciting this would be, all the while, being a tiny bit nervous. I was excited because I got to be the author in front of wonderful young readers and allow myself to not only get caught up in Barney & Lexi all over again, but bring these great children along for the ride as we would travel into our imaginations!
I climbed out of bed after six and made my way through our home, feeding two cats, a dog and two fish as I began my day. I dressed and made my way to my work, which I happily say, is only six blocks from my house, making for a promising location. Driving to work, (Yes, I drive, but have walked many times) I am not focused on my work at all but rather on 25 young students who will help me explore the magical and discover a new adventure.
Now, am I nervous? You bet I am. Although I would not allow it to come to the surface of my thinking, the thoughts remained of, what if, you know?? What if you bore them or what if they find Barney & Lexi boring? But to be honest, I was just too darn excited as I arrived at work and started my morning. The two hours before I would leave and meet my wife at home so that we could make our way to our children s school went buy quickly.
Work was very busy, as it has been for the past month. So busy in fact, that I did not make it home in time to meet my 9:30 a.m. time at the school. I could have easily waited on a million customers today but nothing could compare. This was a great day and wasn’t going to let a little fear slow me down. When the time had come, I rushed home and met my wife and the two of us went to the grade school.
Walking down the hallway to the classroom, I wondered if I would be nervous after so song but as I reached the door of Ruby’s class, I peered inside through the glass and into the classroom before knocking on the door. There I saw two reporters from different newspapers and Ms. Martha White, my daughters first grade teacher, making her way towards the door with a smile on her face.
As she opened the door, it looked, at first, as if there were only three students in the classroom. I thought to myself, “Oh, no, did they leave?” My wife, Marcey and I entered the classroom and I greeted the two reporters who had taken time out of their schedules to be there for this special occasion.
Then I turned around to notice that a recessed nook hid behind the door and in that area sat Ruby, in front of her class of 24 boys and girls who looked eager and excited. I sat my satchel and bag on an empty desk that sat by the door as Ms. White introduced me to her class. I watched as Ruby’s face turned three shades of red as I was first introduced as ‘Ruby’s Dad’. I knew that she was blushing because, as the only girl with three brothers, she has to work for every bit of attention and now she had to do nothing but sit there and have her time to shine as the daughter of the classroom guest. Ruby knew that her dad loved her so much that nothing would keep him from keeping his word to show up and talk with her class!
I then asked the children if they liked to write and tell stories, to which I heard a thunderous, “YES!” It felt great to hear there energy, although Ms. White had to kindly ask for inside voices. I was very curious, so I asked each student what they loved to write about, I got everything from dogs and cats, to scorpions and horses.
Then, I noticed that many of them were staring at my satchel and I found that Barney & Lexi had their heads sticking out it, one head was poked out each side of the flap. So I lifted up the flap and help Barney, my favorite Beagle Hound in the whole wide world, out of the satchel. Barney loves children in the worst way, so I asked if the kids would like to hold him. Every hand reached out as I let Ruby begin passing him around to her classmates. Then came Lexi, a unique cat if I ever knew one, popping up and begin to wave to the kids. Then, a sweet girl named Keely said, “Oh, kitty!”. They all said hi to Lexi as Ruby began to hand her around.
I then realized that I had a couple more stowaways inside my satchel. Marky, Slash & Levy wanted to be a part of this memorable visit. Being that Levy is a fox and that the stuffed one I have in my satchel looks a bit peculiar, I decided to ask the boys and girls what they thought Levy was without telling them. LOL, I heard, a weasel, a mouse and a squirrel. I could not help but laugh when I told them that he was a fox because they all admitted to me that they knew that and was only joking me.
I then asked them if they loved to write stories, many said yes. I then talked with the class about how much fun it is to write stories, because in stories, you can create anything their imaginations can dream up. I heard everything from dogs and cats, to scorpions and horses again. I then followed that up by showing the kids drawings from my portfolio. I showed a drawing of a ‘Whimsic’ from my current book, ‘The Boondock Kids’ to a loud “WOW!” The room then fell silent as I asked the class to imagine that this character had blue skin, white hair, was seven feet tall, wore a long black coat and float through the air. It was then, I looked to see a young boy in the front row with his jaw open and “Awesome” being the only word he could say.
