book birthday, children's books, children's writing, Clear Fork Publishing, Dear Rainbow Baby, hope, National Rainbow Baby Day, picture book authors, picture book illustrators, picture books, remembering, Samantha Gassman, Spork, support an author, Timothy Lange, writing journey

DEAR RAINBOW BABY

Today on National Rainbow Baby Day, recognized annually on August 22nd, it is my pleasure to celebrate the book birthday of Dear Rainbow Baby, written by Samantha Gassman, illustrated by Timothy Lange and published by Spork, an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing.

Dear Rainbow Baby is available for purchase @ https://linktr.ee/sgassmanbooks

Samantha Gassman, the author, is an Air Force veteran, military spouse, and mom to two kids and two cats. Her debut picture book DEAR RAINBOW BABY arrives on August 22, which is also happens to be the birthday of her own rainbow baby. Her next book PEANUT AND BUTTER CUP is slated for publication in 2024.

Samantha very graciously agreed to an interview to discuss her writing and the very personal and emotional journey that led to the creation of Dear Rainbow Baby.

In regard to your book’s journey, I read that Dear Rainbow Baby came about as you processed your grief over your miscarriage. How were you able to step away from the rawness of your emotions to realize that your written expression of them could become a book which might have the potential to inspire hope among others going through a similar loss?  

I wanted to let other parents know they are not alone in going through it. Pregnancy is an emotional experience at the best of times. But following a loss, those emotions can be overwhelming and no one should deal with it by themselves. I hope that the book will humanize the experience and that people will see themselves within the story.

I wrote through all the stages of grief following the miscarriage. Writing down my emotions was a great way for me to work through them. As I wrote, the words “Dear Rainbow Baby” appeared, and I started writing a letter to a baby we didn’t even know we could have. This letter helped me look forward with hope and start the healing process.

When I switched gears and looked at the letter as picture book manuscript, I realized the benefit the text could have on others who had been through a similar experience. That’s when I knew I had to try and get it out there.

Even though my own rainbow baby is now a grown self-sufficient woman, I still remember the loss and the overwhelming sense of being alone after I miscarried during the second trimester of my first pregnancy. Do you have any suggestions for mothers who are grieving a loss of a child, or pregnancy? 

I would encourage them to reach out to their family and friends or a support group. It’s so important to have people to lean on. I held my husband Ryan and our son Jake very closely during that time, and both of them helped me get through it.

I would also encourage mothers to allow themselves to feel all the emotions that come with a loss like this, rather than bottling it up. It’s okay to feel however they feel. Find a way to memorialize the loss in some way. My husband and I have the first and only ultrasound picture framed with the baby’s name and dates.

Because the creation of Dear Rainbow Baby was so extremely emotional for you, did that make hearing and addressing critiques of its manuscript that much more difficult? 

I was very fortunate to have my rainbow baby just before the book was acquired, which made going through the revisions easier.

What has been harder more recently (even though my baby is now an independent, sassy 2-year-old), is the notes I get from people sharing their experiences with me.

Their stories bring me back to the emotional turmoil I went through and several of them have had me in tears. One lady said that she is comforted by the thought of our angel babies playing together in heaven, which was such a beautiful sentiment.

In another blog I read that reading to your son fostered your desire to write for children. What steps did you take to make that desire a reality?  How long did it take you?  

First, I wrote some really terrible picture book manuscripts and shot them off to agents without learning the industry! Then, I got smarter and joined SCBWI and a critique group, and wrote and read a lot more picture books.

After dozens of rejections, I landed my first agent, who only signed me for one project. That project was rejected by 30 publishers and my contract with her ended.

I pitched DEAR RAINBOW BABY and PEANUT AND BUTTER CUP during #PitMad on Twitter and was lucky enough to land another agent, Erica Christensen. We’ve been together for two years and we’ve sold both of those original manuscripts. Now, we’re out on submission with newer projects and I have my fingers crossed those are acquired too.

I understand that your writing time comes pretty much at the end of a full day of work and child care. Is there a special nook that you like to go to gather your thoughts, or to get your creative juices flowing? 

Haha, I wish! Since we move so often with the military, I’m lucky if the house we live in has an office for my full-time job! In our current house, I usually write at our kitchen table, which is normally covered with crumbs or other morsels left over from the kids throwing their dinner around.

I noticed that besides for your full-time jobs you’re also a freelance writer. First of all . . . wow, second of all . . . wow and third of all, what drew you to take up writing? At what age?  Did you ever think you’d be an author growing up?  What was your first published piece? What was the first piece you earned any money off of?

Thank you, thank you! My son drew me to writing when I had him at 31. I loved how his face lit up when we read picture books together. I have so many treasured memories that involve books, and I want to help create special moments for other parents and their kids.

Growing up, I never thought I would be an author. I was always a decent writer, but I was mostly focused on academic papers, not creative writing.

My first published piece was a story I wrote about an open house at our local fire station in Dixon, CA. I sent it to the local paper, the Dixon Independent. My first paid writing gig was my work for hire contract with Benchmark Education. They bought my debut book on the educational market HONOR FLIGHT, available for classes and libraries now!

Samantha, you’ve had several successes with two stories that went nationwide. Would you share with us what you’ve learned as you sought to publicize and market your work?

