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Being in touch with so many talented writers online, the list of books I want to collect is usually quite long. Every once in a while, I like to splurge and add new books to my writing library. From the minute they are mine, I am like an excited child at story time, eager to find a seat in the circle; cross-legged, eyes fixed, with great anticipation of where the books will take me.

Yesterday, two books I had been hearing about arrived. As I opened the box, a great smile arose and I stopped everything to find my seat and take in the feel and sight of them. The forty minutes I spent slowly savoring each page brought a stillness and hopefulness that has been hard for me to find, of late. As I closed the last page of the second book, I was peaceful, relaxed. This is the power of picture books: they can touch your very heart.

Waking up this morning, I found them calling to me again. I flipped through the pages and noticed some commonality between the two that I thought I would share.

The books both begin with end papers that do what end papers are supposed to do.

They give us a delicious small bite of the feast ahead to tickle our palate; a lovely collection of the simple things in life to be grateful for.

I was immediately intrigued, anticipating what was about to unfold as I read.

The similarity of some spreads, with a lovely colorful image of nature on one page,

and simple text placed on the other. This format allowing the reader to read... to breathe.... and then savor the art, discovering little surprises like a lady bug along the way.

The exquisitely beautiful language that Sophie Blackhall and Carter Higgins use;

says so much in so few words.

They draw me in to such tender emotions, and both make me pause with a sigh.

I aspire to write like this.

Two page spreads that take you right there.

I could feel the rush of wind and chatter of birds in flight and then the spitting and crackle of a smoky camp fire, while breathing in the grandeur above.

Moments to stop and open a gift ... or not.

The back gives us a similar invitation to pause...

to notice the big and small

and in between things that are such blessings.

Both books are published by Chronicle Books.

They do an incredible and creative job on their books.

The choice of the jacket-less cover and unique binding is very tactile, and gives them the feel of an old loved book that has sat on a library shelf for years.

I aspire to have one of my manuscripts published by them one day.

I can only imagine what they might bring to my words.

I cannot recommend these books enough.

I will share them with my grandchildren to foster much needed conversation about the blessings all around us. And I am already thinking about who needs their message of hope and positivity in their life. These copies have now found their forever home on the end table near my favorite spot to read, as an ever present invitation to stop, to read and breathe in their hopefulness.

Well done, Sophie, Carter and Daniel.

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I am delighted to share with you, the 150-word story I just submitted to Ciara O’Neal, and Kaitlyn Sanchez' Spring Fling KidLit writing contest. You need to use a Spring GIF for inspiration. I just love this one!

In my story, Spring is a conductor flitting around, trying to wake up the flowers, animals and plants after an icy winter, to play their blossoming symphony. Much like a conductor taps his baton to gather the attention of his orchestra, Spring, along with help from his assistant Sun, nudges the earth into its first blossom. In the end, all the 'instruments' erupt in a joyous ovation after their performance.! Hope you enjoy it!

The Stirring: ©Cathy Stenquist

Why did I start writing small? In the Kidlit writing world, the current picture book target for word count is 500 WORDS. There are 500 dots on this circle.

This is what 50 WORDS looks like... Yikes! A lot more challenging , eh?

A few years ago when I entered Vivian Kirkfield's #50preciouswords contest. I had to write a complete story in 50 words or less. I loved the challenge, which felt to me like doing a crossword puzzle. It was really fun to write small and make it fit. I was hooked!

One of my first stabs at writing small, was "Two Plus Two." With a little tweaking, (well actually, A LOT of tweaking) it soon became my debut picture book "Forever Home."

(you can find it here:

Two Plus Two: ©Cathy Stenquist

Some little friends enjoying FOREVER HOME.

Earlier this year, I found Susanna Leonard Hill's "Valentiny Contest" where you get a bit more wiggle room with the word count. 214 words... Get it? February 14!

When figuring out what to write, the image of a porcupine who loved to cook came into my head. Though I did not win a prize, I definitely am a winner with the beginnings of a wonderful new story to expand on :) Time to get revising!

The Canapé Caper: ©Cathy Stenquist

Next up, I believe is the Susanna Leonard Hill's Halloweensie Contest. Better put my ghoulish thinking cap on :)

Bwaaaah, Haaa, Haaa!

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I didn't expect to be crying at breakfast this morning about someone I have never met, but the passing of beautiful @Nightbirde has touched my soul.

In August of 2021, I first saw @Nightbirde on AGT. In a carousel of sometimes unusual performances, she stopped time for her audience that night, as she poured out her feelings about her cancer journey into her song "It's OK". Please take a moment and watch this

What got me was not only her beautiful lyrics and voice, but the message. She seemed to be one of God's angels sent to tell us after a year of Covid what we needed to hear.

This beautiful and faith-filled songbird has changed many lives in her short time on this planet with her faith and optimism. Her courage in fighting her cancer hits particularly close to home for me. There are two young women in my life that have fought the good fight, My precious daughter Erica Leigh and Cassidy.

Erica Leigh and I

It was only a few years ago that my own precious "Nightbirde", my daughter Erica Leigh, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer that threatened to take away not only her beautiful voice, but her life. Erica's courage to take this cross she was given, bear it, endure and overcome to create a beautiful new life for herself is nothing short of inspiring. We were extremely blessed. By the grace of God, and the miraculous surgeon, Dr. Randolph at Mass General, my sweet Erica Leigh has survived, and now many years cancer-free, we are looking forward to her marrying the love of her life in June.

Cassidy and the book I sent her.

And sweet Cassidy, whose journey I have followed for awhile now. (See one of her "Candid with Cassidy" fireside chats here.) Her optimism, sense of humor, courage and openness to share her cancer journey at such a young age is beyond words. Like @Nightbirde, I have never met Cassidy and yet, I feel like she is part of my family. There are some who can touch your soul from miles away. Cassidy is one of those people.

My very own "Cassidy Original."

Recently she sent me one of her original paintings she auctioned off to support kids with cancer and to make her way to Veterinary Camp. It now hangs in a place of honor in my studio. Like @Nightbirde and Erica Leigh, her words and courageous example will continue to mold and change me for the better.

Hearing this morning, that @Nightbirde had passed after such a gallant and brave fight, brought me to tears. Tears of sadness that the world has lost such an inspiring soul, but also tears of happiness for her. Her faith in God shined through every moment of her life, and now at last she is free and by His side. I could almost hear the words we all hope to hear one day...

After my mother passed last March, I struggled with the fact that she was gone

and asked her to come to bring me peace.

That night, she came to me in a dream and said ,

"Cathy, You have no idea. It is more than you can imagine."

@Nightbirde, I hope it is more than you you ever imagined :)

Rest in peace. Your heart-felt message of trust and joy

will continue to send out ripples in to the world.

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A Little Bit of This & That

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