The Terrifying Chicken Freak Show

On the back cover where reviewer’s comments belong, I didn’t have any reviews from people, so my chickens provided their own reviews for “The Bottle Cap Lady” and “How to Explain Christmas To Chickens.”

Emily had this to say: “I enjoyed the whole book. Pearl’s Comedy Coop was the funniest, but The Chicken Freak Show was the scariest. I always had to hide my head under a wing when we got to those parts.”

This chapter was one that almost did not make it into the final story because what happened in Pearl’s dream can be scary, at least to chickens, but I believe it has a lot to say about a special kind of love that gives everything it has to give.

I just wanted everyone to know in case they have sensitive young readers or story listeners (like my Emily).

The Terrifying Chicken Freak Show 

Sorry, but“The Terrifying Chicken Freak Show” proved to be a little too terrifying and a little too jarringly inconsistent with the rest of the book. Rewriting is a must!

 

Here is a huge “THANK YOU!” to everyone who read Saturday’s posted chapter and commented. Sunday I reread all of the way back from the beginning and when I got to that chapter, it truly felt out of place and very jarring. It was a bit as if someone else had inserted a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, and so I worked on a rewrite which you will find below. It keeps the good parts, cuts out the scary parts and also helps to make some connections to things which happened earlier in the book and prepares for action to happen later. There was also nothing in the original version to help anyone who has bad dreams, so I’ve tried to include advice there too.

How Gracie Got Her Name

It was late winter, not quite spring yet. Not wintery cold, but not springy warm. Just in-between. Gracie had hurt her foot, she had spent most of the day before sitting at the food bowl. I had only realized she was not well when I got home and saw her in almost the same place she had been when I had left for the day. I thought she was just being cute by sitting down in such easy reach of breakfast since they always stand to eat. I regretted being in too much of a hurry to really check on her.

But that in-between day, and for as many days as needed, I was going to stay home with her. She spent hours in my lap, snuggled up inside my soft warm cottony jacket. We would talk and look out over the garden. We would be silent together. Those are not easy days to write about because I was afraid I might lose her as we had lost Blanche.

I did not ask how her foot injury had happened. She may have landed poorly when practicing some new ballet choreography. (She would not have wanted me to think she was less than perfect as a dancer.) She may have jumped down from the roosting perch while it was still too dark for her to see clearly because she was eager to meet the new day. (She would not have wanted me to blame myself for being slow in getting up and going any earlier than I had.)

Sometimes it takes a mishap, an unexpected change in the routine, or an almost tragic event to cause us to appreciate what we have. In that uncertain time, Gracie and I stopped everything and focused on what really mattered.

“Do you know when I first had an idea you wanted to be a ballerina?”

“Was it when I stood on your shoes en pointe for the first time?”

“I remember that day so well. That was when you let everyone, not just me, know your dream was to be a ballerina. You must have been practicing that for days and days, and I imagine it took a great deal of courage to let everyone know your greatest heart’s desire.

“But I knew you loved to dance before then. Maybe before you even knew it yourself or knew the words ‘ballet’ and ‘ballerina.’ It was the day when I named you ‘Gracie,’ another day I will always remember.”

“Will you tell me about it?”

“It was one morning when I saw you coming down the chicken ladder when you were still so young with hardly any comb or wattles. You pointed your toes so perfectly as you moved down the ladder. You spread out all of your fluff feathers like they were the finest tutu ever. You stretched out your neck and head, ready for whatever joys and triumphs…or sorrows…the day held for you. And if there were sorrows, you knew you could dance through them as effortlessly as you had glided down the chicken ladder.”

Gracie turned her head to look at their first original coop in the side yard. “I miss those days so much,” she said. “Things were different then.”

“But we are still the same, you and I. And you still come down the chicken ladder that way after you’ve laid an egg.”

“I do my best,” she said, looking up into my eyes.

“That was before I ever brought out my old record player so you girls would have music to use for practicing ballet. I went to every thrift store in this neighborhood and the next looking for old classical record albums. But you danced even before we had those records, and then afterwards, you and Bessie worked out a remarkable Chinese Dance from The Nutcracker Suite.”

“We made you play that song so many times, we thought it was going to wear out.”

“And if it had I would have found another and another still. But that moment when I saw you coming down the chicken ladder was special. It was when I knew you could hear The Music Of The Morning. It was music I could not hear with my ears. But you, Gracie, you could hear it with your heart, and your heart let out that music through the way you moved. And as I watched you moving so gracefully, I could hear the music with my heart too. And that is why I named you Gracie.”

