…And Sixthly, I Need To Be As Creative At Selling My Book As I Was To Write It


…and Other 3:00 A.M. Preponderances.

It’s late and I’ve not yet mustered enough energy to wiggle my way beneath the covers where I get to enjoy Night #2 of Belgium linen sheets from Restoration Hardware. I’m restless. Feeling stuck. Inert. That could be thanks to Diesel the Cat; he’s wedged so comfortably and close to me on top of the blankets–I haven’t the heart to remind him that he’s my daughter’s cat and I’m actually a dog person. And my dog, Bogie, would love to occupy Diesel’s prime real estate on the bed next to me. Except the dog’s afraid of you, Cat-with-your-claws-still-in-tact, and maybe I am a little bit too. 

And that’s not why I’m really feeling stuck.

I don’t often feel like this, so on top of the covers I sit, while my husband snores (despite the funny snore gizmo his dentist fitted for his mouth, coupled with my swift sock in his arm to get him to roll over). I’m both restless and rejoicing in the fact that I’ve finally found time (that’s a compressed paradox if I’ve ever heard one) to READ, errr…SKIM…mindlessly through newly pressed blog posts hoping to find clarity in my own lackluster writing as of late. My narrative dribble has been a slow, steady, stream of spit. 

For months, like all other attention-seeking first-time authors, I have been trying to get you, the parents of my demographic, children aged 4-8 to notice one tiny little meteor of a factoid. H E L L O. Knock knock. I mean, come on! How obvious do I need to be? I wrote and published a WHOLE darn book over here. Doesn’t that account for something? 

I’ve waited…and waited patiently in angst for the clouds to part and to hear those glorious angels belting their angelic refrain in my literary honor. But, the sky is quiet and dark. And, while my books are certainly selling, I somehow expected…I don’t know…more.

No one told me, at the very same time I published my book, so did one trillion other authors who dreamt too, their whole lives through, of publishing their FIRST book and that I would be competing for space on your child’s bookshelves, let alone their hearts and minds.

Okay. You got me. Maybe I am feeling just a tad bit sorry for myself. Maybe I have set my expectations way too high. Maybe I am questioning whether or not I’m doing anything right over here. For the consummate optimist, who forges ahead for the sake of sheer will and determination, that’s saying a lot about where my head is tonight. And since wallowing in wee-hour self pity is just plain silliness, and not my thang, I think we all can agree we’re glad that’s over. 

I wouldn’t be me without some newfound clarity here. I do realize I have learned a thing or two about publishing a first book along the way. (Find the good, Tonia. Find the good.) 

So here it goes:

Being an author, in and of itself, is no longer unique. Everyone’s an author these days, and I still have to figure out how to break out above the noise to get me and my book noticed. That’s a challenge. I like challenges.

My book is what makes me unique as an author. But unless I get you to notice it, and share my terribly good news about it with the world, my career is still in its infancy as an author. I like that. There’s no mad dash to the finish line here. I’ve been in a hurry my whole life. It’s okay to take things slow. And, thank goodness I still have a day job that warrants my attention at the bank on payday.

One trillion people are trying to get your attention in the exact same way I am: So even as an experienced marketer, with 21 years of marketing under my belt, I may still FAIL to get your attention. (Hopefully that doesn’t actually make me suck as a marketer.) When things aren’t working, it’s time to explore new things. I need to continue to try new things to get my demographic to notice me.

As a person with a never say die mentality and a fair amount of book sales already under her belt-given her first time authorship-I need to give myself a pat on the back and thank my supporters. I’ve accomplished more than most. I get to say I’m a published author, because there aren’t really one trillion authors who published a book at the same time as me. 

I’m probably not going to sell many books to you on Twitter. Or Facebook. Or LinkedIn. Because everyone in the world is hocking a book through social media. If everyone is doing something the same way, then maybe we’re all doing it wrong. (But, WordPress is fair game. I’m going to politely ask you to go to Amazon and buy my book and DO IT NOW. Wait. Just kidding. That would be presumptuous and rude of me to bark an order like that.

