Chilly the Snowman


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How to Love Snow Like a Kid:

AH SNOW. . . My feelings about snow have really evolved since my childhood. As an adult living in Maine, the snow piling up can feel like such a burden. Snowbanks are like obstacles you need to move out of the way or navigate your car around.

      But as a child… a big snowbank looks like hours of fun! It can be a slide, a sculpture, and of course a snow fort!!! I spent so much time playing out in the snow. I don’t even remember feeling that cold as a kid. The biggest obstacle between kids and playing in the snow, is putting on all the snow gear! Boots, hats, mittens, and of course... the dreaded snowsuit! Who can forget Randy from A Christmas Story “I CAN’T PUT MY ARMS DOWN!” I certainly had my fair share of falling in the snow and being unable to move from all of my cumbersome winter gear! So many things to put on and keep track of. My little brother lost so many gloves and hats that my Dad referred to the lost and found as his “locker”. But oh boy, is it worth it! There’s just nothing like playing in the snow.

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     This time of year many families are on break for the holidays. It can be really hard to get enough time outdoors when it’s cold out. But I think it’s always good for the body and the mind to spend time outside. I wanted to write a story for kids that would get them pumped about playing out in the snow. So bundle up! Get outside! Move and shake like you are Chilly!

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My brother Tony & I playing in the snow during the 1991 "Halloween Nor'easter"

 


Digger Has A Dilemma


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How to Have Fun While Cleaning Up a Mess:

YOU GUYS AREN'T GOING TO BELIEVE THIS . . .  but I was a VERY messy kid! Like if those crazy reality TV shows about hoarders and extreme clutter existed when I was a child, I would have been a prime candidate. I just had so many “projects” that I wanted to do. That’s why I needed that tree branch that may or may not have a family of slugs living on it. And yes I needed to hold on to every seashell from every visit to the beach ever. And I ESPECIALLY NEEDED that pile of old JC Penny & Sears catalogs. (Kid’s ask your parents)  I HATED to clean my room or throw anything out. Indoor chores in general just weren’t my thing.

      My folks were always great about turning work into a game. We had special songs we would sing and fun records to play for upbeat “chore” music. A Cleaning Soundtrack, if you will. Music has always helped me get motivated. It still does.  So yes, this story is very autobiographical. In fact, in the first version, I was the one with the dilemma of not wanting to clean my room. I recorded myself rapping the “I’m Mad” rap in my own voice and everything! But it was just too weird. I didn’t want to scare any kids away. Plus I just loved the idea of Digger throwing a fit because he doesn’t want to pick up his dog toys!

      So I went with Digger. I really like the fact that Digger’s friends come to help. But instead of cleaning his room for him, they help him to change his attitude. It’s what my folks did for me and I hope this can motivate you too!

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"Bless this Mess" -My childhood room

 


Lawrence the Lighthouse


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How to Face Your Fears "Head-light" On:

"HI -YAH  LAWRENCE . . . " I just love this one. I have lived in Portland Maine for 10 years now. We are a little port city with an old working waterfront. The Portland Headlight has been guiding boats into Casco Bay since 1791. It is my favorite lighthouse to visit. When I made my living as a landscape painter, I painted this lighthouse dozens of times.

     The Headlight always looked like it was in a different mood. But mostly, I thought it looked lonely. The Lighthouse stays up all night keeping vigil, guiding boats into the harbor. Boats that have seen the whole world, but the Lighthouse never gets to leave its post. Sailboats get to leisurely float around. But the Lighthouse is always working. Even the “Working” Boats have a day off for the annual Lobster Boat Races. But the Lighthouse doesn’t get to participate. Always a boat guide, never a ride. Okay okay, I know I am getting all worked up about an inanimate object. And if you really stop and think, this Lighthouse doesn’t really have it all that bad. It gets thousands of visitors every year AND is the most photographed lighthouse in the world! Come to think of it, the Portland Headlight has more Instagram followers than most celebrities!

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     For all these reasons, I just had to write a story about the Headlight. Soon there will even be a book! A family member took me out on his 1968 Columbia Sailboat for a tour of Casco Bay. It was a beautiful afternoon and I was able to take loads of photographs of the Bay, the Boats, and the Lighthouse. These photos will be the background illustrations in the Lawrence the Lighthouse book. I can’t wait for you all to see it!

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Sailing around Casco Bay aboard the "Salt", watching the lobster boats and tug boats race around the harbor while "Lawrence" watches

 


Happy Birthday Maple


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How to Make Like a Tree & Leave Things Behind:

 MY FAVORITE CHILDREN'S BOOK IS . . . "The Lorax" by Dr Seuss.  I wanted to write my own story about trees. Even with some great inspiration, “Happy Birthday Maple” did not come easily to me, because it was not actually the story I set out write.

