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The GraciePress Newsletter - Gracie Past, Present, and Future

The GraciePress Newsletter - Gracie Past, Present, and Future
During August, we took time to reflect on 4 years of writing and illustrating stories about Gracie and her other chicken friends. We spent time being grateful for our fans and how far we have come in that short period of time.
After investing 4-years and what would certainly enough time to earn a college degree in “Modern Chicken Studies,” I am beginning to feel somewhat qualified to write The Great American Chicken Novel which is intended for our older readers.
Stay with us to the end for a glimpse at what we are working on for our younger readers as well.

This book is intended for middle grade and older readers. It has a main character who is not a chicken, but raises chickens. The book begins and ends with a story frame where we begin with the present time, then go back in time to see how we got to where we are. The story ends with knowing all of the answers to the mysteriously curious questions posed in the first chapter.
Those of you who read PeeP! will be familiar with The Living Library. They are the songbirds who collect knowledge. If not, that’s fine. It will be just one more mysteriously curious question to be answered.
With a non-chicken main character it will be easier to create a more formidable antagonist without worrying the reader with questions like “Will the chickens be okay?”
This book will also alternate between chapters told in first person through the diary journal of the main character and chapters recorded in the songs of the birds which make up The Living Library. This will prevent the excess repetition of “I,” “Me,” and “My.” It will also allow for information to be shared with the reader which the main character either does not know or is unwilling to share in a diary journal.
Finally, this book will not be illustrated. There may be an illustrated version much later. I am finding that trying to write and illustrate simultaneously is not easy. I need to get the entire story committed to paper, and then I need to get the entire set of illustrations completed. (When I see something visually interesting, I want to try it out, and that makes for irregular illustrations in varying styles over time.) And perhaps, just perhaps, the best illustrations are the ones that a readers draw in their own minds while reading.
“That small, almost-square house is the one,” said the bearded man sitting on the front porch of the house on the corner. 
He looked at the journal book that the younger man was holding. “Do you mind if I see that?” he asked. He felt the worn edges of the cover and the smooth silkiness of the ribbon place marker. He opened to the first inside page and read aloud, “If found, please return to Nathaniel Elliot, 3910 Columbia Street, Portsmouth, Virginia. Reward $20.00 or as much as you would care to know about The Living Library.”
He thumbed through the pages, trying to appear casual. 
“That’s the house alright, the one with four columns on the front porch,” he continued, hoping to stall the return of the journal to its finder. “It still has a metal roof, the only metal roof left in the entire neighborhood. 
“There’s a garden in the backyard, though it doesn’t have as many vegetables and flowers as it once did. That’s because there’s a chicken coop in the middle of the garden. And off to the side, there’s a stage, an exactly-square stage.
“There’s a gate to the garden. The strangest gate you’ve probably ever seen. It’s right there in the path, but there’s no fence to go with it. Just a gate that stays closed. How is that going to keep anybody out of a garden?
“The long red flag is still up on the chimney too. Nobody knows what it’s for because people don’t really do things like that, do they? No decent explanation for it.”
The man with the beard paused at a page with a curious drawing of a white peacock and a man wearing a black top hat and cravat. The feathers of the peacock had been carefully outlined and then shaded around to create the absence of color. The man’s face had been smeared to look as if it was covered by a veil. 
“See what I mean?” he asked without looking up. “Now, that right there is a picture that needs some explaining, don’t you think?
“But you can’t miss that almost-square house. It’s the one with a sign in the front yard that says: Home of Amelia, the only chicken who ever flew to the moon and back.”
“People say the old man who still lives there claims the sign was painted by another chicken of his named Emily. That ought to tell you something right there.”
He flipped through the drawings of street cafes, monuments, and statues from faraway places, then he paused to study several pages with portraits that all seemed to be of the same young woman.
“Well, she’s quite a looker, isn’t she? I can’t really say I’ve seen anyone around here who resembles her.”
He handed the journal back to the young man. "No secrets worth twenty dollars in there. It’s likely he’s never been farther from that house than he can travel on his bicycle either.
“If I were you, I’d give him this journal and get my twenty dollars before he had a chance to fill my head with any of that muck about chickens painting signs and flying to the moon.
