Tuesday, August 22, 2017

8/22/17- Reading List 4

As I watched the eclipse yesterday, I couldn't help but think of all the people watching the same eclipse (yes, yes, there are some differences with weather and location, but it's the same event).  I thought about how we all have the same sun. The same moon.  The same stars.  The same Earth.  And maybe I'm just riding high on the good feelings from a weekend full of love, but the solar eclipse filled me with love.  I think we could all use a little bit of love right now, so I'm going to put some out there via this post. Without further ado, here are some (but certainly not all) picture books about LOVE. "There's a lot of love out there, man." 💓

1) My Love for You is the Sun by Julie Hedlund (obviously, I had to start with one that incorporated both the sun and love in some way!)

2) One Love adapted by Cedella Marley









3) Someday by Alison McGhee

4) Love Is by Diane Adams

5) All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon









6) Wherever You Are by Nancy Tillman

7) Because of You by B.G Hennessy (out print but you may be able to find it at a library or used bookstore)

8) Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

9) The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin









10) Always and Together (two books) both by Emma Dodd

11) I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

12) I Love You Forever by Robert Munsch









What's your favorite picture book about love?  Or have a recommendation?  Leave a comment here or on social media and spread the love, man!

Monday, August 14, 2017

8/14/17- A Difference a Week Makes

Our air conditioner broke 10 days ago.  There was a crazy storm in Phoenix, and some parts on the A/C unit got damaged. It was in the evening, we had fans, and the temperature outside was in the 80's.  So we decided to wait until morning to call the A/C repair company.  We were going to be fine. Then 1:30 am rolled around, and the power went out.

Thirty minutes later, Jack woke up and was super sweaty.  We had to call an audible and go to a hotel. It was a good call, but it took Jack until 3 am to fall back asleep.  We were all a bunch of sleep zombies the next day.  Would have been fine if it was the weekend, but it was a week day.  Bobby and I had work and Jack had to go to preschool/daycare.  Jack didn't want to go to school because hotel's are fun, and he didn't want to leave the fun. The teachers were kind and paid extra attention to Jack that day, so he ended up having a good day.

The A/C got fixed. Thankfully, we only had to replaced a relay and capacitor; our A/C unit is from 1987, so there's always the chance that we'll have to replace it here in the near future.  And we had a good night's sleep that night. And things are going good. Oops did I just jinx us?  Hopefully not, but we had a great weekend with a pool party on Saturday and a birthday party on Sunday.

💙 Poor Little Guy 💙

And last week was really nice.  Wednesday night, Bobby and I picked Jack up from daycare together and went to dinner at Chili's.  We've watched a lot of "The Office" lately, and I may have been influenced on where to eat for dinner by the fact that the show had the staff go to Chili's a couple of times.  Anyway, after dinner, we went for ice cream and then visited our favorite bookstore.  I think I've mentioned this before, but Jack loves going to "Changing Hands Bookstore" because they have a train set (you know, the wooden kind).

We had a really hard time pulling Jack away from the train set.  And when we finally got to the car, Jack saw the ice cream place again and started, well, screaming for ice cream. I honestly think he just had such a fun time that he didn't want to go home.  And I don't blame him.  I had a fun time too; it's nice to break up the monotony of the work week. Such a let down to have to go to work the next day after such a fun night (Jack was fine going to daycare the next day, well I was not, haha).

What a difference in weeks.  Dealing with a broken A/C to ice cream and trains.  And really dealing with a broken A/C isn't that big of a deal when you live in a city with lots of A/C repair companies and lots hotels and friends (although I appreciate all the offers from friends, I still don't know if I'd want to wake you up at 2 am, so we that could crash with you. Thanks for offering!  Makes us feel loved). I can easily say that now, reflecting back, but a broken A/C isn't that big of a deal.  Especially when it's followed up by such a good weekend and then week.

Personally, it was a good week last week.  Ice cream, trains, Chili's fajitas (shark, they're still so good!) and I didn't even mention the baking of cookies and making of dough volcanoes; so much good times.   Hopefully this week will also be a good week for my little family.  But more so, I hope we all have a good week. So much shark seems to be going on right now that hopefully the difference of a week will be good for all of us. Take care and have a good week!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

8/1/17- The Book Festival

About a week ago I attended the Payson Book Festival.  This public and free event is a way for adults and kids to meet and greet dozen's of book creators from all over Arizona (and a few other states). Like other book festivals, authors sit at tables and spend the day chatting with readers and signing books. The Payson Book Festival was my first book festival as an author, and I want to share some of the things I learned as an author attending a book festival.