      The first story I wrote was called the ‘Tree Retreat’. It was about trees from all around the world, gathering up their roots and meeting at the top of the earth for the annual “Tree Retreat.” I know, not bad right? But as I was writing the story I realized there wasn’t much in it for kids. It became overworked and really preachy. It lacked joy, a magical spark. Man, when something ain’t working, it really feels like WORK!

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      After the 10th unsuccessful draft of the story, I realized I had to let it go. It was a really hard thing to do. I felt like a failure. How could I have wasted so much time on a story? Why couldn’t I salvage this thing?!!! I had to take a step back and have a chat with myself. . .

     Q: “What is the essence, the emotional core of the story?”

     A: “I want to tell a story that celebrates trees”.

     Q: “Who are you writing for?”

     A: “Little kids and families”

     Q: “What do kids like to celebrate?”

     A: “Their BIRTHDAYS!”

     Q: “How about a birthday party for a tree?”

     A: “BINGO!!!”

In this frame of mind, I wrote “Happy Birthday Maple” in one sitting. It was a joy to write. Didn’t feel like work at all.

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A Birthday with the trees!

 


The Quirky Turkey


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How To Let your Quirks Fly:

LET'S FACE IT. . . We all have a quirk. There is no such thing as “normal”. Sometimes we feel like we need to hide these weird parts of ourselves, especially in social situations including… holiday gatherings. Holidays are another one of those schemas that feel completely different when you are a child versus when you are an adult. I don’t know about you but I LOVED the holidays as a child. I loved seeing my family, eating big meals, having more than one dessert option, listening to music, and shaking my TAIL-FEATHER!!! 

      I'm not sure when it happened, but as I grew older things have slowly shifted. I feel more stress, more anxiety associated with holidays, and family gatherings. Maybe because of the expectations I have of myself and of others. Maybe I just want these things to feel as amazing as they did when I was a little girl. Maybe instead of trying to live up to an ideal or fit into a mold, I just need to be brave. Just be me. I’m going to try and take more steps forward. I’m trying to let more of my “quirks” out. Feel the freedom that I had as a child to be myself.

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     Since starting Story Spectacular. I have heard from people all over who are connecting back to their childhood through my stories and songs. I am so thankful for this. Anyone reading this note, I am thankful for you too. Now come on everybody, let your quirks out. It’s time to celebrate!

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Come on . . . get QUIRKY!!!

 


The Baby Foodie: Great Corn Crusader


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How to Eat your Way to a Good Story:

SINCE MOVING TO MAINE IN 2007 . . . I have watched this small city become a food destination. It is such a pleasure to taste new foods. To learn about the farmers and foragers who take such care in sourcing their ingredients. My favorite part of traveling is the cuisine as well. The first time I went to Puerto Rico I picked a ripe mango from a tree. Living in Maine my whole life, I never had the pleasure of eating a mango so fresh. It was such a joy! I wanted to create a series of stories for families that would celebrate food from all around the world (without taking itself too seriously) and so… the “Baby Foodie” was born.

                 Shrimp & Geechie Boy Grits at Hot Suppa Restaurant

               Shrimp & Geechie Boy Grits at Hot Suppa Restaurant

      The first story installment of "The Baby Foodie" is inspired by a very special family and a very special farm. I had the pleasure of traveling to Charleston SC in 2015 and sharing a meal with husband and wife who in my opinion, (and many others),  make some of the best grits in the whole country. They use heirloom corn and an old gristmill to stone grind the corn into grits. The process is laborious and the results are DELICIOUS! I loved their story so much that I thought a corn farm would be the perfect place for the Baby Foodie to journey to first. Enjoy this tasty tale!

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Geechie Boy Mill - Edisto Island, South Carolina

 


Old Miss Angie Had a Farm


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How to Learn & Play Like an ANIMAL:

NOW THAT YOU'VE BEEN LISTENING TO THE SHOW FOR A WHILE . . you probably have noticed that I LOVE animals. As a child, I used to rescue mice from my cats in the middle of the night and “save” them in jars to set free in the morning. (Much to the chagrin of my parents!) “Old McDonald Had a Farm” was a song I adored as a kid. But I was never satisfied with the traditional farm animals. I wanted to know what a Panda would say, or a Penguin, or even a Zebra…

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      I also used to struggle with pronouncing certain sounds. I think a lot of other children do too. When learning to speak, certain parts of speech can be very difficult and even frustrating to master. 

