Hello Fall, and Granbery Elementary!

September is here!  All has been quiet on the Otis blog for a while, but not behind the scenes.  We’ve been busy working on the sequel to Otis Goes to School, as well as several other new and exciting writing projects… some involving some pretty special canine characters!  We will reveal details as we receive permission to do so, but for now, stay tuned and enjoy this adventure that all started with one dog who needed a home.  We are still visiting schools and reading with students, and our favorite moments are with our young fans. Stay in touch and let us know what you like about #OtisGoestoSchool!

Fall is knocking on the door, and school is back in session! Backpacks and lunchboxes for all the students means daytime naps and eyeballing the clock for the most fabulous hour of the day for Otis.  What is that hour?  3pm, of course. The time his three favorite whippersnappers arrive back home from all that book-learning, ready for snuggles and catch-up hugs from the long school day apart.

But tomorrow won’t allow for a nap for Otis!  On Friday, September 11, we are off to visit Granbery Elementary School in Brentwood, TN.  We will visit with 732 (wowee!!) K-4 graders and gladly spread the notion:

reading is a beautiful way to grow your budding imaginations.

Otis is the special guest for this school’s “Wild About Reading” week, and we couldn’t be more excited.  We are looking forward to our largest crowd yet, and Otis is particularly excited about all the petting and loving.  Thank you for inviting us, Granbery.  We are honored to be WILD with you about #READING!

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OTIS wants YOU…

…to come see him this weekend!  I invite you to share this invitation with everyone you know: repost, retweet, email, whatever social media platform you choose.  Come to the Youth Stage at the Southern Festival of Books on Saturday, at 1pm, and let me thank you in person!  Blessings to all of you who have cheered us on to this milestone.  See you soon!

Ad for Southern Festival of Books time slot

Read much? Love dogs?

Then you need a placeholder between your pages that makes you smile!

Please consider giving $1 or more for this bookmark–any donation amount that makes you feel involved–and 100% of the profits will go straight to the Nashville Humane Association, benefitting dogs just like our beloved Otis (and lots of other animals, too!).  How many bookmarks do you need?  Email ashleybramlett.author@yahoo.com and let me know… today!

And then come meet us at the 25th Anniversary Dog Days Celebration in Nashville (benefitting the NHA), on September 20, 2014, and Otis will thank you in person… or in canine!

Pass the word… post it on Facebook… retweet on Twitter… call you animal-loving friends and send them my way.  Thank you, in advance, for your help!

Email ashleybramlett.author@yahoo.com and let me know how many bookmarks you would like to purchase!

Email ashleybramlett.author@yahoo.com and let me know how many bookmarks you would like to purchase!

Happy National Bacon Day from Otis!

It’s another all-American day of observance to pay homage to something fun for everyone… and this time, something delicious!  It’s National Bacon Day… and it’s also the first weekend of college football.  Coink-y-dink? Surely not!  

We’ve already shared a pic of our family with Otis (via Twitter on Thursday), displaying the football team to whom we pledge our loyalty… (click here to see our Rebel family).

So now, here’s Otis and his tribute to Bacon Day.  He’s really a good, sweet and patient dog.  He deserves every bite, don’t you think?  Pick up a copy of his book and find out just how great he really is!

Happy Bacon Day

 

 

Noisy Vocabulary

For those of you who enjoy words of the day… here’s a fun one!

CACOPHONY

School age kids love Chapter 14 of Otis Goes to School.  Midway through the chapter, Otis follows his expert olfactory tracker along the trail of the alluring scent of chicken nuggets and fresh baked cornbread.  Throwing all concerns of remaining undiscovered on his Schooldays investigations, he gobbles up tasty morsels of carelessly dropped lunch crumbs and blows his own cover, much to the glorious shock of a lunchroom full of chatty children:

“The news of a dog in School had spread to the other tables, and the cafeteria cacophony had become an uproarious frenzy.”

Much of the fun of Otis Goes to School is inseparably and entertainingly mingled with the introduction of new words to young readers… exciting words, silly words, fun-to-say words, imagination-stretching words.  To tell a story is one thing, but to tell it with words that catch the reader by surprise and invite them to know more–that is literature.