And sixthly, I need to be as creative at selling my book as I was to write it. I also need to check and see if “sixthly” is even a word. (Clearly it should be, since it chronologically eventually follows firstly, secondly, thirdly, etc.) I think most written thoughts taper off after the third point anyway to avoid checking to see if “fourthly” and so on even exists in the dictionary. But, I digress because I’m punchy and I’m anxious to enjoy these new sheets.

Anyway, thanks for the ear, but that’s all the clarity I can muster-up in the wee hours for now. I’m tired and I’ve got to dislodge a demented cat from my ribcage.

Toodles.

Title Waves: Big Thoughts Behind The Story Of A Little Crab And His Home


On a summer’s drive to the beach, almost eighteen years ago,  my daughter, Whitney Ann- a toddler at the time – was playing with her little bare toes and babbling the nonsensical words from her car seat, “Corte Magore…Corte Magore…”  Over and over again, she’d prattle, burble and blather the words, giggling as if she had a secret, while my husband and I scratched our heads, and racked our brains to figure out what she was trying to say. 

Since I fancy myself a bit of a poet (I hope you do too), I started making-up a rhyming poem on that fateful drive along the California Coast to Santa Barbara. I toyed around with the sound of those two words, out loud and in my head, crafted by my toddler’s own two-year-old imagination. Whitney’s made-up words formed the beginnings of an epic poem, one that I just couldn’t shake free from my brain long enough to ever let it go. And, for years I honed various drafts and versions of Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore, but never got serious about publishing it in the form of a children’s picture book until much later in my daughter’s life. 

But, how do you spell words conjured-up in the boundless creative mind of a child?  Originally, I was spelling Corte as “Corta” because I like phonetically correct spellings. But, one day, I noticed one of my employee’s checks was addressed to Corte Madera, California. So I looked up what “Corte Madera” means. In Spanish, Corte Madera means the imperative command “Chop wood”, as in “To chop the wood”.  A crab uses a chopping motion with his pincers. So Corte – to chop – seemed befitting for my land and sea fiddler crab, awashed ashore of the island that would one day be Corte Magore (fictionally, and in real life.)  

California is also a land wrought with Spanish derived spellings and places, so “Corte” stuck, even if not phonetically correct. (I didn’t know then that my book’s unintentional Spanish influence would later be connected, serendipitously,  to Latin America through the Finding Corte Magore project).  “Magore”, or the second part of the name of the island in my book, rhymes perfectly with Moore, lore, before and a slew of other words used throughout my prose in Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore. Every poet feels blessed when she uses a word and finds it amassed with other phonetic or rhythmic  words.

And thus, a book’s title was born. And my life has forever been altered.

Compelling Reasons Why This Book Should Be In Your School Library


Put Me In, Coach!

Children’s rhyming picture book, Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore, tells the adventurous story of Sam, a tenacious land and sea fiddler crab who finds himself on the sandy shores of an idyllic island named Corte Magore. He wants to stay there and live there forever, but he’ll have to overcome obstacles to accomplish his dream. This book teaches children about courage and tenacity – to stand up to bullying and to fight for what they believe in, while also teaching them the importance of dreaming. Sam’s story is told in one big epic poem. This book is geared towards children ages 4-7, although all young children seem to enjoy it. Here’s why: 

The book is written in rhyme. Rhyming verse aids in early-development learning and recall. The British Council writes about teaching children English:

“…playing with the short texts of rhymes, children explore the mechanics of the English language. They find out how language works and become familiar with the relationship between the 44 sounds of English and the 26 alphabet letters – information which helps them when they begin reading to decode the sounds that make up words. The value of this type of language-play with rhymes in early learning is both underestimated and undervalued.”

