God, humor, Jesus, reading, spirituality, taco tuesday, Tics, writing

If I Squeeze Your Taco… I Mean Head… I’m Sorry: Taco Tuesday with Writer, Gwen Vogelzang

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Tonight I had 12 people around my table for tacos: My mother-in-law, my sister-in-law,  her two kids, my two kids, Amelia, her daughter Avi, her baby in-utero, her friend and, of course, our pitbull mix always ready for a handout. (It’s her – and Rex’s – favorite night of the week because it’s the one night there’s meat on the table thanks to Amelia.)

It was my mother-in-law’s birthday so we pulled out all the stops including two dayglo orange and green plastic taco shell holders in the form of trucks. Combined with the mariachi ducks and the sombreros we were a truly a classy joint.

After 2 tacos with 14 fixings, two sets of brownies, a gluten free cake with sprinkle stars and coffee, I was so happy I could have squeezed someone’s head. But I didn’t. Instead I decided to put up tonight’s post, an interview with writer Gwen Vogelzang for her upcoming book, If I Squeeze Your Head, I’m Sorry.

I was honored to be introduced to Gwen through her agent, Stephanie Alton, who asked me to write an endorsement. (Her book deals with a boy who has Tourettes. Turns out that not only do our kids have that in common, but we both have similar journeys of faith, are straight shooters when it comes to transparency with our lives and not afraid to try new adventures. Plus she’s a fan of tacos, so she’s in automatically.)

I love meeting new people like Gwen, but rather than talk about, why don’t I let you read about it!

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Where are you from and where do you live now?

My husband and I recently moved from 18 years in Denver to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

What do you do for a living? 

I own and operate Four Birds {Airstream Gathering Spaces}, where we rent out a vintage Airstream trailer for events and meetings.  We had it gutted and restored and it’s an open space with a mini kitchenette.  Unlike most Airstreams, it’s not used for camping but rather as a boutique venue space where small groups can gather.  We deliver the trailer to locations of our clients’ choice and host creative workshops on our 5 acre property in the Michigan woods.

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I’m also publishing a book with our son, Rylan.  He’s 12 and lives with Autism and Tourette Syndrome.  The book is drawings he created, paired with his descriptions about what it feels like to live in his brain.  It hits shelves this Fall and we couldn’t be more pumped to put his unique, inspiring work into the world and see what God does with it.
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What influenced you to write a book?

 During a semester of homeschooling, Rylan and I were studying what it takes to be an entrepreneur.  We interviewed a local cafe owner we frequented in Denver and she offered Rylan the opportunity to host an art show at her cafe.  We decided, after negating the idea of focusing the show on Pokemon, to use the them of what it feels like to live in his brain.  The work we did together was more valuable in understanding my son and the way he walk this earth than the tens of thousands we spent on therapy over the years.  And the feedback on the show from the public was inspiring and humbling.  After the 10th person told us we should consider turning the art show into a book, we put together a proposal and 8 months later, we had a publishing contract.  We knew how much value a vast array of audiences would benefit from his work and felt obligated to share it.

Have you always wanted to write?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.  My basement holds boxes full of old journals documenting very dramatic middle school feelings up through journals written during our first years of marriage.  I’ve been blogging for 10 years, which continues to evolve into audiences resonating with stages or our family life.  It’s therapy.  Writing is how I tick and process and form connections.  

What is your marketing strategy and how important is this for writers who are publishing their first books?

This being my first book, it’s a huge learning process, but my 15 year career was in non-profit marketing and public relations which helps tremendously.  I find so much life in searching for creative and bold ways to spread important messages.  We’ve formed a list of influencers who are conencted to autism and tourettes to help us launch the book and will host various events supporting pre and post sales.  We also did a fundraiser to fund a book trailer video to utilize during our launch and developed a fun, engaging website specifically for the book.  Our social media through Instagram and facebook will keep audiences engaged and cause them to love our kiddo as we prepare to launch the book.  Without effective marketing, books are incredibly hard to sell just given how saturated the market it.  It’s a tough gig putting a book into the world. 

What was the most difficult part about writing your book?

The toughest part was definitely making the design and look of the book to match our vision.  It doesn’t always match what the publisher views as the vision, so navigating those waters has been tricky. 

