My Life With Gracie…A Most Unfortunate Chicken

A Most Unfortunate Chicken

Today’s illustration has been provided by Emily. You may remember some of her previous artwork from the series titled “Emily’s Summer Drawing Camp.” This is the story behind her drawing for today.

“I really do admire all of you chickens,” I said to Gracie. “I would make a lousy chicken. Probably the lousiest chicken in the whole history of lousy chickens.”

“Chickens do not keep history the way people do. There are no lousiest chickens.”

“You know what I mean, Gracie. If I was a chicken, I wouldn’t have sense enough to come in out of the rain.”

“Yes, you would. We would make sure of it.”

“I know you would, Gracie, because you are so kind. But that’s not quite what I mean.”

We looked at each other, not sure who should speak next.

There was a gust of winter wind, and the others trotted over to where Gracie and I were standing. They gathered around her, and everyone turned slightly to face into the wind as it shifted a little more from the west.

“You see, that’s exactly what I mean!”

They all looked up quizzically. Only Gracie had an idea of what I was getting at because the others hadn’t been listening.

“He is telling about why he would make a lousy chicken,” she quickly explained.

“There are no lousy chickens,” said Bessie. “There has never been a lousy chicken in the whole history of chickens.”

“Chickens don’t keep history,” reminded Gracie.

“All the more reason why there has never been a lousy chicken,” said Bessie, confident that her point had been unmistakably proven.

The wind gusted again, and five beaks and bodies moved to point into its slightly changed direction. I kept my back to the wind and pulled the collar of my jacket up higher on my neck.

“See! There you go again!” I said.

Their confused expressions returned.

“You face into the cold wind, no matter how hard it blows. If I was a chicken, I would turn my back to the cold wind and wait for it to die down.”

“No, you wouldn’t,” said Gracie with utmost confidence. “Well, maybe only once or twice.”

“Why is that? Because you would teach me and make sure I didn’t?”

“That is a lesson you would learn for yourself the first time that an icy cold wind got up into your tail feathers!”

Everyone thought this was hilarious as they imagined me as a chicken with a beard in front and tail feathers in back. I had to chuckle some myself.

“You would not be a lousy chicken,” said Gracie, “But you would be a most unfortunate chicken until you figured it out for yourself.”

Then I realized there is a reason my chickens face into the wind. They are streamlined that way. The wind may be cold when it hits their faces, but the rest of them remains warm and protected. The wind can’t get up into their feathers.

Another cold gust of wind came at us from a slightly different direction and all of the chickens adjusted a bit to face more directly into it. This time I faced into the wind with them.

“Foofity boofity bottomy feathers!” Pearl began to say over and over until the words turned into a song. “Foofity boofity, boofity foofity, bottomy feathers for you, for you!” Her silliness made everyone laugh and soon the cold didn’t feel as cold any more.

My Life With Gracie taught me to face into the winds of hardships rather than turning my back to them.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

This brief story was inspired not only by the cold winds we have been having this week, but also by some of the hardships that you, our readers, have had recently. (You know who you are.) Your ability to face those hardships head-on is an inspiration to us all.

“How To Explain Christmas To Chickens”…An Update And A Possible Cover!

How To Explain Christmas To Chickens

I finished the major editing work for “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens” on Christmas morning. Approximately the last third of the novel takes place on the days leading up to Christmas and then Christmas day itself.

Each day, I edited what would happen on that day. This helped with details and continuity. Would the pomegranates still be ripe enough for Pearl to use them to make ink for her letter to Santa Claus? Would anyone be laying eggs during the shortest days of the year? Both of these were important elements to the novel’s ending which needed to be feasible to me. Now you may not believe that chickens talk with people who love them and can dance ballet, but as I see it, the other details need to be accurate. (If this seems a little idiosyncratic, I won’t argue with you. It seems that way to me as well.)

After Christmas, I began putting the edited text into publishing format which includes a final check of what I call “the ability to be easily read aloud.”

