On Love…

So our February read for my book group was “Lilac Days.” With Lincoln so sick he could barely sit up for a whole week–I read it in a week. It’s not my usual favorite–a true story. But I loved it. It was a love story that spanned over fifty years and over both world wars the historical context made it very interesting.

And, being Valentines Day last week, it had me thinking a lot about love. This story was about a man and woman who loved each other for over fifty years, but were never able to be together. In the end it came down to class and station in life. She was a lower middle class American divorcee when they first met and he was a wealthy British-American bachelor Aristocrat. Then she got married again while she was mad at him, and then he got married to a proper-choice-wife. Then her husband died. They had a string of physical affairs with one another but mostly their affair was over pen and paper.

In some ways it was a beautiful story. In some ways, tragically sad. In some ways he regretted not giving up everything to be with her, but he always felt very bound by duty.

But my cynical self says, of course they were able to stay in love over fifty years–they never had to live together! I would be head over heels madly in love with T.D.H. if we were only able to be together for short romantic stretches. I mean he is Tall Dark and Handsome after all.

But it is in living together and really loving (and sometimes hating) one another that our love is real. Literally clean up our kids shit, laughing, crying, coughing, cooking, cleaning, eating together–exposes our love for what it is, real.

Do we always feel like it? No. Do we have real issues? Yes. May there be times we need breaks from one another, we need counseling, we feel like giving up? Yes. But we choose to stay together. We choose to love one another. We choose to continue to romance one another–to try to steal away for a date or a trip or at least time between the sheets after the kid is in bed and before I’m asleep. This is love, my love.

 

TEACHING TODDLERS TO PRAY: Interview with Mother and Expat in Sarajevo, Taylor Irby.

Taylor Irby and I became friends as teenagers. Today she is mother of four living abroad in Sarajevo raising her kids to follow Jesus. I look up to her–as she is a more experienced mother than me and living in a cross-cultural context which is beautiful and difficult all at the same time!

Amy: Where do you and your family go to church and what is your involvement there?  

Taylor: We attend a local Bosnian evangelical church in Sarajevo, Bosnia. We are regular members. I help lead worship occasionally and volunteer in the children’s nursery once a month. My husband preaches every complete of months and is an elder.

Amy: When did you start praying out loud for your child/children or in front of your child at home?

Taylor: As soon as they were in my tummy! (well, really before that! you can never start too early!)

Amy: What were/are some of your daily or weekly traditions regarding prayer as a family? When do you pray? What do you say?

Taylor: We pray always at mealtimes. I’m trying to teach my children that is important. Not as much that we are thanking God for providing for us, but that we make time for prayer at those set times. I usually ask the children “who wants to pray?” at dinner. Sometimes no one wants to pray, and that’s ok. Sometimes they all want to pray and we take turns. We don’t have a set prayer, although sometimes we add a verse “Teach me the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want, teach me that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (adapted from Phil. 4:13)

Sometimes I sit with my kids and ask them specifically how we all can pray for each other. We each share a prayer request and then pray for each other. The next time I ask how that prayer was or was not answered. We give thanks and pray again and share more requests.

Giving thanks is a wonderful way to introduce your kids to prayer! Walking down the road and pointing out God’s creation and giving thanks right then and there!
Also, listening to worship music and worshiping with your children, teaching them that the songs we sing are a kind of musical prayer to God.

Amy: Have you done anything intentional to teach your children to pray?

Taylor: I think simply modeling prayer when you can is a wonderful thing! Other things we have done: set scripture around the house and connecting that to an action (see praying for your child 7 times a day), praying for “boo-boos”, praying whenever we see an ambulance drive by, praying for our friends and family. I tell my kids that prayer is simply talking with God through faith knowing that He hears us and cares for us, even if we can’t hear Him or see Him.

Amy: Does your child/do your children pray out loud? What do they say? When do they pray?

They do when they want to. I never force my kids to pray. I have four children, and they all pray differently. My oldest, age 9, prays about things going on in her life. My boy who is 8 prays similar. My 4 year old usually prays the same thing “Dear God I thank you for this beautiful day in the morning, amen.” although I see her prayers evolving some lately…she’s adding some more details. My little girl, age 2 wants to imitate her siblings. She often gets upset when she is skipped over for prayer time. We give her a minute, she folds her hands and is silent. Then we all say “AMEN”.

A word about meal time prayer. I’m really trying to teach my kids that when we are praying together it’s important to focus on Jesus, not on our food, not on our homework that is due tomorrow, not on anything but Him. It’s easy to get distracted so I tell my kids that I struggle with that too. A simple rhythm I’ve taught my kids is “Irbys, how do we pray?” and they all, even the 2 year old, immediately fold their hands and close their eyes. We talk about the reasons why we do this: fold hands so we don’t mess with anything that could distract us, bow our head and close our eyes so we aren’t tempted to look around and get distracted.

A resource Ive used in the past with my toddlers is “Playtime Devotions”. It’s simple little devotions that the smallest baby will enjoy.

Do you want to get more ideas on teaching your kids about God? Do you want the latest on Amy’s art and children’s books? Subscribe here. 

Self-Publishing a Children’s Book: 9 Things I Know Now

IMG_0496Have you seen my children’s book Keep Watch Sam? Sign up for my mailing list and I will send you a free e-book!

Self-publishing or indie publishing is growing very fast. It is now easier and cheaper to self-publish than ever before. This is true for every genre but children’s picture books are a little different.

First the digital market is growing slower for picture books, than other genres. People still want to hold their kids on their laps and read them a book. Second, while Print on Demand services (POD) now makes self-publishing print copies affordable for the average person (you only pay for what you buy or sell), quality color printing is more expensive than black and white paper backs, therefore your POD book must usually be priced higher than the large Publishing house equivalents.

Over the last few months I have learned so much about self-publishing, marketing, growing “your platform”, and so on. Unfortunately I learned most of what I have learned after I hit the “publish” button and published through blurb.com, so I did things a little backwards. Knowing what I know now this is what I wish I would have done and this is what I suggest you do if you want to create a children’s book.

1. Write the Story, a 32 page book.

The classic children’s book is 32 pages long. If you want a shorter length like I did there needs to not only be a good reason but you might also consider a parent/teacher’s companion to fill in the 32 pages. If you want a longer book, just do some editing and make it 32 pages. Trust me. Dr. Seuss wrote longer books but he was Dr. Seuss you are not. Books that do not fit the standard are more expensive and a bigger hassle to reproduce.

2. Draw the illustrations (or higher someone to draw them)

Draw 32 portrait formatted pictures or 16 two page spread landscape format (or a combination of the two that equal 32). Landscape books are rare and expensive to reproduce, don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

3. Research Book Marketing and Building Your Platform. 

Unlike me, do not wait until you have the finished project. There is something called “launching your book” and you have to build up to that launch, so learn about it now. Get on Tim Grahl’s email list, and read as much as possible about what he puts out. Also read as many of his recommended reading on his Best Book Marketing Books list. Don’t be in a hurry to publish, you not only want to publish a high quality book. You also want to publish it in such a way that it will sell, so that at the very least you can afford to make more books.

4. Have Your Book Edited. Have the Illustrations reviewed by an Artist.

Most places you will read that you must have your book professionally edited and your book cover professionally designed. I agree and I disagree. I did not higher anyone to help me complete and fine tune my book. I did however ask people with a level of professional perfection to review, edit, and critique it. This is very important.

I rewrote the story three or four times and had a few artist friends give me feedback. They also challenged me to bring my drawings to a higher level of professionalism. When I thought I was done. I again asked my artist friend to review the story and the drawings. She pointed out where I was getting lazy or was in a rush and I went back to the drawing board. The image that I ended up using on the cover was one that I had rushed over and had to redo–after I thought I was done. I am so glad I did.

Then I had a group of moms who care about teaching their kids bible stories read the electronic version of the book to their kids and give me feedback. This was great. Without them, I wouldn’t have had dialog say “Keep Watch, Sam!” And I might not have included the questions at the end, even though I wanted a didactic component.

Finally I had two different people that I know are sticklers for spelling and grammatical editing review my draft. The one who apologized for being a grammar nazi was exactly what I needed!

5. Publish Electronically. 

But people want hardcopies! You want hardcopies, I want hardcopies! Yes. If you are dying as I was to see it in print, order yourself a few copies to be printed at FedEx Office or Office Max. If you want them to look more professional for a gift you can use a sight like Blurb.com, but don’t rush to release them for sale.

You have so much to do still. You want to get at least 25 reviewers on Amazon the day you release your book (it would be best if you got them the day you release your e-book actually). You want to plan a launch party (virtual or live), and, much much more.

