Tuesday, December 18, 2012


When tragedies happen, especially ones as severe as the one in Newtown, Connecticut, I am put into an introspection of my complaints.  Everything that I am challenged by is minute when compared to what those affected by the ordeal went through and will continue to go through.  I think about the parents of those children who survived. Will they ever feel the same safety in letting their child out of their sight for a moment?  Will the child survivors always hold a dollop of fear that just can't quite be removed--that can show up whenever a loud noise surprises them? What about those that knew the killer? Will they always be wondering if there was something they could have said or done?

There is much talk now about gun control, and better and easier access to mental therapy for those who need it.  I don't know if either of those things would have prevented what happened or not.

The things that I know are that I love my family, and wish every person in the world felt such love within themselves that violence would be unimaginable.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Kindergarten and Letting Go

Just dropped off the manuscript of my first ever, fully complete, Young Adult novel.  Filled with teens with telepathy, telekinesis, and extraordinary bravery. And, of course, a dash of romance. It was fun, demanding and emotional to write.

Now it's on to the next phase, that of being critiqued by my previous Creative Writing teacher, Dave Holper. It had been through the wringer with two critique groups and revised a million and a half times in the past year, so hearing what he has to say will be refreshing and scary.  Feels, almost, like the first day of kindergarten when my son left me alone for a whole seven hours.

That was an poignant day. The Kindergarten teacher gave us parents a baggie of kleenex for crying, chamomile tea for soothing, and a cotton ball to remember how soft and precious our little ones are--as if we needed reminding.  Then my son asked me if I was still there and left to play with new friends. Yes, that's about how it feels to leave behind the 185 page 'word baby' with Dave.

Soon I will make the revisions that Dave recommends and be ready for the next phase of letting go--publication.  They grow up so fast.

Guess I better go fix myself some chamomile tea.

Heather Leigh

Monday, November 19, 2012

Creating The Children's Story Place Blog

My aunt, Judy Ziegler, and I share a blog that posts free stories for children. She is a professional illustrator who has published children's books, designed nurse scrubs, and has her own line of doggie greeting cards (that's just the tip of the ice berg on the variety of work she's done!). I am blessed to be able to create stories with her, especially because one, she rocks and two, our styles compliment each others.

We started the blog as a fun creative outlet for us to do together, and as a way to provide entertainment for children.  Also, it gives readers the opportunity to know about our work.  Recently, we decided to turn the free on-line stories into self-published, paperback books.  Another exciting way for us to work together.

The self-publishing will be done through lulu.com.  They don't charge for the process, just take a percentage of each one sold. The books will even be sold on Amazon with a USBN.

Judy came up with the idea over a year ago. Slowly but surely, we've been writing and illustrating the stories in our spare time. Now we have twenty-four great and often silly stories for kids.  We just posted one about a bear who longs to fly and how he goes about getting what he wants. It's up there with the silly stuff.

I love that Judy and I have been able to do this together. And I'm lucky to have such a talented relative to work with!

Heather Leigh

Friday, November 16, 2012

Last Chapter

Today is the day. Today is the day that I will be putting the finishing touches on the last chapter of my first Young Adult Novel.  Since January, I have been discovering new characters: how they respond to situations, their personalities, what happens to them and how new friendships and love feels.  I've cried with them over deaths, laughed at silly jokes, and been swept away by what they've gotten themselves into.  It's going to be hard to let go.

Of course, I won't truly ever let go. Oh sure, I'll set the book aside as it is being critiqued by my friend and ex-Creative Writing teacher.  After his tough, enlightening comments, the characters and I will share some revision time together.  And then more revision episodes as it goes on to my agent and eventually (I hope!) to an editor.

But the intimacy will never be the same.  Soon others will be entering our land, our story. It will no longer be just me and the characters that I created--a clause here: I have two fabulous incredible critique groups who have also helped to mold this story.

So, please, Spirit Guardian of Writers, let this book be highly successful so that I can begin a part two of Emily Capot: Reader, Resister and Friend.

I'm off to write.