Then I showed a picture of a ‘Firestarter’ from my second book, ‘The Return of Marky, Slash & Levy’. I told them that it was a troll that was completely cover with fire and had yellow and orange flames flashing from every direction. With that description, the class drew silent. Then I said, “Imagine that it is only a foot tall though”, as I put my hand one foot off of the floor. The room erupted with giggles and laughs because the kids had gone from thinking my character was a large and fearsome fireball, to a short and stubby flame.
I continued by asked, with a show of hands, just how many of the boys and girls loved to read. Every hand went up, which was amazing! I then leaned over to my black bag and began to reach inside as I asked them if they would be honest with me about something and give me their honest opinion. They all promised to be honest, curious as heck as to what I was going to pull out of my black bag! I removed the original manuscripts for my first book, ‘The Adventures of Marky, Slash & Levy’, my second book, ‘The Return of Marky, Slash & Levy’, my third, ‘Barney & Lexi: Lost In Lawrenceville’, my fourth book, ‘Marky, Slash & Levy Vs. The Doomsday Device’ and my fifth, ‘Marky, Slash & Levy: Search for the Heatseeker’. All together, at over 1,000 pages, the eyes of every student grew larger than silver dollars!
“Now,” I asked. “Who would like to read this for me?” A reply of heads shaking back and forth clearly was a big ‘No’. Then I asked if there school books were that big and giggles again were heard as the kids laughed and said no. I told the students that I was on my seventh story, ‘The Boondock Kids’ and that what they saw was only five stories. “That’s Crazy!” was a statement that I heard more than once at that point.
“Ok,” I said. “I have to know if you want you are really wanting your surprise?” Then the class began to yell, “Yes” loudly and everyone in the room knew they were ready. I first announce that I had a surprise for Ms. White. I handed Ruby a copy of my first three children’s books and asked her to take them to her. Ms. White was more than happy to have them. I then reached inside my black bag and took out 25 copies of Barney & Lexi. With one copy in my hand asked asked, “What wants a copy of this book to take home and read?” Every hand went up and several were saying, “Me, Me, I Do, I Do!”
It was then that Ms. White approached her class and asked, “Would everyone be even more excited if Ruby’s dad read you some of Barney and Lexi?” It was a unanimous ‘yes’ from the class and I could not stop smiling from the invitation to read from a book that I am so very proud of. It was the moment of truth, I was going to give them a small piece of Barney & Lexi and could only believe in my story and know they would enjoy hearing about them.
The room fell silent as I began on page one. I made eye contact with every single student as I read to them. I wanted every boy and girl to know that they were a part of this magical ride together and I was determined not to let a single child go home disappointed. As I read, I got into character and spoke just as Barney & Lexi would. The kids laughed at how Barney sounded silly and Lexi was rather snobbish as the two became lost in Lawrenceville.
Then I came to the moment in the book that the two became lost and left the class in a perfect cliffhanger! Everyone stared at me, and I knew that they enjoyed it. Ms. White then asked, “So, who wants the book?” every hand went up quickly and the young readers became anxious.
Ms. White then asked if I would make my way to the large desk at the back of the classroom. My wife and I made our way when Ms. White asked her students to get in a single file line and everyone would get a signed copy. The kids raced to get in line as I took out my pin to begin signing. With every student, I looked them in the eyes and asked them what their name was. I wrote there names and my “Never Stop Dreaming” motto, signed my name and dated the inside of the book. I handed each book back to its new owner and thanked them for being so nice and letting me come into their classroom. Signing my name was an honor for me because their happiness, coming from the gift of reading, is what I enjoy the most about being a children’s author. Children love to be thanked and appreciated and this class had turned into a family like environment in just over an hour.
