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Friday, August 25, 2017

The Birth of Playground Treasures

Tonight is the night I become a real author...okay, I know I said that like months ago. But seriously, tonight is the night my first novel comes out. I've been working on Playground Treasures for almost five years. It started off as a project I did with my students as they worked on their own fiction stories. Then summer started, and I ached to finish Lorelei and Kendall's story. It's been through so many wouldn't believe how it looked in the beginning.

This book means so much to me. It accomplished a few things:

-I can do whatever I put my mind to
-Some stories beg to be told
-Anything worth doing is going to be hard
-Friendship is incredibly important

Reflect on friendship this weekend for me. This book is so much about the importance of having special people in your life. Kendall and Lorelei are just one of the many billion friendships that started because two people decided to let down a few walls. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Leadup to my Launch for Playground Treasures

So up until my launch date, I am going to share a photo and something about one of the two main characters...and then tie it back to a personal experience about me. This story is very close to my heart and I hope you love it just as much as I do!

Lorelei and Kendall are two eleven-year-old kids that meet each other on the playground. They both love to swing, but by the end of the book you find that have much, much more in common than a simple love of the swings.
This story is based from the South Elementary playground that I went to Elementary school in Thomaston, Georgia. One of my favorite things about this massive playground was the amount of swings it has. Seven years ago, I took Fred to this playground to show him how incredible it was and to prove that, yes, there were almost fifty swings. I was incorrect. We counted 64....and there were even more when I was younger. In Playground treasures, there are also 64 swings. 

Kendall runs away from the Jaspers' house and finds a home in the storm drain on the elementary playground. Sitting on the jungle gym is one of his favorite places to think. It gives him a chance to look across the playground and decide what he needs to do next to accomplish his goals: find a permanent home to live and save his brother.
What is your favorite place to go to think? 

I grew up with big magnolia trees is my backyard...huge ones, limps that reached further than the top of my house X3. I loved climbing its arms and sitting there to think.

It is also a key event in Playground Treasures. Kendall finds that the old magnolia tree on the school playground is an excellent lookout from the Jaspers'. One time the Jaspers' are even directly under the tree when he is hiding...tense scene. Definitely one of my favorites to write.

When Kendall runs from the Jaspers, he goes to the only safe place he remembers, the elementary playground. There he remembers an abandoned storm drain he hid in once in first grade to hide from Roseanna's relentless kisses. He thinks it will make a great hideout. What do you think?

Although my book is a children's book, it has some serious situations mentioned. Kendall has dealt with heavy loss, including emotional and physical abuse from his dad and adopted parents and eventually runs away from home when it becomes too much. Lorelei has had her own issues, feeling lost after the death of her father years ago and now her mom is dating someone new.

Despite these issues, I feel Playground Treasures shows that friendship helps heal those little holes we have in our life and makes things worth living again. Lorelei and Kendall have a friendship that starts off rocky after a misunderstanding becomes so strong that Lorelei does something unfathomable that will change Kendall's life forever.
Anyone have an amazing friendship like that? Any that have helped heal those little holes in your life?

Playground Treasures takes place in the small town that I grew up in, Thomaston, Georgia. It's about an hour from Atlanta and about an hour's drive to anywhere important...other than Walmart, which the town does have. It's a mill-town and was hit hard when the mill closed its doors. The city averages about 10,000 people in and outside of Upson County boundaries. There's two public elementary schools, one of which Lorelei and Kendall attend.

During one chapter of the book, they do visit another city in Thomaston, which happens to be my next-favorite city, Peachtree City, for the annual 4th of July parade. These were the really fun parts of my book to write. The experts say, write about what you know about...and I know Georgia  It feels good to write about this part of my history, especially since I live in Utah now. I guess I'll always be a Georgia Peach. 

This cat necklace is special to both Kendall and Lorelei. In chapter one, you'll find out why this necklace is so important to Kendall and why he'll be willing to risk everything to keep Lorelei's lost cat necklace a secret.

Ever have something that is so important to you, you're willing to keep it secret?
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Some things are just not made like they were used to-
This picture of a plastic playground is evidence of that. Instead of sturdy metal material that might rust, burns when it's too hot outside, but holds up under any kid abuse, we have now switched out playground to be colorful, made of plastic, and easy to draw graffiti on. Sad how childhood has changed.

This kind of equipment is in the newer part of Kendall and Lorelei's playground...but let's be honest, both of them prefer the metal giants of the playground and not this crayon pile of plastic. Even though these two kids are 11, they've been through a lot of hard life situations- loss of family members, abuse, and running away. They're not only smart kids, but they've adapted well to whatever life has thrown at them.

Okay everyone, I know you've been waiting on the edge of your seat for today's post :)

Remember these slides? The heat slide of death? Burns your legs nicely on the way down? Yeah, these were on the playground that Kendall and Lorelei played at almost every day. Have you ever stopped and watched kids play on the playground? Or anywhere really? It's so fun to see their minds work. There is so much innocence in real child's play. 

I love Playground Treasures because small things mean a lot to Kendall, who has had basically nothing his whole life. One of my favorite parts of the book is when Lorelei finds out all that Kendall has missed out on in life, she desires to right all the wrongs she can. Movie-watching marathon, trying to teach him how to swim, filling him with his favorite treats. She really is a stand-out kid! Their friendship is special and is what makes this book uuhhhmazia...(Freddy and Cameron love to say that). 

There should be a sign somewhere that says, "All because two kids rode down the slides together."

Okay this is not my exciting post of the day, yet...but it's just as exciting. John M Olsen shared this picture with me and now I'm really dreaming of playgrounds of the past. What do you think?
Share with me in the comments your favorite playground equipment.

Playground Treasures Book Launch

I am launching my book, Playground Treasures, next Friday August 25th. I am so excited to share Kendall and Lorelei's stories with the world! Come join me!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Writing as an Outlet

There are alot of thoughts in my head, too many actually. It's overwhelming. I've always been the type of person that wants more than I can have, but won't stop trying until I get it to some degree.

Case and point-
I always wanted to be a BYU dancer. I saw them perform when I was very young and even though they did not have ballroom dancing in Georgia, I wanted more than anything to learn and be on a team one day. I was in tap, ballet, and jazz for most of my growing up years, but it was basically learn routines and perform in front of parents. Nothing too exciting.

In high school, I applied to BYU and BYU-Idaho. I had no doubt I would at least get into one. When my BYU rejection came, it was sad. Really sad. How could I become a BYU dancer if I wasn't AT BYU. When I received my BYU-I acceptance letter, my light started to shine a little brighter. I could still be a BYU-I dancer. And so I was. I had never taken a ballroom dance class in my life, but I had the heart of one, and by the end of my senior year, I had made the ballroom tour team. Guess where we toured that year....You guessed it. Stateside. Burly Idaho of all places. But I loved it. And I accomplished my seemingly impossible dream.

I also have dreams of becoming a novelist, a professional speaker, a principal. I'm a dreamer. But I am also a dream catcher and I try like the dickens to accomplish what I want.

Now, what does this have to do with an outlet? Yes, I have dreams to become a famous writer that makes a mark in the world for good. But I also want to write because it is an outlet of peace in relieving these swirling thoughts in my head. In that case, everyone is a writer. It bothers me when famous or seemingly famous according to some standards discourage young writers against writing because they don't want to fill them false hope that they will make it. Because most don't. But to me, writing should be done because it is a means of expressing yourself and not because you are sure it will take you places that others will want to see, too.

So if you've ever thought of writing and then thought of the mass amount of weight that statement carries, realize there are no expectations of writers to succeed. Only that you write.

My Final Release of the Year!

Love From Left Field