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The GraciePress Newsletter - And So We Begin Again!

The GraciePress Newsletter - And So We Begin Again!
Spring is here! The camellias are blooming, and once again, there are fallen blossoms beneath our feet here in the garden. Could we ever ask for a more beautiful carpet?

“Camellia Blossoms from Our Garden” Photograph by the Author
“Camellia Blossoms from Our Garden” Photograph by the Author
Our time away from Gracie Press
While we enjoyed our time away from writing and illustrating and keeping up with the newsletter, we have missed you, loyal fans.
We appreciate you more than we can say. You have helped to make the first two books in the series Once Through a Garden Gate a success.
With our earnings from the first two books, we were able to purchase an all-weather canvas tarp to secure the top of the run and coop. It replaced a very worn out nylon one. The girls have enjoyed not having to dodge leaks on rainy days and we got it in place before two very heavy snowstorms.
“Our New Heavy-Duty Canvas Roof” Photograph by the Author
“Our New Heavy-Duty Canvas Roof” Photograph by the Author
With the leftover funds, we were able to gift copies of books to elementary school teachers here in Virginia and as far away as Florida. Honestly, we had been hoping to randomly offer free books to you our fans, so we hope you will understand and not be too disappointed. I would like to share one example with you so you can appreciate your part in this simply by reading this newsletter and giving us encouragement to keep going.
One of our newest favorite teachers
Alison is a elementary school teacher in Florida, and she works specifically with students who have struggled with reading. Much of her work is catching them up because of their time away from teacher-led instruction in the classroom due to the pandemic.
She was thrilled to receive free books to use in her classroom and as soon as she saw that the underlying theme was “You are so much more than good enough,” she knew right away that the stories about Gracie and the other chickens were exactly what she needed.
In Alison’s own words
I read chapter one when the book first arrived on my doorstep. And when I came to this one line, I grabbed a yellow colored pencil and highlighted it.
“You are so much more than good enough.”
As soon as I heard those words, I knew that this was the book I was looking for.
I understand the social-emotional needs of my students. I know that for those who come to me, learning to read has been a bit of a struggle.
On Thursday, I finished reading to my fourth group. Everyone loved meeting Gracie and Bessie, eager to read chapter 2 the next day.
Then, my fifth group arrived. When I read aloud, “You are so much more than good enough,” a student asked, “Why did you highlight that?” I answered, “Because I love that line.”
He then said, in a very strong voice, “I love that line too Mrs. Levine.”
Home: Gracie Press
I also sent Alison and her class a note card with a color illustration and included several of Gracie’s small feathers. This was so they would know Gracie and the others are real, not imaginary.
Here are some of the things her student said after she introduced them to PeeP!
  • “I liked when Gracie got her name. My teacher’s dog is named Gracie too.”
  • “I like when they said Peep (laugh) and Cheep (laugh).”
  • “I like how you drew the note and I want one myself because it is so pretty.”
  • “The book has so much detail.”
  • “The feather is so soft — like a carpet.”
  • “I love chickens. My dad had a chicken but he died.”
  • “We have a chicken farm in Brazil. When we have a break, we will see them.”
  • “You are an amazing writer and drawer.”
  • “I like your book and you are so sweet to us, sending us a card and feathers.”
  • “The feathers feel so real and fluffy.”
  • “Thank you for letting us feel your chicks’ feathers.”
  • “Thank you for writing this book.”
  • “I like how the chicks work together.”
  • “I can’t wait to see the rest of the book.”
  • “I like that you bought Gracie because it shows you are a good person.”
  • “Your card is beautiful. I want to be an artist.”
  • “You wrote a lot of words to us.”
  • “I’ve never seen a chicken feather, only a duck feather. I tried to write with it but it didn’t work.”
The purpose of telling you all of this is not to brag about my writing or illustrations abilities. I am pointing these things out to you so that you will know how important your encouragement has been to me over the years. These books would not be possible without you.
“Dance with Love in Your Heart” Card by the Author with Feathers by Gracie
“Dance with Love in Your Heart” Card by the Author with Feathers by Gracie
A Wonderful Surprise for Gracie and Me
When Alison got the the chapter where Gracie does a grand jeté for the first time in front of all of the other chickens for the first time in order to face her fear of The Bigger Scary Thing, she surprised all of her students. Alison did a grand jeté for the students in her class. Alison had been a ballet dancer! Gracie and I were so happy to discover that.
Several several later when Gracie dances to The Waltz of the Snowflakes, Alison played the song for her students as background music. Her students loved the song and thought that it was beautiful. They loved it—a classical ballet song!
Alison has an absolute gift for bringing a story alive with her students, and my chickens and I are deeply honored to be a part of her classroom. I am amazed her second grade students are so engaged in a book written on an average fourth grade reading level. They want to read and follow along!
You, our fans, have made all of that possible in Alison’s classroom and other classrooms too. You did it through your encouragement and purchase of our books. You have put a new roof over my chickens’ heads and books in classrooms to inspire young students to love reading.
So where do we fly from here?
We have had some time to do considerable thinking about where we will fly from here, particularly with the newsletter. How can we do the most good with the time we have?
We are shifting our newsletter from “what we are writing now” to “what we have written already.”
Why do that? The “what we are writing about now” worked very well for the old My Life With Gracie website because we were feeling our way through this whole process of writing and illustrating. We thrived because of readers like you who appreciated and commented on our work. You actually helped shape our direction, and we appreciate that so much!
By switching to “what we have written already,”we are hoping to make our full books available to everyone whether they can afford to buy our books or not.
We already love the email newsletter format because it allows us to go directly to readers outside of the internet. And as an added bonus, you can forward our weekly newsletter to friends, family, or whoever might need some “chicken wisdom.”
Times are tough. And getting tougher. People are having trouble affording the necessities of life.
Gracie and I have discussed this at length, and we feel that it is the right thing to do. For us, writing these stories gives us a sense of purpose. We want everyone who can benefit from our stories to do so, even if they can’t afford to purchase them in print form.
Beginning next week, we will start sharing Chapter One of PeeP! and will publish one chapter here each week. Unless there are unforeseen circumstances, we will then continue on to BwÖwK! and wherever our adventurous hearts take us.
If the chickens and I think of any good activities to go with a chapter, then we will add those too!
Thanks so much for reading, supporting, and encouraging!
Best wishes always,
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