It is my hope that Otis Goes to School will become a part of the beautiful scores of children’s literature that seamlessly blend reading into the fabric of their personalities, and make them reach for more.

Be sure you are ready for reading with your favorite Otis bookmark, free with any book purchase!

Be sure you are ready for reading with your favorite Otis bookmark, free with any book purchase!

Otis the Mustang – Part TWO

Following our fine experiences as Chapel guests of the Lipscomb Academy pre-K/K and third grade Book Day readers (click here for Otis the Mustang, Part ONE), we found ourselves welcomed with a perfect poster and sweeping seas of smiles by the seriously sensational second graders (Don’t you love alliteration?  I do, dearly, for double the delight and dazzle… click here for more Vocabulary of Otis.).

Welcome, Otis!

Welcome, Otis!

The absolutely fantastic Mrs. Lankford of second grade made us feel quite at home… and a homecoming, indeed, it was, as our oldest is a graduate of her class.  If every elementary ankle-biter could experience a Mrs. Lankford, somewhere along the way of their schooling, well… this world would just be a finer place all together!  She inspired Chapter 16, near the end of the book, because my oldest was wrapping up his second grade year with her when I completed the manuscript for Otis Goes to School.

All four classes of second grade, and all their amazing teachers, filed into our hostess’s classroom.  They spotted the star–Otis, of course–and there was immediate mutual love between these children and this canine.  After a little background about creative writing, book planning and production, and the sentimental history of Otis, we dove into two of the chapters between the front and back covers of Otis Goes to School.

Hands of the sensational sea of second graders!

Hands of the sensational sea of second graders!

I chose Chapter 13, “Pond-Dog,” for this bunch.  There is a particular water feature around which the happenings of this chapter take place, and it sits just behind the second grade classrooms, so I knew Otis’s discoveries thereabout would prove extra special, and would ring that bell of familiarity with ease and recognizable description.

And just as I suspected, they did not disappoint.  They recognized the pond immediately, and that perfect likeness to Otis therein, as well.

Otis sat, and then stood, and then sat and stood again, and Pond-Dog did the same. Otis panted and sneeze-barked, and snorted a friendly hello, and Pond-Dog did the same. A lovely water-butterfly danced in the air just above Pond-Dog’s ears, and much to his surprise when he looked up, there was a Monarch dancing above his own ears! Otis watched his cotton-ball clouds float to the east, and noticed the pond-clouds did the same. He wondered if they eventually met somewhere far away on the horizon, wherever it is that clouds go.

“…wherever it is that clouds go.” Ahhh, these little ones, they went right along with us, searching our imaginations for those very clouds.  We deeply enjoyed all the interest and intensity these second graders exuded.  For the Lipscomb set, they might just take the cake for “most into-the-story!”

Of course, we topped it off with Chapter 14, “Lunch.”  And good timing, because that’s just what they were ready for!

Distracted from his stealthy-ness by his newfound buffet line, Otis brushed against the legs of the cornbread girl, and his soft fur tickled her knees. She lowered her head and peered under the table, still laughing along with her friends, and spotted Otis, who paused with a deer-in-the-headlight expression.

“A dog!” the girl called loudly to her friend. “Y’all look at the dog under the table!”

And they all swiveled and twisted on their stools to crouch down for a better look, raising the noise-level all the while.

“Oh my, it IS a dog!” one girl exclaimed.

“He’s cute!” another declared. Well that was surely a nice thing to say.

“Dude, that’s awesome–a dog in School. Hey, feed him my carrots!” a goofy boy insisted, holding down a bright orange carrot between his finger and thumb.

“Hey, that’s that dog that hangs out the window every afternoon in the pick-up line!”

“Naw, can’t be, somebody tell the teachers…”

“Here boy, have a nugget!”