Then, one by one, the children took their seats and began reading where I had left off in their books. I could not stop smiling as I made my way back towards my bag and satchel and collected Marky, Slash, Levy, Barney & Lexi. As I gathered my things, Ms. White spoke to her class and everyone thanked me, which melted my heart!
It was then time for lunch and the students were asked to line up by the door. As they lined up, my wife and I made our way towards the door. I then received high fives and fist bumps. Then came a hug from a young lady named Savannah. With that hug, I fought back tears and almost did not succeed in that. It meant so much to know that it meant so much to her!! Then came time to give my lovely daughter a kiss and hug goodbye for the afternoon. Still beaming, Ruby gave me a hug and said goodbye. My wife and I made our way back down the hall and out of the school. I felt as though I had just won a race and the students were my reward!!
I returned to my work for the remainder of the day and at five o’clock came home to one of the most wonderful surprises in the world! On my desk was 25 pieces of fan mail!! I sat down and jumped right into reading them. With each card, I would be telling a lie if I said that I was not warm all over. The kids loved Barney & Lexi and spoke volumes with their cards and letters! They will stay will me until the end!
Sometimes the greatest gift that is given from kindness, is the very fact that when it is given of free will and desire, it can touch someone in ways we can never imagine! You see, this was the last week of school for the summer and the last full day of Ms. White’s 25 year teaching career. To see these wonderful kids before they parted ways for the summer is something I will never forget and to be the last guest of Ms. White’s career means more to me than all of the money in the world! I am honored to be apart of the memories of a wonderful teaching career.
Now sitting here at this desk, excited to tell you all about it, it is but a memory. But oh, what a great memory it will always be!
Live With Passion!!
As Mario, Louis, Sindy and Cristena burst through the doorway and back onto the floor of Mrs. Nellenfelter’s attic, they each sat on the floor in silence for the longest time, all trying to realize what they had just witnessed. Mario pulled his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. Louis remained on his belly, Sindy sat cross legged and Cristena leaned back on the palms of her hands.
They often looked at one another in silence as much as they simply stared off into space. Silence was completely broken when Louis reached towards the old knob in curiosity, provoking a united “Stop” from his friends. As the sun set, Mrs. Nellenfelter would return home with groceries and as she placed the paper sacks on the countered, assumed the children where there and called for them.
Wanting to keep their discovery a secret, the four friends dusted them selves off and raced down the stairwell and through the kitchen. Grabbing a single cookie on the way out the door, each flashed their own unique smile as they thanked Mrs. Nellenfelter for the cookies. Once gone, Mrs. Nellenfelter was left talking to herself as if she had just survived a hurricane.
As for me, tomorrow I will surprise my daughters class with the gift of literature. I hope that two of my sons, who are just across the hall, will be able to stop on also. It is a moment that is special because it not only means a great deal to share with young readers but also that it means the world to my daughter. I am told that some newspapers may also be there so it will make for a lasting memory for not only me and some wonderful students but also for a great teacher that has taught so many students, including two of mine, and will bid farewell after Friday.
To be her last guest in her classroom will be an honor that I will always humbly hold close!
Live WIth Passion!
Tonight, I’m sitting at my desk and in front of me are 26 copies of Barney & Lexi, Copies that I am surprise my daughters first grade class with on Wednesday. It reminds me of a time that my oldest son, Lynden, was in kindergarten and I spoke to his class. Boy, back then the butterflies were heavy in my stomach. LOL, I would be telling a fib right now if I said that I was not a tiny bit nervous, because I am.
One thing that is wonderful about young readers is that they are honest and upfront. As a writer, to place a work out their in front of your audience for feedback and questions is both exciting and unsettling. If you have a hit, you’ll know it by your ability to engage readers with your story and if not, that too will be clear almost as quickly. But the thing for me as I write is that I have had wonderful reviews that have humbled me and reviews that have put my stories through the shredder and yet the writer writes on!
