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Updated: Jan 3

When your muse brings you a gift, even at the early hour of 5 a.m., you heed its call.

Scott, me, Hadleigh, Quinn and Miller at Fatima Shrine

Rubbing my eyes in the early dawn light, I could see a poem in the shape of a Christmas tree summoning a lifetime of memories. Knowing I had to act fast, I slipped on my robe and walked down the dark hallway hoping to catch this poem that was calling me. With a tap of my foot, our Christmas tree illuminated the room in rainbow crystal light. Scooting back on the couch listening to the furnace hum, I soaked in the peacefulness and let my mind wander.

Tears well-up in my eyes spying so many ornaments that once adorned my mother's tree, now mine in her passing. And with that thought, a flood of Christmas memories came:

  • Lined up with my siblings in order of age on the stairs we anxiously waited for the signal from Mom that: the coffee was poured, the music was on and Dad was wrapped in his red plaid robe, settled in his chair so we could at last come down.

  • Standing outside in the snow, arm in arm, looking up at the balcony where our very first Christmas tree sparkled.

  • My own three excited children running in and jumping on our bed, after taking a sneaky peak and seeing that Santa had indeed come.

  • And now, images of last night's crisp wintery walk at the Shrine with my granddaughters.

Right on cue at 5 p.m., cars filled with happy families pulled in to the Shrine. CHildren ran with joy down it's paths. It was magical, with every light imaginable flickering to a score of "Oh Holy Night." Remembering the joy on my granddaughter's faces as they rounded each corner to discover a new display filled my heart.

The Grotto

We stopped in the chapel where candles lit for loved ones, flickered like diamonds. Then down a path to the grotto where the Nativity Scene was sheltered. I asked Miller what her favorite part was, fully expecting the lamb on the shoulder of the shepherd or the King's camel.

She raised her eyes to mine, coyly smiled and said, "Baby Jesus,"

Further down the path, near the outdoor altar was a statue of Our Lady of Fatima with the children who saw her vision, carved in stone and kneeling in prayer. Coming upon this, my granddaughter's raced over to the scene, knelt next to them, hands folded in prayer. My heart took a picture.

The furnace clicked off and slipped me back to my beautiful tree holding so many memories. I found myself in a rare moment , when the images and words have been waiting inside of me and finally burst forth in an unstoppable flow.

So, here for you, is a little Christmas gift from my muse.

May your own memories fill your heart this Holiday Season,

and may the peace of Christ bring you comfort and joy.

Merry Christmas everyone.

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Settling into my car and buckling my belt for a long afternoon of Holiday errands, I took a minute or two to make sure I had everything I needed:

  1. Water bottle - check (Oops- Back in to visit the ladies room )

  2. Ritz peanut butter crackers- check. (Hunger is a given)

  3. To-do list- check (I am embarrassed to say with my ADD, there are many of these lost around the house)

  4. List of stops to make- check. ( I try to list them in the most efficient order)

  5. Cell phone- check. (Tuned to my favorite podcast- Picture Book Look)

  6. Wallet- check (I have forgotten this one too many times!)

  7. Shopping bags- check ( I hate having to pay 10 cents a bag at some stores!)

Shhhhhh... I'll tell you a secret.

During Advent, I add one last, very special thing to my check list.

A few copies of Forever Home.

For more years than I can count, I looked forward to being a published author. In the trenches writing and revising, I imagined the day when I could see one of my stories put a sparkle in a child's eyes. Self-publishing Forever Home along with my daughter (@ericaleighart) last year, was one of the highlights of my life, and made those moments I dreamed of possible.

Yesterday, at Terraza' in Franklin (an awesome place to shop for gifts, I might add!), I struck up a conversation with a lovely lady named Amy, to see if they might like to carry Forever Home in their store. One thing lead to another and soon Amy was telling me about Kiera, who loves rescue animals. As she continued with her story, the wheels started turning. I thanked her, wished her a Merry Christmas and headed out to my car.

Terrazza- A great place to shop!

Grabbing a copy of Forever Home from the box, I giggled as I headed back to the store and caught the staff by surprise.

"I think your Kiera and I are kindred spirits," I said to Amy,"I'd like to sign a copy of my book for her. Is that ok?"

A few minutes later I waved goodbye to four happy smiles behind the counter and beamed thinking of a little girl who would be curled up with Amy tonight listening to my kitty's story.

Next stop, the grocery store. Wheeling my cart inside, my cheshire cat smile probably gave me away as I anticipated my next encounter. I kept my eyes open for a tired mom or dad whose child was tagging along and melting a bit.