Otis grabbed the carrot and the nugget and kept moving forward under the table. Yep, he had been discovered, but it was worth it. Lunch had been spectacular. Students petted him and scratched his ears as he stepped over feet and lunchboxes. The commotion had drawn the attention of the teachers at this point, but it was nearly impossible to contain the excitement of children who had just found a big black dog under their lunch table.

There were squeals and hollering and he knew he heard his name several times. More food appeared under the table, served in the palms of chuckling children. “That’s Otis!” someone insisted…

See you in the pick-up line, second-grade.  You are always the BEST at waving to Otis in the afternoons.  He’s extra happy and shows off that polka-dotted pant in a large way when you greet him coming around that curve.

Mrs. Lankford's 2014 second graders!

Mrs. Lankford’s 2014 second graders!

Otis enjoyed every second of the second grade’s petting.

To the First Grade!

And less than 24 hours later, we were welcomed into the first grade classrooms, and into the extra huggable arms of these bright and dear young ones.  You do know, first grade is training ground for the best huggers of the future.  I don’t remember when I’ve received better hugs than in first grade classrooms.  These students are still the age of love in its most pure, childlike form, and they give it freely to those who look upon them with likewise admiration and appreciation (…and they do admire alliteration!).

Perhaps all the hugs are why these teachers smile so easily, so readily, even (perhaps, especially) upon the little learners who might challenge the very patience of Job with their wiggly-ness and unable-to-stop-talking-for-one-blessed-moment-ness.  There are first graders who follow the playbook as though life depends upon successful tippy-toeing between the clearly explained bylaws of first grade.  And then… and then… they are those who run haphazardly through the bylaws, past all the exceptions and clear into the unchartered territory of the first grader’s inquisitively insistent, “…but why?” (Thank you to my children’s Uncle LaGard Smith, for that succinct yet ridiculously accurate two-word summation of the ever wondering six-year-old’s favorite question.)

How do I know, you ask?  Let’s just say, the blessing of raising three children (three vastly different little Bramletts, who artfully resemble each other in looks, yet somehow encompass the full spectrum of personality possibilities within this gene pool) comes with the revelation that truly, no two children are alike, nor should they be.  They definitely approach the playbook from all angles.  And first-grade-caliber hugs help smooth those angles, no doubt here.

How else do I know?  It might be duly noted that Yours Truly, when in first grade, loved school deeply, and was often ready with some profound (wink) answer and exuberantly raised hand… it is possible that said hand might have been waving rapidly back and forth with ferocious first-grade fervor, and that the thumb and tall-man finger may have been snapped a time or two (or three) to grab my dear Mrs. Snellgrove’s attention, so that the enlightened answer/revelation/story might gush forth from the two little pink inward-squeezed lips of this overly excited only-child who scoffed at by-laws and exceptions where spotlight was available.  But I gave great hugs, and Mrs. Snellgrove was always smiling!  

Yours Truly, sometime around my first grade year.

Yours Truly, sometime around my first grade year.

(Thank you for your patience, Mrs. Snellgrove!)

First graders are exceedingly different and beautiful, but they all hug with wild abandon, with tremendous gusto… and with some pretty strong muscles, too, I might add!  These first graders lived up to their high heights of huggability, and ended our 2014 Lipscomb Academy visits with love to last us through the summer.

We were hosted by the very sweet, very gentle and dear Mrs. Woodard, who blessed our oldest two children with her knack for encouraging young readers, her soft voice, and her ever-caring gaze upon the lot of those under her tutelage.  Her wonderful, fellow hugged-to-the-max teachers and all the first graders joined us for a reading of the Spring volume of Ella and the Little Red Wagon (quite special, since this was a visit to our very own Ella’s classroom and grade) and Chapter 12, of Otis Goes to School: “The Spelling Test.”

This chapter is based on Mrs. Woodard and her classroom specifically, so these darlings followed right along with all the rituals of the spelling test described… all the knee-bouncing, eraser-to-the-forehead thinking, the clock ticking, the bottom-lip-biting and uplifting teacher-given winks of encouragement.  They were right there with me, right there with Otis as he reassures Chapter 12’s first-grader in his spelling of the last word of the test… “DOG.”

