International art, new books and killer warts

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New literary anthology featuring some of my poetry and art.

This is just a short blog post about some exciting things going on in my life recently, mostly good, but some rough spots too.

First off, I am happy to say that I am definitely an international artist now! My artwork has been bought by art lovers and collectors in the US, Canada, Australia, France, England, Wales and Switzerland. My art has been exhibited in at least a couple countries outside of the US as well! In the future, I would love to add some Asian, African or South American countries to that list! I want to thank all those who have been purchasing my art lately. The extra income has been great, but even more importantly, it makes me happy to know that my art has touched the lives of others.

Next, I am pleased to announce that two of my drawings and three of my poems were featured in the recently released literary anthology, “Not Dead Yet: An Anthology of Survivor Poetry“. As you can probably tell from the title, this collection features artists and authors who have dealt with great suffering in one form or another and have lived to tell about it. I was proud to be a part of this project, since it celebrates strength, resilience and hope.

I have finished writing my new book, “Searching for the Truth: Poems & Prose Inspired by Our Inner Worlds” and plan on releasing it soon! This book features prose and poetry about subjects like spirituality, philosophy and psychology. It is a personal book, but the wide-ranging subject matter also makes it universal.

On the health front (which is usually the downfall in life for me), I have had an extremely painful battle with plantar warts recently. The last time I had these issues I was 12 and had surgery to remove them, so I was hopeful it would never come back, and yet, here it is. It has gotten to the point this week that I had to bust out my grandfather’s old walker to help me move around the house. It is a little bit funny to be a woman in her 30′s using a walker to get around, but it is kind of sad and foreboding as well. I can’t help but think of the future and wonder how many times I will have to use it again. Last night I fell in the bathroom just trying to get out of the bath tub. Laying there on the ground with a nasty bruise growing on my hip, I thought about how lucky I am to still have strong bones that don’t shatter or break easily. It makes me thankful, but sad for those who aren’t as fortunate.

Interview with Chloe Lukasiak from Dance Moms!

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I have been a fan of the Lifetime reality show Dance Moms since its first season. Although I fell in love with all the kids, Chloe Lukasiak was always my favorite. I found her sweet personality and her inner strength in the face of adversity endearing. So needless to say, I was thrilled to get the chance to interview her! For this short interview, I decided to focus on something other than the dance world or the tv show that made her famous. Since I am an author and Chloe recently started her own book club, I decided to focus on our mutual love for reading. I hope you will enjoy this little interview!

Q: Since I have been following Dance Moms since season one, I know that you love to read. What are some of your favorite books at the moment?

A: I love The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Maze Runner series.

Q: If you had to pick one book that has impacted your life over the years, which book would you pick? Why is that book so unforgettable to you?

A: The Outsiders because, well, I don’t want to give away the end to someone who hasn’t read it!!!

Q: Many avid readers also like to write. I know that you are extremely busy, but do you ever write for fun? If so, what do you like to write?

A: I like to keep a journal. I used to write more when I was younger and I had more time.

Q: Do you have any “book buddies” from school or dance who often read the same books as you?

A: I like recommending books to my friends!

Q: I have read that you tend to like fantasy and sci-fi books. If you could live in a fantasy world out of any book, what world would you choose and why? Is there a character in a book you would love to be for a day? 

A: I would love to be Katniss Everdeen for a day, but I don’t want to play the Hunger Games.

Q: I know you are very close to your mom. Does she like to read too? Do you ever read the same books or recommend books to each other?

A: My mom loves to read. I think as I am getting older now, we can recommend more books to each other.

Q: Does your little sister, Clara, share your love for books? If so, what are some of her favorites? 

A:  Yes, absolutely! She JUST read “Green Eggs and Ham” by herself for the first time! It was the first book I ever read, so it was kinda cool.

Q: Have you read any books lately that you would love to see made into movies? Do you generally like movies based on books?

A: I think the books are always better then the movies! When I was younger, I always wanted to see “The Sisters Grimm” series get made into a movie.