Heather Leigh

Friday, November 9, 2012

Revisions never end

People have asked me when I know a story is done. There are really two questions here. One is, when am I done with a story. Two, when is the story done.

I am done with a story when it has sucked out the marrow from my bone, when my children think that I am part of the computer, when the dog has gained 10 pounds because I can't find the time to walk her, bills are late because I was too busy writing to send in the envelope, my house and dust bunnies are one, and when the thought of writing more of it puts me in a zombie frame of mind.  That is when I know that it is time to take a break from the story.  A break. This means handing it over to someone whom I trust to edit/critique it for me.

And then, about a month later, I feel the story pulling at my brain. Telling me where I screwed up and how to fix my messes.

When the story is done is when it is published and I can't change it even if I don't like something in it.

So, like being a mother, a story is never really done.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Can't Sleep

Ever get so excited with a new story idea that you can't sleep? Sometimes I get up and write at three in the morning.  The story will nip and yelp and whimper, like my Australian Shepard on Fourth of July, until I am forced by unwritten words to stumble to my desk and let it be told.  The story then becomes its own creature, needing to be written to fully exist. And I am obliged, as Doctor Frankenstein, to bring it to life.

But why at three in the morning?! Does the story have so little respect for the teller that it does not care about the tiredness that I will face for the rest of the day? For my children, who will have to deal with a grouchy mother?  Where is the exchange of love?

Well, the love comes later. It comes later when I discover that, perhaps, the story has enough merit to have been worth a day of sluggishness.  But be warned, next story that wakes me in the middle of the night: you had better be damned good!  Because I love to sleep for an entire night, and I will lash out at a dull stupid tale that dares to wake me just as a prank

Heather Leigh

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The First Time

I was an expert at writing stories until I started writing them.  It seems so easy: beginning, middle and ending.  Character and/or situation changes by the end. The beginning points to the end. Practice daily. Write what you know.  Just write. What could be easier with the rules all lined up before me? It should be like taking a first grade math test to get into Harvard.

But then, on the first try, I had to figure out if I wanted a first person or narrator telling the story. And how to begin? Jump into the action or set up the scene with grounding and descriptions.  What was the problem going to be? How would it be fixed? How do I keep a reader wanting to read more?

Wow, there was more to this than I thought. A lot more. In fact, this might actually take work and dedication and learning. Geesh Louise, no body told me there was work involved in writing children's books! Who knew?

And here is the truly crazy part. Seems that the more I write my own stories, analyze others, and get critiques, the more I discover that there is a deep ocean of stuff that I don't know about writing.

Okay, no this is even more crazy. After all of this knowledge that I've discovered I don't possess, I still love to write. Wow, guess I really am insane.

Heather Leigh

Thursday, November 1, 2012


How do I show a character's personality?

The side characters, the one's who are different or odd, seem relatively easy. They follow the role they have taken on--they follow their own way of seeing things, talking, standing, smelling and voting.  If they are funny, they pretty much stay funny. If it is a crazy witch with a heavy cackle and warted nose, her personality is already defined--I just have to write down what she's up to when she makes an appearance.

But the main hero? For the most part, his personality is generally more subtle, like ripples rather than waves.  I don't want to just tell a reader what the hero is like, what is going on in side, I want to let it flow out like a trickle that becomes a stream that becomes a river and eventually flows into an ocean of deep personality.

And he is supposed to evolve at the same time.

How do I do this?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Working on a Young Adult Novel

Working on a young adult novel is so different from picture books. In a picture book, describing the scene is only done to direct the picture; descriptions are kept to a minimal. But in a book with no pictures, words have to take on the visual aspect.

I've been enjoying, and challenged, using words to bring the reader into the world of the book characters.  What things do we notice when we walk into a new room?  What are commonalities that I can share with a reader to make him/her feel connected to the scene? How do I describe objects and situations that, so far, only I know about?  How much should I give away about the scene with out taking away from the flow of the story?...but also allows the reader to feel 'grounded' and secure.