The book utilizes many different poetic devices – typically difficult to teach children –such as alliteration, point-of-view, stanza, meter, repetition, assonance, personification, and my personal favorite, onomatopoeia. Poetic devices are used to take the reader to a different time or place and helps with imagery. Education Portal says:

“Poetry can follow a strict structure, or none at all, but many different types of poems use poetic devices. Poetic devices are tools that a poet can use to create rhythm, enhance a poem’s meaning, or intensify a mood or feeling. These devices help piece the poem together, much like a hammer and nails join planks of wood together.” 

Books Written in Prose May Be a Dying Art. Authors like Seuss and Silverstein paved the way for poetry in children’s literature, yet it’s hard to find new children’s books today written in prose. Carol Hurst intimates why it’s best to not let this great art die in the following excerpt taken from Hurst’s article on the website:

“…along came Shel Silverstein. He wrote poems about picking your nose and selling your baby sister and adults (some of them) winced and kids guffawed and kids’ poetry was changed forever. Now we’ve got the gamut of emotions and subjects in kid’s poetry. Poetry, of course, be it for child or adult (and the distinction is not always clear) is very much a matter of perception. Poems speak to the individual, even more than stories do, and some are not speaking to you — at least not right now. The rules of poetry selection are the same as for the selection of any kind of literary material that you’re going to use with your kids. It must speak to you as the living breathing adult you are before you can help it speak to kids. If it’s supposed to be funny, it should make you laugh or at least smile. If it’s supposed to be sad, it should choke you up a bit. If it’s a description of a thing or a feeling, it should help you see it or feel it in a new way. So, which of all the books of poetry will you choose for your classroom? Every one you can afford.”

Erin Koehler writes, “The more picture books I read, I start to notice the ones that catch my interest the most, and the ones I end up re-reading several times in a row, are the ones that feel the most poetic. By that I mean that even though the language may appear to be “simple” the language is actually rich in complex diction, syntax, and imagery–not to mention attention to rhythm, sounds, and pacing. Sound familiar? Like a poem maybe?”

Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore is published in more formats than the average book. In addition to hardcover, softcover, an audio version, and a soon published Spanish translation (being published for the Finding Corte Magore project) did you know this literary gem is also available in a picture book app available exclusively for the iPad? The iPad version, for all you tech-based schools, boasts interactivity, professional narration, full animation and an original musical score produced by Nashville singer and songwriter, Robby Armstrong. (Hint: Sam is a “fiddler” crab.)

Finally, have you ever heard of SpongeBob SquarePants? Of course you have! Kids love sea creatures! What we all admire most about the television series are the unique characters, setting and bold use of color. When one of my good friends told me her brother, a Storyboard Director for SpongeBob SquarePants would be interested in working on the book, I knew I had found the right art director. “Mr. Lawrence” -who incidentally is also the voice of Plankton, then brought in his colleague, another SpongeBob storyboard director, Marc Ceccarelli, to produce the original character art and many of the final illustrations.

So, as promised, these are succinct, definitive reasons why this book should be in a school or public library, despite my newbie authorness and utter lack of literary famelessness (I’m a writer, I get to make-up words.)

As always, thanks for the ear!

Getting Off My One-Acre Island


Fifteen months ago, I had an “AHA” moment that, at first, involved marketing my book, Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore, an epic children’s tale about a land and sea fiddler crab who wandered onto a beautiful island called Corte Magore. Sam wanted to stay and live there forever, but had to first overcome obstacles like building himself a home before the tides came in to sweep him back out to sea. He also had to work around naysayers and the big, bad beast, the Great Tidal Wave.  Sam was a dreamer and a hard worker. He made mistakes but each time he failed, learned to pull himself up again and again by his bootstraps.

If you know me well, you’ll know there are some parallels between Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore and my own life. Like Sam, I’m tenacious and a hard worker. Also like Sam, I too was once searching for a home. At the age of fifteen, I was placed in foster care. Mine was a dysfunctional family living well below the poverty line and things were often difficult for me growing up. The naysayer in my life was the system – the statistics that said I wasn’t supposed to break the cycle. Many children don’t, but I fortunately did. I’m resourceful, entrepreneurial, and when I’ve failed, I learned early on to pick myself up gracefully and work to get myself right back on track – just like Sam. I broke the mold and I know, in my heart of hearts, that it’s my duty to share with others that they can do it too. Despite their circumstances.

I tried to ingrain many pearls of wisdom throughout Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore. If only I had a book, growing up, that told me it was okay to be searching for something, that acknowledged that my dreams had validity, that being punctual and minding the time and deadlines were important, and that though there would be bullies and naysayers in my life trying to squelch my dreams, it was up to me to tackle them anyway. Somehow, early on, I learned I’d have to do most everything for myself and on my own and that being independent can be incredibly empowering, even for a child faced with life’s difficulties.

My story was one I HAD to tell. But just telling it wasn’t enough. I had to figure out a way to market my book in a big way to children so they could make my story and Sam’s story, about overcoming obstacles and persevering, their own.

One morning, right before I woke up – a time when being “almost” lucid often brings clarity to my problems – the way to market my book in a big way came to me in an “AHA” moment. “AHA, I’ve got it,” I thought as I sat straight-up in bed. “If you can name a star in the sky, then why can’t I find some postage-stamped-sized island, somewhere in the world, and name it Corte Magore?”

That crazy, absurd, half-cocked idea put me on a personal journey that has changed the course of my life – rallied even my own family, one that’s forced me to get off my own personal, one-acre suburban “island” in Southern California, a life I eventually built for myself, step out of my cush comfort zone – and onto a real life, 29-acre, living/breathing, bio-diverse island along the devastatingly poor, Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. That “AHA” moment, caused my passion (writing books for children) to be met with its purpose – having an island work to somehow keep an impoverished nation of child drop-outs in school. One adventure lead me to the next, just like in my story. And that “AHA” moment has snowballed into a new tale that now involves an ambassador, universities, conservation, eco-tourism, environmental learning, ocean science, crowdfunding, grant-writing, television/film, real estate development, and much, much more. In the course of a year, I’ve traveled to Nicaragua three times and have fallen in love with its people and possibilities, but most importantly, I’ve fallen in love with the journey to “Finding Corte Magore”.

Over the next few days and weeks, my team on the Finding Corte Magore project and I will attempt to break down this amazing adventure for you. Look for videos, pictures, and blog posts as we unfold the story from varying perspectives.

I promise that when it’s all over, you will be inspired to get up, dust off some of those old dreams of your own, dare to get off your own islands and realize that nothing at all is impossible.

See you on Corte Magore!

The Bones Of Freedom


Don’t think your freedom is deserved because they served – that’s absurd. Freedom is not just a word. Freedom is a privilege granted you. Paid by sacrifice – in red, white and blue. But, have you paid back your due?

Are you being a good citizen? Respecting your fellow men? Showing up to vote again? Fighting for what you believe in? Showing gratitude to whom you depend? Time and time and time, again?

The tax on freedom is to do your part

From the start…

And from your heart…

Do they really have your loyalty?

Those men and woman who keep us free? 

Or, is this just another fruitless holiday? 

One where you get to stay… 

At home – with pay?

People Don’t Change, They Grow


I sat outside on a bench next to a kind, aging lady, last night, before entering my son’s Christmas pageant. After we chatted a bit, she announced she was celebrating her 60th anniversary next week. I smiled and said, “60 years, huh? Now that’s something! What’s the secret?” She thought a minute and said, “You can’t change each other; no sense in trying. People don’t change, they grow.  

Might as well accept each other for who you both are – the person you were when you got married, and the person you’ve each become.”

Purple is Really Light Blue


She has Synesthesia, a word I’ve never heard before tonight. With her thick accent, I couldn’t decipher her pronunciation – nor could I spell it in my head- like I often do with words when I hear them for the first time. I had to look up her condition when I got home.

She stood at the podium and read her poetry, with musicality in her voice, and interspersed her readings with stories about the complexities of perceiving words in colors. “Purple is Really Light Blue,” Marlena said, finding humor in her own neurological phenomenon. And, I wrote that down, “Purple is Really Light Blue,” thinking she titled her own brilliant poem. One she should write instead of me.  

But, I also fancy myself a bit of a poet, and I coined her phrase. I stole it right there on the spot. I couldn’t help myself, especially since Marlena gave me permission when she loosely quoted T.S. Eliot from her brightly lit pulpit in the auditorium, “Bad poets imitate. Good Poets Steal.” Her phrase, so good, it needed to be stolen, even if by the likes of me. 

I don’t have Synesthesia. But, when in debate I am told my ideas are contrary, or my perceptions are even a tiny bit off, I’ll simply smile and say, “That’s okay, purple is really light blue.” 

A New Year Blossoms


Post holiday hustle

Feet up 

Taking it all in

Last day of the year

Fond memories made

Tucked inside 

heart and mind 

Reflecting

On a year of mini triumphs, 

successes and defeats

Comprising who I am

Time to let bygones 

BE GONE

I can’t take them with me 

As a year blossoms

I can breathe it’s fresh air 

Starting anew

Pointing me 

in a new direction 

Sad, still, to say goodbye

Grateful to have lived 

and loved another year

Tiny Feet


I woke-up early to a the sound of sweet, beautiful, pelting rain; an  utterance that’s become more familiar this fall and early winter. It’s tune, rhythmic; it echoes and reverberates throughout the house. 

No, that’s not it. That’s too trite. Banal. I’ve trivialized the importance of this rain.

Rather,

Tonight, the rain heralds more like a song, or a victory dance upon my rooftop, denouncing the drought we’ve been in for so very long. I can almost hear the melody being tapped out by the rain’s tiny feet.

“Drought be damned! Drought be damned!”

Ode to the Slug


I walked down my dimly lit pathway to the mailbox. A fresh rain glistened across the concrete where I walked, while the crunch of winter’s last leaves beneath my feet permeated the sound of the cool night’s air. I drew in a deep breath and marveled at the smell of fresh rain. And Spring! 

Spring is in the air! 

On the way back to the house, I could see my path of destruction and their tiny, lifeless shadows of despair. Squashed slug carcasses, already dead or slithering close to death, were everywhere! It was then that I realized I hadn’t been stepping on winter’s last leaves at all. 

I stopped and inspected the bottom of my Ugg’s, confirming my suspicions. My soles were adorned with thin shells, mollusk guts and mucus. I had killed the snails. And, the mere presence and proliferation of the California slug can only mean one thing.  Spring has most certainly sprung in SoCal along with the reminder to be careful where I walk.  #odetotheslug #californiaslug #mollusk

Immigration. What’s the problem and how do we fix it?


Sustainable food production at our border may be the answer.

The Mexican “Braceros” worked in agriculture in the US through the Bracero Program during the early phases of World War II and it ended about 20 years later. The Catholic Church in Mexico didn’t like that families were being separated, but the program ended largely due to labor disputes and strikes. This single program paved important politics between the US and Mexico (with Mexico being the underdog) during and after the program unfolded.

The program had problems, but a modern day resurrection seems like a good solution to the displaced Mexican farm workers (for instance) caught-up in matters like NAFTA changes and social problems in Mexico. But, legal immigration, through programs like these, would solve so many problems at our border, and could work again, since we know one program had a life span of over twenty years.

With the idea of growing desert crops – like watermelons, apples, green onions, cucumbers, corn, hot peppers, melons, bell peppers, radishes, carrots, cabbage, soybeans, pears, tomatoes, squash and spinach – using modern-day sustainable food production techniques, I’m wondering if a program like the Bracero could be resurrected AT our vast border? Putting migrants to work at the border, for a fair wage, could solve a lot of problems. Schools and decent abodes could forge new communities, just inside the US border. That food could then be sold back to Mexico or the US, or better yet make a dent in feeding world hunger, in exchange for the wages, housing and education benefits paid to the migrant workers. If there’s a deficit from food sold that doesn’t stack-up to labor and education costs, it seems those could be offset from what we’d save in detaining and incarcerating illegal immigrants. Rather, we put these people, fairly, to work at our border. Unskilled and illegal immigrants could be taught how to farm there too, for that same fair wage, so they are better equipped to take care of their families when they go back to Mexico, if their entrance into the country is only short term. But, when they leave, they take new skills and newly acquired education with them back to their own countries to better IT, not OURS.

If people coming in, truly want to work for an honest pay, that’s a good way to find out quickly. Perhaps the best workers, committed to the program, could earn their ticket fully into the US, with their families, after a period of time through a farm-release program. Given the sheer number of people approaching our borders, that’s a lot of new food production.

These are just some of my thoughts from a social entrepreneurial lens. I know it would be a massive undertaking. Our federal prison is currently comprised, by 14%, of Mexican citizens. Extraditing them back to Mexico, could raise over $800,000,000 per year to fund the program.

Perhaps it’s time for a border within our border, letting good people in and weeding bad people out.

These are just my musings, and one crazy idea on a potential solution to a big problem. I, for one, would like to hear less political banter from both sides, and more mindshare on our problems with potential solutions. The conversation is so much more productive that way.

So what’s the problem and how do we fix it?

(Photograph is my own. I took them while traveling and working extensively throughout Nicaragua through The Finding Corte Magore Project.)

VISION STATEMENT – THE FINDING CORTE MAGORE PROJECT

We believe the dreams of children are the most precious resource in Nicaragua – but also the most squandered.  So many dreams go unfulfilled due to poverty.  Every child deserves a shot to go after their dreams, and the Finding Corte Magore Project intends to give it to them.


Problem: 42% of all children along the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua drop out of school by sixth grade, if they ever enroll at all.  (The Guardian)

They drop out because they don’t have shoes to walk to school, because they have to watch their siblings while their parents work, or because they themselves have to work to support their families.

They drop out because they see school as pointless.

Guess what?  They’re right.

There are no jobs waiting for students if and when they graduate.  Which means poverty will live on in Nicaragua forever.

Solution: Our project aims to start to reverse this cycle of poverty by driving social good tourism to the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCS) in Nicaragua via the island of Corte Magore at Hog Cay, Nicaragua.  At minimum, our project works like this:

Tourists visit the island, driving revenue to fund…

  • Jobs and job training for locals seeking to better provide for their families, such as eco-building, island maintenance, security, hospitality, transportation, and cooking – skills that parents can take back to their communities to show their children that job security is on the way.

  • Education for students, like a floating educational barge to deliver school supplies to remote areas, after school sports and crafts programs that only students who stay in school can partake in, or on-island biodiversity research camps for older students.

By providing job opportunities for parents and making school meaningful for students, the island will free students to stay in school, go after their dreams, and spread prosperity as they become business-owners, entrepreneurs, tourism professionals, artists, scientists, coders, teachers…

We believe the dreams of children are the most precious resource in Nicaragua – but also the most squandered.  So many dreams go unfulfilled due to poverty.  Every child deserves a shot to go after their dreams, and the Finding Corte Magore Project intends to give it to them.  We believe that achieving their dreams can not only elevate them above their birth circumstances, but also their communities and, over time, their nation.

We’ve secured the island – how would you like to help?

Project hyperlinks

Finding Corte Magore – findingcortemagore.com

Tonia Allen Gould – toniaallengould.com

FCM YouTube Channel

Tonia YouTube Channel

FCM Twitter – @cortemagore

FCM Facebook

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