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What was the most fun about writing your book? 

Definitely working with Rylan as he drew and described his experiences.  He would verbalize why he drew what he drew and I typed as he talked.  It was such a collaborative experience and one that was incredibly unique to anything I had experienced as a parent.  It proved to me just how powerful art is in a therapeudic realm for kids of any cognitive or developmental ability. 

How did you go from “ticked off” to “happily” ticked off? (Basically, how did you use any of your challenges to motivate you to move ahead?)

This book has directed me away from the mentality that I need to “change” my kiddo to one of contentment and awe in who he was created to be.  His “challenges” are in fact gifts that I was stifling by trying to alter the way he behaves and reacts to the world around him.  Allowing him to express just how he sees and feels and hears and touches the world brought peace and inspiration in my relationship with him and in my understanding of how to advocate for him.  That doesn’t mean we don’t struggle day to day and have challenges to face, but I see them at face value and don’t assume that they can be fixed.  They just “are.”  And that’s okay.

Give a shout out to a few bloggers or writers who have influenced you the most.

Watching Heather Avis with The Lucky Few advocate and shout the worth of her kiddos is inspiring on so many levels.  Her feeds warm my soul on days when I want to give up.  Her spirit is infectious and vital to our kids with different abilities.  I also admire Sevy Marie and her Mama bear, Lisa Eicher.  Their dedication to finding joy in their daughter’s trauma is incredible.  Another example of the power of art and advocacy through a kiddo’s strengths.  Last, Shelley Moore is a storyteller, inclusive educator, researcher and author who I saw headline an inclusive education conference.  She captivated me at her assumption that ALL children can be included in regular education and the brilliant strategies and coaching she offers educators who need guidance.  

What do you want people to know most about your book? 

12-year-old Rylan thrives and struggles with Autism and Tourette Syndrome. He and his Mama Bird, Gwen, are publishing their first book, set to hit shelves in September, 2019. This one-of-a-kind picture book, “If I Squeeze Your Head I’m Sorry” will uplift, educate, create dialogue, entertain, and allow readers to enter the brain of a child who sees, feels, and understands the world from a remarkably and refreshingly unique perspective. Their work reminds us how important it is to listen to each other in an effort to truly understand and to assume immense value in one another

Send Links and Brag or Forever Hold Your Guacamole

Tell your neighbor, your hairstylist, your teachers, your great Aunt Gerty, Tell ALL your people. This book is an inclusive experience, so get on board Broskis! Pre-orders available soon!  Visit http://www.ifisqueezeyourheadimsorry.com for all the crazy fun details.  Follow us on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/ifisqueezeyourheadimsorry/.  

Does faith play a role in your writing? If so, how?

We believe in an inclusive God.  And that God is the reason this book is about to become a real thing.  Rylan and Jesus are pretty tight – always have been.  Rylan has a lot of questions about God, but in his heart he feels connected to a love not available anywhere else.  Jesus and Rylan knew how important it was to use his words to help create more understanding and conversation around living with special needs and by golly that’s what they’re doing.  I’m the tool making it all happen in the literal sense, but the opportunity came through grace and Jesus.  I’ve tried explaining it other ways, but I fall short every time.  

When we meet in person for tacos, what food item would you bring and why? 

Always guacamole.  Every day guacamole.  Avocado, one lime per avocado and pink sea salt.  

 

Have You Written a Book and Want to Be Featured on Taco Tuesday? Leave a Comment or Just Say Hola to Gwen! Comment and Share

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

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Writing Wednesday: Websites, Schedules and the reminder to JUST DO IT

The day before I left for Mt. Shasta I was supposed to be marketing for my husband’s business. As he sat to my left, back erect, hair as in place as the retirement account he’d love us to have, I sat at his right: tank top stained, gray hairs popping up, pretending to be actively finding new clients for his computer business, but instead, I was website hunting.

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For a writer like me, website hunting is like house hunting. It’s all about location location location. What’s the address? Will people be comfortable there? As much as I’d like a “fix it up myself” charmer, I’m not sure I can handle the creaks and leaks that come with a DIY space that involves website ads, video posts and more than a few pages with back splashes containing more than its share of kitsch meets damask. And pit bulls. I love those suckers.

