Behind the Mask

(Halloween/Fall wreath I made last year)

One week out from Halloween, a day when people put on another face or personality, I thought about how much we sometimes pretend to be something that we’re not-or when we push something to the side instead of facing it(okay, it’s really about how much I do this). It’s been my theme for the past 12 months after the spinal cord stim (SCS) surgery(October 2017). With each medical procedure (to bring you up to speed, there were 3), I expected to be a step toward feeling better. Yet, other physical issues cropped up and a few visits from my old friend DVT(a.k.a. blood clots), had pretty much zapped away any strength or writing focus I have been grasping in my cold arthritic hands.

Please don’t get me wrong, I did have some fantastic news (TLCB being nominated for N. Carolina and Tennessee book awards!) and opportunities (most recently-my 1st time as an Author Moderator at ReadUp festival, SC) in 2018 amidst the various health issues, of which I’m very grateful. But pain has drained my energy and for each fun opportunity, my recovery period lasted longer than the time before. This is one of the reasons, I haven’t written a blog post in so long. I didn’t feel very creative and I didn’t want to sound so negative or ungrateful. Usually I like to share how I’m dealing with the difficulty and quite frankly I am still searching for a way to get through all this.

Being able to honor my mom while discussing The Last Cherry Blossom (TLCB) with students and knowing that I may have played a small role in their understanding that nuclear weapons should never be used again brings joy and meaning into my life. I have no regrets devoting my energy to that. However, I’ve also come to realize that when I’m doing school or conference visits, I’m unable to devote quality time to research and writing. I must confess that I’m disappointed that I can’t do both, as I originally intended. If I’m really honest with myself, I’m extremely ticked off that Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) brought my career to a halt 17 years ago and now that I thought I found something I could do, the progression of RSD may take that away as well. (it seems that my RSD pain is spreading to the incision site of the stent implanted in June-heavy, heavy sigh).

There have also been other factors causing me to question how I will proceed with writing. As some may know, this past spring the parent company (Skyhorse Publishing) of the imprint that published TLCB (Sky Pony Press), reduced the number of books it will be publishing annually, and their reorganization laid off the editorial staff of Sky Pony Press. So, my hope of a sequel to TLCB, to which I was devoting my time and energy, when I had it, is now looking less certain.

Any self-confidence I had evaporated. Insecurity and the awful feeling that I’ve let people down quickly swooped in to replace it. I’ve been pushing these feelings aside for the past months and pretending everything is going well. I mean, if I say something long enough, it becomes true, doesn’t it?  Sort of like if I keep saying when you eat crispy rice treats straight from the pan, there are less calories-don’t judge. 😊

I do have other ideas for manuscripts and have even started researching/writing them. Yet the story my heart yearns to tell is the one of my main character, Yuriko. How she is trying to find meaning for her life and dealing with symptoms of PTSD, while living among the soldiers of the US Occupation forces and without her Papa.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to acknowledge the fact that my health may not get any better than it is right now-and may even be getting worse. I’ve been praying. I’m reminded that with God all things are possible and that He is made stronger in our weakness (I know I gave Him one huge energy booster shot over the past year). I don’t like change-but then again, who does? So, I decided to write this post while I’m still in the mess of it all. The feelings are no longer put aside and hidden with a smile.

(EEK! A mask on building in Izu from our visit in 2015)

I hope I can gain a little more of my pre-surgery physical and emotional strength back. And you can be sure that I will keep visiting with students (I just may have to do more Skype visits). But I need to work on accepting the fact that an instant solution to all this will not arrive gift wrapped and tied with a sparkling bow-oh, but wouldn’t it be cool if it did?! 😊 So, the mask is off, and hopefully I won’t scare anyone away while I’m waiting.

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There’s No Place Like Home

I have lost most of June and July to surgical procedures and complications. The surgical procedure was planned yet the hospitalization afterward, not so much. Well, that’s not exactly true, the doctor said it might happen sooo… with my medical luck I should’ve known I’d probably be hospitalized (my less than 1% rule) 😊. However, I did not plan for the intense myriad of emotions I encountered in that 24 hour stay.