First, if you are indie/self-published, then you will have to register yourself for the festival you want to attend.  The registration process for the Payson Book Festival was relatively simple: I filled out their form, emailed it to the organizer, and then paid the fee through PayPal (most festivals have a registration fee for authors to have booths at their festival).  If you are a traditionally published author, your publisher may be setting everything up, including registering and paying fees.  However, if you're a traditionally published author attending a festival outside of what your publisher has scheduled for you (aka, you're going on your own), then you're going to have to register yourself and pay any fees yourself.

Second, you'll want to find out all the details about the event.  Like, are you getting a full booth, partial booth (sharing with an other author), do you get the whole day or just a time slot (2 hours, 3 hours, etc), is table and chairs provided or do you bring your own equipment, are you responsible for sales or will there be a bookstore or other 3rd party that will sell books for you, do you need to have a state and city vendor's license (in most cases, yes), are you responsible for tax remittance, is any food or beverages provided, how many people attended the event in the past and so on.

If your publisher is setting everything up, that's great.  If not, then it's really important to know how you'll be selling your books and what the set up is like and what you'll need to bring.  Tables and chairs were provided for the authors, and there was an independent bookstore that was willing to sell authors' books at the Payson Book Festival, so technically all I had to bring was copies of my book, many Sharpies (so important to have multiple writing tools), and myself (and Bobby; it is always nice to have a person helping you who is familiar with the book).

Third, sales expectations.  This information is probably some of the hardest information to find on the Internet (Bobby and I spent a couple of hours looking for what should I expect in sales). My guess as to why this information is hard to find is because sales are not high at book festivals.  Most people (readers) are there because it's a free event, and they have specific authors or books they're looking for, or they already have the book and are going to the event just to get the book signed.

From what I've read from other authors who have willingly shared this information (and from my own experience) is that you're doing really well if you are selling 1 (that's ONE) book per hour.  I sold 10 books over the 6 hours of the Payson Book Festival and that was considered really good (the Payson Book Festival has a couple hundred attendees).   I read another blog post from an author who attended the Brooklyn Book Festival, which has 10,000 people attend, and he sold only 4 novels.  Managing your own expectations regarding book sales is key to determining if the event was successful by your own measures.

And that sentence brings me to my final thought/lesson learned.  To me, the point of the book festival is to get your name out there and to connect with your readers.  People may not buy your book, but if you have a card or sticker with your name and book on it, when they go to the library or bookstore next, then they may want to ask the librarian or bookstore owner for your book.  Or they may want to look you up and find out that you do classroom visits/other speaker engagement events and ask you to come speak to their class. That is why it is a good idea to have free swag.

The Payson Book Festival was my first time as an author at a festival, but it was not my first festival. I've been doing science festivals and other such events for an non-profit engineering professional organization since 2004.  From those science festivals and outreach events, I've learned that people love free stuff.  I personally have too much shwag from conferences that I've stopped collecting it from booths, but people want free pencils, stickers, bookmarks, chapstick, pens, etc. for whatever reason.  I had some bookmarks (with my name and book on them) that I offered to people.  I didn't try to sell people on my book; I just said, hi, please have a free bookmark.  About 50% of the time, they'd ask me questions about the book and 5% of the time, they'd buy a book.  Another author at the event was handing out bags of dried basil and bay leaves, as her book was about holistic health. She got a lot of traffic at her booth.

Offering something for free draws people to your booth (of course so does a good looking book cover, but you'll have to Google to find posts on how to design a good looking cover). Kids especially love picking up stickers and bookmarks each booth, so it was a success to me that I only had 25 out of 100 bookmarks left. Potentially 75 kids now know who Annie Aardvark is!

If you're an illustrator, you can also consider selling some of your art or giving out small postcards with your art.  If you're the author, you can consider selling some other product that is associated with your book.  For example, the author I shared a booth with, she sold stuff animals that related to the animal characters in her books.  Just be aware that children (and their parents) might not understand the product or art is for sell, so it's a good idea to have a sign clearly stating a price.  If you're an author/illustration, you can consider selling both art and products. Make sure to check with the festival about selling things other than books (and also if you'll need a vendor's license).

