Stretching My Wings

When I Mitchell and monarchtaught school, I used to have my class bring in Monarch caterpillars they would find on milkweed near their homes. Sometimes we would have 6 or 8 caterpillars brought in at the same time. We watched them feed on milkweed leaves and grow big and fat in a discarded fish tank with a screen lid on it.

How we enjoyed watching the caterpillars climb laboriously up the sides of the fish tank, attach themselves to the screen at the top and hang upside down until the seemingly miraculous moment when they would shed their skin and turn into a chrysalis. After about a week, they would break out of that chrysalis, with much struggle, and stretch their new wings out to dry. If anywhere along the way, we tried to help the caterpillars get to to the top or help the butterflies get out of their chrysalis, they would die. They had to go through the struggle. It made them stronger in the end.

As a writer, I felt many times like I was that caterpillar, struggling to get my words on paper and edit, edit, edit. Then patiently wait for the rejection letters that never gave me any helpful advice. And finally, after an excruciating time of waiting, I find out that someone thinks my book is worthy to be published! Amazing!

At last I am that butterfly who has emerged and has to stretch her wings. I am doing things to promote my book that are foreign to this elementary teacher. It is always hard for me to promote myself. I have had to become a public speaker, which turns out to be very fun and rewarding. I have sat long hours in Author Fairs with 20 other authors where all of us only sold a few books. I have had book signings at more coffee shops than I can remember and I don’t even like coffee.

Now I have been to two schools to do an all day Author Visit and it has been wonderful. It was not because I signed books, but because I was back in the classroom doing what I loved to do for so many years; teach. I try to teach at least two test standards that I know elementary students will encounter; poetry and figurative language. I use excerpts from my books and talk about becoming an author. It has been great!

Very soon I will be sitting at a booth at the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio talking with moms about my book and how they might use it in their homeschooling. I am still stretching my wings and hopefully one of these days, I am going to fly.

(Mary is available for Elementary school visits for the 2016-2-17 school year. Email her at booksbymarywilkinson@gmail.com)

God Has Something for Us at Every Age

Donna CronkA Guest Blog by Donna Cronk

As a farm girl born and raised in Union County, I was an avid 4-H member and at age 16, while at the fair watching the dog show, I knew, in one of those rare lightning-bolt moments, exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up: A newspaper reporter!

I wanted to be just like the pretty young intern traipsing around the show ring in her sundress, notebook in hand, camera around neck.

And for the past 32 years, I’ve been that girl. Or at least that’s how I’ve thought of myself, even though my girlhood days are long gone. I love telling people’s stories, and for the past 26 years, I’ve told them (and still do) at the New Castle Courier-Times.

I always tell people I’m glad this worked out because I really don’t have any other talents or career dreams. Or at least I didn’t.

Seven years ago, at the cliché age of 50, the Empty Nest Syndrome hit me hard. Along with newspapering, I had devoted most of my adult life to raising my husband Brian’s and my two sons. I loved everything about being a mom: the baseball and soccer games, being a room mother or dugout mom, hearing all the details of what was going in in their lives. Then in one day: they both moved out! One was bound for an apartment and the other, back to sophomore year at college.

The house felt haunted by my missing their presence. I missed them so badly and couldn’t imagine what God could possibly have for me to do next that would be anywhere near as fulfilling as spending my time with these two sons.

It wasn’t long before Brian, who wasn’t feeling the least upset about any of this, told me that maybe when we retired we would return to my hometown of Liberty. For whatever reason, and I feel it was God’s instruction and direction, Brian’s comment snapped me out of my funk. I started thinking about what our life might be like if we did move back to my hometown – and about other things God might have in store for my life right then, and right now, where I was, and where I am.

I had always dreamed of having a bed and breakfast and a story came to me about having one in my hometown. From there, these various characters “showed up” in my mind, and I wrote about them. Pretty soon it was obvious that I was writing a real book.

The central theme for my novel’s main character, Samantha, is this: God has something for her in every season of life if she will just trust Him with her life.

And the truth of it is, in reality, not just in a novel, He has something for me, and for you, too.

The resulting book, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, has been and continues to be a delight in my life. Women tell me how much they enjoy the story, how they related to Samantha, how they tried the recipes in the back of the book, and enjoyed the scriptures I included for reference.

I have gotten to experience things and meet and visit with people I never would have otherwise. I’ve given speeches and a program on women’s bucket lists, to groups of a few in a woman’s home to banquets and teas for a couple of hundred. Each venue is different and I am having so much fun, I decided to write a second novel, which continues this story, and comes out next summer.

If you are reading this anywhere in Indiana, and need a speaker for your home ec club, church ladies group, women’s tea, mother-daughter banquet, Red Hatters Club or any other venue, I would be honored if you would consider giving me a call or emailing and we’ll talk about tailoring a program for your group.  I give an audience-participation program on women’s bucket lists that makes for a fun activity.

And if you would like to read my book, it’s available from me or on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions. I’d love to hear from you at newsgirl.1958@gmail.com or call, 317-224-7028. And I want to thank Mary for allowing me to be her guest blogger. I welcome readers to my author page on Facebook at Donna Cronk or to my blog at donnacronk.weebly.com.