Otis was glad the word had not been CAT, as he would have been no help there.

The first graders!

The first graders!

I was so happy to know that just about all these students were ready to get to work on their own stories, their own written adventures of imagination.  They also shared much with us about their own dogs and other pets who resemble Otis.  And the beauty in that strong compulsion to share the first thought that comes along is the innocent and immediate reminder that children of this age have their worlds before them.  They are sitting at start, fumbling for their own sets of keys to the ignition of imagination, and all their engines are Formula-One-worthy.  Their potential is boundless, untold and yet-to-be.

That’s why they hug with all their might… because they don’t know “can’t.”

It’s a great thing not to know the meaning of the word, “can’t.”  Personally, and in my house, it’s the equivalent of a forbidden four-letter word.  “Can’t,” just provokes me, really, and I’m sure my patient husband–who would make Job proud–would agree wholeheartedly.  To me, “can’t,” evokes the opposing response of, “wanna bet?”

Actually, the more typical response of this author to the atrocious contraction, “can’t,” is more along the lines of a raised right eyebrow, an ever-so-slight smile with a set jaw and hidden, clenched teeth, nose flared in the fashion of family decent, eyes flashing and scarcely squinted, excessively focused and bluer than before the inherent challenge.  I think my husband concurrently shows both eyebrows raised high to wrinkle his concerned forehead, a gritted smile in the oh-boy-here-it-comes fashion, and a tense oh-man-what-path-are-we-about-to-embark-upon sensation.  It always works out swimmingly, though, because “can’t,” just won’t do.

These first graders have the right idea.  Keep hugging with all your heart and might.

Keep answering that call to tell your own tale, and tell it well (don’t forget your adjectives!).

Never learn the meaning of the word, “can’t.”  Step right over it, because you can.

Otis time is special time.

Otis time is special time.

I look forward to keeping up with all the Mustangs.  And I can hardly wait to see how you’ve all grown by next year.  It’s summertime, so I’m hoping your adventures are laying ground to stories you’ll share with me, upon our next gathering together.

To all of the Lipscomb Academy teachers who invited me, my husband, our dog, family and book into your classrooms, bless you and thank you.  Thank you all for what you do everyday, for showing up with excitement, for inspiring our children, for being everything that you are to your own families and then pulling even more from your hearts to share with your students and all their families.  Our experiences with your students shall be forever treasured, keeping our hearts full with happy thoughts.

And selfishly, we can’t help but hope for more of the same.

God bless you Mustangs, as you have all greatly blessed us.  Have a summerload of fun!

 

Two of my sweets: Robert and Otis.

Two of my sweets: Robert and Otis.

 

For more excerpts from Otis Goes to School, click here!

To find out how/where you can purchase a book or schedule an appearance, click here!

UPDATE: Here’s a couple of treasures given to me by students after our first grade visit… I love the artwork, and the thought behind the stories!  Thank you to Scout and Esme for sharing your talents with me!  I’ll treasure them always.

Thank you for the colorful picture, Esme!

Thank you for the colorful picture, Esme!

 

Great story, Scout!  I love the way you describe your day with Ella at school.  I know you have fun!

Great story, Scout! I love the way you describe your day with Ella at school. I know you have fun!

 

The Jewels of Haywood Elementary School — Part I

Otis has been around the world today!

Better stated… today, Otis was loved and hugged and smooched and squeezed by children from all over this planet, right here in the heart of Nashville.  Today, we visited Haywood Elementary School, for the second time in two weeks (Click here for the Part II recap).

On both trips, we were met with such love, such excitement and interest.

On both trips, we made beautiful new friends.

On both trips, we were blessed.

For a mere peek into the remarkable wonders of Haywood, read forth…

Our first visit to Haywood Elementary School, visiting with Miss Jan Crowder's 1st and 2nd graders, for whom English is a second language.  What precious children, and what a loving teacher!

Our first visit to Haywood Elementary School, visiting with Miss Jan Crowder’s 1st and 2nd graders, for whom English is a second language. What precious children, and what a loving teacher!

