Thursday, October 30, 2014

Picture Book Power

The off-white couch was covered with clear vinyl, the kind that would crinkle and squeak if you moved around too much. But this was where the magic happened. In her distinct voice, slightly hoarse and weathered with time,  my grandma would read picture books to me, opening my imagination to new worlds and tales of days gone by. 

A vivid memory of a book of "Uncle Remus" folktales stands out among the dim snapshots in my mind, and I remember in particular being a bit scared of the story of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. In this tale, Brer Fox designs a sticky doll or "tar baby" as a way to capture Brer Rabbit. When Brer Rabbit encounters the tar baby, he speaks to it, but the doll won't answer back. So the annoyed rabbit grabs ahold of the tar baby's arm, only to find himself hopelessly stuck and at the mercy of Brer Fox. I won't give away the ending, in case you're not familiar with the story and want to read it for yourself. 

Looking back, I'm not really sure what exactly frightened me about the story, but I do know this: Picture books have the power to stay with you. Just like the tar baby stuck to Brer Rabbit, this story by Joel Chandler Harris has stuck in my imagination for 40 years, evoking memories of my grandma and her vinyl covered couch.

As a children's activity book writer and an aspiring picture book author, I'm participating for the second time in Picture Book Idea Month, otherwise known as PiBoIdMo, during the month of November. Tired of watching novelists have all the fun in November with NaNoWriMo, children's author Tara Lazar created PiBoIdMo as a 30-day challenge for picture book writers. 

According to Lazar's blog, "The challenge is to create 30 picture book concepts in 30 days. You don't have to write a manuscript (but you can if the mood strikes). You don't need potential best-seller ideas. You might think of a clever title. Or a name for a character. Or just a silly thing like "purple polka-dot pony." The object is to heighten your picture-book-idea-generating senses. Ideas may build upon other ideas and your list of potential stories will grow stronger as the days pass." 

"Daily blog posts by picture book authors, illustrators, editors and other kidlit professionals will help inspire you. By the end of the month, you'll have a fat file of ideas to spark new stories." 

Registration has begun at Tara's blog, and those who register and complete the 30-day challenge will be eligible for amazing prizes like signed picture books, original artwork, critiques and wait for it... feedback from one of 10 agents! Whoa! It's a super fun way to generate ideas, build community with other writers and learn from the wealth of knowledge that Tara's guest bloggers will impart during the month. 

Have you always wanted to write a picture book? What are you waiting for? Grab your idea notebook, sign up for PiBoIdMo and join the fun! 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Five Minute Friday - Releasing My Grip

The rope strains as it’s pulled tight on either side. A ribbon in the middle shows the progress of one side against the other – back and forth, back and forth. Lingering on one side for a bit longer, then yanked back in the other direction. On and on the game goes. No one seems to win.

I’m often engaged in this endless game of tug-of-war, a war between what I should do and what I want to do.

Living with open hands has never been easy for me. I want to hold tight – to my “stuff,” to my kids, to my home, to my comfort, even to my burdens and my problems. I want to fix things myself.  Sometimes my attitude can be easily summed up in a favorite vocabulary word of a two-year-old: “Mine.”

But then there are those moments when the light clicks on and I realize it’s not mine. It’s all God’s. And the problems and burdens? I don’t need to carry them or try to fix them myself either, because God doesn’t need my help. He’s waiting for me to release my white-knuckled grip, wanting me to grasp for His strength instead of my own.

The freedom that comes from realizing this is nothing short of amazing. I wish I could say that I feel this freedom all the time. But most of the time, I’m still learning to let go, constantly reminding myself to release to God what was really His in the first place. Learning to go to Him with my worries and problems, instead of freaking out first and remembering to pray after all else fails.

Lord, teach me to release my grasp on the things of this world. As I learn to cling to You, help me to point others to Your light and Your salvation. True freedom comes as I let go of my wants and desires and replace them with Yours. I can let go, because You will never let go of me.

This is an entry for Five Minute Friday. Every Friday hundreds of writers join in this five minute writing exercise at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog, Tales from a Gypsy Mama.

We write for five minutes flat. All on the same prompt that Lisa-Jo posts on her blog. And we connect on Twitter with the hashtag #FMFParty.

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

Have a blog? You can join in, too!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Time to Fly

Card by Hallmark
"She stepped out on faith... and found she had wings."

My firstborn is getting ready to fly.

She graduates high school today, and like all the parents who are in my shoes, I can't help thinking, "Where has the time gone?"

Seventeen years seem like an eternity when you're a new parent, gazing into the face of this tiny human being in your arms and wondering how in the world you're going to do it all just right. 

But 17 years fly by so quickly.

Now she's ready to take her first solo flight, going out into the world to pursue her dreams in college. She's spreading the wings her dad and I have so lovingly nurtured over the years, and I feel like my heart might burst with a mixture of joy and pride (and a wee bit of sadness). It's difficult even for a writer to put into words. but I'll do my best.

Alyssa, your dad and I could not be more proud of the young woman you have become. As our firstborn, you've endured our parenting mistakes with love and grace, quick to forgive and extend us the benefit of the doubt as we learned (and are still learning!) how to be parents. Watching you grow and mature has been one of the greatest joys of our lives. 

Homeschooling you for the past nine years has been nothing short of amazing. I count it as one of my highest privileges to have been your teacher and your mentor, an honor higher than any award or title than I could ever have earned. Looking back on these years, I see God's hand at work in your life, gently shaping the beautiful person who stands before me in her cap and gown, ready to take on the world. 

There will be days filled with successes and joys ahead, but there will also be those days when it all comes crashing down and you feel like giving up. On those days, especially, I want you to remember this: You are God's masterpiece. He has an amazing plan with your name on it, a plan He has hand-crafted for you since before you were born. Spread your wings, step out in faith and soar as fast and as high as you can toward His plan, knowing that my love and prayers will follow you always... no matter where you fly. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Just Do It

Can I tell you a secret? I'm afraid. There, I said it. Ideas have been swirling in my head for a month, but I just can't bring myself to start. My toe is on the line, the pop of the starting gun is ringing in my ears, and I'm just standing here. Frozen. Stuck. Paralyzed.

Ever felt like me? You want desperately to start, but you don't know how? You don't even know where to begin. Heck, you don't even know if you want to begin.

Guess what? You're not alone. That's always a comforting thought to me.

This spring, I'm getting myself un-stuck. Want to join me? A familiar motto is running through my brain, and I hope you'll embrace it, too. Here it is (drumroll please): Just Do It. Yeah, I think I've heard that somewhere before, haven't you? Not bad advice, if you ask me.

This advice goes for anything – creative or not – writing, cleaning out your clutter, creating art, changing your eating/exercising habits, making music, calling that friend you've been meaning to call for the past few years, sewing, acting, or painting that room you've been wanting to makeover. You've got to START SOMEWHERE. And when you start, you'll say (like I usually do): "Wow. Why didn't I do this sooner?"

So this spring, I'm going for it. I'm jumping in with both feet, creating and writing and doing what I was made to do. God made me for more than just sitting on the sidelines, so NO MORE FEAR. No more standing paralyzed at the start line.

In the words of Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way:

For today, all you need is the grace to begin beginning.

Give yourself some grace and go create. Go make that call. Go learn that new skill. Go write that first chapter. Just do it.


Linking up today over at Jennifer Dukes Lee's wonderful blog. Each week she features a #TellHisStory link up for writers. Check out her latest post here.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Winter Weary?

Polar vortex, sun dogs, bone chilling temperatures, record breaking snows... The winter of 2014 is turning out to be quite a chore, isn't it? If you're anywhere other than California or Arizona (even Florida has seen colder-than-normal temps), you're probably, like me, a little winter weary.

Cheer up! Spring is less than 40 days away! We can make it that long, can't we? Say it with me: "Yes, we can!" (Wow, that was awesome!)

To tide you over, here are some photos to remind you that better days are ahead. Sunny days, beach days, sit-out-in-your-yard-and-read-a-book days... Remember, we're not living in Narnia, even though it may feel like it. Spring and summer WILL come again. I promise!

All images are © Copyright 2014 by Julie Campbell.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sun Dog Sighting

Have you ever seen a sun dog? Despite its strange name, a sun dog has nothing to do with our furry, four-legged friends. It's a weather phenomenon that only occurs on extremely cold winter days. If you live in the South, chances are you might never see a sun dog. But for those of us who have the "privilege" of experiencing single digit to below zero temperatures, the elusive sun dog is not such a rare sight.