In the time that I had not been writing to you, my world had been turned upside down in more directions then one. However, during that time, not a single day passed that I did not think about my work and how I wished I could cut through the bad and focus on my characters. For such a long time, I could hear Mario, Louis, Sindy and Cristena from The Boondock Kids asking me to come back to my desk and continue with their lives and adventures.
Since doing just that, an enormous weight has come off of me. I know that they are not the only ones who are happy to continue the story! It’s like being a artist and not picking up a brush for months because life gets in the way. Then, that moment to tell yourself your going to do it, you dip your brush into the paint and touch the canvas, releasing an emotional spark that not only saves your soul but releases your inner self! For me, it was pulling The Boondock Kids up on my computer for the first time in almost a year, knowing that I have never loading a story and not worked some on it. I knew that I was committed which felt good but it was not great yet.
Then came the moment that the screen popped up and I back read the last few pages so that I could reset my thinking cap as to the direction I was heading. Once I knew, I pressed that first button and just like the paint-filled brush touching canvas for the first time in so long, the clicking sound of that first button made it great, great because I remained true to myself and to The Boondock Kids.
Now I’m ready to face the reviews, good or bad, with accomplishment. As I sign copies and place a bookmark inside each book I can feel a drive that is bigger that my day to day life. I may have to work job to pay my bills for now, but if I hold to my promise to myself, one day will be the first day of a new and exciting chapter, during my dreams into reality. Until then, the steady pace is what will win the race!! I wish you a wonderful Tuesday!!
Live With Passion!
With no children this evening, my wife and I took the time to finish laying gravel to a small drive that leads to a small house that we own before enjoying the evening with a nice fire and food that was either grilled out or cooked by fire. As the sunset, we finished our meal and I made my way to me desk.
First though, do you ever look at a small fire as it burns? I love to watch as the embers seem to dance with one another and snap and crackle to form almost a soft medley My wife is the fire-starter which leaves me to simply sit back and enjoy the splendor, LOL!
Any who, as Kelmare realizes that .a Whimsic could very well be outside his home and that his new found friends could be in danger, he quickly grabs a glass jar full of blue Philisian Dust and begins to sprinkle it over Mario, Louis, Sindy and Cristena, explaining that Whimsics hate the smell it gives out and confuses them as to what species the children are.
Louis notes that he can not smell anything, but is reassured by Kelmare that it very much does and will help keep them safe. He then asks the four friends to remain close as he hurries them back towards their entrance. As they race through the forest, Sindy trips on a branch and stumbles, before being helped up by Cristena. The two girls run extremely hard so not to fall behind the others and become lost.
Once at the thicket they had first emerged from, Kelmare instructs them to close the gate behind them in their world so that it will remained sealed. Cristena then questions if they will ever be able to return to Spyderia and Kelmare assured them that they were welcome to return anytime through the same gate but for must return through the thicket.
One by one the children enter and suddenly fall to the floor of Mrs. Nellingfelter’s attic.Louis, who is the last to fall through, very quickly shuts the door behind him and locks it as instructed!
Well, that completes another page for this evening and I have only but a couple of hours at my paycheck job tomorrow before having a Memorial Day weekend at home. As midnight says hello, I will say goodnight and have a wonderful Saturday!!
Live With Passion!!
After a long break, I am excited to be sitting in my very own writing room, surrounded by things that inspire me, (although I am not quite finished with putting it together) and have already felt compelled to sit down at my desk, invite Mario Gunzel, Louis Honeydew, Sindy Seal and Cristena Johnson into my world and get back to work on The Boondock Kids!
My last post on TBK found the four friends inside the home of Kelmare inside the magical world of Spyderia, sitting down to a warm mug of deliciously sweet, hot tea.
Well, Kelmare explained that Spyderia could be walked across in a matter of months and was completely surrounded by four major bodies of water, The Cracknar Abyss, The Xenara Ocean, The Bagara Sea and The Ratalion Billows. This drew the attention of the four friends as he began to mention The Grindlebacks, The Trabantians, The Inigmites, The Tussels and The Zepherwhiscs,
All the while Cristena’s attention was outside a nearby window. As Kelmare stopped explaining to the others about Spyderia, he made his way to the window and asked what it was that had caught Cristena’s glare. She then began to explain that she had seen a figure the appeared to be taller than Kelmare and wore a long black coat and had pointed ears.
