Archives: #yarnbombing

I’m Grateful For My Opportunities

This furry, long-eared pink guy looks a lot like my DAD!

This Thanksgiving season, I’ve been thinking about what I’m grateful for. Like many, I would put HEALTH at the top of the list. Not just my own health (which is pretty good, knock on wood), but also that of my large family. My mother had a rather serious health issue this year, as did my youngest sister; thankfully, they have both navigated the road to recovery and are doing fine. My father—at age 82—has a full-time career running a non-profit organization, does part-time ministry volunteer work, and is also working on a PhD in mind-body medicine. Talk about good health … WOW! Dad is truly the energizer bunny! The rest of my family is healthy, too, as are my four children and my husband. I’m grateful.

This job became a two-for-one: it resulted in a book AND a thesis!

Beyond health, I’m grateful for OPPORTUNITIES. I’ve always been a writer. Every job I’ve ever had throughout my career has been as a writer: newspaper journalist, magazine contributor, public relations professional, etc. About seven years ago, I relaunched my writing career when I was hired to research and write the 60-year history of the Institute for Spirituality and Health in Houston’s Texas Medical Center. The result was Uniting Faith, Medicine and Healthcare, a nonfiction book that ISH uses as a communications and development tool. The book also became the foundation of my thesis project, earning me a Master of Arts from LSU-Shreveport in 2013. You can read more about the Institute and their mission here: https://www.spiritualityandhealth.org/

Me with Bonnie Blue in front of her amazing art car: Women That Rock.

That freelance job for the Institute opened up my mind to different writing styles, and I bubbled with ideas for children’s books. I launched my first book for kids—Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car—in 2016, and the following year, it was awarded first place by the Texas Association of Authors in the category of Picture Books. My story even inspired the Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum to create a permanent art car exhibit. Many OPPORTUNITIES opened up for me, and I became an elementary school speaker. I’ve now presented at more than 70 schools, spreading my artsy message about reading, writing and creativity to thousands of children. I also met dozens of creative individuals who enjoy the art car lifestyle; they join me at my school visits, bringing smiles wherever they go.

YAZZY’S AMAZING YARN is available through my author’s website, at several Houston stores, and on Amazon.

My second picture book, Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn, launched in August 2019 and is a playful story about a girl who “yarn bombs” her neighborhood park. It was named a finalist in the 2019 Best Book Awards by the American Book Fest in the category of children’s hardcover fiction picture books. The contest yielded over 2,000 entries from mainstream and independent publishers, which were then narrowed down to some 400 winners and finalists. Reader’s Favorite gave YAZZY a coveted top five-star review. Also, my illustrator, Emily Calimlim, won a diversity scholarship at the SCBWI-Houston conference this year and was named Most Promising Portfolio for 2019. I feel lucky to be in Emily’s talented sphere! Check out the winner and other finalists in my category for the 2019 BEST BOOK AWARD here: http://www.americanbookfest.com/childrensbooks/picturebookfiction.html

“Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn is a yarn-tastic story that will motivate young readers to be creative and bring color into all aspects of their lives.” — READERS’ FAVORITE FIVE-STAR REVIEW

Other writing OPPORTUNITIES this year include:

  • In June, I was recognized as a finalist in the Writer’s League of Texas 2019 Manuscript Contest for a middle grade work-in-progress;
  • In November, I attended the 2019 Better Books writing workshop in Petaluma, California, which gave me the chance to meet agents, editors, and other talented authors;
  • In October, I had a productive weekend at the SCBWI-North Texas Novel Retreat in Waxahachie, Texas, allowing me to get one-on-one advice from an agent;
  • At the September SCBWI-Houston annual conference, I received critiques from some top editors in the kid-lit world, which improved my work-in-progress;
  • My local writer’s critique group added some new members, creating lasting friendships and valuable feedback on my current manuscript.

Right now, I’m trying to carve out time to write. I’ve garnered some publication interest in a middle grade novel I’m writing, so my goal is to complete it by early 2020. I’ll keep you posted on my efforts!

Meanwhile … what are you thankful for? And remember to BE AMAZING!

P.S. I can’t close this newsletter without patting my friend TERI CASE on the back! She WON in the Fiction Cross-Genre category in the American Book Fest 2019 Best Book Awards for her novel: In the Doghouse: A Couple’s Breakup from Their Dog’s Point of View. This book makes a fun holiday gift or book club read! You can learn more about Teri and her books here: http://www.tericase.com/

Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn: We have a launch!

I found this adorable yarn bomb in Telluride, Colorado!

When I discovered yarn bombing a few years ago, the idea grabbed me so much that it inspired a children’s book. Fast forward to today … and YAZZY’S AMAZING YARN has hit the shelves! Yarn bombing is a craze that you may (or may not!) have heard of in which knitters and crocheters decorate everyday outdoor objects with their soft and fuzzy creations. For example, you might see a telephone pole wrapped in yarn or a statue wearing a playful, knitted cap. I guess outsider art—which is art produced by self-taught artists who are not part of the mainstream artistic establishment—is something that draws me in. Isn’t it cool? I must think so, because this is my second children’s book that focuses on this kind of outside-the-box artistic endeavor.

In 2016, my first book was in Houston Chronicle’s neighborhood section!

My first outsider-art-type book, ARTHUR ZARR’S AMAZING ART CAR, won First Place for Children’s Picture Books-All Ages in 2017, from the Texas Association of Authors. It also was a winner in the 10th Annual National Indie Excellence Award competition for Picture Books-Ages 4 to 8; and it was a finalist for Book Cover Design, also from the NIEA that same year. It’s about a man who builds an art car and makes friends along the way. I was inspired by the art cars I see around Houston and at my city’s annual Art Car Parade (hosted by The Orange Show). The book, which is illustrated by Bill Megenhardt, sold so well that I’m now in my second printing of sweet Arthur’s whimsical story.

The book is available on Amazon, through my website (see the BOOKS tab), at Tomfoolery Toys and Books in Houston, at The New Children’s Museum in San Diego, and at Greyhound Books in Berlin, Maryland. More stores are being added all the time! I’ll keep you posted.

But let’s get back to YAZZY’S AMAZING YARN. The story is about a creative girl who loves yarn and loves to knit. Her mother taught her the craft, and then Yazzy goes on to teach her two best friends—Kayla and Isabel. Yazzy’s neighborhood park is dull and rusty, but she has a grand plan. The three friends transform Penny Park into a fuzzy rainbow of warmth and color. Visitors to the vibrant playground love it more than ever! The story ends by asking: What yarn-tastic idea will Yazzy think of next? My illustrator, Emily Calimlim, brought it all to life with her beautiful watercolor images, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are so helpful to authors!

So much has happened since the book released this month in August 2019. First of all, the reviews! I’m getting the most wonderful feedback from readers, and I appreciate every single mention. One really cute reviewer wrote: “This book has definitely inspired my crafty daughter to create some yarn bombing of her own. It would make a great birthday present to accompany a knitting kit.” And I need more reviews! So, if you don’t mind posting one on Amazon, I would really appreciate it. It’s easy, and I can explain how: Log into your personal Amazon account, search for my book, click on it, scroll down until you see “Write a Customer Review” in a box, choose a certain number of stars, and then write something. Voila! It’s fairly simple and helps me so much. Even a short review is beneficial, because it’s all based on the number of reviews, not on the length of each one.

2016 vs. 2019. Same front porch … two different books!

UPCOMING EVENTS:

  • I’m currently part of a virtual book blogging tour with Lone Star Literary Life! So you might be seeing posts about my book, including a drawing for a free autographed book. I’m giving three away! Google the LSLL website to find out more.
  • I’ll be signing books from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, Saturday, September 14, at the Texas Word Wrangler Book Festival, 276 N Orange Street, Giddings, Texas. Open to the public so drop by if you’re in the area.
  • I’ll be signing books from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm, Saturday, October 12, at the Galveston Book Festival, 5600 Seawall Blvd. Open to the public so please stop by if it’s a beach day for you and your family.
  • I’ll be signing books from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, Saturday, October 19, at Tomfoolery Toys and Books, 4844 Beechnut Street in Houston (in the Meyer Park Shopping Center across from Meyerland Plaza). Please come out to this fun event that is open to the public!
  • I’ll be doing quite a few school author visits, which even includes a bit of travel outside of Houston.

I hope you will take a minute to check out YAZZY’S AMAZING YARN. It’s been so much fun to write, create, and now … to launch! Follow me on Instagram (@catheynickell) and Facebook. Thank you for all your support and remember to …

BE AMAZING! xoxo

© 2019 Cathey Graham Nickell