Thursday, November 14, 2019

Moonbeam Children's Book Awards


Amber Byers and Jim Barnes, Award Director

I am so delighted to share with you that Sophie and Spot received a Gold Medal for Best First Book in the Chapter Book category from Moonbeam Children's Book Awards for 2019.

I traveled to Traverse City, Michigan to participate in the awards ceremony and the Traverse City Children's Book Festival last weekend. It was my first business trip since I've started my company, and it was such a blast to meet the organizers and fellow medalists.

As I said in my acceptance speech, this is a dream come true for me. I knew that I wanted to be an author when I was a kid, but then I grew up and forgot and thought I wanted to go to law school and become an attorney instead. Winning this award reminds me that I am on the right path and am doing what I love.

Traverse City Children's Book Festival

I was inspired to meet two of this year's youngest award winners. Seventeen-year-old Navya Sarikonda won a Gold Medal for Best Book by Youth Author for her novel The Enchanters' Child. And eight-year-old Makenzie Lee-Foster won a Bronze Medal for her Children's Picture Book in the E-book Category for Kickin' it with Kenzie: What's Meant for Me Will Be. You can find a full list of the winners here.

Young Authors Navya and Makenzie

No matter what age you are, I hope you continue to follow your dreams! It's never too early and it's never too late. It is always the perfect time.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Strange Summer


This has been the strangest summer that I've experienced since we moved to Colorado nine years ago. It was rainy and cloudy throughout almost the entire month of June, which is usually hot and sunny by that point. Then in early July, we got hit with the biggest hail storm I've ever seen in my life. I'm talking big enough to shatter our neighbor's solar panel and leave holes in the side of our house.

And the whole time it just didn't quite have that laid-back summertime feel. The feeling I usually get when summer arrives—like the lazy days of summer endlessly stretch out past the horizon and there's nowhere to go and nothing to do. And yes, I know that part of it was because I chose to host the Tadpole Press Writing Retreat the last weekend of June. I've hosted writers conferences before, but this was the first time I've done the whole thing by myself.

It was a tremendous amount of work, but so, so worth it. I am incredibly grateful for how engaged everyone was who showed up. And even though I was nervous about giving my presentations a day or two beforehand, by the time I was actually speaking, I felt calm and centered. And I found out that I really enjoy public speaking when I can talk about things I find interesting and just share ideas.

Anyway, this is just a short note to say my blog is going on vacation! Summer may be half over, but I'm diving in! I don't know about you, but I am truly ready for those endless days of summer, some rest, and some sunshine. May you all get the downtime you need. See you in the fall!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Tadpole Press News


There's so much going on with my editing company, Tadpole Press, this month that I am sharing my company newsletter for this month's blog post. Here's a hint: it involves a Green Business award, a Writing Retreat and Microfiction Contest, and some fun photos of the Sophie and Spot tour. It's just too good not to share! Happy Earth Day, everyone! Check it out here.

https://www.tadpolepress.com/retreat

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Ups and Downs of Living the Dream


A few weeks ago, I realized that I am actually doing it—I am living my dream and building my own career exactly the way I want to. Some days I struggle with the fact that I am a solo entrepreneur and wish that I had my own full-time accounting, marketing, and tech teams. For example, when I try to decipher the complicated reports from IngramSpark detailing my income from book sales in various categories and subcategories, as well as remittance reports that are like Greek to me for some reason—all of which are paid out ninety days after the sale, which just makes it that much harder to track. Why, IngramSpark, why??

But when it comes to making decisions about where to spend my time and how to grow my business, I couldn’t be happier. I love being in charge. I love setting goals and deciding which steps in which order to take to accomplish those goals. Life is so full right now and things are exploding in so many different directions. For example:

  • I’ve finished recording the audiobook of Sophie and Spot and will begin editing it soon,
  • I’m exploring developing a product line for eco-friendly merchandise to sell with my book,
  • I’m still giving author presentations to local elementary schools,
  • I’ve begun writing the second book in the Sophie and Spot series,
  • I’m continuing to help clients with editing and writing coaching, and
  • I’m planning a writing retreat for this summer!

The best part? I’m also setting my own hours, prioritizing my health, deepening my network, having fun, and spending time with friends and family. As I write this, I also realize that I have been stretching myself a little too far lately with all of these different projects. I’ve been listening to Susan Hyatt’s Rich Coach Club podcast where she asks her listeners to envision what their dream coaching practice looks like. She asks if your dream career is something “big, exciting, high-energy” or something “chill, calm, quiet”?

And I realized that I love aspects of both. I love having a lot of different projects going on and branching out to try new things. I also realized that I have always been a slow, thoughtful, methodical person. I like to take my time on things, not rush the experience, and savor it sip by sip. My dream career is one where I have time to deeply connect with my clients, as well as everyone else in my life.

So these past few months have been an interesting time for me as I try to balance extreme company and personal growth with my natural desire to ponder, wonder, and breathe. I’m definitely pushing the boundaries of what I’m comfortable with, and while I think that is a natural part of growth, I also recognize that I need to pair that with some down time in order to ensure that the hectic pace doesn’t become my norm. The best part? I know I can. Ups and downs.

https://pixabay.com/illustrations/book-old-clouds-tree-birds-bank-863418/

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Overcoming My Own Stereotypes


With my first book on tour, this blog has been focusing a lot on what’s been happening out in the world lately. And while I love sharing my exciting news and events with you, my dear readers, I have also been feeling like it’s time to reflect on where I’m at with this journey of living the life I imagined.

For the past several months, I have been dreaming about cutting my hair. Buzzing it all off, to be exact. Why? Because I’m tired of spending time and money on something that doesn’t hold much value to me. Time spent brushing it, blow-drying it, and styling it. Money spent getting it professionally cut.

If these seem like trivial concerns, please acquaint yourself with this startling statistic: Hillary Clinton spent about 600 hours getting her hair and makeup done during the 2016 presidential campaign. That adds up to 25 days! Nearly an entire month! Considering the important work that a president does, it doesn't matter to me if she looked disshevled or perfectly styled. I would have supported her being able to spend that time developing brilliant policies instead.

Now I don’t spend anywhere near that amount of time on hair or makeup, but I have spent way more time and money on my physical appearance over the course of my career than I’ve actually wanted to. When I was an attorney, I used to wear makeup and either curl or flatiron my hair, and I had a boss tell me once that I needed to “sparkle” more. Many of the women in that firm got their hair and nails professionally done on a regular basis and walked around in heels, all of which are not really things I’ve ever been that interested in. I remember thinking that I’d understand his request if I were modeling or something, but for god’s sake, I was an attorney. Even though I upped my “sparkle” at that job, underneath it all, I really resented having to do it. I told my husband that if I ever needed an attorney for something, I’d rather have a wicked smart one than a sparkly one.

So, back to my haircut. Long hair annoys me when I work out. I have to pull it back in a ponytail when I run or lift weights, but then that same ponytail gets in my way when I lay down on my yoga mat to do ab work—the bump on the back of my head just doesn’t feel good.

And I’ve always cared more about how I feel than how I look. But I’ve held back on buzzing my hair out of fear. Mostly fear that I wouldn’t look professional enough, but also fear that people would make assumptions about me that weren’t true. Perhaps they would think I was a man. Maybe they’d think I was gay. Or they could assume that I had cancer. Once I let those thoughts out of my head, I realized that they weren’t insurmountable. I’m okay if someone sees me and thinks I’m a man. We are, after all, from the same species. But sometimes we forget and assume that for a woman to be mistaken for a man is a horrible insult, that it means she is less beautiful and therefore less valuable. But that’s only true if you assume that women’s value comes from their beauty. And frankly, I think that, as humans, our intelligence, compassion, humor, kindness, creativity, and even productivity are much more valuable than our beauty. Plus, men and women are quite similar actually. Now if you mistake me for an alligator or a parakeet, I’m going to be concerned. But a man? I can live with that.

