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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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- Wisdom from my mother, Nancy

Act One: Dreams in the Making

I think I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I loved words and expressing them as a kid in classroom writing assignments, on the stage in musicals and as a Mom in preschool newsletters. You would have thought I would follow the journalism or Kid Lit track in college, but when the time came to decide what my post high school life would look like, my father had a different take. He didn't feel a four year college was necessary for me, that the best thing I could become was an executive secretary. So I lived at home and settled into a 2 year business administration track at Mass Bay. I did well but still was not sure what the long-term picture looked like.

Scott and I - 1981

Act Two: Wife, Mom Entrepreneur

I married young at 22 and soon began having a family. This changed everything. It was important to me to be a stay at home mother, and so I did. I was creative in choosing the part time jobs I could do at home when the kids were young. I was a bit of an entrepreneur back in the 90's having several business out of my home: cake decorator, seamstress and licensed day care provider. I loved every second of those years. Though the desire to write was always percolating in the back of my mind, I did not have the energy or time to pursue it back then. Life took precedence.

L-R: Scott, Jared, Me and Mark

Act 3: Building My Skill Set

As the kids headed off to school, I found a bit more freedom to work outside the home. I dabbled in many things acquiring helpful new skills, having a lot of fun and interesting experiences.

-Working in the bridal department of Fabric Place helping DIY'ers pick out lace, satin and beading for their gowns.

-As a Bakery on the Common opening manager, working a 4 am-1pm shift so I could be home when school got out. EXHAUSTING!

-As a fashion labeling designer at a major retailer, with the perk of travel to Hong Kong and London

-As a Director of Religious Ed getting involved in over 30 service projects with teens

-As a Receptionist at a spa- Oooo, how I loved the etherial music, aromatherapy and quiet environment.

"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.

"I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference."

Act 4: Back to the words, at last.

Then finally, a few years ago, a job opened up in the editorial department of Charlesbridge Publishing. They needed an admin to support five editors. I savored every minute being immersed at last, in words and all things picture book. Working with other people's books, my hunger to work on my own books grew. I felt like the cobbler's son who was immersed in making other people's shoes and longed for a pair of his own.

Act 5: Life intervenes- A change of hats

When my mother grew ill and was heading to Hospice care, I knew I needed reluctantly to leave Charlesbridge and care for her. So for the next couple years, I managed her medical care from many states away with the help of my siblings. Picture book ideas were set aside and instead, my writing filled many journals where I could process the challenges and end each day with three good things scribbled down. My writing became my road to sanity.

My beautiful mother, Nancy and I

Act: 6 Reclaiming Cathy

When my mom passed last year, saying goodbye and settling her estate was job one. My creativity was sapped and drowned out with greif. I slowly began to attend webinars when the pandemic hit and started rediscovering who Cathy was again, word by precious word. With the unending help of my beautiful daughter and illustrator, Erica Leigh, I had the courage to take on self publishing my first picture book, "Forever Home." Holding that first copy in my hands and sharing it with her was amazing. I started to believe that I was really a writer.

Me and my talented illustrator and daughter, Erica Leigh

Act 7: Getting Out There

Yesterday, a part of a dream that I only imagined, happened. Erica Leigh and I were invited to be guests on the wonderful new podcast, ACT 2, YOUR ON! If you had told me back in the 90's that I would one day publish a picture book, my daughter Erica Leigh would illustrate it and her baby sitter across the street when she was young would be interviewing us... I would have said you were crazy! The team at A2YO was so professional and made us feel so comfortable. During the taping Erica and I got to share some behind the scenes stories of our journey with "Forever Home." The challenges, the joys and everything in between. For the first time in my life, I really felt like I was an author. The road I took to get there may have been very winding with many hills to climb, but it all fell in place. I cannot recall being so happy, and as fully myself as I was yesterday. It was a welcome and desperately needed feeling.

The talented A2YO team: Kate M. Leavey, Rhonda Garvin Conaway and Linda Corwin Tighe Illustrator Erica Leigh and I

Act2, Your On! is an amazing podcast meant for those considering reinvention in their lives with great advice and experiences shared by a breadth of people who have done just that.

I am a regular listener and have garnered many of their "golden nuggets."

Our episode will air on March 28th. I am so excited to share our podcast with you very soon, and will be posting the link across my social media as we get closer. I hope you will check out one of the most joy-filled days of my life:).

My next Act: Write, Share and Query

This month, I am participating in author Tara Lazar's "StoryStorm", which provides inspirational blogs each day and challenges you to come up with 30 new ideas for picture books in 30 days. Today, day 29, I have 29 new ideas, many I can't wait to write! I have already written two new first drafts and revised another manuscript and am actively seeking an agent. Momentum is the name of the game this month. It turns out, the forks I took in the road to get here, prepared me for this great next writing next act. I am blessed!

And Mom, you were right... I didn't get to do it all at the same time,

but I finally got to be where I wanted to be.

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A Little Bit of This & That

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