Another idea that may sell books, is to offer a special festival only price.  Aka, a discount.  I offered a 25% discount on my book just for the festival (it could only be done at the festival, not online; although an all day online discount that correlates to the festival could also be considered).  I think the free stuff had a bigger impact on sales than the discount, but it's worth exploring if you're selling the book yourself (or can price it at a discount with the third party who's going to sell your book that day).

Finally, if you are handling sales at your booth/table, be prepared to accept as many forms of payment as possible. Square is one of many providers that makes it incredibly convenient to accept credit/debit cards.  All you need is a smartphone and the app, but if you plan ahead, you can get swipe readers for free from Square or you can pay for readers that can even accept Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and other contactless forms (know your customer).  But don't forget cash is still the preferred payment method for many customers as well.

In summary, I had a good time at the Payson Book Festival.  I always enjoy interacting with children and their parents at events, and the Payson Book Festival was the same. It's important to remember that the goal of the festival is the interaction with readers.  You are there to connect with your readers. It's also a good opportunity to network with other authors and illustrators.  I now have another author friend that I can ask questions and seek guidance from.  I highly recommend that any author (or illustrator), whether self-published or traditionally published, attend at least one book festival (or fair) in their writing career. The experiences and connections will at least make for some good writing fodder, but will also hopefully get your name out to the public.  Plus, it's fun!

If you have any further questions for me about book festivals (like what is this vendor's license thing I keep mentioning), please leave me a comment or reach out to me on social media (Twitter or Facebook).  Happy reading everyone!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

7/25/17- Monsoon and RA

Every July monsoon season blows into Phoenix.  The weather is mostly high winds, dark clouds, thunder, and lightning. A haboob might form because it is the desert (desert=dirt) after all.  The city usually just gets a threat of rain, but occasionally it will down pour.  The rain is great.  If you are a dry desert, going through a drought, then you really need the water.  However, the rain is not so great if you are a RA patient.

Thanks to all the monsoon rain Phoenix has received, I've had inflamed joints.  And really poofy, wavy hair. The hair is easy to deal with; just wrap it into a bun or ponytail.  The inflamed joints are a little more of a pain to deal with. Okay, it is pain.  I have re-acquainted myself with the Ibuprofen bottle. I've seen it more often than I've seen my own mom (she does live in the same city) this summer. Although the Ibuprofen helps with the pain and the inflammation, I also feel so worn down.


Mornings are so hard-- I just want to lay in bed the whole morning.  Eventually, I do get out of bed (before noon!), but I move so slooooow.  I'm achy and fatigued.  And the days I have to do daycare drop off... ugh. I really don't like doing daycare drop off right now.  Since I move like an 85 year old granny in the mornings, I can't get Jack to daycare before 9 am.  Even if we're up really early-- I'll just use that extra time to be more sloth-y (picture the sloth, Flash, from Zootopia; that's me in the mornings). Jack always misses morning snack on the days I have drop off.



Because I take so long getting us ready, Jack thinks he's staying home with me.  It's really hard to convince him to go to daycare.  Getting him to daycare and then saying good-bye at daycare involves a bunch of tears (insert joke about how Jack cries too). I feel riddled with guilt during this drop off ritual, and say to myself, "why didn't I just keep him home?"  Oh yeah, it's because I would need the whole bottle of Ibuprofen to take care of Jack if he stayed home with me (not a whole bottle, but you get the point).  In fact, Jack offered me medicine the other morning when I finally stumbled out of bed.  It was very considerate and compassionate of him (yay for toddlers learning empathy), but also a little heart-breaking for me.  I don't want to be the broken mommy.

Thankfully, I do live in a desert, and it will be dry again before I can figure out how to tame my frizzy hair.  Dryness is good for people with joint problems.  I'll be up and at 'em, like an old pug, before too long (that's better than a sloth, right?).  I won't be so broken.  Jack and I can spend all day playing together, and whatever else non-arthritic parents do. If only the dry season could happen a little sooner (thanks nature! I'd appreciate it!)...

I can't image living in a coastal city.  I'd probably never leave my bed. How do RA patients in coastal places handle humidity and moisture that is all the time?  They probably own stock in Ibuprofen companies (and maybe this is why places like Seattle are legalizing marijuana? So there's alternatives to Ibuprofen when rain cause joint inflammation?).  So in summary, rain great for the desert, but bad for my joints.  I want to wish everyone fair health and long-life this monsoon season! May you not have to take Ibuprofen for the next couple of month!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

7/11/17- Reading List 3

As a child, I read a lot during summer break.  A lot.  I'd go to the public library and check out a stack of 12 books at a time, and a couple of weeks later, turn those 12 in for a new stack. Call me a nerd if you must, that word is a compliment to me (as an adult), but I wasn't a bored child during the summer.  That's for sure.