So I started in stages. I got a short bob last fall. Then I got a pixie cut a few weeks ago, but returned a week later to explain to the hairdresser that when I said, “Short,” I really meant it. And you know what amazed me the most? How many famous women have already done what it took me months to do. When I Googled pictures of a short haircut to show my hairdresser, I found tons of actresses with super short hair. And the reaction from people I know has been completely positive. Most people say they like how it looks, and some people say they wish they were that brave to cut their hair so short. Not a single person told me I looked unprofessional. Maybe strangers who saw me made assumptions about me. Maybe not. Either way, I’m okay with that.

What I learned is that I was carrying around my own assumptions, and then letting those assumptions limit my actions. My fears tried to masquerade as reasonable concerns about whether I would be valued by other people, when in fact, they were simply my own stereotypes. My own stereotypes. Not anyone else’s. Just my own. And now that I’ve recognized that, I can let them go. My identity, my value as a human being is much broader than the limitations my fear attempted to place on me.

Next up? Once it grows too long for me, I’m going to shave it. And, honestly, I can’t believe it took me so long to get up the courage. It’s just hair, after all. The value of my services, the way I help clients see their writing or their life in a new way, my dependability, and the way I interact with clients—how I give them my full attention, and speak to them respectfully and encouragingly—well, all of that reflects my professionalism way more than any haircut ever could.

Oh, and for all of you who still need a little hint at what I’ve been producing and working on, here’s a glimpse of me in the recording booth doing a recording session for Sophie and Spot. I’ve recorded half of the book already, and have just started learning how to edit. Pro tip: don’t stop editing in the middle of a file. Or if you do, write down where you ended, because when you come back to it later, you’re probably not going to remember where you left off and you’ll have to do the whole thing over again.

Friday, January 18, 2019

My Interview on Denver 9News - Colorado and Company


I did my first TV interview for Sophie and Spot on January 3rd with Denise Plante on Colorado and Company, a fun segment on Denver 9News. I was excited and nervous, and so pleased with how it turned out. If you missed the live event, you can still catch the recorded interview.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uprZ7lZ_v4

We ran out of time before we got to all of the questions, but Ill share the last question below for those of you who are interested.

What inspired you to become an author?

Back  in November 2016, right after the presidential election, Lafayette had two local stores vandalized, including racial epithets written on the back of Las Montañas Market. It felt like such a shock that our calm little community could experience something so hateful. And I realized that Im never going to be able to make the kind of change that I want to make in the world through a legal career. But Im a writer and a storyteller in my core, and I can use my art to raise my voice and envision the kind of world that I want to see and live in.

So creating a family and a world where gay fathers are accepted, and its not something that has to be questioned or explained, was my way of pushing back against what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming current of hate and say, Thats not me. That doesnt define me. It was also a really powerful way of visualizing how to move forward through the hate and negativity, and to picture exactly what I want my world to look like.

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Joys of Marketing


Before I started marketing my book, I assumed it was going to be a tedius, frustrating process. After all, I don't know much about marketing. And, as an authorwhether you are traditionally or self-published—you are usually responsible for doing all of your own marketing. But now that I've started, I'm enjoying it. Who knew?

I did a few book readings of Sophie and Spot this month to several classes of first and second grade students. I was nervous at first and wasn't sure what to expect, but oh my goodness, those kids knocked my socks off! They were smart, engaged, encouraging. They gasped, they oohed and aahed, and they asked fantastic questions.

For one of my first readings, I chose a part of the story where Emery, one of Sophie’s friends, falls into a frog pond. I thought it was a fun part to write, but I was blown away by how many of the kids specifically related to that part. In one class, there must have been four or five kids who had either fallen into a pond, or their brother or cousin fell into a pond or creek. It was great!

Then, at the end of the section I read, Sophie and her family and friends go to the Louisville pet parade, which is a little parade of children and their pets that goes on right before the big Labor Day parade in Louisville. After my reading, I told the children we were going to do our own pet parade around the room, and they could either choose to be a pet, a kid, or a swamp monster like Emery. They all immediately jumped right in and crawled, mooed, and trotted around the room. It was fantastic! In one class, there were a surprising amount of chickens—like five or six of them! That kind of creativity just blows my mind.

Then, about two weeks ago, a friend from my writers group reached out to ask if I'd like to do an interview about my book on Denver 9News. One of her friends is a producer and interviewer there, so I'll be on a short segment called Colorado and Company on January 3rd! Stay tuned—exciting things coming up in the new year!

Happy New Year to you, my dear blog readers!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Living the Dream


In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to focus this blog post on what I am thankful for. I am at a point in this journey where I feel so grateful for all that I have accomplished and all that is yet to come. As you know, I have wanted to be an author since I was a young child. And now, as you also know, I have published my first book! It's real. My dream has come true.

And it feels so good to be here, to be living my dream. Even just a few years ago, I might have had a hard time believing that something this good could happen. But today, I know it's true.

About a decade ago, when I was in the midst of the stress of waiting for my bar exam results that would determine whether I would be admitted to be an attorney or not, I received an envelope in the mail. It was a one page letter stating simply that I had passed and detailing the next steps to become licensed. I wondered what the chance was of them accidentally sending out the wrong letter. I must have read the letter a dozen times before it started to sink in that I had actually passed. Honestly, it probably wasn't until after I attended the swearing-in ceremony and got my license that I started to let myself believe it. I was just that accustomed to and prepared for the worst-case scenario.

Fast forward ten or eleven years and it's a whole different ball game. When I gave up my legal career, I also gave up that negative mindset. I started focusing on the good in the world. When my worry filled my mind again and again, I thanked it for being there to protect me and then calmly told it that I didn't need to be protected right now. I took deep breaths and focused on my five senses to concentrate on what was actually going on around me right now. I started to believe that I was safe and things were going to work out.

I quit paying attention to the regular news outlets and started reading Sunny Skyz when I wanted to know what was going on in the world. I started writing down simple gratitudes—little things I experienced during the day that I was grateful for. I chose to look for the good in the world around me and to believe that people are mostly good. I chose to look for reasons to trust people.

And now, when all of a sudden my childhood dreams have come true, it feels right. It's not hard to believe at all. Of course this is happening now. It is exciting and fulfilling and just feels so right. I'm so thankful that I changed my mind and changed my life. I'm grateful for the wonderful book I've put out into the world. I'm grateful for the people I've gotten to know along the way and the support I've received. I'm so grateful for the people I've talked to who have loved the book and taken the time to share their favorite parts with me. And I'm so grateful for the opportunity to continue to market my book, share my dreams with the world, and continue to create. I'm thankful for all the fabulous things that are yet to come, because I just know they will be fantastic.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Sophie and Spot: Preorder Now!


Exciting news! It's here! Sophie and Spot is here!

If you just want to find out where to order, skip this next section and jump down to the order info below.

Crossing the Finish Line: Behind the Scenes


I passed the initial review by both Ingram Spark and Amazon, proofed the digital versions of my book and e-book, and have been waiting for a physical proof of each book to come in the mail. And on Tuesday, they were delivered and the books look fabulous! At first I thought they looked identical, but eventually I have been able to see very small differences between the book printed by Amazon and the book printed by Ingram Spark.

Have you ever gotten to the end of a book and wondered why there are several blank pages? Apparently, that's a choice that the printer makes. I absolutely love that Amazon doesn't add extra pages, but simply prints its barcode and printing info on the last blank page of my book. Ingram Spark, on the other hand, added two extra pages at the end, which is disappointing and unnecessary.

While the front covers look identical, the back covers are slightly different. Ingram Spark printed the back cover font in darker ink, which I much prefer as I think it makes it easier to read. They also sized the barcode to fit the entire white rectangle, which I also prefer.