My anxiety level was off the charts. All the helplessness and fear from 17 years ago rushed back in like they never left. The difficult memories of the hours spent at my mom’s bedside three years ago (during the last few months of her life) stopped in to chatter as well.

Some of you may know that hospital beds are not comfortable AND if you want to sleep, a hospital is a place to get better; NOT the place to get rest 😊 I felt very alone(even with the various nurses coming in and my anxiety to keep me company). I worried something else would go wrong and I’d be stuck with a longer stay(just like 17 years ago).

Thankfully, the surgeon discharged me the next day. I was thrilled to be home, yet I was on edge. I couldn’t sleep. I was in a lot of pain. When they found another blood clot in the Ilial vein 4 days after surgery, I realized I had no control of my recovery. Luckily no hospital stay, I just had to give myself Lovenox injections. The day I gave myself my first shot, the panic attacks began. (Thankfully my therapist will do phone visits with me, when I can’t easily leave the house). I wish I could say, I spent the time working on my manuscript. Sadly, I could not focus. That frustrated me to no end.

But, the Lord answered prayers(thank you everyone) over the last couple weeks, because the acute, intense pain from the Ilial vein blockage has started to ease(thank you stent), I’m closer to just my RSD pain level(can’t believe I’d ever be happy about that)😊, and my left foot’s blue shade has faded to a lovely aqua hue. I’ve started writing/researching again. My stamina is not where I’d like it to be yet, but I have an incentive to work toward…

My daughter will finally be home on Tuesday 31st!! (Yay!) 🙂 She completed her 4-month semester at Tokyo International University in Japan. It will then be a 2 ½ week mad dash until we bring her to Wilmington to start her senior year at UNCW! But she will be in her own bed at home with us for those 2 ½ weeks.

Sara and host family at summer festival wearing yukata(light summer kimono)

I would love to say I handled her being so far away in stride and that even when earthquakes were reported near Tokyo (there were two) I was calm, cool, and collected…Ha! Nope, more like tense, scared, and terrified. I worried and missed her A LOT. It took(and still will until I can hug her) a lot of praying and faith that she would be safe, meet nice people, enjoy herself-oh and learn Japanese at the same time! Although, it helped knowing she’d have angels watching over her-especially my Mom.

Sara thankfully, escaped natural disasters in Japan. However, a place close to her, my mother’s, and my heart-Hiroshima- has not. On July 6th heavy rains caused horrible flooding and mudslides in Western Japan affecting Hiroshima, Ehime, and Okayama.210 people are dead and 14 still missing. Extreme heat hinders the clean-up and searches.Last week 1200 people were still in shelters in Hiroshima and many homes were still without running water. The flood and mudslides damaged some schools. They’ve lost textbooks and supplies.

Hiroshima flood copyright CNN

I’m waiting to hear back from the school in Hiroshima that recently did something wonderful for THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM (more about that in a future post) to see how I can help them. Please keep the people in these regions and the people trying to help them in your thoughts and prayers ❤ ❤ ❤

(People have asked me if there is a way to donate money to this area. The US-Japan Council and Japanese American Citizens League have organized the Japan Floods Friendship Fund. If anyone wishes to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit this link: http://www.usjapancouncil.org/japan_flood_friendship_fund.)

Thank you so very much. ❤

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On This Mother’s Day

Since my mom passed away, Mother’s Day seems to sneak up on me. I admit that I still turn the channel if a Mother’s Day commercial comes on-I just don’t have enough tissues in the house 😊.

This Mother’s Day is the first one (I’m sure of many) when I’m not with my daughter. We are still adjusting that she will be studying in Tokyo for another 3 months (although, the first month seemed to whizz by). But thankfully the ability to video chat and text her through the LINE app on our phone without any cost, helps a great deal!

I remember my very first Mother’s Day-my daughter was 6 months old and she sat up by herself for the first time-I of course convinced myself that she waited to do that just for me, on that day. I also remember my Mom thanking me that day for giving her a granddaughter to love.