Even if you sign a contract with a “big 5” publisher, a lot of the responsibility for marketing and publicity will be on you the author. Here are my top tips to help you market your book:

  • Know your audience and figure out where they are: for Dear Rainbow Baby, I knew that parents and expecting parents of rainbow babies were my audience. Fortunately, there are several organizations that address pregnancy after loss and miscarriage support, so I reached out to individuals there to help spread the word about the book.
  • Pitch your local paper (and anywhere you have a tie-in): Think about: your school magazine or newsletter, church newsletter, local radio and TV stations, etc. and send them your pitch!
  • Post authentically and post often on social media. No, you’re not talking about your book too much. Share the story behind the idea, the revision process, the inspiration, writing tips, etc… with your social media audience. This helps your book stay top of mind and can help you build a fan base.

Are there any suggestions you could pass on to readers who might also want to become a picture book writer?

The only difference between an unpublished author and a published author is the latter never gave up. So, don’t give up!

Thank you, for sharing your and Dear Rainbow Baby’s journey, Samantha. I wish you all the best and to your daughter, a very happy birthday!

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2020, Charles Dickens, Covid-19, honoring, Jack Baker, remembering, Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg, The Christmas Carol

Tis the Season

It’s the season for wishes of hope, faith, joy and peace; all of which we need in abundance this year. Taking time to prepare for the holidays makes us think of and take time for others, our family, friends, colleagues, community. A small act of giving sends a clear message that the receiver of the gift is valued, his/her friendship, affection, and or efforts are recognized.

It’s also the time of year when we should think of our fellow humans as Marley warns in Charles Dickens’, A Christmas Carol. Marley enters Scrooge’s bedroom dragging a heavy chain made up of cashboxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. “Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” He tells his one-time friend and partner.

Photo by Nadi Lindsay on Pexels.com

What would the world be like if these sentiments were in all of our hearts the year ’round?

I wish I could see such a world. Right now I’ve only seen glimpses of it, but when I do it always gives me hope.

Recently, I saw one in my nephew’s initiative to emulate the “In America, How Could This Happen” display created by D.C. artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg. The display created by Ms. Firstenberg was that of over 200,000 white flags representing the lives lost to COVID-19 that were placed in the D.C. Armory Parade Ground Southeast.

My nephew Jack chose to use American flags to honor and recognize Nassau County NY residents who have died due to COVID-19. His grandfather, Tom Kaiser was among those memorialized in the Bayville display. Jack took up this idea to emulate Ms. Firstenberg’s display because in his words,”It was nice to see that someone could do something that great to make people feel better and show that there was support for them. I thought that would be a great idea to do up here.”

Thank you Jack and to all whose actions manifest hope, faith, joy and peace.

2020, choice, choice, Dory, Finding Nemo, life paths, meditation, memories, Moonstruck, pandemic, poetry, remembering, Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken, writing journey, writing journey

Where are you going?

When the day doesn’t just take over, when your mind can wander over things you need to consider but have pushed aside for one reason or another, do you know where you’re going?

Photo by Ivars on Pexels.com

Do you contemplate your future path? Your present? Your past?

In the movie Moonstruck, Rose Castorini asks her husband, “Where you been?”
Cosmo answers. “I don’t know, Rose. I don’t know where I’ve been
or where I’m going. All right?”

I can relate. I think we all can, especially this year.

In Finding Nemo Dory says, “Keep Swimming, Just Keep Swimming.” Because of a short-term memory loss Dory doesn’t know where she’s been, but she knows she has a place she’s working toward getting to; every day she works towards getting closer and closer until eventually she gets to where she’s meant to be.

Another great line from Moonstruck occurs when Loretta goes to confession and the priest tells her with great expression,”Reflect on your life Loretta.” This made me think of the popular poem by Robert Frost.

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Frost’s poem can seem to be about the need to choose a path that different, perhaps better, from another but that’s not the point of view of the poet as he writes, And both that morning equally lay, In leaves no step had trodden black. Frost, right there, tells us that one path was just as good as the other.

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It’s all up to you; follow the path that best suits. As Frost says, way leads on to way, which to me echoes Dory. “Swimming, swimming, just keep swimming.”

Enjoy the trip.

father's day, honoring, kindness, love, love of a child for a father, memories, remembering

Happy Father’s Day

Each life touches another. Each relationship effects the people in it. Most notably the relationship of parents to their children.

We have all been effected by our father in good ways and sometimes in some not so good ways. Father’s are human though sometimes we expect them to be more than that which is unfair. You can’t fully realize this until your a parent yourself.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads who make the effort, to be the best the can be, to try the hardest they can, to do more than anyone could expect, for their children. I hope you get a little recognition and a very big hug for all that you do to make this world a better place.

birthdays, kindness, pandemic, parade of cars, quarantine, remembering

Celebration Pandemic Style . . .

Yesterday was my sister’s birthday. We had a parade to celebrate it. Her daughters organized it and it turned out to be a great way to recognize the day. It was a four wheeled expression of love, of connection, of celebration.

After having Covid-19 herself, and then losing her husband to it a month and a half ago my sister was so touched by the fact that so many of her family, friends and co-workers came out with cars decorated to celebrate her birthday pandemic style.

Music played from car speakers, waves and shout-outs came from sunroofs, and car windows, and confetti shot from poppers out of the back of a pick-up truck. Smiles although covered by masks could still be seen in everybody’s eyes. At times they mixed with tears, but I think everyone came away feeling more upbeat than they had in a while.

Celebrations are hopeful. They are full of love and good wishes. I imagine the positive energy that the celebration of my sisters birthday created must have rippled outward from all the drivers and passengers to my sister and beyond. It made a day in which she was feeling a myriad of mixed emotions into one that she will remember with a smile because of all the love around her.

I wish everyone an opportunity to celebrate.