Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I have much to be thankful for. I have a life most people envy and yet I'm not always grateful. I tend to focus on what I still would like to do or need to do rather than what I've managed to accomplish already. Once I reach a goal I'm never satisfied, there's always something else I'm aspiring to do.

Some cancer survivors say cancer made them slow down, live in the moment, and smell the roses- not me. Time is short and I've a lot I'd like to do before I die. I've come to realize I'm happiest when I'm overwhelmed.

If you can identify with any of this perhaps you have what it takes to publish a children's book.

This month I thought I'd Blog about my experiences as a publisher. It's the perfect topic to remind me I've a lot to be grateful about.

Not a month goes by that I'm not queried by an aspiring writer who would like to publish a children's book and I always try to respond. If you're one of them I'd like you to know I've been where you're at, know what it's like and would never tell another aspiring writer not to go for it.

I apologize if anything you read here sounds condescending. I'm certainly not a genius and from what I've seen in this business you could be a creative writer, expert marketer, highly successful business owner, and still fail at publishing especially when you’re publishing a children's book. On the other hand, that nerd you took one look at and dismissed just might be a publishing genius.

Much depends on what your expectations are - if you simply would like to be published, and have the funds, getting your book published is not a problem. What you need is a Vanity Press Publisher and for a fee they'll be happy to publish your book.

However, if you desire to see your book reviewed by literary critics, acknowledged as legit within the publishing industry and attainable by bookstores and/or libraries across the country- well it's a little more complicated.

It takes a lot of hard work but I also believe there's an element of luck involved which perhaps explains why some awful books get a lot of attention and some wonderful books never hit a bookstore.

I started laying the ground work for publishing my book a year before anyone ever heard of it. My company/book took off after I received an invitation to appear on the Rosie O Donnell Show. While I'd like to think it was my compelling pitch that landed the gig I know that national TV shows receive 100's if not 1000's of compelling pitches from veteran PR persons and expert authors far more credible than I was at that time, but I was lucky enough to be selected.

Time and again I've found my self in the right place at the right time or I've waited until the time was right. My manuscript collected dust for years and when I finally dusted it off it was during a time when the media began to devote attention to the emotional issues pertaining to children and cancer and my book was one of the first of its type. I really believe publishing Tickles Tabitha's Cancer-tankerous Mommy was something I was meant to do, which is why I've been able to find my way around some seemingly impenetrable obstacles.

As they say, ignorance is bliss and nothing could have deterred me from trying to get my book published. Today I know that over 90% of all children's books fail to make it and that's without factoring in a niche topic like cancer.

Most people think writing and publishing a children's book is easy. Children's books appear so simple but it's their simplicity that makes them more difficult to write and even more difficult to publish.

The best way, to get a book published if you're a novice is to find a large, mainstream publishing company to purchase your book idea.

That's the best way- but it's not the easiest, unless you happen to co-host The View, you're a rap singer, or have some other celebrity status. I did not, which is why I decided to establish the Nutcracker Publishing Company and publish my own book.

Publishing, I now know, is not as much about writing a book that people enjoy as it is about marketing it, and marketing is not just about public relations or getting the media's attention. Publishing is a double edged sword- you need publicity to get the attention of the public, but publicity is worthless if you're book's not available to purchase from bookstores, distributors and via the internet.

If despite what I've written, what people say, or the size your bank account, you still want to see your book published more than anything- then you'll find a way to do it. Ask questions, read everything you can about it, and don't give anybody a dime until you've read what's blogged about them on the internet. If you still have questions, or need to vent, send me an e-mail.

Much has changed since I first published Tickles Tabitha's Cancer-tankerous Mommy, but one thing remains true, it's still one of the experiences I'm most grateful and thankful I've had the opportunity to pursue.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer over a decade ago at age 34. My children were two and four years old. I didn't want my children to feel as if their mother's Breast Cancer was something to be whispered about - or we were to be pitied or they should feel ashamed.

Back then there were no on-line cancer support groups to seek out; the computer as we know it didn't exist. Even the professionals that diagnosed me seemed to think of Breast Cancer as a disease for older women- not an active young mother of two toddlers.

