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”!

Happy 2nd Anniversary, “My Life With Gracie!”

Today, August 1, marks the 2nd Anniversary of “My Life With Gracie,” and so I thought it might be good to do a little reflection. (I have even switched back to our original online theme.) Below is our very first post ever. It started with an illustration. (Because who would want to read a story if it didn’t have an illustration?) It had exactly 121 words. (Because who would want to read much more than than that?) It ended with an illustration. (Because who would want to read all of the way to the end otherwise?)

I was as unsure and uncertain as you see Gracie in the illustration. She was drawn as just one little newly hatched chick in a huge world, and I had no idea we would find friends all over this huge world.

It’s funny how things can change in two years. We have now just published a pair novels (see yesterday’s post), each with 40,000 words, one with illustrations and one without. Imagine that! 40,000 words and not an illustration in sight except for on the cover!

More importantly, we have met so many wonderful readers these past two years who have shared our joys and our sorrows with us. Our readers have shaped “My Life With Gracie” in more ways than I will probably ever know, and so I have a huge amount of gratitude in my heart as a result.

This original post also reminds me of how short life can be for chickens and for people. And I still have a few more books to write before I will feel as if I’ve really said all that needs to be said.

Blanche and Pearl have been at the center of the book pair “The Bottle Cap Lady” and “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.” I do like the idea of having a pair of books, one illustrated and the other not, and so I am likely to continue the pattern unless I find one version is extremely more popular than the other.

I think the next novel will be about Emily and Amelia and how Amelia was the first chicken ever to fly to the moon and back. (And she was. Emily painted a sign and we posted it in the front yard so everyone would know. Amelia would have never been able to make the trip there and back if it hadn’t been for Emily.)

The third and perhaps final novel will be about Gracie and Bessie and the ballet titled “The Rose Garden Princess.” As I have told Gracie many times, it will be the best book ever and it will be for just the two of us. It is likely to be our last novel because I can’t make up stories. I can’t imagine things that haven’t happened. It’s like now that Blanche has left us, I can’t write an imaginary story that begins “One day Blanche and Pearl…” I just can’t make up stories. So I write what I know and love, but sometimes I do let my imagination get the best of me when filling in the small details.

Although I jokingly write about how the world is clamoring for another great chicken novel, I know we are a very small exceptionality in a huge world. It’s likely most of our huge world is looking for something other than stories about an old man and his backyard chickens, even phenomenally talented chickens who dance ballet and dream the biggest of dreams. But the world is also filled with grace if only you look for it.

An Introduction

People say to be a good writer you should write about what you know and love. For me, that has to be my chickens, and most particularly my Gracie.

She and my other chickens have taught me more about life and about myself than I will ever have time to write. Still I want to put some of it down and share what I can while I still remember most of it.

No story is complete without pictures, and so I will draw those as well. The style is rather simple with a childlike innocence, but hopefully the message will not be.

My Life With Gracie taught me how life itself is filled with grace if you only look for it.

My Life With Gracie...An Introduction

“The Scoop From The Coop!” April 2020

The Scoop From The Coop!

Here’s what has been happening lately. It’s what you might call “The Scoop From The Coop!”

WordPress Reading And Posting. I am sorry for not keeping up with my reading and posting here on WordPress, particularly my reading. Right now, work is often hectic with the Covid-19 pandemic that is happening.

I genuinely do feel sad about not being able to keep up with my reading here because I’m missing out on some really great posts from all of you! Hopefully things will get back to normal soon. In the meantime, I will make a point of catching up with your posts as best as I am able.

All My Chickens. Everyone is doing well here. We have been able to get enough organic vegetables from the local grocery stores. As far as the chickens know, life continues as normal, and that’s the way I want it to be for them.

I did have a bit of a scare last week because Gracie was not herself. She was having trouble with her left foot. At first I thought it was something called “bumblefoot” which chickens get and can die from. When I examined her more closely, I found blue-green bruising on the top her left foot. (This is an odd color and at first I thought it was a fungus or something similar. But I guess chickens bruise a little differently from people!)

I didn’t ask her how it happened. I have a feeling she was jumping down from somewhere and didn’t land the way she expected. It may also have been a ballet-related injury. It is still too early to know if she will be able to dance again. As with all things, if she must hang up her ballet slippers forever, she will take that news gracefully.

On the very positive side, yesterday evening, she was able to make it up the chicken ladder and to her favorite sleeping perch without my help and when I wasn’t looking too! So we are very hopeful.

Most important of all: Stay healthy and be safe! Thank you so much for reading and being a part of this creative journey with us.

Your friends,

John, Gracie, Bessie, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia