Friday Friends: Yancy Lael & The Reluctant Owlet

Happy Friday, Friends! I love to introduce you to my creative friends and feature their newest creations. I’d already interviewed Yancy before, so I asked her to write about her writing journey. I think you’ll love getting to know Yancy. After reading The Fox at the Door, I was so excited to hear about her newest release ~ a picture book entitled The Reluctant Owlet. Take it away, Yancy!

My path to writing was not a straightforward one, something that still surprises me, to this day. It’s surprising because I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I loved writing and books since I was a very young child. 

By the age of 10, I was 100% certain of my destiny to become a writer. At the time, my parents decided to write a cowboy romance novel (a marriage of each of their favorite genres).They had decided to write under a pen name. They chose my first name and an old family name for their pseudonym: YancyJohns. They printed out business cards using that pen name; underneath the name was the word writer.

They had one of the business cards laminated and attached it to their new typewriter. When I looked at that card and saw my name and the word writer, I knew that was my destiny. 

I spent my teen years writing novels in spiral-bound notebooks. That’s right – handwritten. We only had one computer back then and I had to share it with five other people. So if I wanted to spend most of my time writing, I had to do it by hand. 

When I was 19, my uncle gave me his old laptop. It’s humorous to remember it now, that archaic machine that weighed close to 15 pounds. It was so large, it would never be called a laptop by today’s standards, but in 1996, it was quite sophisticated. I felt so lucky to have my own computer. I had finally become a real writer, clacking away at a keyboard that belonged solely to me. 

By the time I was 26, I had written four or five complete novels. I was quite proud of a few of them, though too afraid to send them in to publishers. (It wasn’t quite so important to get an agent back then.) 

One story really stuck with me. It followed a young man in his twenties who was trying to find a way to deal with a sister who had become an addict and was, by the time the novel started, in a coma after a car accident. When I was done writing the novel, I realized the character I had loved the most was the one in the coma – Mary Raedwolfe. I rewrote that book from scratch three times until it became what my readers now know as The Poison Box. But still, I was too shy to share it with others, so I left it on my hard drive, untouched, for many years. 

By my thirties, though I can’t really say I had tried very hard to get published, I was so discouraged with writing that I decided to pursue my Plan B – teaching. If I couldn’t write, at least I could help the kids in my community get excited about writing! I thought I was done as a writer. I thought I would get married and have kids and keep teaching and that would be that. It was hard to let go of my dream, but it just didn’t seem to be going anywhere. 

In 2010, I found that I wasn’t very satisfied with teaching. I needed to find another outlet for my creativity – preferably one that could supplement my teacher’s income. I’d always been very interested in nature and natural healing, and had struggled for decades with acne that I only ended up healing through homemade natural remedies concocted with herbs and organic oils. I knew I could help people dealing with similar struggles and feed my creativity by opening a bath and beauty shop on Etsy.

My little shop, Five Seed, was the joy of my life for the few years that it was open. I loved writing blog posts, product copy, and social media updates. I loved designing the labels and photographing the products in creative ways. And I absolutely adored mixing up different herbs and oils and waxes and turning them into finished, healing products. 

I truly loved being a shop owner at the time. It was such a rewarding experience, and a true balm for my heart during a tumultuous time in my family life. 

Unfortunately, my shop didn’t last long. In 2013, Etsy, prompted by the FDA’s new regulations, issued an edict that herbal shops could no longer talk about herbalism, healing, or even herbal folklore. Everything was off-limits except listing the ingredients in the products. As you can imagine, sales plummeted. The personality of my shop and educational aspect of it were lost. And really, who would buy a product with no listed benefits?

It took me a couple of months to really come to terms with what was happening, but ultimately, I decided to let the shop go. As the experience came to an end, many of my amazing, devoted customers asked me to share my skincare secrets in a booklet. I laughed, at first, at the thought of returning to writing…but eventually, the idea seemed like the only thing to do after the shop closed. Initially, I envisioned writing a short e-book. But as the months went by and I couldn’t stop writing, I realized that this was going to be a major project.

Once I was finished with the manuscript, I realized I had to figure out how to distribute it. I discovered Amazon’s platform and decided to start there. It took me almost a full month to format that book, but eventually, in October, I was able to release Soulful Skincare. 

Some women imagine what it will feel like when they put on a wedding dress for the first time. I, on the other hand, had always dreamed of holding my first book. And let me tell you, it was everything I had imagined. I was exhilarated. 

Somehow, I had become a writer. 

It wasn’t the way I expected. I had always thought I would get a publishing deal and sell a novel as my debut work. Who knew that the universe would trick me into writing a self-published self-help book about acne, instead? It seems so funny to me now.

Once I’d gotten up my confidence, I pulled out the old manuscript that I’d held on to for so many years – The Poison Box. I think that sat on my hard drive, mostly untouched for twelve or fourteen years! Can you imagine how trippy it was to open it again and decide to finish editing it and put it out into the world? That was a big step for me.

And then, like any writer would, I kept going. There’s no end to our stories, after all. 

My cousin’s untimely death prompted me to publish the journal I’d kept during my trip to France with her and my ex-boyfriend. Then I finished the project that I’d wanted to write as a companion piece to Soulful Skincare – a book about radically accepting the way we look. And then came the debut of my series of adult fairy tales (don’t get all hot and bothered – they are G rated but written for an adult audience). 

Then I achieved a huge milestone, a goal I’ve had for decades: Writing a children’s book! The Reluctant Owlet debuted earlier this year. This story follows an owl family – one I had actually observed in the woods in 2017 – as the youngest owlet faces her fears about leaving the nest. I’m so proud of this book. I loved sharing the story of these real-life owls with others. I’m proud of the artwork, which was based on actual pictures I took of the owls. And my brother even contributed photographs to the book, which makes it extra special. 

So here I am, knocking out an average of two books each year. An unconventional writer, I suppose, and admittedly, a struggling one. I have yet to be able to pay the bills with my work. 

But for now, it’s more important to me to tell the stories. I think the rest will come in time. I’ve just got to keep my head down and write what I’m asked to write. 

There’s no point in giving up, really. I’ve certainly learned that. I do love it, after all. Writing is one of the most important parts of my life. I couldn’t breathe without it, without my stories, without the characters who have become my dear friends. 

I think that’s really what it means to be a writer. That you’re willing to surrender everything to the stories that come to you. That you fight for every minute you sit in front of the blank page. That you put all your energy into completing the stories and getting them out into the world where they belong. 

There’s something of service about it. Or maybe just obsession. Either way, it doesn’t matter. I’ll still be typing away over here, no matter what happens. Just like I imagined when I was 10 years old. I already saw my cosmic business card way back then and it said, simply: Writer. 

 

You can buy The Reluctant Owlet on Amazon

Read Yancy’s interview here.

Follow Yancy on Twitter @YancyLael

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Friday Friends: Find Your Rainbow with Jenipher Lyn

My dear friends, I’ve missed you. Thanks for checking back in. If you are new, Welcome! So glad to have you here. On Fridays, I like to feature authors and readers. I am delighted to spotlight artist-author-entrepreneur Jenipher Lyn and her new book release: Find Your Rainbow.

Seems like only yesterday that I participated in a blog tour for her first book, How Being Stubborn, Depressed and Unpopular Saved My Life. (You can read that post here.) I appreciated very much the hand-drawn honesty in that book. Reading it, I felt understood. Jenipher had reached out and found my inner child. I looked forward to the time my daughter would be old enough to read it.

I bought some of Jenipher’s stickers from her website. My daughter and I use them in our daily planners. Many times, her stickers are just perfect for that day, or that mood.

As soon as I could, I pre-ordered Jenipher’s new book. I intended to share with my girl, but I was soon told that I need to order my own copy! This is an interactive book- as you will see.

I can’t wait to start my own journey on this rainbow quest.

Find Your Rainbow is by Jenipher Lyn. Get your copy now via Amazon, Target, and Jenipher’s website!

Music Monday: I am not throwing away my shot!

Happy Monday, Friends! I started writing about music on Mondays, as music is so important to our lives. Join me as I reminisce on music and music-making.

Hamilton the Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda is returning to San Francisco. I’m in a virtual queue to buy tickets for the family as I write. There’s likely 100,000 persons in line waiting for a chance to buy up to 4 tickets. 30 weeks of 8 performances of hundreds of seats each. I’ve been in the queue for 90 minutes and there’s still 40.8 thousand people ahead of me. Wish me luck!

I was so lucky to catch the show last summer. Turns out, it was Pride Week in San Francisco. And you know what, it was the best time to see Hamilton. The cast is so diverse and inclusive. They brought out a rainbow Pride flag at final bows. I was moved to tears.

I hope to bring the family this time. Such a moving experience. My kids already know a lot of the music.

I hope that in the future, a filmed version will be shown in the theaters, as Allegiance has been shown on exclusive one night engagements.

But for now, I Wait for It!

For more on the Hamilton phenomenon,check out Who Tells Your Story? and The English Teacher’s Guide to the Hamilton Musical by Valerie Estelle Franklin.

Wednesday Wellness: Success Log

Greetings, Friends!

I started writing about wellness topics on Wednesdays, as I noted how many of my creative friends struggle with balance, as do I. Join me on my quest for wellness as I stumble along the way– literally!

Accidental Planner

If you are reading this you likely already know that I am sort of the Accidental Planner, as a creative spontaneous type I eschewed formal list-making and such, until I became a mom.  I happened upon the Planning Community only two years ago and it really has changed my life.  Now I enjoy planning!  There are so many creative tools available to personalize your planning experience.  There are so many etsy shops with creative and functional stickers. There are Facebook groups and instagram for sharing layouts and ideas. It has taken me a little while to get into the groove, but now I know how to really USE my planner- in a way that works for me.

good_vibes

Good Vibes

 

What Works for Me:

I use a vertical weekly planner with 3 sections and no time stamps.  I like to list and use color, and of course, sticker! This was working very well for my life and life/work management.  I wanted to keep work details separate, so I keep a work-only notebook on my desk.  I used to keep To Do lists, but I found that to be somewhat anxiety-producing, so now I keep a Success Log.

I keep a running list of what I do all day, as I do it. This allows me to feel more accomplished.  Instead of getting stressed about what I need to do, I feel satisfaction at having completed it.  At the end of the day, it looks like a To Do list, only it’s all Done.

success_log

Success Log

When I Stumble

Recently I took a bad fall and had to recover at home for a week.  My planner was a great tool for me during this time, as I had previously decorated it with inspiring stickers for the week. I also used some stickers that said “Over It” “Survived Today” and “Let myself rest.”   And my daily list became Reminders: Rest, Meds, Ice, Repeat.

got_ice

Got Ice

But What About Deadlines?

I do keep deadlines & priorities in the forefront of my mind by using the weekly sidebar on my life planner.  For my Success Log at work, I use a project management spiral notebook which has a blank sidebar, and numbered lines.  I also use the reminders feature in Outlook to keep my digital work calendar up to date.

Memory Keeper & Gratitude Journal

My life planner weekly spreads are so fun to create and decorate!  I often write in what we actually did, and even name the shows we watched and food we ate (or the amusement park rides we rode!).  It then becomes a memory keeper, which I can reference as I write in my separate Gratitude Journal. This is a good practice to keep staying positive.

Quotes of the Month

There is a blank page following the last week of each month in my planner.  I use this area to write funny or significant quotes that my family members say.  I found this was a really neat way to memory keep, as well.  Each member of my family has a different color for their events and quotes in my book.  My daughter is pink, and my son is orange.  So I can tell at a glance who said what.

How do YOU stay organized?

Please let us know in the comments!

Read about my Plan to Have Fun philosophy here.

Read about my 15 -year Historical Spreadsheet for Holiday Gift-Giving here.

Wellness Wednesday: Applesauce Cake

Happy Wellness Wednesday, Friends!  I started writing about wellness topics on Wednesdays, as I noted so many of my friends & creatives struggle with balance, as do I. Join me on my humble journey to wellness, picking fruit along the way, but also stopping to rest, once in a while.  

I am mixing it up today, in honor of Apple Sauce Cake Day.  Apparently, that’s a thing.  Click here if you don’t believe me.  So I decided to share another excerpt from my book Dee’s Dishes – a collection of stories and recipes.  Here is a true story about apple sauce, followed by one of my favorite of my mom’s recipes: Applesauce Cake.

A Sticky Situation

My sweet young baby boy loved his applesauce when he was

a baby. I often would blend cooked carrots into his

applesauce, at home. Nana would make him applesauce from

scratch. After trick-or-treating, he proudly counted his shiny

wrapped candy bars, and then requested applesauce.

Normally, applesauce is not a bad thing! But, we once

experienced quite a sticky situation involving applesauce.

Whenever I hear Def Leppard’s song “Pour Some Sugar on

Me” this is what comes to mind.

My Dear Son was a man of few words when he was a toddler.

We had started calling him Mellow Man. He was

extraordinarily well-behaved, though, and a delight to take to

restaurants. Yeah I know; this is rare.

On this particular day in the Adventures of Mellow Man, I

brought him to lunch with our dear friend, his Auntie Rachel.

Although she’s not related, she grew up with my husband and

she’s the one who set us up, so we call her family. We were

dining at Bennigan’s, a delightful American restaurant chain

with tchotchkes on the walls. Like every other American

restaurant chain, right? This one has some pretty special

broccoli bites or something, as I recall. These were broccoli,

cheese, and bacon, battered, and deep-fried. (Right? I know,

my arteries just got scared, too.)

The two-year-old was seated happily in a wooden high chair,

pulled up to the table. We enjoyed lunch and conversation,

laughing as we do whenever we get together. We were

reminiscing about some of the fun we’ve had together, like the

time we went to all the Burger Kings in South San Jose for

“Free Fries Day.” And the time she screwed up the words in

the Alleluia verse so badly, she voluntarily removed herself

from the cantor podium with an imaginary hook and cane. Or

my wedding video, in which everyone else in the wedding

party said “Thank you for choosing me to be in your special day…”

and she said, “You’re welcome.” I hope everybody has a

special friend like this.

I had ordered apples instead of fries for his kiddie meal—as

apples are healthier, right? They came in a heated bowl with

raisins and sugar—it was more like pie filling. I took out the

apple slices, diced them some more, placed them on a clean

bread plate for my son, and gave him a spoon. He seemed

content, and we gals continued talking and digging into to our

lava cake.

Suddenly, I look over at my son, who is visibly discontent as

he is trying to wipe off the gooey apples from his hands. Quite

unsuccessfully, I might add. In fact, in his attempts to wipe the

goo off, he inadvertently had wiped sticky sugary apple-y goo

all over his hands, and up and down his arms, as well.

“Oh, My God!” I exclaimed. And then, to Rachel, “Can you

grab an arm?”

Rachel says he was all oiled up like a pro-wrestler. (I don’t

watch wrestling, so, whatever.) Seriously, he was glistening. It

took each of us two pre-moistened wipes and two napkins to

erase away the goo. Then we had to wrestle him out of the

high chair and to the bathroom sink. We were laughing

hysterically as Auntie Rachel held the toddler in front of her at

arms’ length while he, in turn, held his arms out in front of

him, like a little Frankenstein. We managed to get him to the

bathroom sink and she balanced the boy between herself and

the sink, while I scrubbed his little hands and arms with soap.

Pour some sugar on me.

Applesauce Cake

This is one of my favorites of my mom’s recipes.

It’s delightfully sweet and unique.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 ¼ cups sugar

1 tablespoon corn starch

2 tablespoons cocoa

2 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt (optional)

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 ½ cups Applesauce

1 cup raisins (soaked in warm water and drained)

½ cup oil

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions:

Dump dry ingredients into a large bowl.

Add one at a time without mixing, applesauce, raisins, oil

and walnuts.

Mix well, then pour into well-greased angel food

or 13×9 pan

Bake in 350 oven for 40 to 50 minutes. Test with toothpick

for doneness.

(Cupcakes: only 20-25 mins)

 

Wednesday Wellness: Information at your Service

Happy Wellness Wednesday! I started writing about wellness topics on Wednesdays as I noted so many of my friends and creatives struggle with balance, as do I. Join me on my journey towards Wellness, along the yellow brick road, acknowledging all things shiny along the way.

One of my first jobs was working at the bookstore at the mall. I loved to work the Information Desk. It was a really neat way to be helpful and also learn things along the way. Many times somebody would ask me a question and I didn’t even know that I knew the answer until they asked. This continued as I moved on to the bigger flagship bookstore. I would put books on hold for myself, but after a few days return them to the shelves, as it seemed just thinking about them helped me realize what I needed to about them. Information was everywhere. So many books, so much information. It was my job to help people, but they were helping me, too. They were helping me develop my intuition.

I’m only just realizing that my current job (of twenty years!) is kind of like that, too. People come to me for assistance, and I assist them. They might ask me for information. I might know the answer, or I might know whom to ask to get the answer. I am providing information, as well as learning information. Sometimes still, I am able to provide the answer, not even realizing that I had already known the answer until that very moment. A little glimmer of a whisper in the back of my mind comes forth. And I am humbled.

The Doctor is IN

I am NOT a doctor. But I can help you find a book.

My dear friend Noel was a kindred spirit, and we both used to improvise playing piano.  When people said they liked her piano playing, she’d say “Isn’t it great? It’s the Holy Spirit!” She had a way of playing a song that is commonly known as “faking it.” There are Fake Books published, and this means the basic notes of the melody are noted and lyrics, but no other music is provided, only the Guitar Chords. It is an outline for the recipe of the song, if you will. There are many ways of making chocolate chip cookies, but in the end, they are all chocolate chip cookies. I love to improvise as I play piano, in fact, I even ignore the written accompaniment, now. If you listen hard enough, you can play the tune. You can play notes, or you can play music. You can follow a recipe, or you can make a cookie.  Are you with me?

So often something reminds me of something else.  Many times, I find myself looking for something, when, in fact, I find something else which I had been looking for before. Whomp, there it is.

Call it The Secret, the Law of Attraction, remote preparation, seek and ye shall find.

I truly believe that having an open mind allows one to perceive truths one might not otherwise recognize.

Everything in your life thus far has prepared you for the next moment. It’s synchronicity.

This afternoon as I drove around during my lunch break, the 80s station played that song “Pure Energy” by a group called Information Society.  Upon entering a place of business, I heard their radio station playing “Meant to Be” by Bebe Rexha.

What I know for sure, is that I am not yet aware of all that I already know.

What do you know?

Wellness Wednesday: Organized Chaos and Magic Words

My friends, I started writing about Wellness on Wednesdays, as I noticed so many creative souls struggle with balance, as do I.  Join me on my journey to wellness as I follow the yellow brick road, marching to the beat of my own drum, stumbling along the way.

I reached a milestone this year, and something has happened.  People are asking me what I think and I realized I have something to say.  Truth is, glimmers of whispers have been brewing, like quiet storms in the back of my mind- for some time.  And that’s part of what I want to share with you today.

I haven’t always been a planner. In fact, as an Introverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiver (INFP on the Myer-s Briggs Type Indicator), I often eschewed organization, preferring spontaneity and the freedom I perceived.  But in college, grad school, and then being a working mom, I began to see the benefits of planning.  I developed my own way of planning- that is Plan, to Have Fun.  Research and mapping activities sure helped get things done! When we go on a family trip, I know exactly what we need and when we hope to do things. There’s a lot of planning in advance, as well as some down time and flexibility. So, I’ve come to recognize planning as an important step. Otherwise, you are wandering a theme park not getting on any rides like the Heck family on the tv show The Middle. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Holiday Collage

Planning for Chaos (Tis the Season)

It was only a couple of years ago that I finally discovered the magic of using a personal planner.  I have to say, finding the right one that works for you is everything.  I had used a Bloom planner, then the Shining Year (before it was discontinued) and now I use the Erin Condren Life Planner (vertical).  Michael’s Recollections line is very similar, and Happy Planner is another planners’ favorite.  There is also Passion Planner. All of these planners can be used quite creatively, you’ll see.

