About Moxie Girl Musings

Moxie Girl Musings is about starting over from square one after tragedy impacted my young family. It's filled with stories of triumph, struggle, snafus, hopes, and dreams. Sometimes there will be features from other writers that I like and every so often I'll include an original short story, but normally I simply write what's on my mind at the time. Welcome to my unfiltered true-life story as I figure out this thing called life. http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Friday, May 17, 2013

Challenge of Telling a Story Through Pictures by Jewel Kats

Today I'm hosting award winning children's author Jewel Kats. She's touring with her new book via World of Ink Tours and has graciously stopped by to discuss the challenge of storytelling through images.  Thank you, Jewel, for stopping by. 

Challenge of Telling a Story Through Pictures
By: Jewel Kats


In my book, that’s the biggest challenge when it comes to telling a story through pictures. People often overlook the role a writer plays behind the birth of an illustrated page.

To date, I’ve written seven award-winning books for Loving Healing Press. They all contain images. I also happen to write and star in a reality-series web comic strip: “DitzAbled Princess.” Naturally, it contains eye-popping illustrations, too.

My pen—like any other visual storyteller’s—stands behind the creation of these pages. From my experience, the general public doesn’t realize this. That’s precisely why I’m writing this post. I’m here to break a longstanding myth.

Take note: Writers of all hats do more than just create dialogue. We plot story arcs. We build believable worlds. We bring characters to life. Comic strip writers even go onto stick in punch lines. The job of a writer isn’t easy. (Fun, yes! But, not easy-peasy!)  

After I pen a children’s book manuscript, I’m expected to break down the story into pages and write illustration descriptions. Things are a bit different with comic scripts for: “DitzAbled Princess.” The illustration notes are written right into the script.

Here’s a very ROUGH “DitzAbled Princess” comic script that shows my process…

Panel One:
There’s a door that has a “Do Not Enter” sign hanging in the middle of it. Behind the door someone screams: “OUCHHH!” This screaming should be in a sharp, jagged bubble. Hairspray and nail polish bottles are shaking like an earthquake is occurring.
Hubby: “What’s going on? Is she giving birth in there?” (Hands covering his ears).
Baby Sis: “No biggie. Jewel’s getting a bikini wax.”

Panel Two:
Jewel comes out of the waxing room. The earthquake has stopped. She comes out dressed in a very feminine, yet conservative dress.  
Jewel pokes Alan in his stomach. She’s teasing him. There’s a huge height difference between them.
Jewel: “Now, who’s the ‘tough guy’?”
Alan is biting his nails.
Now, let’s compare this to the actual published and fully illustrated comic strip. Both the rough, and final scripts contain a measly group of TWENTY words of dialogue. That’s all! However, the scripts are obviously more detailed.

Matters are the same for children’s literature. My book for toddlers, “Teddy Bear Princess,” contains hardly any words. Yet, the illustration descriptions are lengthy.

I personally know that I put a lot of effort into my writing. I know other visual storytellers do, too. So, the next time you read a board book for kids or a comic strip try to imagine the writer behind it. ‘Cause believe me, there’s a quiet pen sitting next to the bright artwork.

Thanks for that, Jewel. I enjoyed how you broke the process down for us.  Now let's take a look at "DitzAbled Princess."

"DitzAbled Princess" comes out as a web comic on Tapastic.com and Marvelous Spirit Press published a graphic novel based on this character. It's a hybrid of a women's comic book meets graphic novel.

About the Book:
A reality-series comic strip based on Award-winning Author Jewel Kats’ life. Jewel at 33 is a Princess in her own right. She's a fun-loving, demanding Diva who loves to shop as much she loves to write. Jewel is the apple of everyone's eye--be it her doting family, her doctor for her never-ending bowel issues, her pushy book editor and especially her frugal husband's soft spot. So, what's Jewel 's weakness? Her pet dogs: Snowie and Dolly. Particularly, naughty Snowie who is known to pee wherever he fancies--including Dolly's face!

For Jewel, her physical disability doesn't dampen her spirits. Rather, it enhances them. She gets to use an unusual fashion accessory (Imagine: A hot pink elbow crutch.) She gets out of doing housework. She gets carried up-and-down stairs like a Princess a la command. Jewel may be horribly messy, terrible with numbers and a workaholic, but nobody can imagine life without her. Not that she would let them, anyway! She has a big mouth, remember?

The book is a quick, fun read.

Written by Jewel Kats
Illustrations by Katarina Andriopoulos
Publisher: Marvelous Spirit Press
ISBN-10: 1615991832
ISBN: 978-1615991839
Genre: Graphic Novel

About the Author: 

Once a teen runaway, Jewel Kats is now a self-made Diva. She’s authored seven books! Think: ­Loving ­Healing Press (USA.) Think: Marvelous Spirit Press (USA.) Think: Kube Publishing (UK.) For six years, she penned a syndicated teen advice column for Scripps Howard News Service (USA) and TorStar Syndication Service (Canada). She’s won $20,000 in scholarships from Global Television Network and women’s book publisher, Harlequin Enterprises. Jewel also interned in the TV studio of ­Entertainment Tonight Canada. Her books have been featured in Ability Magazine twice. She recently made a guest appearance on Accessibility in Action. Jewel appeared in a documentary series by the Oprah Winfrey Network (Canada) in September of 2012.

About the Illustrator:
Katarina Andriopoulos has made art her life’s passion. Her beginnings started with a crayon in her hand, and resulted in a Graphic Design diploma from Durham College. Along the way, she’s been ­honored with various awards, including: “Most Vision” by the Durham College’s design faculty and had her portfolio featured at the Design Exchange (DX) in Toronto. She also interned as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator at Intellectual Design studio in Toronto, Canada after which she went to work as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. Her past clients include: The Shopping Channel, Botanico Creative Decor and various specialized boutiques. She’s always ready to conquer new creative challenges, and hopes to take the art industry by storm!

Follow Jewel Kats at
Twitter @DitzAbled

You can find out more about Jewel Kats, her books and World of Ink Author/Book Tour at http://tinyurl.com/cplfx6g

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit http://worldofinknetwork.com   

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

There's That Girl

This past weekend I did something I've never done before: I performed in my first public belly dancing show.  Yes, I was nervous, but not because of dancing in front of 300 people.  What?! Am I serious?  Why, then, was I apprehensive?

Because eight years ago my life split apart at the seams and I began living a life of quiet desperation.  When my husband died, I became serious, dark, sad, and lonely.  Survival became my number one priority. I lived according to a checklist: get kids through grief, keep the house standing, take care of the car, figure out what to do tomorrow, make ends meet, and work until your eyes bleed because you're all the kids have now.  Isolation grew along with sadness.  Yes, I've had joyous moments. I'm not implying otherwise. The kids and I have traveled, we've laughed, we've grown together in wonderful ways.  We've come a long way, us three.

But a part of me had been locked away all of this time...she's been afraid to be seen, preferred hiding behind weight gain, work excuses, and social isolation.  Why? Because surviving suicide is a heavy burden to bear, especially as the spouse.  I can't tell you how many times people ask me if I "knew" my late husband's intent, if I "knew" he was sad.  The implication is always there...that I could have saved him, should have made a difference.  Shame crept in and held me captive even though I knew better.  Logic sometimes pales in comparison to guilt and grief.

Some people only see my smile without noticing the pain in my eyes.  Some people only see the outer success without thinking I could be sad or lonely. Some people see my outward appearance and fail to notice my insecurity at being abandoned by the man I loved in such a harsh way. Some people ask those questions I mentioned above without thinking about the implication or the impact those words possess.  Hiding becomes a skill after awhile...an effortless talent.

It was scary as hell to come out of the shadows.  I started inching out of my dark space in 2010 when I began putting my writing back out into the world, but even that felt awkward. Who did I think I was stepping into success when my gorgeous husband had ended his life?  How dare I enjoy life? Shouldn't I keep punishing myself?  (Yes, these are real and dysfunctional thoughts that I've had.)

But this past weekend when I walked onto that stage in my purple dance attire complete with sparkles and glitter, heaviness lifted and my heart took flight. The women who danced with me were also beginners who had their own insecurities bubbling to the surface. Together as one unit we danced.  We weren't the most skilled, obviously, but the crowd cheered encouragement.