So to me, summer time equals the perfect time for reading. Really, any time you can squeeze in a book as a busy adult is a good time, but summer for me means it's the perfect time to squeeze in lots of reading.  And that's why this reading list is dedicated to us adults (past reading lists for preschoolers to 2nd graders and teens).  Let's squeeze in sometime to read, follow adults!

1) "Why Not Me?" by Mindy Kaling
First, it's funny and pretty quick to read.  I read it a few years ago, and then suggested it to a book club last summer-- I was re-reading it for the summer and started sharing excerpts with Bobby, and he thought those excerpts were so funny, that he asked if we could read Mindy's book together.  Second, this book has some good career advice in it.  Also, if you're in an industry where there's an over representation of a certain demographic, this book may provide comfort (it did for me).

2) "It's Not Rocket Science" by Mary Spio
Mary is a satellite engineer turned entrepreneur, so of course I wanted to read this book (a female engineer whose crushing it, shark yes!).  This book is really about how to become entrepreneur, but Mary does share some of her own personal story. She was an immigrant from Ghana and she became on engineer with patents, which lead to her starting her own company.  Hearing her story was the part I liked best and very inspiring.  Her entrepreneurial and changing-the-game career advice is on the optimistic side, so I think this a good read to give yourself a boost if you're down in the dumps about your career.  Sometimes we just need the positive message. 



3) "Yes, Please" by Amy Poehler
This book made me laugh and cry so hard.  Amy talks about everything from her childhood, to just starting out in the comedy business, to marriage, kids, and divorce, to working in a male dominated field, and to moon hunting (you'll have to read the book to find out what that is).  And she wrote it all in a way that made me relate and empathize with everything, even though I've never done stand-up, worked for SNL, or been married to Will Arnett.  I have enjoyed all the books on this list, but if you forced me to pick just one for you to read, "Yes, Please" is the one I'd recommend.

4) "Lean In" by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg
There's a lot commentary on this book- a lot of its bad, but a lot of its good.  While I didn't agree with everything the authors wrote in this book, it is still a good book for both men and women to read to start to understand the issues working women have.   

5) "Hidden Figures" by Margot Lee Shetterly
I've already written a review of Hidden Figures, which you can read here, but its a great book to read during the summer and to read in intervals.  If you've seen the movie and found the movie inspiring, you will also find this book uplifting.  I also enjoyed reading about the Civil Rights movement and wars that were happening in parallel to Katherine, Dorothy and Mary.

6) Bossypants by Tina Fey
Again, a really funny book.  And again, Bobby and I read it together and laughed much at Tina's words.  In Tina's book, the career advice isn't so straight forward as Mindy's or Amy's.  If I remember correctly, Tina writes somewhere in the book that she doesn't want to give straight out career advice (because each of us have unique situations or something along those lines), so it's kind of more just work stories. Those work stories are very entertaining though, and you might even find yourself going, yep I've had one of those moments.  

That's it for this list-- I'll have more adult, teen, and kid reading list soon enough.  And since you're smart, you recognized the pattern here for this list: autobiography/biography or person sharing career journey/career advice and all written by women.  If you have fiction book recommendations or other career and biography book recommendations (written by both women and men), then please share these recommendations in the comments!  I'm always looking for a new book to read.  Happy summer reading everyone! 

Monday, July 3, 2017

7/3/17- Hello Impostor; I See You've Failed

I thought I was done feeling like an impostor; 13 years into my job as engineer, I do not doubt my engineering skills anymore. I doubt the place that I work, but I do not doubt that I've got something to offer as an engineer.  For the first 5 years of my (engineering) job, I doubted my engineering capability.  Being sick and discovering I had RA, made those feelings of impostor and fraud linger a little longer than I felt they should have. But as soon as my health issue was figured out, and I got project experience under my belt, I no longer felt like a phony.   Every couple of years, I'll acknowledge that there are engineers who are smarter than me (on my team), but I am not a dummy; I know the work and how to do the work. I can do it in my sleep now (ugh, sometimes I dream about analyzing completing systems reliability tickets).  So I  have said good-bye impostor syndrome.