I remember the Mother’s Day a few years later, after I had spent so much time very ill in the hospital with the debilitating blood clot, my then 4-year-old daughter gave me an adorable handmade card of a heart. Inside the heart she drew a picture of her and I holding hands-best stick people ever 😊 When she handed it to me, she hugged me and whispered in my ear, Thank you for not going to heaven. I can’t even……. ❤ I don’t think I could ever truly put into words how my heart felt at that moment.

On this Mother’s Day, the Japanese Wi-Fi refused to cooperate, and we could not video chat. Instead, we used our cell phones to have an actual conversation (seems like we use them for so many other things like texting or reading instead-I’m not alone in this, right?). Later that day, she emailed me pictures from her recent trip to Hiroshima with some classmates. One picture in particular- the Peace Bell in Hiroshima Peace Park stood out to me.

This bell designed by Masahiko Katori in 1964 displays a world without national borders embossed on the front.  The wooden beam strikes the atomic energy symbol carved on the bell, representing the end of nuclear weapons. Because each strike represents a message of peace to be heard in every heart around the world, there is also a mirror that reflects the person (their heart) ringing the bell. Inspiration for Yuriko’s words at the New Year celebration in THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM, “But with each bong I sat wishing, Peace, peace, peace…”

Looking at that picture of Sara striking the Peace Bell with love in her heart for my Mom, the family members we lost, and all the victims touched my heart and gave me such a feeling of connection-like a warm hug from my daughter and my Mom.

Perhaps another reason this Mother’s Day snuck up on me is that I’m recovering from a surgical procedure. Turns out, having your Ilial vein constricted by your Ilial artery in your pelvis, is actually a thing. It’s called May-Thurner Syndrome.  Unfortunately, the angioplasty done last week, isn’t working as the doctor had hoped. So now the next plan is to put a stent in that vein in June.  It’s not an urgent matter, just means more time with the extra pain,swelling, and my foot turning a lovely shade of sea green(but, maybe an excuse to buy more clothes that will match it, yeah? 🙂 )  I haven’t exactly gotten past the frustration and disappointment about needing the stent, yet. It will probably take one more round of crispy rice treats…

However, I have an upcoming event that I’m looking forward to speaking at- Animazement in Raleigh on May 25 and 26th (which, if my husband is reading this post-is our 27th wedding anniversary weekend-just sayin’). Attending the event has been in the planning stages for several months and I’m honored that they invited me. Plus, waiting a few weeks until June, will give my body time to heal at the incision spot. I always fear that the RSD burning pain will develop at an incision site. But, so far so good and I hope that with some time in between to heal, it will be the same after the stent procedure.

Because of these recent events, I did not get cards out. So, I would like to say that I’m so very grateful for all the women in my life who have been(but are no longer here) and are like another mother to me now. I’m forever grateful that I had so many wonderful years celebrating my Mom on Mother’s Day with her and that I’m blessed with a loving daughter to celebrate Mother’s Day with me-even if this year it’s from the other side of the world with the striking of a bell.

Wishing all Mom’s and people who are “like a mother” to someone they love, a belated, yet a very Happy Mother’s Day along with a warm hug! ❤

 

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IN RARE FORM

A unicorn in rare form-w/cherry blossoms-one of my writing mascots 🙂

The month of February had me feeling like I moved backwards-and I don’t mean just a couple steps backwards. No, I’d say it’s more like giant leaps in reverse where my health and my writing were concerned. I’ve tried to do what I thought would help me, expecting one outcome and then it didn’t go the way I really thought it would/should(perhaps I’m a smidge of a control freak,yes?). Sometimes I can pick myself up and move forward. At other times, well, let’s just say crispy rice treats, chocolate, and a few muffled screams in the linen closet are the only remedy. February was definitely a month of  “other times”.

So, it’s fitting that last Wednesday was #RareDiseaseDay on the last day of February. Rare Diseases Europe (EURORDIS) and the Council of National Alliances began this movement in 2008(a leap year, which is also rare-hence the play on the name) to raise awareness and represent 30 million people affected by over 4,000 rare diseases worldwide.