Kelmare became very cautious as he asked if what she saw had crazy, spiked, white hair. The little room fell silent as Cristena replied “Yes”. Kelmare then whispered one word…”Whimsics” It was then that he informed his new friends that their first visit was to be cut short and that he would have to hurry and help them return home.
Wow! It feels good to be back to work on The Boondock Kids at last! I feel like I have a world of inspiration around me and while outside this new nook of inspiration may hold one trial after another, tonight I find solace in knowing that from where I am right now, there is the desire to write, the desire to create and the will to carry on! I wish you a good night and a wonderful Friday!!
Live With Passion!!
How many weeks has it been? I honestly can not remember, in fact, remembering anything these days is becoming more and more difficult. I have wondered the last several weeks if things will improve or continue to worsen. Honestly, I don’t know if I am coming or going anymore and sadly, it is becoming harder to hide this from everyone else.
My wife has been ill since March and has not been able to work. It is not easy to explain how I feel because since that time, so much has happen that the days do no more than blur together. We have made it by thanks in part to my putting money back into savings since last fall. That money, however, is now gone, along with money from a gift account for Christmas. Also gone is an insurance policy that I have had since I was a young boy. All the while I am forced to watch my wife go through days of pain and agony while new medicines are tried and ultimately do not work. Being not one year into our marriage, which has ever possible negative attack thrown at it, has us both road ragged.
As the only one working in our family right now, my writing has all but left my system as I try to make end meet and pretend to others that I am personally alright. Which I will finally admit that I am not…
The past two years, I have gone from a fairly fit and organized writer, (jogging every morning, listening to Tony Robbins, and writing every night) to only a shell of what is left today. I have slowly felt this unease and fatigue slowly increase since then as new and more complicated stresses have made home in my life. I try my best to hide everything but there are times I could break down and cry but doubt that it would help much. I wake in the mornings and at some points, can not get out of bed from this fatigue. This morning, in fact, I woke up at 5 a.m. and could not get of bed to go to my paycheck job to save my life. I am thankful for an understanding workplace. Still, will I be the next one who can’t go to work?
Two weeks ago, while at work, I became very dizzy and laid down on the warehouse floor to stop from passing out. I was taken to the emergency room, where I laid for five hours. I had seven veil of blood drawn which not only came back alright but that said I was dodging ailments that run in my family. I missed the following work days and could do nothing but lay in bed. Work stress has also added to the conditions at home. Some coworkers have said goodbye and have not yet been replaced. The added workload that has been placed on my shoulders is too much, but I am afraid to say something. I return home to my wife in pain and watch the bills add up on the bill desk.Now this morning happen.
I had gone to bed last night in a sense of confusion, I was twitching as if I were cold and could not walk in a straight line for and reason. When I woke this morning, I let my boss know that I would not be in today. I dread doing this because I need to work, no more than ever. I slept until 2 p.m. and then could only go to the restroom before joining my sleeping wife in the living room in my recliner.
It seems we both find ourselves there anymore. My wife in her leather chair, under a blanket asleep and me in mine with the leg rest up and passed out. Even now, I want to explain to you how I am feeling but don’t feel as though I can get beyond vague short sentences and incomplete statements. All through the process of building my writing room, combined with my wife’s craft room, should be a moment of delight as we both chase our dreams but only seem to be entangled in a nightmare instead. I have been asked to talk with my daughters first grade class next week and with no books to hand out to the children and little energy left to cut the grass or take the dog out, am not sure if I will make it in one piece.
I miss jogging, I miss Tony Robbins, I miss writing every night, I miss entering contest, I miss sending my books off to agents only to be turned down and most importantly, I miss living, because now, I feel all but alive. Please tell me there is a positive end….