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On my list of many things to do to move forward with my writing is brand it. That means a new site. Which, well, is scary, because that costs money. And time. And how will I get it done in between getting the kids off to camp (or worse, keeping them out of my hair while they are not at camp so I can write) and feeding the family (and feeding the pit bull) and OH MY GOSH THAT NEIGHBOR KID IS HERE AGAIN and the LAUNDRY… THE LAUNDRY… KILL ME NOW!

Get Over It, Andrea

After talking to a dear writer friend last week, as well as an agent from the Blythe Daniel Agency today, a few things have become crystal clear to me. In addition to a newer website, I need to be able to answer a few questions. Then, and only then, will I be able to jump off the rat’s wheel of working a day job and leave my smaller freelance article writing behind.  (Though bless you freelance gigs… you’re amazing and… note to self… update your freelance site, girl!)

If you want to join me in moving forward with your writing career, you’ll need to answer the same questions I am about to.

4 Questions to Answer to Write Full Time

  1. What do you want to focus on?
  2. How will you build your brand?
  3. How much time per week will you commit to it?
  4. Can you have fun doing it?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my main goal – in all of this – is to be present for my family. If I can’t have fun and stay connected to my kids, then all of this is in vain.

To quote my sweet friend, “You need to get disciplined. It’s the only way. JUST DO IT.”

And so I am. Here is how I broke down what I want and how I want to get there. Maybe you will have something similar?

My Dreams

  1. Make a full time income from writing

What Kind of Writing?

TV Writing & Books

How?

  • Finish pilot this summer
  • Outline next book this summer

When?

2 hours/day – Monday – Thursday (Friday is my off day to be with my babies!)

1 Saturday/month where hubby takes kids so I can write.

Branding?

Tweet, FB and blog 4x/week

Don’t Like Marketing Social Media?

Too bad. Just do it.

Reminder to Self Why I Must Market on Social Media (Even if I don’t want to)

To sell the books I’ll need an audience.

To get an audience, I’ll need content.

Once the content is created, I’ll need to put it out on social media so people can find me.

Then, and only then, will I have the opportunity to push my next book through a larger distribution channel such as a Harper Collins. (Full disclosure: I met an agent from Harper Collins at the Southern California Christian Writers Conference. She was connected, smart and brutally honest.

Her: “Your book sounds amazing.”

Me: “Thanks! (Stars in my eyes I know I’m going to make a million dollars thank God I spent 20 bucks in gas to get to this conference)

Her: “How many followers do you have on Twitter?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Her: “How many followers do you have on Facebook?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Her: “How many subscribers do you have on your blog?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Her: “Why should we bring you on board with us?”

Me: “I know. (Gulp of Reality) You shouldn’t.”

But What About Your Small Press?

Small presses are great, such as the one my book is already with at Armonia Publishing.

The downside of a small press? Less distribution.

The upside? More residuals.

The downside? Less distribution means less copies sold, so not a heck of a lot of money.

The upside: If I market my books like I’m supposed to – if I BRAND myself better – I’ll have a built in audience which means more books sell which means more money in my pocket.

OH MY GOD IT’S SO BORING

Reality sucks go back to drinking and live in your land of delusion. Having a plan may seem boring, but in reality, it’s liberating. I’m tired of waiting for my husband to make a fortune so I can sit and write and dream and create without the day job. Creating and writing happens within the laundry, the cooking, the doctor’s appointments, the day to day grind of work at a school combined with freelance and the very messy/unpredictable/when will it stop deal we call life.

How Do I Know the Above List Makes Sense?

The idea of it doesn’t make me sad. My brain might have told me last year, “Get a job teaching Special Ed! It’s predictable and you love the kids and it’s good pay!” But my soul screamed at me, “No! Don’t do it! Choose me! Be free! Do what God put you on the earth to do!”

And so I will.

And that makes me so incredibly happy. Because for the first time in a very long time, I’m putting me at the top of the to-do list.

dreaming big

And you can, too. Are you ready to get organized to make your dreams happen? Tell me about your plan in the comments below.

Until next time,

Andrea

My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on FB

 

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