Rare Disease Day in Hiroshima 2018

The United States began participating in 2009. In the U.S., a rare disease is defined as affecting fewer than 200,000 people. I’ve mentioned before that if there is a less than 1 percent chance of a medication side effect, then you can bet I will experience it. So, the fact that I have a rare disease like Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is probably not a surprise to most people who know me.

RSD is also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS-or as I sometimes call it- “the craps” 😊). But since I’m old school and have lived with it for 17 years, I still refer to it as RSD.

The theme for this year’s Rare Disease Day is right up my alley-RESEARCH! Hopefully, by raising awareness that these 4,000 diseases exist – more funding will be made available, patients would get diagnosed earlier, and more clinical trials could begin to ease the symptoms or better yet, cure the rare disease!

I’ve had many, many, many visits with various doctors over the past 17 years. Most have been very compassionate and helpful. However, there were a few that insisted it was either “all in my head” or that “I’m a malingerer”. It seemed that if that physician hadn’t heard of RSD, then it didn’t exist. I would leave there thinking well, if it didn’t exist, how does that define me? If they wouldn’t take the time to learn about my symptoms, or about RSD- how could they possibly understand what the pain had taken away from me? I had become a shadow of my former self, and now they wanted to make me completely invisible.

However, since I’m more shall we say… experienced, I’m not as afraid of speaking and standing up for myself. I can look back and see that after the diagnosis, God blessed me with a different path. A path that has many wonderful new possibilities, but also can be quite rocky at times.

I have been stumbling along on the rocky path since my spinal procedure in October, I haven’t quite yet gotten back to my “normal” pain level. There have been issues with medication side effects early on and two weeks ago some new ones cropped up (perfect example of my less than 1%). These debilitating symptoms prevented me from doing anything but hurt, so I had to switch back to an older medicine that I knew I could tolerate(Warfarin), even though it meant routine blood tests and other accommodations. As they(whoever “they” are) say, sometimes newer is not always better.

Because of the newer side effects, I withdrew from a conference in early February, which I was really looking forward to speaking at/attending. It bothered me a lot because I hate giving in to the pain. I’m slowly getting some energy back and look forward to presenting for the first time at the South Carolina Association of School Librarians next week(March 16th 8:30am at the Hyatt Regency in Greenville, SC-for any SC school librarians who might be reading this) 😊

Recently, a few things helped me navigate my rocky path: two friends each gave me beautiful, timely devotionals, and I received a letter sent to me by a student in New York. I love getting snail mail and it was handwritten-a twofer! It wasn’t just that he read the book and liked it a lot (although I do take some pride in that-not gonna lie), but that he took the time to write me, and had discussed scenes from the book with his teacher that he found impactful.

I’m so very grateful for the rare gems sprinkled in between the jagged rocks that encourage me to continue striving so that I may be in rare form (in a good way) despite my pain.

I have some people in my life and there are also way too many people lately in the news that are dealing with an overload of rocks in their path, so I’m going to do my best to find ways to be that rare gem and maybe give them some inspiration knowing that they are being heard and are loved.

“We know that reading-and reading widely-helps breed empathy. We know that children find comfort in books. That they seek refuge in fiction and poetry. And we know that literacy skills are essential to helping people make sense of the world.” From LITERACY DAILY blog, if you would like resources on how literacy can help stop the hurting: literacyworldwide.org/safeschools  or  Letters to Parkland and Beyond.

 

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Why did I choose The Last Cherry Blossom for my title?

©JapanGuide

Since the cherry blossom season is winding down in Japan, I thought I’d answer the question I get asked quite a bit. It’s also a question on the teacher’s discussion guide for the students to contemplate(shh….it will be our secret).

I have always loved the look of cherry blossoms long before I had an inkling of the importance they would play in my life.  I was 8-years-old when I first gazed at cherry blossoms while we were in Tokyo, Japan for a month. We were visiting the woman I knew (and loved) as my grandmother.