      Old Miss Angie Had a Farm is my way of sharing a story AND learn some new sounds that can sometimes be a little tricky to pronounce. I hope you enjoy playing and singing along!

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It's always fun to meet a new animal friend!

 


Monster SMASH!!!


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How to Make Scary... SPECTACULAR:

FOR THE WEEK OF HALLOWEEN . . . I wanted to take some things that I once found scary as a child and make them not so scary. The list of things I was once fearful of is LOOOOOONG!!! Snakes, Ghosts, Sharks… ONIONS…(No SERIOUSLY!) Bats and Monsters were up there too. As I have grown older and slightly wiser, I have come to the realization that most things lose their scariness once you learn a little more about them. Like BATS!!! I have found some wonderful podcasts and articles about bats that have allowed me to admire and appreciate these incredible animals. I now consider myself a bat advocate.

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      My fear of monsters, on the other hand, is a little more difficult to overcome. "Monster" is another one of those words that means something different as an adult. I think of people being Monsters now. It can be a hard world out there. Writing adorable stories for kids helps me cope. We have all gone through times in our life where maybe we felt a little like Monsters. I was a “Monster” of a teenager (Sorry Mom). My youngest brother had a real bad case of the Terrible Two’s. I think he was escorted out of most public areas for bad behavior during those troubling toddler years.

      The cure for solving “Monsteritus”? Finding a creative and/or physical outlet. For me it was art. I drew a lot of interesting things during my Monster teen years. It really helped me figure some stuff out. For my youngest brother, it was sports. He loved smashing a ball with a bat or getting to kick and throw various “sports” balls. I think we all know a misguided monster out in the world. Let's try and learn a little more about them and help them find a way to put their unique talents to good use. Happy Halloween everybody!!!

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Happy Halloween everybody!!!

 


The Shape Escape!


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How Inspiration Comes in All Shapes:

SOME STORIES COME FROM THE MOST UNEXPECTED PLACES! When brainstorming for a story idea, I chose the topic “shapes”. I sat down with a piece of paper and drew a circle, a square and a triangle. At first, they were empty. So I drew some faces on them. How do I bring these shape characters to life? What made me excited as a kid? Two things popped into my head, #1 Pee Wee Herman, and #2 The B52’s!

      1.) PEE WEE HERMAN:  I was never allowed to watch Pee Wee’s Playhouse at home but I would catch glimpses of it at other people's houses. That show bent reality. It felt like a dream. There was a talking chair that looked SO REAL! It made me wonder if chairs only talked in Pee Wee’s Playhouse or maybe the chairs in my house would talk too, when no one was looking! I would sneak around the corner to try and catch my dad’s brown corduroy recliner in the act! That show really made me question and test the world around me.

                  Inspiration can arrive in all shapes!

                 Inspiration can arrive in all shapes!

      2.) THE B52’S:  The album “Cosmic Thing” by the B52’s was one of the first CDs my parents got for their cool new CD player. I made them play the song “Love Shack” for me all the time and would dance around the living room. The word “love” means something different as a kid. It’s not a romantic feeling but instead, a feeling of blissful connection towards your friends and family. I thought it was SO cool that the people in the song were getting together and having a party with the people they loved! I wanted to turn my Dad’s tool shed into a “Love Shack”. But then one day I got my wish. In first grade, I went on a trip to California for my aunt's wedding. At the wedding reception the DJ put on “Love Shack” I was like “ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW? You guys know this song TOO?!!!” I grabbed the microphone and began singing dancing like a total maniac. Everyone was on the dance floor. It was just euphoria!  In my head, I was screaming “I LOVE EVERYBODY!!!!” I got to experience my version of a “Love Shack” and it was one of the most exciting memories of my childhood.

      I took that energy and those feelings from my childhood memories, and wrote the plot of “The Shape Escape”. Some shapes live in a valley. An Octagon, a Square and a Tiny triangle. A Big Bully circle is bouncing around wreaking havoc. They put it in time-out up in a fortress at the top of a mountain. But one day the circle escapes and the tiny triangle emerges as the unexpected hero.

      I wanted my shapes to come alive the way Pee Wee Herman made the objects around his house come to life. I even did my best Pee Wee Herman impression for the voice of the Circle.

      Then I wanted the story to end with a surprise dance party that celebrates the tiniest shape in the valley. I paid homage to the B52’s by singing a short original song for the triangle!

      This is one of my favorite stories because it came from such treasured memories. I hope the shapes delight you too!

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Singing "Love Shack"

 


Pee Wee Herman & B52's Videos: