Love, Laughter, and Life

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Happy Book Birthday Interview with Farren Phillips, Author-Illustrator of WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING! Plus a Giveaway!

When I’m Not Looking

Written and illustrated by Farren Phillips

Yeehoo Press, 2021

Happy book birthday to When I’m Not Looking!

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to a special blog post celebrating a book birthday for Farren Phillips and her new book When I’m Not Looking!

Be sure to read to the bottom to learn how you can get your name in the hat to win a copy of When I’m Not Looking, compliments of Yeehoo Press (US only). Thank you, Yeehoo Press and Helen Wu, for this opportunity!

On with the show.

Welcome, Farren! Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a children’s author and illustrator from England, currently living in Scotland. I studied illustration and children’s media for five years at Cambridge School of Art and graduated with an MA in 2019. Since then, I’ve been establishing myself in the industry and passionately etching away at new projects. I mostly specialise in picture books, but I’ve worked on a few more comic-style books for older children, as well as some non-fiction kids’ books.
I’ve been obsessed with picture books since I was about seventeen. I’d always known I wanted to study art and do an art-centric job, and at the time I was working in a children’s library surrounded by children’s media. I quickly realised that the picture book is my favourite story telling format and since then I’ve never stopped collecting them, studying them, and making them!

I will admit to being somewhat (hugely) envious of your living and working in Scotland! And studying at Cambridge. I’m right there with you on collecting, studying, and making picture books. I just accidentally deleted a folder containing one of my nearly ready picture books. EEEK. But I was able to recover it. Whew.

Congratulations on your new book! What was your inspiration for WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING?
Thank you! I had a few inspirations with this book. I’ve always been really interested in philosophy and love to include philosophical and ethical ideas in children’s stories, because really all kids are born little philosophers and it just makes sense. I’d been reading about Schrödinger’s cat at the time, the famously known paradox of quantum superposition. The idea was that when inside a box with a deadly subatomic event which may or may not happen at any time, a hypothetical cat could be considered both alive and dead simultaneously. The idea just really interested me, and I started thinking about other paradoxical ideas, such as whether a tree falling in the forest would make a sound if no one were around to hear it. It was amusing to consider that when not seeing or hearing something, as humans we have no real proof that it exists, so in theory when you turn your back the world could fall away behind you and you’d have no idea. I loved the potential of this concept as a story, and with some thought and condensing of the larger idea, I came up with When I’m Not Looking; a story about a young philosopher who ponders the more wacky and irrational things of what could be going on behind her back. Originally the story was called Paraducks, but was changed in the early stages of editing.

Fascinating! I also love the original title. Perhaps that title will find itself on a book cover one day. Your premise is perfect for kids who love using their imaginations!

What was the writing and illustrating journey you took as you wrote this book? As both author-illustrator, how did that impact your creative process?
Believe it or not, I actually wrote this book a few years back for a project in University. The story and original illustrations picked up some interest when I brought my Portfolio to the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, and as a result I started working with a few publishers on other works. I’d worked on two books with Yeehoo Press prior to When I’m Not Looking called The Orb and The Death Book, by this point in time I had assumed my old graduate project had been long forgotten by publishers, but out of the blue they brought it up and took a renewed interest. I took to re-working the text to make the story a more interactive affair, and re-did all of the illustrations from scratch, it really became a passion project for me, and I love how it turned out.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading When I’m Not Looking. There are so many details to enjoy. Well done!

Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how will you celebrate the book birthday of WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING on May 18?
I’ve put together a fun little interactive story time video as well as a follow-along craft teaching children how to make their own dancing duck puppet. It’s a shame that Covid restrictions make it harder to put on physical events, but we do what we can with what we have! I hope once things become a little more normal again that I could perhaps attend an event in person to celebrate too. For now, I’ll probably treat myself to a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake in celebration while staying indoors and keeping safe.

Oh, fun! I hope I can catch the video. I have a grand who LOVES ducks. He might enjoy making a puppet. Tea and cake sound perfect!

I love the detailed illustrations! There is so much going on and so many surprises for readers to discover. What strategies do you use to get into the creative zone and create such fun illustrations?

With the illustrations, I’d previously always stuck to more simplistic and minimal styles when working on books just out of preference, but since the book had originally been produced for a university project, I wanted to push out of my comfort zone and try something very different with lots of detail and colour. I’ve always been fond of books which are good at telling a second story or explaining the characters’ motives using the backgrounds, so I spent a lot of time looking into realistic family homes and drawing from observation, refusing to wash over the bits people usually leave out of nice drawings, like clutter and spills. I really enjoyed putting together busy images of Leg’s family home, adding lots of silly details into their space to really show what their lives are like beyond the story. I feel it helps the book to not only be exciting for younger children who love the search-and-find aspects, but also to be interesting for older children and parents who can notice something new in the pages on every read through.

You certainly did a wonderful job. I know I will find something new on each read through! Love that it’s not all neat and tidy like you said, but real life messy.

What are you working on now?
I am currently working on a short series of history books for children called Second in the World, hopefully due to come out some time next year. It’s quite a huge change from the normal projects I work on, but it has been a lot of fun doing extensive research and creating fun and informative illustrations. I’m currently finishing up editing the first book and producing the roughs and text for the second.

Wow! That sounds interesting! You have your hands full!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?
I’ve got a number of other projects on the go that I’ll keep sneaking peaks of on social media. My favourite at the moment being a funny and feminist story about a very naughty monkey and a very irritated little girl who doesn’t take nonsense sitting down. I can’t wait to share it with you all!

That’s sounds fun! What a combination-a naughty monkey and an irritated girl (and very determined it sounds like)! I look forward to reading more! Or getting more sneak peaks…

Thanks again for letting me visit! Farren

Congratulations, Farren, and best wishes on When I’m Not Looking and all of your other projects!

Readers, you can purchase your own copy of When I’m Not Looking by clicking the following links:

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-im-not-looking-farren-phillips/1137974864?ean=9781953458070

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/when-i-m-not-looking/9781953458070

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/When-Not-Looking-Farren-Phillips/dp/1953458076/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=when+I%27m+not+looking&qid=1621302615&sr=8-3

Farren’s social links: 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/farrenphillipsillustration/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/FarrenPhillips

Website: https://www.farrenphillipsillustration.co.uk/

Here are 3 ways to get your name in the hat to win a copy of When I’m Not Looking (US only). A winner will be randomly chosen in this Friday, May 21.

1. Like and comment on this blog post. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

2. Follow this blog and tell me how you follow. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

3. Visit my Twitter page @AngieQuantrell for more chances to win a copy of When I’m Not Looking.


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Author/Illustrator Interview PLUS Giveaway: Meet Nomar Perez

Welcome! I’m excited to introduce you to Nomar Perez. Thanks to Vivian Kirkfield, I was sent a copy of Baby’s First Nativity by Nomar Perez. After reading this adorable board book, I reached out to Anna Howland of Little Bee Books and she connected me with Nomar. Thank you, Anna, Paul Crichton, and Little Bee Books.

Without further ado, here’s Nomar Perez! Be sure to read to the end and find out how to get your name in the hat for a drawing to win a copy of Baby’s First Nativity.

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Baby’s First Nativity

Illustrated by Nomar Perez

Little Bee Books, 2019

1. I was delighted to receive a copy of Baby’s First Nativity (September 17, 2019) from Little Bee Books. I love the colors of the illustrations and the patterns you’ve chosen to use to add texture. When were you asked to illustrate this adorable board book? How did you connect with Little Bee Books?

I was approached to work on the Baby’s First Nativity board in September of last year.  Little Bee connected with my agent to have me work on this and another board book. It has been a delightful project to work on. Especially being such wonderful story that I grew up listening to it.  Also is a very special story that I truly value during the Christmas time.