I wish I could post a picture of the cherry trees from that time. However, back in those days there were no cell phones, no digital cameras-but no dinosaurs either -I’m old but not that old 🙂 My dad had an 8-mm movie camera and a 35mm film camera. Can the kids today even imagine that we would have no idea what the movie/photo would look like until it was developed? Sadly, because of this and the fact my dad was not good at taking pictures; many of the photos taken did not come out. I have come across these 8mm films recently and hope to look through them this summer, hopefully catching a glimpse of the blossoms.

In Japan, sakura hanami (cherry blossom celebration) depends on what part of the country you live in. Hiroshima’s season was April 5-12th this year. A popular spot is still Hijiyama park with 1300 cherry trees and is where the main character, Yuriko (as well as my mom) celebrated cherry blossom viewing with her family and best friend. And now, unlike during WWII in my book, visitors can admire the pink blossoms dancing in the evening under the lantern lit, starry skies.

©design_energy

©GetHiroshima

Now,back to why I named my book The Last Cherry Blossom…

There are actually a few reasons. My mother’s favorite celebration was sakura hanami, it was the last celebration together as a family, and the cherry blossoms bloomed the Spring after August 6, 1945- showing their resilience and strength.

But I also think the cherry blossom in the title can have meaning in the present. Just as I know the cherry blossom’s bloom is short and will eventually cascade to the ground; certain events are out of my control and will happen no matter how much planning, worrying, or proactive work I may do. In the past, it was my mom being sick and leaving me so devastatingly soon.

But some recent examples for me were:

Several weeks ago, we went to Myrtle Beach for our family Spring Break vacation. As some of you may know, the beach is a special place for my daughter and me. We always get one beach day in together-not for the suntan (or in our case the sunburn) but for the company of each other. And we both love the sound and look of the waves lapping against the sandy shore. I feel very close to my mom there as well. So, we looked ahead at the weather, decided on the warmest day, and planned the week around it. When our beach day finally arrived, it was sunny but windy! We could not control being pelted-no exaggeration- by the sand. We tried to tough it out, but within minutes so much sand blew onto our towels it formed a small hill. No matter how much we planned, we weren’t getting our beach day.

An ongoing example- I’ve been marketing my book, which could be a full-time job in itself 🙂 I don’t always know what area to focus on and have not been very good at pacing myself in accordance to my pain levels. But even when I am, I still can be slammed with a two-week full-blown, stuck in bed with burning pain that no amount of crispy rice treats or chocolate could help, flare up. I also became so disappointed in my body all over again for betraying me.

Lastly, this past month, I was reminded that I can’t control when someone may continue to disappoint me. I can try to make excuses for the past, bury it deep, deep down but something can trigger it and there is no way of nipping it in the bud (see what I did there?).

And when that happens, I can only react and decide how I’m going to face that challenge. Sure, I can throw my plush ‘poo’ emoji (that’s a story for another time) against a wall repeatedly, but I can only do that for so long especially before it causes another pain flare (it’s a vicious circle).

In the case of our sandstorm beach day-we moved it to the indoor pool. We had a wonderful day just the same!

When the pain flares strike, I try to accept it sooner and let my body rest, telling my type A personality everyone needs a break-I’m still working on this one (heavy sigh..).

In the last situation, I keep the memories of the good times available, while also reminding myself I’ve done what I could and some people aren’t going to change. But, I can change how I answer myself when I’m questioning if I did the right thing.

That thought reminds me of the toast Yuriko’s Papa said to his family during what would be their last celebration together:

“Cherry blossoms are like life itself-so beautiful, yet so fragile that they bloom only a short time. A toast to my family and to enjoying our time together!”

Enjoy what you can-the rebirth, the new life of the season. And when the blossom falls, know that there will be a change-it may be good or bad, you can’t always control how it unfolds, but you can control how you view it. Papa’s words remind me that you can embrace what’s coming while also letting go. After all,

“The season changes when the last cherry blossom falls……”

 

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In celebrating May as Asian American Heritage Month, VisitMulticultural Kid Blogs to register for Giveaway. Second Prize pkg includes a signed copy of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM!

Also on 5/6/17 will be linking up atDiverseKidLit

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?

turkeyfree

Thanksgiving is only a week away- shocking, right? I still have Halloween decorations up-although I had no trouble putting away the Halloween candy :). free-halloween-clip-art-illustrations_098203_halloween2Some mixed emotions have made their way to the surface-Thanksgiving week 2 years ago, my mom began what would become two and a half months of hospital visits. But, it’s also when I signed my contract with Sky Pony Press to publish THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM.

This November, my daughter left her teen years behind and turned 20! I still can’t wrap my head around that one. I mean, there’s no way that I’m 20 years older… So, it makes me nostalgic for her younger years and of course my mom was also a big part of that.

sarabornmomme

Then, I think way back to a Thanksgiving about 15 years ago, I mistakenly thought I had very little to be thankful for. My body betrayed me with unbearable pain. I spent most of my time at the doctor’s office, physical therapy, or in the hospital. I had to give up the career I worked so hard to achieve, and I didn’t feel that I could participate in my daughter’s life as much as other mothers did with their children. I went through quite an embarrassingly long pity party (one that even crispy rice treats could not help); until I realized that even though I lost opportunities in my life-I was alive (which was touch & go for a while), my daughter was healthy, and my husband loved me.

Now I can look back and see how far I’ve come since one chapter in my life ended and I began to write new ones (figuratively and literally).

In early October, I had my New England Book Launch at An Unlikely Story Bookstore and Café in Plainville MA. Being able to discuss and sign my book with family, close friends who had known and cared about my mother for years, as well as friends I hadn’t seen in such a long time, made me feel so loved! I’m grateful that I had that opportunity and that they were so happy to share that moment with me. On top of that, the bookstore, (which you really should visit if you live near there-it’s magical), is owned by Jeff Kinney, author of THE WIMPY KID Series (yup, that Jeff Kinney) so he has some incredible NYT Bestselling authors that visit. I signed the same author guest book that Rick Riordan signed three days before I was there!

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While in New England, I had been invited to visit the public middle school in my hometown of Woonsocket, RI. I had never presented to 125 6th graders before, and they were a wonderful audience. I got back so much more from these students than I had given them.

A couple weeks later I was invited to do my first solo author session at the North Carolina School Library Media Association annual conference in Winston-Salem.I was nervous, but met so many great librarians, authors, and teachers.

Earlier this month, I participated in Charlotte Mecklenburg(CM) Library Foundation’s—EpicFest. Authors involved in this literary festival were award winning, New York Time Bestsellers, and me. I wanted to keep pinching myself to be sure I wasn’t dreaming. The CM Library arranged two fantastic school visits – my first high school-North Mecklenburg High School in Huntersville, and Wadell Language Academy in Charlotte. Both classes studied Japanese. Thankfully, they didn’t expect me to speak Japanese because they would’ve been sadly dissapointed. They know far more Japanese words than I do 🙂

The big CM Library celebration was on Saturday at ImaginOn in Charlotte. Over 2,000 children/teens were there to hear and meet their favorite author or illustrator. It was so great for me to meet and chat with these authors and illustrators, so I can only imagine what their fans felt like!epicfestimaginon

(with NYT best selling MG author,Tui Sutherland)

THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM was also on sale at the festival.  Being able to meet so many tweens/teens that wanted to read my book, or had read my book and wanted to tell me what they liked about it brought me such joy.

epicfestreader1

Most recently I’ve been invited to book clubs. It’s been interesting visiting groups that have already read my book.

As I look back to all the events that led me to right here, recovering from a pain flare, one week before Thanksgiving, I’m truly grateful that my life didn’t go on the path I had originally thought it should. Because, if I hadn’t spent extra time with my mom and heard the stories of her childhood while I recovered, if my family didn’t have to move to a warmer climate because of my RSD, and if my daughter hadn’t asked her teacher if I could speak to her class about my mom’s experience on August 6th – I wouldn’t have a book. So because of some unexpectected turns, I can now meet and discuss my mom’s story with students (our future voters), about the danger of nuclear weapons, and the need to realize the “enemy” is not always so different from ourselves.