Q: I was very excited to hear that you have your own book club now! Would you like to share a bit about the club?

A: I am so excited about my book club! Each month, I am recommending a book on my YouTube channel and on my other social media. Then, at the end of the month, I am hosting a live event on my channel to discuss the book. My channel is www.Youtube.com/33troijka.

Well, that is the end of today’s interview, but I would like to extend a heartfelt “thank you” to Chloe and her promotional team for making this interview possible! I am excited to see what the future holds for this beautiful and intelligent young lady! If you would like to follow Chloe Lukasiak on social media, here are links to her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

National Young Readers Day – bedtime stories, my favorite childhood storybooks

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In honor of National Readers Day on November 11th, I was inspired by Casper, a new mattress company that makes latex and memory foam mattresses, to put together a collection of my favorite bedtime stories. As a child, I was lucky enough to have several family members who would often read to me. My grandmother probably read to me the most. She instilled a love of the written word in me before I could even write my name. My mother and older sister also took the time to read to me, creating warm memories I will always cherish.

Here is a brief list of some of my favorite storybooks back then:

1. I grew up on Little Golden Books and had quite a collection of them growing up. However, two Little Golden books really stuck with me. “Home for a Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown and “Prayers for Children” by Eloise Wilkin still bring a smile to my face whenever I see them in a bookstore or library. Cracking those books open takes me back to a happy, innocent time I often miss.

2. “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” by Dr. Suess. I had quite a few Dr. Suess books growing up, but this was always my favorite as a kid. I still flip through this book when I see it in my doctor’s waiting room. A couple years ago I even bought some pajamas featuring this Dr. Suess classic.

3. “Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories” by Arthur S. Maxwell. This was the book series my grandmother read to us over and over. It is a collection of children’s stories that focuses on Christian values. I always liked the stories with miracles in them the most. That was like magic to me.

4. “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” by the Brothers Grimm. My sister and I both loved Grimm’s Fairy Tales when we were young. We had an antique book with the entire collection in it. It was not an edited or abridged version, so I grew up listening to the classic dark tales in their entirety. To this day, I much prefer the original stories over the cleaned up Disney versions.

So what were your favorite bedtime stories as a kid? Feel free to comment and let me know!

The most memorable books I read during October 2014

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Starting this month, I am starting a new series of posts where I will list the most memorable books I have read in the past month and why they made such an impact on me. These aren’t necessarily “the best” books, but instead are the ones that really stuck with me for one reason or another. This list may include books for any age group or genre. I read a broad range of books, both fiction and non-fiction, so you never know what you may find in my monthly list! To get us started, here is my list of the five most memorable books I have read in October 2014!

  1. The Flat Rabbit by Barour Oskarsson. This had to be one of the weirdest, least politically correct picture books I have ever read! It had me, my mom and my husband laughing out loud though. It is morbidly hilarious to see a rabbit flattened, then to see his neighbors scrape him off the road, attach him to a kite and fly him in the air. Not sure this is really a great book for kids, but it is hilarious for adults.
  2. Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin. This middle grade historical novel stuck with me because it is the story of a child who grew up thinking Stalin and communism are the best things in the world, only to see how flawed the system truly is and how he has been led to believe things that aren’t true at all. To me, this idea that it is possible to fight for something you believe is right and then find out later that it is actually wrong is a profound lesson to learn.
  3. History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky. This adult memoir struck a little too close to home, but then again, that is why I picked it up in the first place. Since I have also had a sister commit suicide, I could easily and sometimes painfully relate to much of what this writer had to say. The circumstances and details might be different from case to case, but anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide would likely see much of their own suffering and search for healing reflected in this memoir.
  4. I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings & Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-44 by various authors. As the title states, this nonfiction book is a collection of poems and drawings that were created by children imprisoned in a WWII concentration camp. Some of the book is funny and cute, some of it is sad and depressing, but it all shows the innocence and strength of the children who were mistreated during this horrible time. It also shows the loss of life and joy this world suffered due to ignorance and hatred.
  5. The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz. This middle grade fantasy novel was a fun and enjoyable read. By the time I finished it, I was wishing to be a night fairy myself. I’ve always been a night owl anyways, so why not? Although the story starts out rather sad (with the fairy losing her wings in a terrible accident), things quickly start to look up and by the end of the novel, the little fairy is better off for the experiences she has had – both good and bad.

Job hunting with autism in a non-autistic world

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I’m currently searching for a part-time job. I do make some money off my writing and art, but let’s face it, it can be hard to make a living off those things alone. I hope someday to do so, but right now we need some extra money. However, hunting for a job isn’t easy for me. First off, I have some health problems. I can’t work long hours, especially if I need to be on my feet for long (due to severe Plantar Fasciitis) and I can’t lift much of anything that is heavy, which has ruled out many jobs. Add to that, the fact that I have Asperger’s Syndrome and the job market is awfully slim.

Although Asperger’s doesn’t make me unable to work, it does cause some real issues. First off, I have social anxiety which can become overwhelming if I work a job with too much forced socialization. Secondly, although I have a great eye for detail (a gift from having high-functioning autism), I am not very good at multitasking. In fact, it can cause a lot of anxiety if I have to do too much at once all the time. I also need a job that is relatively predictable every day. Too much change in environment or job duties can actually induce panic attacks, which isn’t at all uncommon among those with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Then of course you have the problems with job interviews. First off, do I be totally honest about my physical problems and the issues caused by autism? If I do, I know it may ruin my chances of a job. I hate to think someone wouldn’t hire me just because I have health problems and was born a little different than everyone else, but I know it happens all the time. They may not say that is the reason, but they can still choose not to deal with the restrictions I have. Also, interviews are hell for people who feel socially awkward and nervous to begin with. Often, I can’t tell what someone thinks of me when they first meet me unless they directly tell me, so I often sit there the whole time wondering if I am bombing the interview or if I am doing ok. I am naturally bluntly honest, which can be an issue too.

All of this stress and confusion really makes me wish there were job placement services to help people with high-functioning autism. Unfortunately, almost all of the services around here require that you have a low IQ, which I do not have. In fact, my IQ is quite a bit above average, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still struggle with issues from the autism. Overall, job hunting feels like an alien world to me. One I just don’t get and will probably always have to “fake it to make it”. Unfortunately, I’m not good at faking things for long.

Ask me an author question on goodreads!

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This is a short post to let all my fans and readers know that I have just signed up for the Goodreads “Ask the Author” program. For those who are unfamiliar with Goodreads, I would suggest you check it out. It is a great place for book lovers! Not only can you showcase all the books you have read and share what you thought of them, but you can also see what your friends are reading, send suggestions to people looking for books to read, join groups and online book clubs interested in various genres, enter to win free books in their giveaways and much more!

As for the “Ask the Author” program, it is a neat way to learn more about your favorite authors and to ask them anything that you would like to know. I definitely plan to try to answer any questions I receive (unless they are offensive or I simply start receiving too many to respond to them all). I have already answered a few questions, which you can see the answers to on my Goodreads author page. I hope if you are a Goodreads user that you will stop by and ask me something!

New children’s ebook published! “Petar: An inspiring story about an unexpected friendship”

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I just wanted to write a short blog post to let all my readers know that I just released a new children’s short story ebook! This ebook, Petar: An inspiring story about an unexpected friendship, is a heartwarming story about seeing past outward differences into the true heart of a person. The main character, Petar, is actually based on a real-life child that I met when I used to work as a teacher’s aide in our public school system. The courage and sweet personality of this child I knew made me want to tell his story. I also wanted to show how kind and compassionate many of the other children in his classroom were when it came to dealing with their classmate’s special needs.

Petar: An inspiring story about an unexpected friendship is geared for ages 7-11 (can be read independently or aloud). You can purchase the short story from Amazon for only $.99 per Kindle download. I hope you will check out my new ebook! If you do read it and enjoy it, please consider letting me know by leaving a review on Amazon!