Writing picture books and then books with out pictures is like Mars and Venus: both are planets yet we would need completely different outfits to hang out in either one.  Good thing I enjoy variety!

Heather Leigh

Monday, October 8, 2012

Eureka Books, Art Night Signing

Saturday night I was honored to share a table with  the Eureka children's librarian, Joanne.  They were raising money for their yearly October event promoting children's authors. In addition, Eureka books was celebrating 25 years of selling literature for the community. Be sure to stop in there as they are offering 25 percent off their books for the rest of the month.  Plus, the building is just so beautiful, you have to see it. I intend to be dropping some birthday money there for JK Rowlings' and Anne Lamont's newest books.

The evening was a huge success, thanks in large part to an article run by the local paper, Times Standard.  I believe Scott, co-owner of Eureka books, had assembled it.  About eighty percent of the people coming in to talk with me had come in as a result of that article.  Pays to know people who are more organized and efficient than I am!

Outside the store is a quintessential town plaza, complete with a gazebo for summer bands and areas for children to romp. We could view the man blowing, juggling and swallowing fire. Always fascinating to watch OTHER people doing that sort of stuff.

My eldest son went with me but soon melted off into the crowd to join friends. Guess there was a giant fire shooting metal octopus brought from Burning Man on display that they went to see. Must have been a fire fun night for Humboldt.

This signing seems to be wrapping up the season of book touring on Hey Little Baby. It was a perfect way to end end it as the first signing  I did was at Northtown Books in Arcata, another popular bookstore in Humboldt county.  Soon I am expecting to be promoting the companion book to Hey Little Baby--Toddler Season.  It's been a fun ride.

Heather Leigh

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sacramento Children's Book Festival

Lively, efficient and fun is how the event put on by the California Scholar Share program went down.  The children enjoyed themselves and were encouraged to read. Parents of little ones learned about getting set up for the inevitable--that babies eventually turn in to teens who will (hopefully!) go off to college.

Fairy Tale Town, located in the meandering green gracious land of William Land Park, was the perfect place to hold the event. It is already set up with playgrounds, a petting zoo, and Old Mother Hubbard's Shoe.  What a great way to correlate having fun and being happy with reading stories.

Francie, the emcee for the book readers, was contagiously cheerful.  Wearing a mike that could be heard through out Fairy Tale Town, she drew in a constant audience for the storytellers.  The children and parents could relax on the grass clearing in front of the stage and be entertained to the magic of books.

In honor of Halloween, I passed out vampire teeth for children to discover their mouths, rubber witch claws for hands, pumpkin whistles for voices, a fake foot, and dog, bunny and Groucho Marx noses for smelling.   Sharing the Royal Reading Throne with me was a lovely young lady holding the baby doll and a two year old who just wanted to sit next to me.  At every 'Hey Little Baby' line, we all waved to the baby.  Let me tell you--we had a blast!

After the rewarding reading, I met with people, signed books, and enjoyed the sunshine at a temperature we don't often feel in Humboldt County.  The authors I was lucky enough to chat with were Bob Barner and Sandy Lynne Holman. I was thoroughly impressed with how Bob Barner creates non-fiction works in to engaging literature for children.  On each page, a large kid-friendly font with an easy to read sentence tells about the subject and a smaller font paragraph gives the factual knowledge. Also, he uses mixed media to illustrate his own books.  Sandy Lynne Holman was vibrant and charismatic. I'm not sure who had more fun, her or the audience, when she told her story with laughter, marching, dancing and song.  The kids were thrilled. She even had purple wings!

Time Tested Books was there to sell the books that we authors were reading and signing.  Peter, the owner, had an obvious love of books and a kind, warm presence that I'm sure attracted children. Thank you to him and his employees for providing the books that day for us to sign.

It was another fun, wonderful day signing books and chatting with book loving people and children.  I look forward to going again next year and hope that I will be there promoting a second book!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Family Day In The Park

The children's literacy event in Stockton was a huge success; more than 20,000 people attended.  Kids were given free books, having their faces painted, climbing through a Boy Scout obstacle course, entertained by clowns and storytellers, and doing a variety of crafts.  It was a well-planned, enjoyable way to promote reading and made for a fun family day.