My mom had said that even though she experienced horrific events in her life, it eventually led her to having me and my daughter. She called us her life lines-we gave her new hope. I’m grateful for my mom’s love and support that she gave us all up until she passed away. I’m also grateful for all I’ve been blessed with in my life-detours and all. Wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving -whether you’re where you expected to be or not & whether your Halloween decorations are still up or not 🙂

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On The Road to Libraries, Book Festivals, and Pain Flares

It has been a whirlwind of a month since THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM(TLCB) was published (I just need to pause a moment here, because every time I realize I’m actually a published author, I get giddy and giggle-okay I can continue now) :). I’ve spent a lot of time doing guest blog posts, sending emails to various schools, book festivals, and submitting conference proposals.

And two weeks ago we took TLCB on the road to attend the Mid-South Book Festival held in Memphis, Tennessee.magic school bus

On our way to the Mid-South Book Festival, we stopped in a little town named Ripley. My very dear friend Robin, (well she is more like a member of my family now), arranged for me to do a signing and presentation at the Lauderdale County Library. I hadn’t seen her since my mom passed away nearly two years ago. It was my first time visiting Robin in Ripley and it was a visit long overdue. The town may have been small but the southern hospitality was tremendous. Every single person was so welcoming and excited for me and my book. It was a wonderful, albeit, much too quick visit.

ripleylibrary-1

The next day we headed to Memphis for the Mid-South Book Festival. Now, my mom was a huge Elvis fan. In fact, when she first discussed moving to NC, she wanted to know just how many hours away we were from Graceland! She became a fan when LOVE ME TENDER first debuted in Japan. She waited in a huge line with her Elvis shoe laces on her shoes, and then stayed all day and night to watch every single showing. So watching Elvis movies and listening to his music together were some of my fondest memories with her. But because it reminded me too much of her, I hadn’t listened to his music since she passed away.

But, knowing this, how could we be in Memphis and not visit Graceland? I had been having leg pain from the drive, and was walking slowly. However, there were many benches and the tour is not that long(Graceland is surprisingly small), so I got through it okay.img_20160921_185004944

My mom would have loved it there. I got teary eyed when I first heard one of her favorite Elvis songs, but it brought me happy memories of her singing along to it.

The next day was the Mid-South Book Festival. I participated in my first author panel(Yay!) I was extremely nervous. But I brought my entourage (my husband, my friend Robin and her daughter Katelyn) with me, so I’d have at least three people in the audience that knew me. 🙂 The three middle grade authors on the panel with me were fantastic.  The moderator asked questions that I could answer easily and sound like I knew what I was talking about. 🙂 A little over an hour later, I could relax and celebrate with an ice cream sundae. The only bummer was that my book was on backorder, so it couldn’t be sold at the festival. But it was on back order because the first printing sold out, so I can’t complain about that!

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(with Barry Wolverton,Sonia Gensler, Alice Faye Duncan)

We drove back home on Sunday, and I spent the next 11 days in my room with a pain flare up. So I’m learning the valuable lesson of pacing myself. After 15 years with RSD you’d think I would have that pacing thing down pat. But, my type A personality tried to kick in again and it is a frustrating battle that I lose most of the time. This was definitely one of those times.

But while I was stuck in bed surrounded by crispy rice treat crumbs on my comforter, I spent some time researching various venues to market THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM. Right before I left for Memphis, I found out that I won the Honor Award for the Society of  Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Book Launch Grant!! I was beyond ecstatic!celebration hooray pokemon yay

My hope is to present my mother’s story to various Japanese societies, schools, and nuclear disarmament organizations. Because of this grant I will be presenting to Peace Action Staten Island, and am working on a presentation date at the Japanese Embassy in Washington DC in the Spring! Between now and then I will be practicing my pacing skills. I’ve heard that crispy rice treats & a little chocolate really helps with that….