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2. Tell us about the process you used to illustrate Baby’s First Nativity.

The process was pretty simple. I was giving some style and technique direction. This was a bit of a change in style that I normally work on. The process starts with sketching lots of ideas of how the characters will look like. Once the publisher and me feel we are in the right direction on look and style. I begin to put together the rest of the animals, characters, and scenes.  I was delighted to create something new and different from what I’m use to doing.

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3. What is your favorite part of illustrating picture books?

I enjoy the entire process of creating a book, but my favorite part is when I have all my sketches finalize and I start to paint and add color. This is really exciting because you start to see the book in such a wonderful new way.

4. Tell us a little about your background. What was your path to becoming an illustrator?

I’m originally from Puerto Rico. I came to the United States at the age of 10. I’ve always love to draw and paint. I still remember drawing in my notebooks from school.  Once here in the USA I went to school for Computer Animation and Digital Art. After college I was given the opportunity to work at a wonderful company called American Greetings. I’ve been working as an Illustrator for over 17 years as a Senior Illustrator and as a Freelance illustrator.

5. What other illustration projects are you working on?

Currently, I work on a variety of school publishing work. But one thing that I am most excited about is a book I’m currently writing and illustrating called “Coqui in the City” this will be my first book as an Author and Illustrator. It will be a semi-autobiographical children’s book of my experiences coming from Puerto Rico to America.

6. Fantastic news! Does Coqui in the City have a book birthday yet? Have you completed any illustrations?

The release of the book will be the fall of next year. Here is a sneak peek at what I’ve been working on. 

Congratulations, Nomar! I look forward to reading Coqui in the City. Thank you for visiting with us today and sharing your journey. Best wishes as you continue to illustrate and write.

 

About Nomar Perez

Nomar Perez was born on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, where he grew up in the city of Ponce, a unique city with new and Old Spanish colonial architecture and an amazing array of colors, sounds, and flavors. These aspects of his Puerto Rican culture have influenced Nomar throughout his artistic life. After leaving his homeland at the age of 10 for the U.S., Nomar found himself in touch with all types of media, including animation, puppetry, and computer art. He studied computer animation and painting at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and since then has worked as an illustrator and designer on humor, kids, and young adult products for over 17 years in the social expressions market. Nomar has had the opportunity to work on a variety of children books including both educational and mainstream markets.

 

You can connect with Nomar here:

Nomar Perez

Instagram

Painted-Words Portfolio

GIVEAWAY!!!

Thanks to Little Bee Books for sending a giveaway copy of Baby’s First Nativity.

To enter the giveaway, comment on this blog and tell me the name of your favorite Christmas picture book.

A winner will be chosen on Friday, December 6. This giveaway is open to residents of the United States.

 

 

 

 


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Book Report & Giveaway: Baby’s First Nativity by Nomar Perez

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Baby’s First Nativity

Illustrated by Nomar Perez

Little Bee Books, 2019

 

Oh, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas! You are going to love this adorable board book as much as your smallest reader does.

Just in time for the Christmas season, Little Bee Books has released Baby’s First Nativity. This sturdy board book is filled with wonderfully illustrated pictures of all the main characters of the Christmas story. Ending with a simple “Merry Christmas,” Baby’s First Nativity will become a favorite.

Why I Like This Book:

~ The illustrations are detailed, simple, and colorful-perfect for the youngest of readers

~ The simplicity of the one or two-word pages

~ The introduction of the main Christmas story characters

~ The Merry Christmas greeting

~ This Christmas story of Baby Jesus is one of my favorites

~ The board book is very sturdy

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Amazon Blurb:

In this bright and attractive book, children will learn the main figures in the nativity story. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the manger, angels, the wise men, and more are beautifully introduced. Perfect for the holidays, but precious no matter the season, this sturdy board book is a great addition to a child’s library.