I was very lucky to be interviewed by the local newspaper, The Stockton Net.  Log on to see what was going on that day at:

At the Author's table, I met Danna Smith, author of Two at the Zoo, and had a wonderful chat with her about one of my favorite subjects--writing and getting published.  She was a joy to hang out with. Also signing books was a delightful husband and wife team, author and illustrator of stories about Mister Lemur.  Here we all are, relishing the ninety plus degree weather and the happy children.  We were all able to share our stories at King Author's Story Court.

It was a fun, hot, great day. I look forward to being there next year!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Barnes & Nobles, Stockton, CA, Reading

Family, family, family! I was touched, amazed and overwhelmed by unexpected cousins and aunts gathering to support me at the recent Stockton signing. Several I hadn't seen in over a decade. We did a lively group hug and then they proceeded to buy over a dozen copies of Hey Little Baby between them.    It felt like a dozen conversations going at once in trying to reconnect with everyone. It was beautiful.

The reading followed an ambitious and lively storyteller.  Local Barnes and Nobles fans are blessed to have her around for weekly stories and puppet shows.  She made the stories come alive with her enthusiasm.  She told me she always tries to get kids to jump up at least once, bringing them into the fun world of books.  She was a tough act to follow.

At the end of reading my book, I love to ask the children what they want to be when they grow up because the question relates to the theme of my story. One boy wants to be a fire engine--red, of course--and an especially enthusiastic girl wants to be everything!  This young lady also sat beside me and played the supportive hostess. I was delighted to have her assistance.

Sheri was a particularly efficient manager, setting me up with a table, pen and 'autographed copy' stickers for the books.  I look forward to returning for a signing of the sequel to Hey Little Baby, which is getting the final touches worked out now.  The store even had a cute cafe that served a wicked wild blueberry muffin.

Thank you to my family for the incredible support, Sheri for being an awesome manager, the reading audience, everyone who bought my book, and to my reading assistant who will be everything when she grows up.  You each made my day special and memorable.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Signing at Barnes & Nobles, Redding, CA

Another successful book reading and signing, this time at the colorful, busy Barnes and Nobles in Redding, California. The day started early as we had to leave our home at 6 A.M. to make the reading on time.  Getting a pre-teen and teenager out of bed at 5:45 in the morning at the start of their summer season was not the joy you might imagine it to be. But, they were not overly cranky and collapsed into the backseat to return to their slumber before we hit the freeway.  They even put up with the dog between them!  Good kids.

We slid in to the bookstore parking lot ten minutes before I was to read.  There were about a dozen three to four year olds politely waiting to be read to--I chose to start with my favorite picture book, 'Where the Wild Things Are'.  Gnashing my teeth and helping Max be the King will never stop being fun.  After reading two books, one of the youngsters told me it was time to read 'his book', so I started in on Hey Little Baby.  Kids are naturally drawn to the lively, playful illustrations by Genevieve Cote. Captivating children through picture books will always make me happy.

After the reading and signing, my family and I went camping at Whiskeytown Lake.  Since living in the cool fogs of the Redwood Forests of Humboldt County, I was smacked with the reminder of what it is like to function in supreme heat.  But the lake was so refreshing, it counteracted the severity of the weather.  And waking up to the sound of birds and chipmunks, with a view of pine trees and forests, well, that is just wonderful.

The ride home was peaceful and smooth.  Of course, camping laundry and grocery shopping await me. Everyone had a great time, except for the cats stuck in the house for two days. They did quite a lot of yelling at me when we arrived.

In three weeks will be the next craft time, signing, and reading at The Stork's Nest in McKinleyville, California. I'm looking forward to working together with the owner, Crystal.