“Will you still call me ‘Gracie’ even if I am not able to dance gracefully again, even if I am not able to dance at all ever again?”

“Gracie, don’t even think such a thing.”

“But it could happen that way. I may not heal properly.”

“You will always be ‘Gracie’ to me. That is your name. I will always be able to hear the music of your dance in my heart, even if you are never able to dance again.”

“I know. I just needed to hear you say it.” She paused as if relieved of a burden. “Can I tell you something?”

“Of course, Gracie.”

“All I have ever wanted was to matter to someone. You gave me a name, a beautiful name, and every day you have let me know I matter. That is all I have ever wanted. What more could anyone ever want?”

I readjusted my jacket over her body and snuggled her closer to my chest. She looked out into the garden nodding her head gently from side to side, side to side, up, down, up, up, down. As I watched her, I could hear The Music Of The Garden, music only the two of us could hear. And so we sat together, mattering to each other, even if to no one else.

All I ever wanted was to matter to someone. What more could anyone ever want? – Gracie

This Is All for You, Sweetie. This Is All For You.

For the past several weeks, I have been reading and thinking about what is called “personal branding.” It’s sort of how you present yourself to the world.

I had been playing around with some of the free tools on Canva.com and came across this series of videos on “Personal Branding with Dr. Talaya Waller” in what they call their Design School. Each video is short and gives good information. At the end, there is an additional explanation of how you can use the Canva.com tools to apply what you have learned, BUT you don’t have to pay anything for most of the Canva.com tools.

I began to realize this was what Gracie had been trying to tell me months and months ago when I was figuring out how to draw friendship. We were discussing some of my recent drawings of her and Bessie.

“Well, I guess they are okay. If that’s what you’re going for. I like it better when you draw on paper with a pencil.”

“What’s the difference?”

“You’ve got everything in there and it doesn’t fit together. Too many big colors. Too many little shapes. Too many of everything! People aren’t going to be able to find us.”

“You’re sure? I took art classes, a lot of art classes.”

Gracie shook her head sadly. My drawings just weren’t going to receive her approval. But I did trust what she had to say. I wanted her to be pleased with my drawings, even if no one else was. These were drawings of her and for her.

“So what do you suggest?” I asked.

“Well, the colors are the main thing. You’re picking colors you like, not colors we like.”

“I see. So what colors do you like?”

“Colors that go with our feathers. Colors that go with our eggs. Soft colors. Hen colors, not rooster colors.”

“I think I see what you mean.”

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. Gracie is a very smart girl, particularly when it came to her advice about color. I’ve begun to think about how color can carry emotion, and part of building a personal brand has to do with emotional value as well.

This morning it began to make more sense to me when I took everyone’s breakfast salad out to them. There was some really nice organic Swiss Chard at the grocery store yesterday and they got a whole bunch of it all chopped up just the way they like it.

Everyone is always eager to see what’s in their breakfast salad, but Pearl is the most eager of all. She is the only one who jumps and kicks out her feet in midair when she is excited. I could not help but say to her, “This is all for you, Sweetie. This is all for you.”

So I went inside and pieced together today’s illustration from different things I have been trying out for backgrounds, drawings of chickens, fonts, and of course, a color palette. All of this is because I am beginning to think more and more of my stories and illustrations as being less about my chickens but for my chickens.

My hope is by doing that, I will also make it for our readers.

There is always room for one more under the shade of the camellias in our little backyard garden. It’s friendly and peaceful here. Chickens and people like friendly and peaceful. – Gracie

Just wanted to let everyone know that I spotted two errors in the eBook text for “How To Explain Christmas to Chickens.” The first was a stray capital “I” on the dedication page. How it got there, I’ll never know! The other was a really weird and awkward sentence in the epilogue.

So I got both of those corrected and uploaded a new interior file for both the Amazon eBook and the Barnes & Noble eBook. While I was at it, I also changed the cover to better match the one for the paperback book. It now has a “softer, fluffier, more chicken-y” chicken on the cover! If you have purchased either of these, they can be reloaded through Kindle or Nook.

We are still anxiously waiting for the paperback proofs from Amazon and Barnes & Noble before making those available. In the meantime, I suppose we should spend more time working on our “personal branding”!