My Life With Gracie…So What Do You Do?

So what do you do when your “Best Girl Ever” and your “Bravest Girl Ever” turn three years old? Well, after you have given them all of their favorite treats including freshly-dug worms, you come up with a way for them to celebrate even more by doing what they love to do…giving gifts!

On their Hatchday last weekend, we very quietly started a new website titled “Gracie And Friends.”

For them, it will be an opportunity to share more free stuff with you, particularly games with a higher “ready-to-publish” quality. Along with Gracie and Bessie, I want to give my best too.

For me, it will be a chance to make more happy and colorful drawings of everyone when they were just little chicks. That was before the boys started crowing and had to move out into the country and before the girls started laying eggs. That was when they were all at their cutest and loved exploring all of the goodness the world has to give.

Right now we could all use some happiness and some goodness, don’t you think?

Just because you follow “My Life With Gracie” doesn’t mean you will want to follow “Gracie And Friends.” And the other way around is true too. While “My Life With Gracie” is more about my journey as a writer and illustrator, “Gracie And Friends” will have much shorter posts and focus on items to download and enjoy.

Just like in real life, Gracie and all of her friends give. Eggs. Stories. Drawings. Soft downy feathers for wild birds to use when they are building their nests. Games for other chickens and children to play for entertainment and to pass the time.

Giving is what we do. We don’t expect anything in return. Sometimes we may receive a gift and sometimes we may not. Either way, we are still happy. That’s just the way it is for Gracie and her friends, including me.

So moms, dads, kids, teachers, good dogs, good cats, and all chickens, we hope you will print, read, play, and have fun!

Click Here To Visit “Gracie And Friends” Where You Can Download A New Version Of “Worms And Hay Bales!”


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

I really did enjoy putting together “Gracie And Friends” along with a more polished version of “Worms And Hay Bales!” and hope you will enjoy them too.

Please feel free to share with others, particularly those with young children…or chickens! Maybe “Gracie And Friends” can help some people through COVID-19 by providing things to do and a big dose of happiness.

I’m also looking forward to including my boy, Lefty, on “Gracie And Friends.” He will give some balance, and I will be able to draw power tools and hammers which always fascinated him. (So not everything will have flowers, but of course, there will still be plenty of worms!)

We are currently working on a new card game that we will probably call “Scratch And Peck!” Watch for it!

Family Photo Friday! (Hier Wache Ich!)

Family Photo Friday

Today’s photo is a wonderful treasure. The sign says “I Guard Here! Enter At Your Own Risk!”

My chickens and I receive this gift last year, shortly after Seasons Of Friendship was published. It came in a large envelope packed with other surprises from one of our most valued readers named Susanne. She lives in Germany and wrote a variety of posts here on WordPress for a time. Her original drawings and cartoons were what attracted me to her site, and I also especially liked her haiku poems and the photographs which she skillfully paired with them.

One of the things I am enjoying most while illustrating How To Explain Christmas To Chickens is being able to create a visual world beyond what the written world describes. For example, in Seasons Of Friendship, I hid a pair of Gracie’s ballet slippers in one of the illustrations. Most readers have missed this when reading through the book and didn’t know there was anything hidden until reading the “Epilogue.” Then they go back and search for them. It was one of the things that many readers enjoyed about the book.

Yesterday’s post shared a sample illustration from How to Explain Christmas To Chickens. So will there be some hidden objects with special meaning in the drawings? You can be sure that’s definitely something I will be working on.  This particular sign may work very well in the chapter titled “The Opossum.”

I will also be considering the inclusion of other not-so-well-hidden items like the one in today’s “Family Photo Friday” when possible. They will be things which remind us of you, our readers here at “My Life With Gracie,” and serve as a kind of secret between us. (One of the things Pearl will receive as a gift at the end of the novel is a secret, something that will not fit into a Christmas present box, but will fit into a heart quite nicely.) 

My chickens and I are truly grateful for receiving this wonderful gift and even more grateful for Susanne’s friendship and encouragement. (My chickens like how this sign helps them get a good night’s sleep too!)

We also want to gratefully thank all of you, our readers, for your friendship and encouragement. So be on the lookout for a drawing of this sign and perhaps other not-so-hidden objects in How To Explain Christmas To Chickens…and of course, a very well-hidden pair of ballet slippers for one very remarkable chicken!

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

John’s Reading List For Writers…“Writing Picture Books” by Ann Whitford Paul

The end of this week will mark the sixth week since submitting “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens” to a publisher in England named Chicken House, Ltd. for their “Open Coop” submission day. (The six-week mark is when we will know whether we have been selected or not.) While waiting, I thought it might be good to share a few books which were helpful to me during the writing process. These may be helpful to those of you who are writers hoping to be published.

Although the title may make you think this book is not for you unless you write children’s picture books, there is valuable information here for any writer, regardless of intended audience or preferred genre. Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul taught me a great deal about writing any kind of book. (There is even a section on poetry which Amelia found very helpful and inspiring.)

Her book helped me consider how the elements which make a good picture book also make a good novel. For example, instead of the two-page spread, there is the chapter. The things which make you want to turn the page of a good picture book are the same things which make you want to turn the page of a good novel.

As I was writing, How To Explain Christmas To Chickens, if I couldn’t imagine a chapter as one or more two-page spreads, I knew something was probably wrong with it. If there were big sections which couldn’t be illustrated, I began to question their necessity. This wasn’t because I wanted to write a picture book, but because I wanted to write a book that would “draw” pictures in the minds of my readers and keep them turning the pages.

Writing Picture Books provides many important general keys to writing a story of any kind and for any audience. In fact, when reading many of its passages, it is unlikely you would realize you were reading about writing children’s picture books. This may not be a book to add to your shelf at home, but if you are a writer or an aspiring writer of any type of book, it will likely give you some helpful advice and may be available at your local library.

Never underestimate the power of a picture book! Even as adults, we can find our favorite picture books from childhood sneaking into everyday conversations. I’ll bet you remember The Little Engine That Could and “I think I can, I think I can.” One of my own favorite expressions lately is, “I’m just a Pokey Little Puppy today.” (Of course, even pokey little puppies can have naughty days!)

Wouldn’t it be great to be the author of a book that created such lasting memories for your intended audience? No matter their age? No matter their preferred genre?

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