In the meantime, I'll be working on the sequel to Hey Little Baby and the Young Adult Novel I have finished the rough draft to, about a teenaged girl with telepathic powers living in an overly controlled world. I love to write stories!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tree House Children's Bookstore in Ashland, Oregon

What a literary treasure this bookstore is!!! A warm and welcoming staff, loads of books for children, and located right on the plaza in the beautiful town of Ashland.  I was delighted to be a part of this store's experience for an afternoon of signing and meeting both tourists and locals.

Lady Jane, the owner, is kind and fun with a magical charismatic air. To be around her gives the feeling of being cared about, and that there just might be some magic afoot in the neighborhood! She is the quintessential owner of a children's story place in a town that highlights Shakespeare.

Christina, worker extraordinaire, knows which book will please and interest customers of all ages. We got to chatting for a bit and discovered we had lived near each other in southern California, attended the same school, and even went to the same spiritual center at different times. It was like we were living parallel lives in a different time dimension--straight out of the Twilight Zone!

It was a wonderful visit as I was also able to spend time with long time friend, Kaiyo Racine, owner of Sacred World in Ashland.  Driving up the northern coast of California and then across the southern edge of Oregon is breathtaking in the beauty presented at every curve.

Great trip, great signing, great friends--new and old!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Eureka Library Reading and Signing

The signing and reading was a success! The children were first read to by the fantastic storyteller and librarian, JoAnne Bauer. She used a variety of imagery from secret animals in paper bags to a puppet show to bring alive the joy of reading.  The audience was delighted and captivated.

Reading my book for the kids was such a treat. We discussed the places they go with their feet, how great bubble baths smell, and that some flowers make them sneeze.  A suggestion for the next book was to include a discovery of legs and arms--children's ideas are always welcome and creative!

JoAnne ended the event with Mother's Day crafts of construction paper flowers or a picture frame for Mom.  The kids dug right in and came up with some treasurable gifts.

Next week, I'm looking forward to visiting, and signing my book at the Tree House Children's Bookstore in Ashland, Oregon. Not having been to that magical town since a High School field trip, I can't wait to see it again.  The Shakespearean Festival will be in full swing so this is a perfect time to go. It's going to be an awesome event!

Also, spending time with my good friend, Kaiyo, owner of Sacred World in Ashland, will be a highlight of the trip.  Now that I've moved closer to his 'neck of the woods', we'll be able to visit more than twice a decade!

The summer book reading tour I've been mapping out is going to be fun. I look forward to meeting with children and parents and sharing the joy of reading, parenting and writing!

Heather Leigh

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hey Little Baby, Published At Last

It's done, it's published, it's out in stores! Having been written when my teenaged son was 5 months old, the story is now on bookshelves at stores around the world. What a wonderful experience it has been--from writing the book to signing it for parents and friends of babies.

The earth really started shaking for me when Kelly Sonnack, agent extraordinaire, allowed me to interrupt her dinner at the San Diego State University Writer's Conference over four years ago. She told me what would be needed to have her possibly accept the book. That night, I revised and revised again until 2 in the morning to have it ready for her the last day of the conference. When she looked at it and started talking illustrators and possible publishers, I thought stars were falling from the sky.

After even more revisions (don't ever think what you read is a first draft--it's probably more like the hundredth), she took me on as a client. Wow. A real agent in the real world, not just a day dream. I liken getting an agent to winning the lottery, but just a bit harder.

Then Kelly took over and somehow impressed Andrea Welch of Beach Lane Books, imprint of Simon and Schuster, to buy the book. When Andrea called to ask if I would make some changes for her to accept the manuscript, life became surreal. Was this really an editor from S&S asking if I would cut out some lines in order to get it published? Was she kidding? Short of selling my children, I was ready to do what it takes to get my words out 'there'.

And then came the whimsical yet mature flair of illustrator Genevieve Cote.  When first I saw her books (we ordered them all at the library!) I was blown away by the simple beauty and power with which she captures the personalities of each book's characters.  She really is fantastic.  And she was to be the illustrator of the book I wrote. Does the daydream ever stop?

Now the book written and inspired over a decade ago is hard bound and available at any bookstore or on-line. Crazy fun world.