Or so I thought.  Two years ago, I decided I would write a blog.  And then I decided I would write and publish a children's book.  I've done just that-- I published a children's book.  I have also published pieces with Highlights and STEM Media and guest blogged for Tech Love.  Technically, I am a published author. But I don't feel like one. I feel like I am another silly, stupid, and annoying person who thinks she can write in the same school (not class) as great, amazing, best selling, and world-renowned authors.  But I'm not one of them.  I am not in the same class as them.

I'm pretty sure I don't belong in the writing and publishing industry.  After all, I'm just an engineer-- what right do I have asking to be in the writing and publishing industry?  I have no degree in writing, my only formal (college level or higher) writing classes were English 101 and 102, and technical writing does not equate to creative writing.  I haven't toiled for decades in perfecting my craft to finally land a book deal. How can I, after just a couple of years of playing around and pretending to be a writer, expect to get an agent/book deal/traditionally published book?  I am naive and stupid in thinking that.  I don't belong here.  I am an impostor in the book/writing/publishing industry.  And I feel like such a failure. A big, fat failure.

It doesn't matter that people have bought my indie published children's book.  It doesn't matter that friends and family share with me that they book the book and how much they like the book.  It doesn't matter that I get photos of smiling kids reading my book.  It doesn't matter when bloggers and book critics write positive things about the book.  It doesn't matter that the book got featured on podcasts.  It doesn't matter that my book has received a couple of awards.   I still feel like a failure.  I feel it's time to hang up my author hat, pat myself on the back, and tell myself, you tried, but now it's time to move on.  Time to stop fooling yourself and others; time to acknowledge that you are an impostor.



This irrational feeling of failure and impostor, well, I know it's irrational.  I never expected to make the New York Times Best Seller list, and my selling expectation was in the low hundreds (which close at 85 sells so far).  I also know it takes a long, long time to find an agent and get a book published traditionally, and  I knew indie publishing my book wouldn't bring agents and publishers knocking on my door.  I just knew that I loved the story and had the means to share it. All I could hope for is that others would it love too.   And when the rational voice in my head is speaking, I know that my hope, of others loving the story, is true.

All the stuff I said above that doesn't matter, well, rational voice knows that it does matter.  People liking/loving the book, the awards, and the best part, photos of happy kids reading my book, that all matters.  I'm so appreciative of all that; those things are huge and wonderful accomplishments.   When I let the rational voice talk, and remind me of those huge and wonderful accomplishments, I don't feel like a loser, a failure, an impostor.  If I truly look at it, I've accomplished some pretty cool things in the writing world.  And I have so many other stories I want to share.  No way am I done yet with this industry.  I'm here to stay.

I just have to keep working at this writing thing and to tell the irrational impostor voice to shut the shark up! Impostor voice, where you see failure, I will embrace the mistakes and see a chance to learn and grow.  Where you say I've accomplished nothing, I see many kids enjoying the book and great reviews.  Where you say, it's time to quit, I remind you that writing is fun and that you have another story to write. Where you sing Beck's "I'm a loser baby so why don't you kill me", I change the lyrics to "one day I'll kill it".

One day (hopefully sooner rather than later), I will kill it in the book world, and stop doubting my capability as a writer, and my impostor syndrome will subside again. Until then, hello impostor, I see you've failed (in making me completely doubt myself). So shut the shark up already! I have writing to do!

Need more info on the impostor syndrome, check out this:
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/26/your-money/learning-to-deal-with-the-impostor-syndrome.html

And this:
https://www.dailyworth.com/posts/5-tips-tackling-impostor-syndrome


Monday, June 19, 2017

6/19/17- Marshmallow Catapult

Happy Summer!  Have fun building this Marshmallow Catapult and googling tension, torsion, and gravity, which are the forces involved when catapulting an object.

Supplies:
7 Wooden Skewers
1 Rubber Band
1 Plastic Spoon
Masking Tape
4 Large Marshmallows, plus marshmallows for shooting

1) Use 3 marshmallows and 3 skewers and form a triangle for the base.
2) Use 3 more skewers and 1 more marshmallow and form a pyramid.
3) Tape the plastic spoon to the end of the remaining skewer.
4) Loop the rubber band around the topmost marshmallow.
5) Insert the spoon and skewer combo through the rubber band.
6) Connect the skewer and spoon combo to one of the base marshmallows.
7) Put a marshmallow into the spoon and shoot.
8) Try shooting the marshmallow again, but this time pull the spoon further back.  Did the marshmallow go further? Did the marshmallow go higher?
9) Try other adjustments to the catapult. How far can you get the marshmallow to go?  How high can you get the marshmallow to go?