I always manage to do things that it takes at least a decade for the mainstream (not to mention my mother and her friends) to embrace. Like getting married at age 29 for the first time when most my peers had been married a decade or were entering a second marriage. Just when having a daughter who was a career girl became a bragging point I was a stay- at- home Mom. Not that my mother cared for years she’d complained she was the only person in her high school graduating class who didn’t have a grandchild. The clock was ticking and I will never forget being the oldest pregnant woman in my Lamaze class at the ripe old age of 30.

Today I realize I was not the only woman to be a step ahead or behind the beat of time but when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 34 most my peers were dealing with issues pertaining to childbirth and looking forward to a future filled with optimism. Breast Cancer replaced my family’s optimistic future with a question mark of uncertainty and worry.

Needless to say I felt isolated and very alone but that experience is what led me to write Tickles Tabitha's Cancer-tankerous Mommy and establish the Nutcracker Publishing Company.

In so many ways my life resembles a T.V. sitcom. In hindsight I can laugh about a lot that’s happened but believe me when you’re living it it’s not near as funny.

Once a well meaning reviewer, who rejected my book idea, told me the Mommy in my story was too mean. Once again I was just a head of popular perception because in today's reality TV world my Cancer-tankerous Mommy would be considered just a desperate housewife with breast cancer.

I like to think Tickles Tabitha's Cancer-tankerous Mommy is about how a family with cancer really acts as opposed to how you think they should act.

For the past few months I've been at work on a power point presentation and a costumed Tickles Tabitha character. Finally! After all these years I’m in vogue with the times. Tickles Tabitha's mean ole Mommy is not being told to shush but is actually being encouraged to talk about CANCER.

This year for the first time I'll be offering a school presentation to promote literacy and character education which features Tickles Tabitha's Cancer-tankerous Mommy called "Crack Open a Book" to elementary classrooms. Not just to children with a family member diagnosed with cancer but to all children.

My own children are now teenagers but I'll never forget what we went through as a family. I'm grateful that times have changed since the days of my own diagnosis and like to think that families like mine are one of the reasons.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Hope you're tickled pink!


I just realized I sent a version of this out to an AOL Blog saying: Hope you’re ticked pink! Oopps!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I love summer vacations spent with my children and feel a twinge of sadness with each new school year. Just yesterday it seems my son Jordan, my youngest, told me and his sister Tabitha that he’d had a “bad day” in Kindergarten.

This year my Baby, who’s now taller than his mother is a high school freshman surrounded by kids he’d never met until this school year. So far he appears to be enjoying himself. He’s making friends, likes the classes, teachers, and even the “crazy” girl he’s sitting next to in English class is tolerable.

I still have a vivid picture in my mind of Jordan in the hall at St. Anastasia’s School in Hutchinson, Minnesota where he went to Kindergarten. He was happily carrying what for a little boy was a large pumpkin and carrying it very well until he saw his Mommy. Suddenly his entire demeanor changed and he dramatically let the pumpkin roll out of his arms onto the floor and slumped to his knees in utter exhaustion. Despite a much anticipated field trip to the local pumpkin patch, he’d had another “bad day.”

Like most young children who’ve spent all day at school trying to be good, when he arrived on his home turf it was time to vent. Jordan’s “bad day” never officially began until I picked him up. I had seen him in action at school and I, my school spies, and his teacher all agreed he loved it. He also loved evoking his Mom’s attention and empathy. His sister was not so sympathetic, and she immediately called him on it.

Tabitha and I still laugh about how Jordan would insist I ask him how his day went, everyday after school – just so he could tell me how bad it was. It didn’t take him long to figure out my pity was less than sincere and we were laughing behind his back at his theatrics. Jordan likes to make people laugh as long as they're laughing with him and not at him - so by first grade, when I asked about his day he’d learned to share what was good about it.

Now both my children are in high school.

I still remember being a student myself in Mrs. Stone’s civics class at Ernest Ward High School in Walnut Hill, Florida, watching the clock tick and wishing the bell would ring. I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school. Time stood still when I was a teenager as I’m sure it does for my own children but once you’re a parent it’s never slow enough.

Yesterday, I talked with my Uncle Jim Cox about how quickly time goes by. His wife, Loretta, my maternal aunt who I affectionately knew as Aunt Sissy died recently of ovarian cancer. He said, they’d been married for 45 years and 13 days and it wasn’t long enough.

I told Tabitha what he said and then asked, “You think you’re Daddy would say that? We looked at each other and both started laughing. No! Well I told her we’ve only been married for 17 years; I got 28 to work on it!