Everything was moving along nicely, but then on New Year’s Eve, I found a post on Twitter from a publisher in England. They were providing an open submission day – one day only – on January 2, 2020 in honor of their 20th year of publishing.

Honestly I had never considered the traditional publishing route. Who would want to publish stories about backyard chickens? Even ones who enjoy dancing ballet?

But perhaps it would be worth an attempt for no other reason than the publisher is named Chicken House, Ltd. They are located in England. Some of our very favorite readers are in England!

It seems sort of a natural fit, doesn’t it? When Gracie and I looked at their website, we found they were featuring a mystery book about ballet! When she saw that, she knew it was the right thing to do because the publisher must surely like chickens and ballet.

So I had a good deal of quick learning to do. In all of the books I’ve read about writing a novel, I’ve always skipped over the chapters about submitting to a publisher. I never felt that my odds would be very good.

But I kept reminding myself of all my chickens had taught me. I thought of fearless Amelia who launched herself on a journey to fly to the moon. (That story will perhaps be our next novel.) I thought about Pearl, eternally hopeful Pearl, who has never given up no matter how many times her goofy plans may fail. (That story is this current novel.) Most of all, I thought of what Gracie had told me.

“Life is a gift, and so is a talent. Wherever there is a gift, there is also a giver. But do not trust the gift. Trust the Giver of the gift.”

But you will read more about these things in “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens” whether traditionally published or self-published.

For now, we are waiting the required six weeks while the folks at Chicken House, Ltd. review our pitch letter and first three chapters. If we have not heard from them, we will just continue with self-publishing as we had planned all along.

Gracie thought you might enjoy a peak at our possible cover design if self-published, and so that is today’s illustration. Hopefully it strikes the right balance between playfulness and seriousness. It could also serve as an illustration for the last chapter of the novel.

It is still difficult for me to say where this book would fit in a bookstore or library. My goal is for it to appeal to a wide age group without fitting into any particular standard genre. Sometimes I think of it as an adult book pretending to be a children’s book, and other times I think of it as a children’s book pretending to be an adult book. Either way, like a bank of snow, there is more than what you see.

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

A Brief Retrospective Look At December 2019

December 2019 Favorites

The beginning of a new year seems to be a good time to look back on the old and look forward to the new, and so some type of retrospective of our illustration and story posts also seems appropriate.

(These are shown above from left to right. Links to the full illustrations and posts follow.)

First “Most Popular” Post December 2019

“Christmas Eve Wisdom And Wishes” You can read it in full here if you’d like. (Not only was this the “Most Popular” for the month of December, it was also the “Most Popular” for all of 2019!)

Second “Most Popular” Post December 2019

“Immersed In The Joys Of Life read it in full here if you’d like. (This was one of my favorite posts for the year, not so much for the illustration, but more for what it said about life and love.)

Third “Most Popular” Post December 2019

“The Most Perfect Plan Ever!” You can read it in full here if you’d like. (The illustration for this post shows Pearl’s imagination at work as she wonders what it will be like when Santa Claus reads her Christmas list. I love her innocent hopefulness that all of life’s problems could be solved with a simple letter to Santa Claus.)

Well, my friends, we made it through the entire 12-month retrospective! Thanks for joining me. I have enjoyed this chance to look back and see what you as readers enjoyed the most!

I can’t help but close with one more “Most Popular,” and it’s the “Most Popular Family Photo Friday” picture for all of 2019. I was pleased to see that it was of Gracie who I seldom photograph just by herself. That’s just the kind of modest girl she is and one more reason why she will always be “My Best Girl Ever.”

Family Photo Friday

We appreciate the time you have spent reading our stories and leaving “likes” and “comments” to encourage us when we got things right. We also appreciate the times you have made us think about how we can do better. All of your “hearts” and reposts, all of your award nominations and mentions, all of your kind words, all of it…is so tremendously appreciated.

We hope very much that we have returned to you some small part of the great joy you have given to us.

John, Gracie, Bessie, Pearl, Blanche (who we still hold in our hearts), Amelia, and Emily