Basically, a sun dog, also known as a mock sun or phantom sun (scientific term: parhelion) is "an atmospheric phenomenon that creates bright spots of light in the sky, often on a luminous ring or halo on either side of the sun," according to Wikipedia. Sun dogs usually only appear when the temperature is under 10 degrees Fahrenheit, which causes ice crystals in the atmosphere. These tiny ice crystals create halos by refracting and reflecting light. The reflecting light, displaced 22 degrees to the left and right of the sun, is also sometimes called a snow bow.

This glorious display of light reminds me of how great our God is! "Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind." Psalm 104:1-3

If you live in a cold climate, be on the lookout for sun dogs! You have to be an early riser, though, since the best time for viewing sun dogs is at sunrise.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Five Minute Friday ~ See

You can’t live life with your eyes closed. Well, you can, but you won’t really see. You’ll miss the sun’s rays peeking through the clouds over a frigid field of snow. You won’t see the way your daughter’s eyes light up when she giggles and gives her daddy a big hug. You’ll overlook the way your son crinkles his brow when he’s working on a really tough math problem. And you’ll miss LIFE.

These everyday snippets are more than just moments. Put them together, and they’ll pack the suitcases of your mind full of precious memories.

Sometimes – more times than I care to admit – I don’t really see. I have my head down in a screen or a book, and life just passes me by. It’s something I regret, and something that I’m trying to work on this year. Choosing to see.

Father, open my eyes and help me to really see. The abundant life you’ve given me is so much more than screens and Facebook and Instagram and texts and distractions. Give me Your eyes, Your vision, Your heart… so I can truly SEE.


This is an entry for Five Minute Friday. Every Friday hundreds of writers join in this five minute writing exercise at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog, Tales from a Gypsy Mama.

We write for five minutes flat. All on the same prompt that Lisa-Jo posts on her blog. And we connect on Twitter with the hashtag
#fmfparty (Five Minute Friday Party).

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.
Have a blog? You can join in, too!

Five Minute Friday

Monday, January 6, 2014

Can One Word Really Change Your Life?

I have always had a love/hate relationship with the start of a New Year. On one hand, I see it as a fresh opportunity, stretching out before me like a pristine beach at sunrise. Untouched, unspoiled, full of promise.

Then there’s the other side of that coin: Looking back at the old year with regret and seeing the missed opportunities and failures. The "could haves" and the "should haves."

A few years ago, our family started a tradition at the start of the New Year. It didn’t involve the typical New Year’s Day fare of corned beef, black-eyed peas or cabbage (thank goodness!) or the writing of resolutions. But it did involve food for the soul.

This tradition has quickly become one of my favorites – choosing a word that we want to characterize our new year.

So on New Year’s Day, we all gather at the table and write our words with a corresponding Scripture verse on index cards. And we take turns sharing our words with each other and describing our vision for using the word in the year ahead.

It seems simple. But each year, this little tradition has had a profound impact on our family. Each year, we come back together and share stories about our word from the previous year, and how God used that one little word in our lives.

In the past, my words have included character traits (gentleness), things I want to become (captivated - click on the link for an explanation) and spiritual disciplines on which I’d like to focus (prayer). This year, I thought I had chosen my word, but then something changed. I read a  Scripture on the morning of New Year’s Eve, and it was like God saying, “This is it.”

You show that you are a letter from Christ… written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:3)

I knew after reading this Scripture that my word for 2014 would be WRITE. Of course, the word has dual meaning, because I’m a writer and have set certain goals for my writing. But the other meaning is far more significant to me: This year I intend to open an empty page and invite God to write His story with my life. I want to show others that I’m a letter from Christ. I desire for my life to be an instrument in the hand of God so He can etch out His words on tablet of my heart.

Father, You are the Author of me, and Your grace and eloquence are abundant in my life. Write your words through me. Help my life to communicate Your love, Your peace, Your joy, Your truth. You are the Word. Without You, I have no words. Speak through me, Father, and make me Your letter.

Have you chosen your word for 2014? If not, it’s not too late! Start now, pray for guidance, choose one word and see how God will transform your life!