And in my case I should have waited because once I published it I sent an e-copy to a friend of mine “in the industry,” he runs a small publishing company that publishes most of the material that Vineyard authors produce (Ampelon Publishing). While he had been unsure about the proposal I sent him before I completed the project. He really liked the “final product.” I now have the opportunity to partner with him and release a second edition. I will pay for the print run (which I would not have access to without him), but he will handle major distribution.

Printing with Blurb did not ruin this opportunity, but it would have been better marketing to build up to the print copy rather than have two editions running around. Also, while you might not have the connection that I did, if you want to try to get an agent and a traditional publisher an e-version will not deter them while a print-copy will.

6. Give Your Book Away.

This might seem counter intuitive but building buzz and building your email mailing list seems to be the most important part of becoming an successful author. Giving away your e-copy is a great way to do that.

7. Have Your Book Printed.

Once you have promoted your book, given it away, and created a buzz that sounds like, “When will the print copy be released?” Then have it printed. Blurb.com did a great job for me. It is a beautiful little book. I don’t like the price. If you want to sell more copies you might do a print test with CreateSpace though I have read mixed reviews on quality for color printing and they don’t do hard-cover.   

8. Make Your Next Book! 

Make your next book because its fun and you love it. And, make your next book because authors with more than one book, sell more books.

9. Market Your Book

Do Readings, Signings, Speaking Engagements, Blog, Build Your Email List and Stay-in Touch, Make Videos, and Much more.

 

 

 

 

 

TEACHING TODDLERS TO PRAY: An Interview with Mother and Pastor Andrea Kladder

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“One of my favorite prayer traditions happens in our family small group. After the adults have finished the study, the kids join us and all of us share something we are thankful for. After everyone has had a chance to share we sing the Doxology together praising God for all his good gifts.” -Andrea Kladder, Mother and Pastor

Let me introduce you to my friend I was so close with at Princeton Theological Seminary that people used to confuse us for one another, now mother of two and co-pastor with her husband, Dean Kladder, Andrea Kladder.

Amy: Where do you and your family go to church and what is your involvement there?  How many children do you have and how old are they?

Andrea: We live in Northern California. My husband Dean and I are the pastors of Healdsburg Community Church, so obviously we’re very involved. Our children are 4 years old and 4 months old and their main involvement in the life of the church is Sunday mornings and attending our Family Small Group. On Sunday mornings, the baby is in the Nursery and our preschooler splits time between the main worship service and the Nursery.

Amy: When did you start praying out loud for your child/children or in front of your child at home?

Andrea: We started praying out loud with our children at the very beginning as they were incorporated into our daily lives. The obvious times and places would be before meals and as we put them to bed, but I also pray aloud for the kids when they are nursing a lot in the early weeks.

Amy: What were/are some of your daily or weekly traditions regarding prayer as a family? When do you pray? What do you say?

Andrea: Meals and bedtime are still the easiest times to pray together. I think it’s because there is a natural pause to the day at those points. We try to have some variation with both of these times. At dinnertime we take turns praying and we also have two sung graces that we use. At bedtime we often take time to say “thank-you-fors” to God. Sometimes our daughter prays at bedtime and sometimes the parent primarily prays.

One of my favorite prayer traditions happens in our family small group. After the adults have finished the study, the kids join us and all of us share something we are thankful for. After everyone has had a chance to share we sing the Doxology together praising God for all his good gifts.

Amy: For those who aren’t as familiar:

The Doxology

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Amy: Have you done anything intentional to teach your children to pray?

Andrea: Prayer strikes me as something that is best modeled, so I try hard to continue to weave prayer into our lives in an obvious way (meals and bedtime, yes, but also stopping to pray when something comes up that is difficult or sad). I like to use a range of language and Scripture, as well as incorporate song, to show that prayer can look a lot of different ways. I also believe that cultivating gratitude and directing that gratitude toward God is a building block for prayer.

Amy: Does your child/do your children pray out loud? What do they say? When do they pray?

Andrea: Our 4-year-old prays out loud sporadically. It’s very easy to get her to say “God, I thank you for…” and she will occasionally pray extemporaneously, but she often gets shy about it. I think next steps in prayer for us including helping her learn how to share her feelings with God and to ask for his help on specific things.

Do you want to get more ideas on teaching your kids about God? Do you want the latest on Amy’s art and children’s books? Subscribe here.