The photograph above includes children from Egypt, Burma, Somalia, Iraq and Uzbekistan! (The country of Jordan is also represented, but the student from Jordan was home sick on this day.  She is in Part II of this story though, back and well for our second visit!)

Miss Jan Crowder and her class greeted us with graceful manners, helpful hands, and promising imaginations.  We gathered in the cozy library, and read aloud the Spelling Test chapter, together.

They sat close… some close enough to reach a fingertip to pet Otis while they listened.

They scooted closer… close enough to share impromptu hugs with me, and exuberant smiles certainly drawn by the unparalleled hands of God above.

They looked right into my eyes, because they are so curious, so ready for knowledge, so honest and innocent to worldly concerns, even though they represent just that: the world.

One smiling boy touched Otis, and jumped back, testing and conquering his own apprehension.

One brown-eyed fellow beamed joy and happiness with a darling grin that I won’t forget.

One studious chap followed along, word-for-word, showing his skill in mastering English.

One pretty, smart girl bounced around me with delight and zest for life.

One precious child kept a distance from Otis, his fear of dogs shown on his face. (Remember this boy… I’ll return to him momentarily.)

Such patience and interest in these darlings!

Such patience and interest in these darlings!

Eyes-to-eyes and heart-to-heart.

Eyes-to-eyes and heart-to-heart.

We talked about our imaginations and our own stories.  We talked about adjectives and the power of descriptive words.  We celebrated the fact that all of our stories are different, and all worth telling with the most beautiful words we can muster.

Lunchtime scents finally found their ways into the halls, signaling the end of our time together.  After all the hugs we could fit into our affectionate goodbyes, we parted ways for the day, their promises of telling their own unique stories, echoing in my mind.

Otis was happy with all the loving of the morning, and I was touched by the connection Miss Crowder had with this class that she so expertly fashioned into a family.  She found herself at the beginning of the school year with the world’s children at her feet, and six different language barriers between them.  Such hurdles are no match for Miss Crowder’s dedication, devotion and true love for these youngsters.

And now… these students and their teacher–this family–moves as one unit, with respect and patience and order, with manners and politeness, with concern and time for each other… all with beautiful English and ambition for excellence!  Like polished jewels of the earth, these students reflect the care Miss Crowder brings from her heart, every single day, and I could see that they were all blessings to each other.  To be included in the morning’s study with this class was a gift, for Otis and for me.

Only a few days later, Miss Crowder hand-delivered those promised stories to me.  I was speechless, holding true treasures in my hands.

"I love you Otis."

“I love you Otis.”

"I like Otis. I like Mrs. Ashley."

“I like Otis.
I like Mrs. Ashley.”

"Otis is smart. Otis is good smell."

“Otis is smart.
Otis is good smell.”

"Otis is smart. He can hear you. He is good dog. Otis is best dog."

“Otis is smart. He can hear you. He is good dog. Otis is best dog.”

And from the little fellow who was afraid… he rose above that fear, just as the twinkle in his eye promised he would.  Fear, to anyone, is a hindrance.  But to a child, an 8-year old, in a faraway country, nowhere near his Somalian home, communicating in his second language, already overcoming so much… a fear could be paralyzing.  This boy paused before his fear, calculated his own source of courage, and waited patiently while it swelled within his lion’s heart.

Though he did not need to apologize for his apprehension around dogs, he did, within his handwritten story (below).  I smiled with a furrowed brow when I read his words.  If I could just reach through his sentiments with a hug and assurance that I understood, and to tell him not to fret…

I would get that chance, in fact.

"I love Otis so much. I want to be friends Otis. I want to say I'm sorry because I was afraid."

“I love Otis so much.
I want to be friends Otis.
I want to say I’m sorry because I was afraid.”

Needless to say, Otis and I could hardly wait to return to Haywood Elementary.

Click here to read further about the Jewels of Haywood Elementary School — Part II200 1st graders and no fears in sight!