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GIVEAWAY!!!

Thanks to Little Bee Books for sending a giveaway copy of Baby’s First Nativity.

To enter the giveaway, comment on this blog and tell me the name of your favorite Christmas picture book.

A winner will be chosen on Friday, December 6. This giveaway is open to residents of the United States.

***Come back tomorrow for an interview with NOMAR PEREZ!!!


54 Comments

Author Interview: Meet Vivian Kirkfield & Giveaway

Welcome, Vivian Kirkfield! Welcome, readers! Let’s get this party, I mean Author Interview, going!

Happy Universal Music Day! We decided to celebrate Universal Music Day by introducing Vivian’s new picture book, Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. Read more about Universal Music Day here.

I met Vivian Kirkfield online through the wonderful kidlit community. She is a fascinating online friend. I can only hope our paths intersect some day so we can meet in person. Think WASHINGTON state, Vivian. Yakima Valley.

I’ve enjoyed reading about Vivian’s new picture book releases and her fun travels and adventures. To celebrate her newest picture book release, I’ve invited Vivian to visit and answer a few questions. But first, here is her new book.

*Be sure to read all the way to the bottom. Vivian Kirkfield is offering a bound ARC of Making Their Voices Heard to one reader. Be sure to comment below to get your name in the hat!

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Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Written by Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrated by Alleanna Harris

Little Bee Books, January 14, 2020

 

The Interview

I was so excited to read Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee, January 14, 2020). I had no idea Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe knew each other. How did you find out about this special friendship?

At the end of 2014, soon after I took a class in writing nonfiction picture books, I was surfing the internet, looking for ideas for stories (a homework assignment for that class) and came across a photo of Ella and Marilyn, sitting together at a nightclub. The blurb under the photo talked about how Marilyn had helped Ella get a booking at a top nightclub in Hollywood. I was intrigued…and I started digging deeper to find out more about it. But, as is the case with many story ideas, I couldn’t find anything to substantiate whether or not Ella and Marilyn were friends. So, I had to get creative.

I discovered that one of the books on Marilyn Monroe was authored by a former professor at a California university. I went to the school’s website and found her email. I contacted her and she suggested I ask the president of the oldest Marilyn Monroe fan club, Greg Schreiner. I was able to get his email on his website and he gave me the phone number of the woman who had been Ella’s promoter for thirty-seven years. I called her – we spoke for hours – and she verified that Ella and Marilyn had been friends and both had a tremendous respect and admiration for each other.

What was your inspiration to turn this friendship into a picture book?

They say we need to make a book relatable for kids. Kids help their friends all the time. I thought it was important to show how Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe helped each other. Marilyn put her career on the line to a certain extent because in those days, there was a lot of racial discrimination and movie studios controlled what their actresses could and couldn’t do. By calling the nightclub owner and insisting that he book Ella, Marilyn stepped up and spoke out. The Civil Rights movement was just in its infancy…in fact, the nightclub incident happened in 1954 and it wasn’t until the end of 1955 that Rosa Park refused to give up her seat on the bus.

I also wanted to show how we are all complex individuals. Most of us know Marilyn as a sexy Hollywood star…and kids probably don’t know her at all. Similarly, most kids may never have heard of Ella, but her music was genius…in fact, at the first Grammys in 1959, Ella Fitzgerald won for best female pop vocalist and best improvised jazz performance. I thought it was time for kids to discover these two special women.

What was your writing journey for Making Their Voices Heard? How long did it take? Did you work with others or share your manuscript with a critique group or other writers?

As I mentioned, I wrote the story late in 2014/early 2015. I researched – using online sources and lots of library books. When I felt I had enough information to craft the narrative around these two icons, I began writing. By June 2015, I had a polished rough draft. Hahaha…that sounds like an oxymoron, right? I had the story…but it wasn’t there yet. I submitted it to Rate Your Story, an online service of kid-lit professionals who give a rating from 1-10 (1 is the best…it means the story is just about ready to submit). In June 2015, Ella and Marilyn…at that point titled: A FRONT ROW SEAT, received a ‘3’ and the judge suggested I add something about how Ella helped Marilyn to balance the story out. GREAT ADVICE which I took!