For some reason, the Amazon book looks slightly thicker than the one from Ingram Spark, which is interesting considering they didn't add the two extra pages. The title font on the spine of the Amazon book shows more yellow than the Ingram Spark one. So there you have it. Those are all of the differences that I can find. And they're very subtle differences, so rest assured that whichever book you end up with will be excellent. All of that time formatting paid off because the covers look great, the text didn't fall into the gutter (the middle of the book where the pages stick together), and I am so excited to show them to you.

(c) Amber Byers

How to Order


You can order the paperback on Amazon right now. Preorders are available through Tuesday, October 23. This simply means that you can order now and your book will be shipped on Tuesday. Preorders benefit authors, because all of the sales during the preorder phase are combined into the first week's sales, which gives them a boost in the rankings.

And, because I also published through Ingram Spark, you can also go to your local bookstore or library anywhere in the country and ask that they order a copy for you. I don't think you can order directly from Ingram Spark as an individual, but let your bookstore know that you want to buy a copy and they should be able to help you out.

If you run into any issues, or if the options above just don't work for some reason, feel free to reach out to me directlyeither through the comments below or via Tadpole Pressand I'll be happy to help you out.

Thanks so much and happy reading!

What About an E-Book?


Yes, Sophie and Spot is also available as an e-book! Ask your bookstore or library to order you a copy.

Because Amazon was in the middle of transitioning its publishing platform from CreateSpace to Kindle Direct Publishing when I published, I need to transfer my files over to KDP. Once I do that, you will see an option to buy an e-book on the same page on Amazon that you can find the paperback version.

What About an Audiobook?


My next steps are to promote and market the paperback and e-book versions of Sophie and Spot and then create an audiobook. So stay tuned!

One Final Request


After you read the book, please leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads. One of the first things that bookstores and libraries will look at when deciding whether to order a book is how many reviews it has, so this is a fantastic way to help your favorite authors. Please note that Amazon typically deletes any reviews that aren't linked to a verified purchase, so make sure you use the same account you purchased the book with to leave your review on that site.

If you loved the book and are wondering how else you can help support it, then please share it with your friends and family, buy an extra copy to donate to your local school or thrift store, and stock up on early holiday gifts for the young readers in your life.

Thank you a million times over!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Back with a Bang!


 
  (c) Amber Byers

Hello, dear blog readers! I hope you've all had a wonderful summer doing everything you love to do. Good newsI'm back! And not just here, but back with a bang! Summer was reinvigorating and as soon as autumn started, I was bursting with energy, ready to dive back into work again.

Things have been cruising right along too. I wrapped up my revisions over the summer, sent my book to my beta readers near the end of the summer, and began incorporating their comments early this fall. This was one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had working on my book. I felt like I was sewing together little patches to make a beautiful quilt. For example, I realized that I had three characters playing different roles at the animal shelter where Sophie volunteers. So to simplify things, I combined them into one character and then went through and gave that character some unique characteristics to help readers recognize her. It was really fun jumping through the book and adding the details like that.

Then I sent the book to my proofreaders, finalized my cover, and thought okay, I'm ready to publish. Not quite. I have been dealing with formatting issues for about two weeks now. I won't bore you with details about mirror margins and embedded fonts, but I will say that this was one of the worst parts of my whole experiencemy darkest moment (for those of you who don't know, that's a stereotypical plot point near the end of the story where you think the main character isn't going to pull through). But, like the stereotypical resolution, I overcame all odds and finally achieved success submitting both my paperback and e-book versions to Ingram Spark and Amazon last week. I am now awaiting a final review from both companies, so stay tuned for details about how to preorder soon!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

You Are Right Where You Need To Be


For the second year in a row, I’m taking the summer off. Minimizing my work and taking a break. Similar to what I experienced last year, I have felt frantic and overwhelmed the past few weeks as I try to wrap everything up ahead of time. I felt like I wasn’t where I needed to be with my editing business, my book (it’s still not published!), and I even started to feel behind in my career as a writer. Yes, this relatively new career. I started thinking about all of the things that I haven’t done yet and started feeling really behind. So it was definitely time to slow down and focus on what is happening right here, right now. For in the end, that’s all we really have, isn’t it?

I woke up early this morning, around 5 a.m., and started thinking about what I needed to do today, how maybe I should write a blog post about being in the moment. Then my cat jumped on my bed and told me to just live in the moment (i.e. snuggle and pet him) instead of write about living in the moment. So I did.

When he jumped down, the sun was just starting to peek over the horizon so I went for a walk by the creek in the quiet calm before the day begins. It has been snowing cottonwood fluff all week, swirling down in lazy currents and collecting in big balls on the ground, but I've been so busy that I haven't had a chance to walk along the creek path and watch the fluff come down. Until this morning.

And what I discovered was not what I was expecting. I didn't see any cotton snowing down, but I did discover song birds chorusing their greetings, fields of dandelions blooming, and the first rays of golden sun touching the earth. Dewdrops on blades of grass soaked my toes as I walked. It was beautiful and reminded me that while I may not be where I had hoped to be, I am right where I need to be. Every challenge is an opportunity. It does not delay the path, but is simply part of the path. And no matter where we are, it is right where we are supposed to be. And it will change. It will all change. Goodbye, spring. Hello, summer.



 
(c) Amber Byers



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Transformations


I had a good friend call me up a few weeks ago and ask me how I did it. Specifically, how did I make the jump from being an attorney to a writer? Was there one moment that I knew I needed to change, or did it build up slowly?

There were many moments, and many ups and downs. The moment during my first semester of law school when I knew with absolute certainty that being a litigator in the adversarial system was not for me. The moments when I chose to ignore that feeling. The months of looking for work and wondering where I would belong. Other moments where I enjoyed aspects of the work I was doing, even as a civil litigator in the adversarial system. The months of dread when I wondered how I would ever move on to something else. But always, always the creeping feeling that this wasn’t entirely me.

Something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t feel right. My health was suffering. My life outside of work was suffering. I think what it came down to was the simple, undeniable fact that I knew things could be better. That I could be better. And the final push was knowing that I needed to be a better person for the people who depended on me the most. It is amazing what I am willing to put myself through, but there is a very firm line of what I am willing to put the people I love through. And once that line had been crossed, there was no going back.

Sometimes an awakening is triggered not by concern for ourselves, but by concern for someone else. For how our actions impact other people, or something that ignites a strong reaction to defend someone else, even if we wouldn’t have defended ourselves.

At first, I focused on paying off my student loans. If I could just pay them off, then things would be alright and I could move on to something else. But I quickly realized that I need an earlier escape. So I started to make plans. Throw out ideas, dream about what I would do if I could. Even when it didn’t seem like it would ever be possible. Yet I still hoped and I still dreamed. And I plodded along.

(c) Amber Byers

Sometimes I talked about my dreams. I talked to people in different areas of the law, people outside of the law. Sometimes I questioned if I even knew what I wanted. Sometimes I cried and agonized over the loss of what I had hoped a legal practice would be for me.

Yet at the same time that I was being pushed out of my legal career, I was also being pulled into my new life as an artist. This one idea kept coming up, the same idea that’s been coming up for my entire life. Writing. It’s what I always go back to. Whenever I’m at a standstill, it’s this little idea that keeps popping up inside my head. And I start thinking, wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just write? Because I am an artist at my core and there is a certain peace that comes from being who you really are.

There are untold stories waiting inside of me to be written, found, discovered. And I start thinking about the authors who have inspired me over the years. Sometimes I feel frantic for all of the time that I’ve wasted not writing. There are so many books to write, things to learn, awards to win! And then I remember that I’m right where I need to be. All of that time spent in uncertainty, feeling stuck – it was just getting me ready for this right now.

Sometimes I still plod along and question what I want. But I am a force in motion now. I don’t have to know all of the answers. I just have to keep moving.