Reminiscing the 2014 Alabama Book Festival

It was only three weeks ago, and we’ve been busy since then, but we are so delighted about and thankful for our one-of-a-kind experiences as a part of the 9th Annual Alabama Book Festival, last month on April 19, 2014.  I promised a recap and details, and now that I have the photographs all together, I’m thrilled to share our remembrances with you.

What a day; what a day, indeed!  It was sunny and pleasant for the Festival down in Montgomery, Alabama, a welcome change from the chilly soaking in which we arrived the day before.

My handsome husband, Robert, and I jumped right in to the weekend’s activities after unpacking at the hotel and crossing our fingers for the rain to stop.  My “appointed big sister,” Suellen (see previous post, Writing from Gratitude), and her beautiful daughter, Abigail, graciously came to babysit our three little ones, and treated them to a fun night of pillow-and-blanket forts and relentless spoiling.

Robert and I were invited guests of the Governor and Mrs. Bentley, next door to the Governor’s Mansion, at the Author Party inside the elegantly antebellum John Blue Hill House.  What a beautiful spread, all planned by Mr. Bob McLain (Executive Director, Old Alabama Town) and the sweet and precious Ms. Heather Hannah (Mansion Affairs and Assistant to the First Lady), featuring amazing company, delicious hors d’oeuvres, and a chance to discuss all things literary.  It was a night I’ll not forget!

Pictured:  Top Row, L to R: Alabama Governor's Mansion, John Blue Hill House Middle Row, L to R: Director of Mansion Affairs and Assistant to the First Lady, Heather Hannah and me; Signing a copy of "Otis Goes to School," to my home state of Alabama; A double selfie with the fellow who makes me my best self, my husband, Robert. Bottom Row, L to R: Robert and me with Pulitzer Prize author nominee and Mississippi native, Clifton Taubert; Making a little history with Otis Goes to School at the Governor's Mansion

Pictured:
Top Row, L to R: Alabama Governor’s Mansion; John Blue Hill House.
Middle Row, L to R: Director of Mansion Affairs and Assistant to the First Lady, Heather Hannah and me; Signing a copy of Otis Goes to School, to my home state of Alabama, to be a part of the First Lady’s reading initiative for young children; A double selfie with the fellow who makes me be my best self… my husband, Robert.
Bottom Row, L to R: Robert and me with Pulitzer Prize author nominee and Mississippi native, Clifton Taubert; Making a little history with Otis Goes to School at the Governor’s Mansion

After a short night of sleep, we all woke up to sunshine and high hopes as we packed the car for the 1/2 mile ride over to Old Alabama Town.  What an expertly maintained piece of living history!  We found ourselves in awe, in the setting of a 19th century village, surrounded by authentic, restored southern buildings and log cabins, a one-room schoolhouse, grapevine canopies, heritage rose borders and lush, dew-sparkled shade trees.

We were first on the list for the children’s author line-up, and we had such fun visiting with old friends, meeting new fans, and sharing Otis Goes to School with everyone.  It was a proud moment to see the book for sale with Capitol Book and News, the official bookseller of the Alabama Book Festival.

That's me and Otis, hearts filled with appreciation and excitement for our involvement in 2014's Book Festival.

That’s me and Otis, hearts filled with appreciation and excitement for our involvement in 2014’s Book Festival, and really enjoying being a part of Old Alabama Town.

It was a homecoming for me, as my roots run deep in Montgomery and Autauga Counties.  Cherished teachers of mine from Montgomery Academy came and brought hugs and smiles and welcome memories. Dear, dear friends, who have treated me like family since my own whippersnapper days, filled the audience and my heart with love.  Alma Mater classmates surprised me with their presence and their children, and new fans of Otis (human and canine!) emerged and hopped aboard this train, all throughout the day.

Pictured: Top Row L to R: Ella, my unforgettable 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Betty Saunders, her darling granddaughter, Claire, me, and my amazing third grade teacher, Mrs. Vivian Barfoot; a new young fan and her tiny and cute puppy, Romeo, me and Ella. Middle Row, L to R: Otis enjoys the love; my best-friend-of-all-time's family, the Winslows; With Montgomery's most fabulous friend of the arts, Jackie Berry. Bottom Row, L to R: My fellow Montgomery Academy classmate and friend, Lida Cunningham and her adorable Sarah; Signing a book to my dear Mrs. Barfoot... what an honor for me!