I worked on the story, gave it to some of my critique buddies, along with the feedback from the judge. And then I revised and polished it some more and brought it to a writing retreat where an editor fell in love with it and asked me to revise and send it to her. I did revise it and submitted it to Rate Your Story again in August 2015 with the title: STANDING UP FOR FRIENDSHIP. It received a ‘2’. Then I signed with Essie White as my agent and she submitted it to that editor. But even though the editor loved it, she couldn’t get acquisitions to buy it.

In the summer of 2016, I went to another writing retreat and pitched it to a different editor who asked to see it. Essie sent it to her and she asked for revisions. I revised and gave it to critique buddies again. And in August 2016, I sent it to Rate Your Story one last time with the title: DREAM A LITTLE DREAM. And it received a ‘1’. The editor loved the revision, but that acquisitions’ team wouldn’t buy it either. That’s the thing about this business…you can have a fabulous story but if it doesn’t get to the desk of the right editor…or, if it does, but acquisitions doesn’t think they can make enough money…or if the publisher isn’t looking for a book about that topic…they will pass on it. You just have to keep on writing other stories and submitting that one.

Early in 2018, the manuscript was still circulating (Essie really believed in it) and the editor from Little Bee Books asked for a revise and resubmit. I revised (are you seeing a pattern here…no matter how polished your story is, every editor or agent sees it with their own eyes and from their own perspective of experience…and we have to be willing to make changes as per what a particular editor is looking for), with the help of my critique buddies, and the editor bought it. And the week after she made the offer, we spent five days of back and forth emails as she made suggestions for a few minor tweaks and additions. Every day, my inbox would have her marked up manuscript…every evening, her inbox would have my revision. On the fifth day, she said…We’re done! It’s time to get the illustrator.

And she did. The illustrator, the fabulous Alleanna Harris was signed on almost immediately and the publication process began.

Which just goes to show that if you believe in your manuscript and your writing is good, your story will find a home!

What special plans do you have to celebrate the book birthday of Making Their Voices Heard?

I have several thoughts…the book launches January 14th, 2020. And the NYSCBWI conference is the first week in February. If Little Bee Books can arrange a book launch at Books of Wonder or some other NYC bookstore for that week, I might do that. One of my dear friends, Maria Marshall, is going to interview me for her Picture Book Buzz blog series on January 13th…and she’ll also do a Perfect Picture Book Friday review on January 17th. Several other friends are already doing posts (like this one here on Angie Quantrell’s blog!). I don’t have a book birthday post yet…but I think maybe Kathy Temean might have said she wants to do that. The mid-winter ALA is at the end of January in Philadelphia…I’d be happy to go there if I could sign the book at the Little Bee booth. And of course, the Grammys are January 26 – that’s a special day for this book because, as I mentioned earlier, Ella Fitzgerald won Best Female Pop Vocalist and Best Improvised Jazz Performance in the very first-ever Grammys in 1959. I’d also love to attend the LASCBWI next summer – Greg Schreiner, the president of the oldest Marilyn Monroe fan club, thinks Hollywood is the perfect place for this book. 😊 And I am always open to suggestions – if anyone has a great idea, I’m all ears. 😉

What else would you like to share about this lovely book, your writing, or your life as an author?

I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world…I am truly living my dream…and best of all, I’m able to work with other writers, both old and young. At every conference presentation, I encourage writers to never give up – the only failure is the failure to keep trying. And at every school I visit, I hope to inspire children to follow their dreams—because nothing is impossible if you can imagine it.