The magic is in writing it down.

I started using the spaces in a vertical planner for timed activities, but then I had these long lists that didn’t fit at the bottom.   So I learned to use the boxes for checklists and inspiring quotes. I use the lines for weekly focus, daily water tracking, goals and interests.  The thing about writing it down is that it makes it more concrete.  Our lives are so digital these days, we’ve literally lost touch.  But once we dare to write things down, we can see that more things are possible.  It’s visual. It’s real. Even long term goals and dreams become less intimidating once we break them down into steps. Successful athletes are known for practicing visualization to better their sports performance. Commedienne Ellen DeGeneres visualized her first Tonight Show monologue to the detail of crossing the stage to shake Johnny Carson’s hand. Envisioning success helps achieve success.

The trick is to find the words that motivate or inspire you.  Which word means more to you:  Motivation or Inspiration?  I am an inspiration girl working in a “motivation” world.  When I start to hear too many buzzwords, jargon, and “productivity-ness”, part of me shuts down and I actually get de-motivated.  You know the sounds that the teachers make in Peanuts?  Wah wah, wah wah, wah.

NOTIFICATION

NOTIFICATION

The kinds of words that means so much more to me (personally) are words like personal growth, inspiration, creativity.

Carriehqdefault

“Someone is staring at you in Personal Growth.” – Carrie Fisher, When Harry Met Sally, 1989.

Writers and speakers know the importance of the adage Know Your Audience. Well, my friends, YOU are your audience. Plan accordingly. Use the right words for you: motivational or inspirational. And use your tools. Maybe all you need is black pen and the occasional highlighter.

Or MAYBE you are like me and you like COLOR! and STICKERS! and WASHI TAPE!

coffee

Focus on the Good Coffee (weekly spread)


I cannot tell you the joy I have found in discovering the creative planning community. I buy hand-drawn embellishment stickers and kits via Etsy. And I decorate, that is, pre-plan my week. My young daughter is doing this with me now, too. We are looking forward to using our planners. We fill them in and make check marks with pride. If I had forgotten to list something that we did, I will go back and add it. Then, my planner becomes a memory keeper, as well, which I reference when I complete my separate Gratitude Journal. I also write down funny/significant things my family and friends say. #quoteofthemonth

My life has changed since I started planning creatively. Sure there are things I haven’t quite got control of, yet. But I keep listing my tasks and dreams. Since I started planning creatively, I have written and self- published a book, earned a promotion at work, saved money by reducing bills and trading books/cds, made investments, and attended webinar trainings for work and personal growth. I’ve achieved a kind of work-life balance as I’ve learned to prioritize some things over others, at certain times, and then maybe getting back to them or just letting them go! If you haven’t watched 19 episodes of that show on the DVR, then maybe you are not really watching that show, are you? Time to let it go. Overall, I am much happier, and way less anxious.

Finally, I wanted to share the importance of remembering what’s in your wheelhouse. I keep a lot of what some people may call clutter, but I know these ideas and things will have usefulness. You never know when something you did long ago or kept will become needed. This has happened to me so many times, personally. I had saved a vinyl tablecloth, which I used again as a picnic blanket. My sister’s wedding singer cancelled last minute, thank God I studied church music and could literally just step up and SING the whole Mass including Schubert’s Ave Maria (with no rehearsal). (I’m still waiting for that opportunity where someone says, Denise, I will pay you a thousand dollars to sing a Karen Carpenter song! Alas, that has not happened yet.)

Having access to your own personal toolkit invites serendipitous synchronicity, which is when you are uniquely qualified and prepared for something, like when I got to sing for my sister’s wedding. Or when I used my experience training volunteer choirs to sing diphthongs to help teach my young child to correctly say the letter Y.

Or writing this post.

How do you plan? Are you organized? Do you like inspirational or motivational words? Let us know below.