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The Gracie Press Newsletter - Friday Double Feature!

The Gracie Press Newsletter - Friday Double Feature!
This week, we are sharing two story excerpts rather than just one for a Friday Double Feature! They are rather short, and I’m finding that most of the shorter chapters have the most intense action and dialogue.
You may notice that in the first story excerpt, Amelia’s secrets are kept private. This is according to her wishes. She was fine with sharing her secrets in the second story excerpt.
This week’s illustration is one that never quite made it to a finished state, but I do like it for its incompleteness and sketchy uncertainty. These qualities seem to work with this week’s adventures which tell how Amelia and I learned more about each other.
Just as the drawing’s lines appear to fumble towards a clear definition of form, so do the dialogue and plot as Amelia finally lets me know what I need to do next.

More Alike Than You Realize
Even though Amelia is very independent-minded, once in their new home, she could hardly wait for me to come outside and visit with them. As soon as the others discovered whether or not I had brought any treats for them, they moved on to other things. Amelia would stand and look up at me and speak in a very low, almost-hushed voice. She would tell me her secret thoughts.
I would tell her softly, “Amelia, I have good news for you. You and I are more alike than you realize.”
Then she would turn her back on me and hurry off to another place.
Soon, she would return and share more of her secrets.
Again I would tell her softly, “Amelia, you and I are more alike than you realize.”
Then she would turn her back on me and hurry off again, but she would not wait nearly as long to come back and tell more of her secrets.
We repeated this routine with each of her times away from me getting shorter and shorter, and then finally she would stay.
“Amelia, you and I are more alike than you realize,” I would tell her.
Her heart needed to take its own time in accepting this as true. Then I would tell her some of my secrets, and she did not doubt any longer.
We did this for more days in a row than I remembered to count, almost as if it was a game she has made up. Perhaps it is possible to play Hide And Seek with a heart.
Sometimes it felt as if we were starting all over again at a place of doubt. But it didn’t matter. Eventually I knew she would come and stay with me without hurrying off to another place. It was simply her way of understanding love and belonging.
Having been adopted by me six months into her life had something to do with it. She just needed extra assurance our garden was her forever home for as long as she wanted it to be. I did wonder why Emily never had the same doubts and uncertainties that Amelia did, but I suppose every heart is different.
“I would not give you up for anything,” I would tell her.
“Not even for six bags of sunflower kernels?” she would ask.
Amelia can only count to six. That is all of the toes that she can see. For her, six is the highest number there is. There is no higher number.
“Not even for six and then six more,” I would always tell her as if it is one of my own secrets.
She would close her eyes with a quizzical expression whenever I said this. She tried to imagine that many, but she couldn’t. Then she always smiled because she knew however many it was, it was a great amount.
“You are mine and I am yours for as long as you want it to be that way,” I would always tell her.
Then one day, she finally said to me, “Yes, we are more alike than I realize.”
We seldom played her game of Hide And Seek Hearts after that.
When everyone seemed settled in to their new home as one flock, I felt it was time to visit Lefty again. But I remembered he had said to return when Amelia would let me know what I needed to do next, and she hadn’t yet.
She seemed to prefer speaking to me in a quiet voice, and I wondered if maybe that was because she didn’t want any of the others to hear her. She was very protective of her feelings. So one chilly morning before there was enough light for them to see well enough to go down the chicken ladder, I picked up Amelia and placed her inside my jacket so that only her head stuck out.
“We are going on a little adventure, Amelia. We are going to watch for the sunrise. We are going to catch the first glimpses of frost on the grass in the front yard. We are going to wait for the newspaper to arrive.”
“I love adventures,” she whispered.
I carried her around to the front of the house and up onto the porch. We sat in the swing together and slowly began to move back and forth.
“I like to travel,” she said. “But this is a strange kind of traveling. We are not really going anywhere, are we?”
“A front porch swing is a marvelous invention, Amelia. It can take you to places in someone’s heart—if you let it.”
So Much More Than Nothing
We went back and forth in the swing and listened as the songbirds began their day as they always do. We heard the morning newspaper land softly on the top step as it always does.
“I think I need to travel far away,” she said to me as I cradled her snugly inside my jacket. “I think I need to go so far away that I am lost.”
“Why do you want to do that, Amelia?”
“Then I will know if I can be lost and not afraid.”
I didn’t say anything. I just listened. We kept swinging back and forth together.
“Then I will need to know if I can find my way back home again to you and the others.”
“Why do you need to know that, Amelia?”
She looked far off into the start of the morning sunrise. “Because if I can make it back, then it will mean I really do belong here after all, and I will never need to go away ever again.”
“I see.”
“And if I can not make it back, then that will mean something else. I do not know what it will mean, but if it happens like that, then I will know.”
She looked up at me to make sure I wasn’t angry or disappointed with her.