Friday, July 14, 2006

My children and I are getting ready to take a road trip. We’re driving to Florida to visit my parents then on to Texas to visit friends, family members, and my former colleagues.

So the past few weeks I’ve not taken time out to blog. I’ve been trying to get things accomplished before our trip.

I’m working on another children’s book this one is about nuclear power. I announced my intentions a while ago on my website. It was my ‘Field of Dreams’ statement. You know if I say it I’ll have to do and if I do it they’ll want it and so on.

This past week I decided the kids and I would take an educational excursion and visit the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant which is located not far from my home in Apex, North Carolina.

My son Jordan, wasn’t too happy about taking time out of his summer for anything educational but after touring the Shearon Harris Visitor’s Center and meeting Kim Crawford, our host and Progress Energy’s Community Outreach Director he admits it was interesting and Kim was especially nice, it was nothing like he thought it would be.

He probably thought Kim would be mean like his mother and force him to read a children’s book manuscript about nuclear power plants.

Too many years ago, I worked at the South Texas Project Nuclear Power Plant’s Visitor’s Center located in Bay City, Texas.

I’ve had to re-educate myself while writing my Nuke book and Kim’s been a great help- this was the first time we’ve met in person.

If you live in North Carolina you can call Kim via Progress Energy to arrange a program or tour about Nuclear Power Plants. My kids are 14 and 16 years old and both enjoyed the films and exhibits.

I have to admit one of the best things about being an author/publisher is the people I meet along the way.

Like Beverly Vote the dynamic and busy editor of Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine: Empowering Mind-Body-Spirit. The magazine focuses on the difficult challenges that come from being diagnosed with cancer.

She’d posed the question- How does a terminally ill breast cancer patient prepare her family for a life without her?

How does anyone? It’s an uncomfortable question and in my opinion the best time to pose it- is long before it’s necessary.

You can read my article, Children Might Not Understand Death, But they Understand Love, in the summer edition of Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine, Pages 26-27, the magazine is available on-line at

This week it was also my pleasure to be a guest author on Mom Writer’s Talk Radio. It’s an online talk show which airs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week around the globe. Paula Schmitt, author of Living in a Locker Room and Alana Morales, author of Domestically Challenged host the show. My interview will begin airing July 21rst.

You can find out how to hear it by tuning into their website:

For all close personal friends and relatives who might be reading this –and especially Andrew Toperzer, my former neighbor boy who lived next door to me in Minnesota, yes-they have other authors besides me you can listen to- but believe it or not some people find me fascinating!

As Andrew so callously pointed out when he was about 13 years old (13 year old boys know everything) and I had just returned from a speaking event- only the people who don’t know you.

Andrew’s who’s now 17 is coming for a visit when we return from our road trip; it appears I’m a lot more fascinating now that I live down South and not right next door.

As my daughter Tabitha would say- c’est la vie.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Last week Tisha Powell our Raleigh/Durham ABC News Anchor/Reporter and Camera man, Darell Pryor came to my house and did a taped interview that was aired this week.

When it aired my husband, Randy and my children the real Tabitha and Jordan and I sit down to watch. I’m at that phase in life where looking fat and middle aged on television has surpassed sounding like a blubbering idiot as my not so secret greatest fear.

Besides I’ve done TV and radio enough to know that reporters like Tisha know how to put you at ease, ask just the right questions, and save you from yourself if necessary. Thanks to Tisha and Darell’s flawless editing I thought I sounded just like the articulate expert I’m supposed to be and my husband agreed.

Of course my husband is even older than I am and besides by now he’s learned saying anything critical about his wife’s TV appearances would be like answering the question, do I look fat in these jeans, with an honest answer. So I know his opinion can’t be trusted.

No, when I want honesty I can always depend on my Minnesota boy. My son Jordan, who his sister will tell you has no common sense, tact, nor despite living in North Carolina for the past few years has yet learned to be Southern. Jordan has the IQ of a genius but the concept of a white lie escapes him. He’s going to be in big trouble one day- unless his significant other has a skinny butt.

In the interview I told Tisha that pretty much everything depicted in Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-tankerous Mommy really did happen. Except for the part about me losing my hair, I didn’t lose my hair, but my girl-friend Laura who died of Leukemia did (lose hair)
and she was the reason it’s pictured in my book.

According to Jordan - who’s in middle school which explains a lot- I probably should have said my friend instead of my girl-friend. If he didn’t know better he might think I was gay. After all nothing was mentioned about a husband just my girl-friend and my family.

My husband and I just looked at each other and started laughing. Perhaps Jordan does have a point because I couldn’t picture Randy saying my boyfriend when talking about one of his friends.

I couldn’t help myself, I said, well now you know Jordan, you’re mother’s a lesbian. It’s good to be out of the closet. Then I really got the giggles.

At Tabitha’s high school they’d probably say something like- “You’re Mom came out of the closet on TV? Cool!”

Jordan however, would probably need to be home schooled. Like I said he’s in middle school.

He and Tabitha didn’t find me all that funny. My children will tell you they don’t have a problem with gays or lesbians.

There problem is their mother.

Tabitha accuses me of being unctuous. Yes, she’s got quite the vocabulary and although I knew what she was implying, I still had to look it up.

Unc-tu-ous- Characterized by affected, exaggerated, or insincere earnestness. That would be me.

They’ll ask to do something there’s no way on God’s green earth I’m going to let them do. Like go out to eat after I’ve bothered to cook a meal, or my personal favorite, let’s get another dog?

Instead of saying NO! I'll say, “why don't we?” Or-“ how a--bout it?!”

It annoys them immensely which is why I enjoy it.
Even more enjoyable to me and annoying to them was coming out of the clothes closet. (Yes, Jordan I know it’s closet not clothes closet, I don’t care.)

I’m an Unctuous Lesbian Mama. Move over Rosie O Donnell.

I’m sending the producers at The View a copy of my interview with Tisha.

Monday, May 22, 2006

After this season’s final episode of Desperate Housewives it appears as if the Applegate’s house on Wisteria Lane might be vacant-- but not for long. Edie is hammering in a sold sign and Cancer-tankerous Mommy is loading up the moving van.
Cancer-tankerous Mommy will fit in well on Wisteria Lane and like her desperate neighbors she’ll give women all over the country something to feel good about--themselves.
It’ll take at least a season for the gals on Wisteria Lane to decide they like this transplanted Southern Magnolia. A breast cancer survivor and mother of two. A publisher, author, and expert on families coping with cancer. In her spare time she plans fundraisers and walks the dog. Let's face it- if I didn't know her intimately myself- I wouldn't like the sound of her either. I avoid do gooders, women who appear to do it all, have it all and make me feel guilty for not walking the dog.
Speaking of those dog walks Cancer-tankerous Mommy strategically plans them in order to avoid of all the desperate housewives- Susan Mayer.
Because before her best-selling children’s book- Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-tankerous Mommy- there was another book. A book she sent Susan Mayer to critique and Susan sent it back with a note saying she was calling social services.
Well- not exactly but I’ll never forget my manuscript being returned and being told the Mommy was just too mean for a children’s picture book.
That’s what I love best about Desperate Housewives the people who write it appear to actually have children.
Of course we know it’s not real- real life because all the husbands/boyfriends actually talk and I never see them watching T.V.
Just so they know if they ever decide to move in a Desperate (Cancer-tankerous Mommy) Housewife – who survived breast cancer and is now trying to survive everyday life—I’m available for consultation.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I've been updating my Web site and was told I needed to blog. Yes, I do- but that blog will have to be annoymous, confidential and in no way traceable to me!

However -I'm proud to to share my Nutcracker Publishing Company Blog page and here's some items I can share- My new site will go public next week.

Please take a look and offer me your comments and suggestions. I will blog more about what's been going on at the Nutcracker Publishing Company and in my life at a later date.

In the mean time---

I was trying to take a look at other bloggers - see what it's all about and since my children's book Tickles Tabitha's Cancer-tankerous Mommy is pertaining to a Mom with Cancer I typed in Cancer Mom and by chance up popped- Sue Richard/Art Jam Calendar. I'm listing her sites below- there's a woman that knows how to blog!

And as I told her - it was just the sort of blog I needed - as lately you could substitute Menopausal for Cancer-tankerous.

I was dianosed with breast cancer at 34 and the tamoxifen pill/drugs I took often made you feel menopasual. I got off the drugs and had a few good years - and then begain menopause- right about the time my daughter began puberty.

Isn't my husband a lucky man!

Here are Sue's links.

Girl Blog: Breast Views Blog: Menopause Blog: Guelph: Richards/Art Jam