Taking a Moment

In the midst of book launches, school visits, library readings and marketing, I forgot what it was that brought me here in the first place.

It’s been a whirlwind six months of promoting my picture book Arabella and the Magic Pencil that was released in September 2019. I’ve been thinking about, talking about and obsessing about it for what seems like an eternity. From drafting a marketing plan to visiting bookstores and shipping review copies, I lost touch with how I ended up here in the first place. I actually got a bit sick of seeing my own face and the book I was so proud of splashed across social media. But in the quiet days after the holidays, in a fog of jet lag, I took a moment to sit down with the book I’d been shamelessly promoting to simply read it for myself.

First, I gazed at the cover and end pages. I traced Arabella’s steps as she waltzes in her whimsical world and noticed how Wish, a sweet little bird that was an invention of the illustrator, hops along the inside cover beckoning readers to follow.

Flipping through the pages, I giggled at the hidden details — Stephanie’s Story Tent, Arabella reading her own book and a banner advertising “Magic Happens” that I hadn’t actually noticed until now. And I couldn’t help but laugh at the flashy flamingoes who flamencoed as Word still insists that it’s not a word!

I remembered how feedback from my critique group changed a boring page turn to a dramatic moment with a well-placed ellipsis. Then I quietly observed Arabella as she stands with her back to me drawing with her magic pencil.

I marveled at my physical reaction to the change in color palette when Arabella realizes what she has done. I flipped back to the bright pages that conveyed her happy life and found myself searching for colors on the muted pages that follow.

Finally, I stared wide-eyed at Avery’s dinosaur — not the one that I imagined when I wrote the story, but the one the illustrator painted that just happens to be my favorite.

I find that I’ve been smiling the entire time I’ve been reading. Am I fan-girling myself? No, not really. This isn’t my book. It may be my story, but this thing in my hands has been created by many. People around the world now experience my words together with expressive artwork all wrapped up in a perfect package.

What once was just an foggy idea is now an actual book that will live on bookshelves and archives long after the marketing fervor has died down. It was nice to remember that I still love the story that I originally wrote so many years ago, even after reading it for the gazillionth time. And that seems like a pretty good reason to savor the moment.

The 5th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest

Well-love children’s author Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting a fun writing contest this week for Halloween. Here are the rules: Write a 100-word Halloween story appropriate for children using the words costume, dark and haunt. Your story can be scary, funny or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those three words (or variations of those words) and is 100 words or less. Sounds easy, right? Ha!

Oh yes, there are some wonderful prizes up for grabs too. For details about the contest (and to enter, there’s still time!) visit: The 5th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest – aahhhrrrooooOOOOO!!!!

Needless to say, I’m in. My story is posted below. You are seeing it here first….my official entry into the highly-anticipated 5th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest. Happy Halloween!

An Alien Goes Trick-or-Treating
Stephanie M. Ward
98 words (including dark, costume and haunted)

Allen the Alien has landed on Earth on a cold, dark October night.

“Cool costume!” shouts a princess.

“Take me to your leader,” quips a vampire.

“Beep. Boop. Bop,” greets a robot.

Allen is confused.

“Where did his mother find that outfit?” remarks a witch dragging along a little ghost.

The Earthlings are playing dress up!

Allen puts on his costume – jeans, t-shirt, cap, sneakers. Aliens love to dress up as Earthlings.

Allen follows four ninja turtles to a haunted house.

“Trick or Treat!”

“Poor kid doesn’t have a costume,” whispers the ogre handing out candy.

Allen smiles.