“We only go near that house now to buy pecans. They’re left out by the street on a table in brown paper bags. It’s all on the honor system. We just drop money into the coffee can. And if you don’t leave money, the blue jays will nearly take your head off. So should you ever buy any of those pecans, make sure you put lots of coins in and give it a shake so the blue jays can hear.
“Sometimes fresh eggs are out on the table too. Strange because nobody’s ever seen a chicken there in years. But folks hear them sometimes. Must be when they’re getting ready to lay an egg or when there’s a cat coming through the yard.
“His uncle never cut it down, that big pecan tree, like he said he would, even though it was way too close to the house. People say it’s because some crows from out in the country wouldn’t let him, but with the uncle long gone, I guess nobody’ll ever know unless they ask the old man himself.
“Why don’t you sit on the top step there and watch that house for a while? You can tell me how you came to find that old book of drawings, I’ll bet that’s a more interesting story than how a chicken flew to the moon and back.
“That twenty dollars isn’t going anywhere. You just watch from here like I do. You’ll see more birds there than anywhere else around here. Foreign ones too. The old man, he hardly ever talks to anybody except those chickens nobody’s ever seen close up.
“Some curious things happened in the garden of that small, almost-square little house. They sure did. And I believe they still do.”
The woman called The Mother and The Man With The Shadow Face pulled into the driveway. We, the birds who love the garden, heard the car scrape and bump. We saw The Boy’s head jerk from the abrupt stomp on the parking break.
“Here, he’s yours,” she said, dropping the cardboard suitcase and shoving papers into The Grandfather’s hand. 
We thought she might cry. But instead her face turned red with anger and then fear.
“I don’t care what you do with him. There is something wrong with him. Everyone can see it. He’s not going to ruin my life.”
The boy held Teddy more tightly.
The Grandmother pulled him closer, bent down, whispered into his ear, “We aren’t going to do anything but love you.” Her apron smelled like cornbread and honey.
“How old are you now, son?” The Grandfather asked.
“And what’s your name, sweetie?” The Grandmother asked.
The Mother slammed the car door as it lurched backwards and scraped against the pavement. The boy blinked hard at the sound as if he had been struck rather than the curbing. 
The Man With The Shadow Face flipped on the car radio, revved the engine, and then they were gone.
The boy’s soft brown eyes looked way up into The Grandfather’s eyes. “Three,” he said. Then into The Grandmother’s eyes. “Nathaniel,” he said.
“Na-than-i-el. Na-than-i-el. Nate. Nate. Nate,” a mockingbird called out from atop the pink camellia.
“Well, Nate,” said The Grandfather, “This is your home now. For as long as you want it to be.” 
“And here you can do anything your hearts dreams,” said the Grandmother.
Nate’s Wren
Nate’s Wren
Additional Notes
If any artwork is used, it will be like the one above and used as just page decorations rather than story illustrations, likely after chapter titles.
To me, Chapter 2 seems a bit harsh for younger readers. It’s not good for any child to think that they are unwanted by their own parents. This is one of the reasons why this book is better for older readers. Nevertheless, it does reflect how families are changing with more children being raised by grandparents or other relatives for various reasons such as drug addiction, Covid-19, etc.
Next Week, More From Our Main Project
We will share a few more chapter we have been working on to give you a broader idea of the book. This is our main project right now because it’s really important to get the entire story down from beginning to end.
Hint: The end will have Gracie fulfilling her promise which you may remember from PeeP! as well.
Gracie spread out her first tiny tail feathers and did what looked amazingly like a ballerina curtsy.
“So you were dancing! Well, one day when you are performing on the grandest stage in all of Paris, I hope you will remember that your first stage was my shoe.”
She stood on her tiny toes and nodded as if to promise with all her heart that she would and then hurried over to where Bessie was waiting. I gently scooped them up together and return them to the brooder box.
That’s right, Gracie will be dancing on the stage of The Palais Garnier, home of the Paris Opera Ballet.
But Not To Forget Our Younger Readers
You may remember how in some of our issues this summer we shared some of Emily’s artwork and directions for making them too. We had planned to release Emily’s Beach Party Art Camp sometime during the summer, however it turned out that was not possible. It would have to me released in the October-November time period due to the number of illustrations involved.
But don’t worry, we will have something for our younger readers as soon as we are able.
Until Next Time…
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