Veggies, bread, now where can I find the yeast? I had to remind myself that I was in the store to actually get some things. The excitement I felt was incredibly distracting!

Turning the corner, I spotted a young mom in the baking aisle, shopping with her 2 year old seated in the cart and a young son walking alongside. I was impressed with her calm and kind demeanor; so patient answering her child's many questions , even if it took her a bit longer .

"Hi there," I said, "My name's Cathy. I am a local author giving away copies of my book for Christmas. It's a story about my two kitties. Would your son like one?"

In seconds, the shelves of food, all the hustle and bustle melted away while the young mom introduced me to her son Paul, giddy with excitement about getting a present in a grocery store. I signed the book for him and wished them a Merry Christmas. The rest of the shopping trip was a blur, playing our meeting over and over in my head.

The Christmas spirit had landed on my shoulders with a few simple moments...

...and it felt good.

Gosh, I love being a writer. I can't wait to get my next story published. Fingers crossed one of my end-of-year submissions will lead to "the call" from an agent. I have about 25 or so stories just waiting for the magical touch of an illustrator to bring them to life. In the mean time, I write, revise, polish and dream, knowing there are more hearts to touch with my words one day soon.

L-R: Angel and Camille

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This was big week for me. I received three... yes three rejections on my work.


Defined as "the dismissing or refusing of a proposal, idea, etc." One rejection hurts, but three? Ouchie Wa Wa!

What the Thesaurus says was a bit less comforting....

Each of these synonyms captured a bit of the extremes that I felt when my "wanna-be picture books" were not wanted. I started out with the feeling that it was a "kick in the teeth," and most definitely a "hard time." As the days pass, however, I am slowly working toward thinking of it as a "thumbs down" or a "pass."

One "veto"was from an agent who I really liked and longed to partner with. She liked my work well enough to ask me to send more for her consideration. In the years I have been submitting, this is the first time an agent has asked for more work. I was ecstatic and very hopeful.

As the months wore on, I thought it was surely a good sign. I imagined the agency office when my email arrived:

  • A smile creeping across her face as she read my submission, because at long last, she had found the perfect manuscript... mine!

  • Days flying by as she eagerly shared my lovely words with her fellow agents planning all they would do when they acquired it.

  • Meetings being held to discuss just the right illustrator, a Caldecott winner for sure.

  • Hours upon hour scouring their production list to see if they could squeeze it in this year, because

  • This story needs to be in the world. NOW!

Imagination can be a fool's comfort in these situations, allowing me to have in fantasy, what I cannot seem to attain in reality. Over the months, I stalked my email multiple times a day.,


Then finally, this week they came.

"I enjoyed reading all three of your clever and fun manuscripts.

Each has different strengths and it was a pleasure to see your writing range."

"I'm always grateful for the opportunity to review what an author has poured time,

skill, and heart into creating!

"Thanks for your query. I’m afraid this one isn’t for me."

and finally each ending their email with some version of the all-to-familiar closing lines...

"These reactions are entirely subjective and I don't want to be discouraging. Another editor will feel a stronger connection and I wish you every success with your thoughtful work."


Ugh! The agents were all very kind, mind you, and a couple even had very nice compliments for me, which were so appreciated. I really am very grateful for the time they took to consider my work. Their job is not easy.

It still sucks though.

The one lesson you learn very throughly in this business is about rejection. Comments on your work are so subjective. I understand. It is part of the process. The agent may have gotten a manuscript similar to mine, they may be looking for something entirely different or most likely, they just did not connect with it.

You do your research, choose just the right manuscript to send, write a knock out query letter complete with polished pitch, comp titles, and courageously send it off. Fingers crossed you will get "the call." But sometimes it can feel like throwing darts and not getting one on the board.

I still hope to get "the call" one day, but as a "late bloomer" I have to work hard not to get discouraged. Each of my many stories, finally complete after multiple drafts revision and critique, sit patiently in my files waiting for the day that they will be read and loved and acquired; when an amazing illustrator will bring them to life with their magic.

In the mean time, I implement another word I have gotten to know quite well-


Re- meaning do again. Vision- meaning seeing.

"To take another look at"

I will research and find another agent that looks promising. Then "alter, amend and improve" my query letter, "reconsider" my manuscripts again, perhaps adding a bit of "review, editing, and polish" to my text. Then bravely hit "SUBMIT," because this is what writers do. They write, put their heart on a page in 500 words, send it out for acceptance and then write some more while we wait. For it is in the waiting that we realize we did it. We wrote and had courage to share it.

Time to get querying.

Here's to crossing my tired fingers once again. :)

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