Pictured:
Top Row L to R: Ella, my unforgettable 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Betty Saunders, her darling granddaughter, Claire, me, and my amazing third grade teacher, Mrs. Vivian Barfoot; A new young fan and her tiny and cute puppy, Romeo, me and Ella.
Middle Row, L to R: Otis enjoys the love; My best-friend-of-all-time’s precious family, the Winslows; With Montgomery’s most fabulous friend of the arts, Jackie Berry.
Bottom Row, L to R: My fellow Montgomery Academy classmate and talented friend, Lida Cunningham Sease and her adorable Sarah; Signing a book to my dear Mrs. Barfoot… what an honor for me!

The Alabama Book Festival is an event for everyone.  There are book genres and authors to suit just about every taste and level of reading, delicious BBQ and tasty treats of all kinds, talented local artisans sharing their gifts… and who knew we would be rubbing elbows with the likes of SkippyJon Jones!  I’m so thankful that to pursue the success of Otis Goes to School, means that my children are involved in what I do.  You can see, they loved this day!  They especially enjoyed spending time with their beloved godparents, LaGard and Ruth Smith, who took charge with loving arms and their protective, caring presence, while mommy and daddy took the stage with Otis.

Pictured: Top Row, L to R: Preston and me with our children's godparents, author F. LaGard Smith and his truly lovely wife, Ruth; Paul Kent being sure folks know which book to buy! Middle Row, L to R: Paul Kent always has a smile for mommy; Paul Kent and Ella meet the one-and-only, SkippyJon Jones; Ella shows off her expert hula hooping skills in the children's area. Bottom Row, L to R: Smiley photo op with Ella and Preston; Paul Kent and Ella help carry mommy's book supplies; With my mom and longtime family friend and 5th grade Trinity Presbyterian teacher, Gidget Smith.

Pictured:
Top Row, L to R: Preston and me with our children’s godparents: acclaimed Christian author and Faulkner University/Jones School of Law Professor, F. LaGard Smith and his truly lovely wife, Ruth; Paul Kent being sure folks know which book to buy!
Middle Row, L to R: Paul Kent always has a smile for mommy; Paul Kent and Ella meet the one-and-only, SkippyJon Jones; Ella shows off her expert hula hooping skills in the children’s area.
Bottom Row, L to R: Smiley photo op with a face-painted Ella and giggly Preston; Paul Kent and Ella help carry mommy’s book supplies; With my mom and longtime family friend and 5th grade Trinity Presbyterian teacher, Gidget Smith.

My favorite moments are those when all of my family is involved.  After we had our third and last child, Preston, it became easier to refer to ourselves as the Bramlett Five, rather than listing all our names.  That reference stuck pretty well, and appropriately so, as we work as a team.  We made the choice, many adventures back, to do this life together.  Whatever challenges or celebrations come along to any one of us, we approach them together.  When one of us falls, there are four loyal sets of hands to pick him or her up and encourage the next try.  When one of us receives an accolade, you can bet there are four sets of similar hands applauding and calling for an encore.  And in all things, we pray together (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Pictured: Top Row, L to R: Robert and me before the Author Party; My treasured Alabama Writers' Forum pin, commemorating my new status as an honorary Alabama writer. Bottom Row, L to R: The Bramlett Five, in front of the quite amazing one-room schoolhouse; In action with Robert and Otis (photograph courtesy of

Pictured:
Top Row, L to R: Robert and me before the Author Party; My treasured Alabama Writers’ Forum pin, commemorating my new status as an honorary Alabama writer.
Bottom Row, L to R: The Bramlett Five and Otis, in front of the one-room schoolhouse; In action at the author presentation with Robert and Otis (photograph courtesy of the Alabama Book Festival)

It can not go without mention that my Robert, just after the photo above, helped me with my author presentation.  The week before the Festival, I had a horrible sore throat and cough… wouldn’t you know, during my speech, that lingering cough decided to wake itself up and pay me a little surprise visit!  Upon an understood, mutual glance between us, Robert jumped right in to tell the tale of how Otis came to join our family after the Nashville floods of 2010, while I stepped aside to regain control of my vocal cords.