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About Vivian

Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, banana-boat riding, and visiting critique buddies all around the world. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, January 14, 2020); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020).

You can connect with Vivian on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.

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Thank you, Vivian, for the wonderful interview! I’m fascinated by the journey of this book on its way to publication. Great job sticking with it! Congratulations and Happy Book Birthday!

Don’t forget to comment and share some love with Vivian! Comment by Friday, October 18, to get your name in the hat to win a bound ARC copy of Making Their Voices Heard.

 


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Giveaway Winner and Upcoming Author Interview

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Congratulations, Melissa!

I’ll be sending you a copy of the October Missions Mosaic magazine. Watch that mail box. Thanks for commenting and checking in on my blog. 😉

This weekend, Friday and Saturday, Vivian Kirkfield will be my featured author. On Friday, I will post a Book Report about her new book Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, January 14, 2020). On Saturday, I’ll share an interview with Vivian where she’ll talk about her new book and her writing life. We’d love to see you as we celebrate Vivian’s new book and Universal Music Day (since her new book is about musical friends).

See you Friday and Saturday!

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Leave a comment

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Mark those calendars! Coming on October 12, Universal Music Day: Swing by to meet and greet Vivian Kirkfield and learn about her new book birthday on January 14, 2020. Welcome, Making Their Voices Heard!

via Happy Book Birthday: RANDALL AND RANDALL Plus Giveaway

Happy happy book birthday to RANDALL AND RANDALL! A book birthday is a happy day indeed!

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Don’t Be a Stuffed Shirt (and a Giveaway)

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Do you love giving back or helping someone less fortunate?

I just opened my copy of Missions Mosaic which features my article giving directions and suggestions for an outreach project using stuffed shirts. I was so happy to see this article in print. I loved being able to take some of the photos included in the magazine. So DON’T be a stuffed shirt, give one instead!

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I have one copy of the October issue of Missions Mosaic that I will give to one reader. To enter the drawing:

1. Comment below. Tell me one way you have helped someone else. I’ll put all names in a hat. Drawing closes Sunday, October 6, at 4:00 (PST).

2. I’d love it if you would follow my blog or my Facebook author page, but that is not required.

3. If you do indeed stuff a shirt, snap a photo before you give it away and share it with us!

***Drawing limited to US residents.

Missions Mosaic is a monthly magazine featuring articles about faith, missions, missionaries, and ideas for believers to use to get to know and help those in their communities. Visit Woman’s Missionary Union  for information on how to subscribe to Missions Mosaic.

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What’s Your Hobby?

 

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Do you have a favorite hobby?

I do. Rubber stamping! I love to hang out with my girl friends and use rubber stamps, tools, supplies, and miscellaneous papers and trinkets to create greeting cards. Rubber stamping!

I don’t feel guilty for pursuing this crafty hobby. One reason is that I don’t spend tons of money on supplies. In rubber stamping, a little goes a long way. One of my stamping buddies and I just recently finished up a roll of foam tape (3-D effect) that we had been collectively using for at least 10 years.

Another reason I allow myself to indulge? The cards. I distribute my handcrafted cards through many venues – a set becomes a gift for my sister, a dozen goes into an auction basket, birthdays are celebrated, thanks are sent, holidays are enjoyed, and encouragement is mailed. I even create cards for my husband to use at work. I am – gasp – a supplier. In a good way.

As I work on updating my blog and web site, I thought it would be fun to have a giveaway and celebrate hobbies.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Sign up to follow this blog. You knew there was a catch, right?

2. Comment above. Tell me that you’ve followed. View the slideshow of cards and let me know which card you like best and why. I’d love to hear about your favorite hobby!

That’s it.

On Friday, October 21, I will randomly choose 3 followers* to receive a packet of 5 handcrafted cards, mailed to your home. How fun is that?

*Sorry, only U.S. addresses for the free cards. But anyone around the world is welcome to follow this blog!

 

Thank you for visiting. Have a great day!