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  • Writer's pictureKali Kuzma

Bright-Eyes, Bushy-Tail, and the Nutty Narrows Bridge: A Guest Post By Donna Howard

Inspired by Others to Write

Besides mentioning my favorite Random Generator Short Story Challenge series in almost every post (oops I did it again!), the second topic I touch on the most is finding inspiration to write.

Without inspiration, writing can be the most difficult task one can accomplish. In case you are needing some ideas here are some ways to help you get inspired!

Well today's guest, Donna Howard, took an inspiring story and created her own! When I first read Donna's children book, Bright-Eyes, Bushy Tail, and the Nutty Narrows Bridge I immediately knew I wanted her to do a guest blog. Not only was the cover adorable (I mean just look at it!), the reason for her story connected with me as a writer. As an author, all we want when sending our work into the world is for others to connect and enjoy, which I did when it came to understanding the inspiration behind the story. Donna made it clear this was not only her story, but everyone involved (including the squirrels) which I find truly inspiring.


Bright-Eyes, Bushy Tail, and the Nutty Narrows Bridge

The day before my 60th birthday, I achieved a bucket list goal, to become a published author. Moreover, the day of publication was my great grandson's birthday, the one I dedicated the book to. I mean, talk about a legacy gift! The journey has been quite a ride and it all started by being interested in the story of another.

We are currently in year two of a pandemic, and it seems our country is quite divided. That's a shame. It's my hope by listening to each other's stories and hearing the voices of those around us, we will once again be brought together, to celebrate community, and the little things that make us smile as we go about our day.

My book, Bright-Eyes, Bushy-Tail and the Nutty Narrows Bridge celebrates such a man. Amos Peters, who built the very first squirrel bridge, in 1963. You see, Amos had a construction company and he plus others who worked in Civic Court enjoyed lunch in the plaza and to feed the squirrels. However, to get to this nutty feast, squirrels had to cross a busy roadway and often were hit by cars. Amos wanted to do something about it.

He decided to build a bridge. A squirrel bridge. At first, he wondered if others would find his idea too nutty to take seriously, but folks loved the idea. They came together to make it a reality. From his architect friends who drew the plans, to the council woman who named the bridge, many contributed their time and talent to create the legacy Longview is known for today. There are eight squirrel bridges now and every year folks come together, as a community, to celebrate Squirrel Fest on the third Saturday of every August.

My journey as an author has followed a similar trajectory. Like Amos, the biggest hurdle I faced was deciding to put myself out there and share my idea. When he and I did, good things happened and folks from all over helped make it a reality.

Writing and publishing a book involves a huge learning curve and becoming overwhelmed is easy. This is why I suggest you first find your tribe; those folks who will help you on you journey, the mentors, supporters, and encouragers. There are many good writing support groups out there, but one of my favorites is Children's Book Authors, Illustrators, Publishers and Marketers. There you'll find a large, diverse group of authors and other professionals engaged in the art and business of picture book making. It's in this group, I learned I'd made several newbie errors. The first, I should've hired my book designer to work in conjunction with my illustrator; especially since this was my illustrator's first book too. Doing so allows them to design the book and illustrations so the formatted text is planned and saved for each page. This also determines the number and type of illustrations needed, saving you and the illustrator time and money. Luckily, I hired an experienced designer, Travis Peterson who grew up in North Carolina, and is now living in Norway, who was able to work with the illustrations so I didn't need to redo them. I'm happy for this as my illustrator, Jill Shih, who grew up in Taiwan and came to this country in 2000 to attend college, brings the story to life with the water color medium she uses. It's perfect for this homespun tale made for the young and young at heart.

Along the journey I've been helped by authors all over the world, friends and family, and other small business owners. Regardless, if you are self-publishing, or going traditional, you should know you will largely be or entirely be responsible for getting your book "out there". Meaning you need to become very clear on who the intended target audience is for your book and where you'll find them. In my case, Cowlitz County was a given since the story originated there. So, Longview area book stores, visitor centers, museums and other small businesses were places I successfully contacted and asked to carry my book. Looking beyond Longview, I recently connected with the president of the Squirrel Lover's Club. They have a large membership and their founder was the one who got October named Squirrel Appreciation Month. Members get a bi-monthly newsletter mailed to them. Bright-Eyes, Bushy-Tail and the Nutty Narrows Bridge will be featured in their next newsletter and I'm very hopeful it will increase my Amazon reviews and ratings.

Budget is usually a major consideration for self-publishers and really for any small business. That is why I haven't ventured too much into Amazon or Facebook ads yet. Most advice I get on Amazon ads says you need to be able to commit to spending a set amount and over time adjust your ads, keywords, etc to claim a profit. So, long-term strategy rather than short term. For now, I will continue to build my base support, to grow a following on social media and network by contributing what I can to the success of others, while learning from those that are more experienced. This will be important as I'm planning to crowd fund (Kickstarter) my next book. Kick-Starter is an all or nothing platform where many authors raise money to publish their book by essentially getting pre-orders and offering rewards.

My next book will also tell about the magic that can happen when we see and hear each other. With a working title of, Thank You, Mr. Jack, it reminds us we all want to feel seen and heard. The story teaches us to value the contributions and sacrifices of others while looking out for each other. This lesson was brought home to me when I overheard a life affirming conversation between my then 3 or 4 year old daughter and a double amputee World War II veteran. In my story, a little girl's curiosity about why Mr. Jack has no legs, leads to a discussion of what war is and why someone would choose to participate in it knowing the high costs it involves. The biggest benefactors of this discussion, however is the little girl's mom and her co-worker. They re-discover the healing, life affirming properties of gratitude.

Folks will tell you life of an author is a solitary one. While it's true the actual writing might be done behind a closed door, we need to get out there and talk to people. Listen for the story. Hear the voices of those around us. After all, as a reader, I know one of the great pleasures of reading is being transported into the hearts and minds of others, and to be taken into their worlds. As writers it's our job to take our readers along on our journey, into the hearts and minds of the characters and people whose stories we tell. I leave you with this, be brave enough to put yourself out there, write your story. Someone is waiting for it.


Guest Post Wrap Up

I couldn't agree more with Donna about putting yourself out there to make things happen! It's truly inspiring and I hope more people like yourself do the same.

I want to thank Donna for coming on Kali Kuzma Author and Storyteller today! It's been a blast seeing how her story has taken off in the last several weeks. If you're interested to see what other things Donna has been up to you can read more in this The Daily News article.

Or, if you like craft projects to go along with your books, Donna does a great job showing you how to make a leaf squirrel in this video tutorial.

You can find Bright-Eyes, Bushy Tail, and the Nutty Narrows Bridge available now for only $11.95. Grab it while you can and leave a review!

You can also grab my Frog Prince retelling Princess Gabriella and the Never-Ending Kiss while you're there! I promise it's a good one.

If you liked this guest post, then leave a comment and check out more by Britta Whitmer or Yannick Atambona to see why they were inspired to write their own stories.

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