“What if I find out I belong somewhere else? It could be like that. You know?”
Then she said what troubled her the most. “What if I find I want to come back, but I can not?”
“Amelia, you have been thinking about these things for a long time, haven’t you?”
“I have.”
There was a silence all around us except for the soft, steady creaking of the front porch swing. Even the morning songbirds had suddenly become quiet.
Then she asked, “What do you think?”
“You should never make a decision out of fear. Not a decision to remain or a decision to leave. Love and fear don’t ever belong together.”
Amelia thought over these words carefully. 
“I think you have to do what your heart is telling you to do. Your heart is like a compass. Either way, whether you stay or leave, my heart will be broken. But you know that already, don’t you?”
“What do you mean?”
“If you do not travel far away to answer all the questions you have, you will never be at peace. I don’t think you would be happy not knowing those answers. Your unhappiness would break my heart even though I still had you here with me.”
“And if I traveled far away?”
“My heart would be broken every minute you were away, but I would know you were doing what you had to do, and that would make me happy for you, and so the pain would not be as bad.”
“Would you wait for me to come back?”
“Without a doubt, I would wait for you and watch for you every day. And when I saw you, I would run to greet you and hold you close again just like now.”
“You realize I might not come back? And then you would be waiting for nothing?”
“No. I wouldn’t be waiting for nothing. You are so much more than nothing. I love you, Amelia. You know I would fly with you if I could, don’t you?”
“Yes. I know that now.”
“Do you need for me to help you pack? Is there anything you want to take with you?”
“No. I don’t really own anything other than myself.”
“Yes, I know. But I thought you might want to carry a little container of sunflower kernels with you. They are small, but they have a lot of energy in them that you might need.”
“Can I decide later? Maybe tomorrow?”
“Yes, of course you can. Take as long as you need.”
I held her closer still. We watched as the sun began to paint the clouds in the early morning sky.
“Would it be alright if I give you a good-bye kiss on the head now? I don’t want to forget later. And you might find that the time to leave is when I’m not here.”
“Yes, I guess that would be okay,” she said.
We both closed our eyes, not wanting the moment to end. “You are so much more than nothing,” I whispered in her ear.
Book Three’s cover is still waiting for a title and possible artwork revision, but it is helpful to know where we are headed!
Book Three’s cover is still waiting for a title and possible artwork revision, but it is helpful to know where we are headed!
Publishing Update
We had not been aware of how much more work would be involved in splitting a large book, The Shoebox, into two smaller books, PeeP! and BwÖwK! It is more than just cutting the story in half and sticking new covers on the text.
We are waiting to get the proofs back for PeeP! Now that part is more about how Gracie faced The Big Scary Thing and The Bigger Scary Thing and how she coped with the loss of her friends, particularly when Lefty moved out into the country. BwÖwK! will be more about how Gracie faced The Biggest Scary Thing and how the chickens took an amazing leap of faith.
Next time we will do this differently—from two books into one rather than one book into two. But we truly appreciate your patience and encouragement as we sort out this creative process!
New From “PeeP”!
This is a very short excerpt to help explain some of the things that have been added for a better story about saying good-bye to friends. It’s something that everyone eventually must do.
Somehow, Gracie knew Leftie would be leaving soon. Maybe Lefty had told her. Maybe she had guessed from the way I was acting.
“Wherever you take him, be sure it is a place where there is hope,” she said. “Everyone needs hope.”
“He turned out to be a good friend to you, didn’t he?”
“With Bessie, it had been so easy to become friends. It was something I never had to think about. It just happened. But with Lefty, it was different. He had made fun of me. He had teased me. He was the last one I ever thought would be my friend, but when we danced together that first day in front of everyone, we started to slowly become friends. What we both enjoyed connected our hearts.”
“I don’t want him to go either, Gracie. But there is no other choice. I’ve found the best home I could for him.”
“Do you think they will have a record player at his new home?”
“I’m not sure, Gracie. I’d like to think that there will be.”
“Would you make sure he takes the record with ‘The Waltz Of The Snowflakes’ to his new home? That was always his favorite. He loved being the wind.”
I nodded.
“And even if there is no record player, it might help him to remember us all and the fun times we had together,” she said. “There is hope in remembering.”
I nodded again.
“I will never forget those days when we danced together. He was my friend. An unexpected friend. But still a friend. Knowing he will be moving away hurts more than I ever imagined it would.”
Until Next Time…
A huge “Welcome!” to everyone who has recently signed up for our newsletter. We appreciate the trust you have placed in us, and we will do our best to make this a worthwhile newsletter for you. 
Thanks so much for reading!
John, Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia
Did you enjoy this issue?
J.R. Spiers (with help from Gracie)

The GraciePress Newsletter brings you the latest news, stories, illustrations, special offers, and free gifts from Gracie, Bessie, Blanche, Pearl, Emily, and Amelia. They are the inspiration behind all of the books published under The GraciePress imprint.

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From A Small Backyard Garden and A Most Wondrous Place in Portsmouth, Virginia