Definitely unscripted, it was the perfect reminder to me that whatever future is ahead for Otis Goes to School, and my path as an author, it is not a one-person show.  My family is my everything, and my Robert gives flight to my wildest dreams.

THANK YOU, to my family, my friends, the 2014 Alabama Book Festival Committee, Old Alabama Town, the Alabama Writers’ Forum, the Governor and First Lady of Alabama, their staff, and our new fans.  This was an auspicious day in the life of this author, and quite a moment of arrival for a Tennessee rescue pup with a polka-dotted tongue and white fur tie, named of course… Otis.

Spreading the Words…

Join me in supporting Metro Arts!

By the Fall of 2014, the Bellevue Library in Nashville, TN, will be the home of two inspiring, professional art projects.  Artists’ concepts from all over the country were considered for  these creations.  Great Beginnings, by Beverly Stucker Precious, was the chosen concept for the library’s new outdoor classroom, and it involves the idea of a “learning tree,” with opening sentences from literary works woven right into the branches.

The opening sentence of "Otis Goes to School" could very well be included in this inspiring work of art.  Thank you for nominating us!

“Great Beginnings,” by Beverly Precious. The opening sentence of “Otis Goes to School” could very well be included in this inspiring work of art. Thank you for nominating us!

How creatively AMAZING!

Ms. Precious is currently seeking nominations from favorite first sentences to be included in her learning tree, and if you see fit, I would be honored if you would take a moment to submit the following opening sentence of Otis Goes to School, for her consideration:

It was Autumn… the air was crisp and the leaves were changing colors before falling to decorate the grass with their crunchy-ness.

Can you feel the cool hints in the fall season’s air?  Can you see the bright green leaves of the maple changing to sunshine yellows, and then to twilight oranges, and lastly to fiery reds… finally releasing their stemmed grips and spinning in their one and only chance to dance on the breeze, landing silently on the pin-tops of grass blades, crunching beneath the spritely feet of children celebrating a golden afternoon…?

If you see the picture painted within the opening sentence of Otis Goes to School, if it makes you want to read more, if it makes you smile or touches you in some memory tucked into your heart’s treasure chest, then please nominate us to be included in Ms. Precious’s masterpiece, to be included in the library’s artistic inspiration of budding imaginations.

CLICK HERE to read about the art projects coming to the Bellevue Library, and to include Otis in the nominations.  VISIT the Metro Arts ONLINE SUGGESTION BOX, and complete the very short form.  You can cut and paste the opening sentence of Otis from the quote above.  It takes just a minute or so, and you will be supporting the library, the arts, and Otis Goes to School!

Thank you so much for including us in your busy schedules.

Blessings and barks to you for a beautiful day ahead!

 

 

It’s a Dog’s Day in Alabama Today!


Good morning Otis fans…

TODAY IS THE DAY!

In just a few hours, we will introduce Otis Goes to School, to the state of Alabama. We are looking forward to big crowds, good weather and meeting the likes of Fancy Nancy and Skippyjon Jones, and their authors and illustrators.

Last night, we were guests of the Governor at the John Blue Hill Home, and I was humbled to become an honorary writer for the state of Alabama.  We were rubbing elbows with award winning novelists and Pulitzer Prize nominees!  We are over the moon to be included in this fine group of accomplished authors, and hope that we make a splash of our own as this day gets started.

Stay with us on Facebook to follow our day with pictures! I’ll have a full report here when I get back to my full size keyboard… It’s tough to make these fingers fly on a cell phone screen!

Bless you all, thank you all, and my sincerest appreciation to the folks who made possible our acceptance to the Alabama Book Festival.

Thank you to the Alabama Writers' Forum!

Thank you to the Alabama Writers’ Forum!