In the audience were other more experienced belly dancers who hollered their support. The crowd went wild when we started moving.  The positive energy drenched us with love.  We danced, we made mistakes, but we kept dancing.

I felt "her" returning...the me that's been hiding for awhile now.  I felt her shining in the spotlight and tossing off the shroud that's been covering her for so long.  By the time we hit the shimmy at the end, I felt connected with the free spirited woman I used to be before tragedy took its toll. I couldn't stop smiling. Exhilaration pumped through my heart.

May has been a challenging month for me now for the past 7 years.  I think of the moments I overlooked, things I took for granted, remember our last family vacation as a foursome, and yearn for a love lost.  But this past weekend I thought..."I did it, I'm still standing, I'm whole, I'm still the me I used to be...have always been."

When we beginners were off stage, we looked at each other and laughed.  We'd done it! We'd tackled our insecurities, come out of the shadows, danced in the spotlight in front of 300 people with our glittery costumes, and left the stage lighter than we'd entered it.

No more hiding...only dancing.
   Picture is blurry because my daughter took it & we were moving, but I wanted to use it anyway because it's real. It's a victorious moment for me--women of all ages, shapes, and backgrounds joined together and conquered their fears.  AWESOME! (I'm in purple.) 

Friday, May 3, 2013

The necktie

Being a widow isn't new to me any longer.  I completely understand that I need to be both mom and dad, depending on circumstances.  I've learned to handle a chainsaw, fix fences, fish (well, I mostly supervise this activity), build various contraptions to keep out bears, and grout tile. But I don't like any of the above activities much. I'd rather be getting a facial or a manicure than figuring out how to deter raccoons.

"Mom, I need you to teach me to tie a necktie," my son said from the doorway to my bedroom where I was trying in vain to paint my toenails.  It was game day and he needed to dress up.  For years we'd gotten away with a nice shirt or sweater, but this is high school now and he needed a tie.

I don't know how to do that.  I looked at my son who is now six feet tall and taking on the shape of his late father.  He stood there holding one of his dad's ties he'd found in the closet and a new dress shirt I'd bought him.  We made eye contact and I could see the uncertainty in his eyes.  Sure, mom can ward off a horde of raccoons with a water gun but can she tie a Windsor Knot?

"I'll YouTube it," I said with a smile while inside I fought off the whirlwind of emotions that assaulted me at his simple request.

Damn you, Sean, for leaving your son without a father.  

Damn, me, for not being enough.  

Damn the world for being unfair and cruel.

Damn you, Sean, for being missed so greatly long after you've passed on, for the gaping hole you've left in our lives.

Damn me for never knowing how to tie a frick'n necktie! 

Shaking off those thoughts, I grabbed the iPhone and went to YouTube.  I fake confidence pretty well, but my son didn't look convinced.

"I'll just forget it," he said, looking at the tie in his hand.

"Nope. I got this. Look." Sure enough, there was a how to video on YouTube. (I love YouTube!)  

"No, that's fine, it's okay." He turned to leave.

I grabbed his arm and made him sit on the edge of the bed. "We can do this.  It's just a tie."

My hands trembled as I looped the necktie around my son's neck.  I wanted to get it right.

You should be here, Sean. You should be the one teaching him all these manly things.  He needs you.  I shook off the thoughts and concentrated on the YouTube video.

We watched the video a couple of times.  I screwed up several attempts, but then finally I got it right.  Yay!  I squealed in triumph, fighting back the urge to do a cartwheel followed by a cheerleader jump.

"You look so handsome," I said.

He rolled his eyes, stood and walked to the mirror.  I watched him study his reflection as he adjusted the tie.  With a shrug, he said "thanks."  Our gaze met in the mirror, son to mother, and I knew he was thinking of his father, too.

Life isn't fair. Yes, we will always miss Sean.  But maybe I am enough.  Perhaps as the kids grow they will see that I tried my best.  That's all any of can do at the end of the day...our best.  Sometimes we'll fall and struggle, but then there will be moments when we're saved by YouTube and all feels right with the world.

Peace to you---

Amazon (Universal link): getBook.at/FreeFall
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/H0QBCr
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