books

The Old Owls’ Tales

Much like humans find wisdom and advice in the tales of the Old Wives, animals have the Old Owl’s knowledge which is widely shared when growing up. These tales were shared with me in the past few months in relaxed, yet intimate conversations with some very lovely owls in an undisclosed location.

Illustrations can be followed on my Instagram account leahrennes (and will be posted on WordPress sometimes too) and they are a celebration of a goal I set only in August of this year and I think have achieved quite well so far.

Before August, I would draw a cow and it looked more like an elephant. After doing the 30-day challenge by Mark Kistler “You can draw in 30 days” book, I not only realized drawing is something that can be taught (and don’t necessarily rely solely upon talent) but I also gained great confidence drawing. Suddenly, I can draw images for my stories which is something I though would be never able to do. Sure, I still need to practice but I have come a long way.

“The Old Owls’ Tales” are a result of the learning process and confidence I gained in the last two months. I hope you enjoy the illustrations and don’t be shy to follow.

And as a slight preview of today’s post- bring an umbrella if you see a worried bunny- according to the Owl tales, it means it is most likely to rain.

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Every kid is the next Picasso

At the age of 30 something (that’s all you need to know), I have retaken drawing classes determined to learn how to “draw.” And I don’t mean the cookie-cutter classes where you drink wine and paint the same exact thing as the other ten people in the room and your biggest drawing accomplishment is a jejune painting of a dolphin swimming into the sunrise. NO! Real, step-by-step drawing: learning composition, style, foreshortening etc.

Everyone has a story on when they gave up drawing. For most, it’s when you see that one talented kid in class (in my case, Tanya from Russia) who draws anime and nature stills like it is nothing. She was “talented” is what my teacher used to say. Tanya this, Tanya that. Perfect Tanya drawing an elephant 3D. Everyone look at what Tanya drew! TANYA, TANYA!

Needless to say, I am still bitter because of Tanya because she killed drawing for me even though I loved it. I enjoyed it. It was my favorite thing to do. I drew flowers and butterflies and I got lost in the world of colors. But then, the comparison started. Other kids maybe drew a more refined flower. A better looking cow. A more gentle looking ballerina. And then… I started to doubt myself. My sketches did not compare and could not compare to sketched of others, people like Tanya. I stopped drawing and proclaimed myself as talent-less for drawing. I turned it into a joke throughout the years- “I really shouldn’t be drawing, if I draw a cow it looks more like an elephant” stupid type of jokes, belittling my own ability to draw.

Throughout the years I’ve learned how to use computer software to get a desired picture/image etc. But I was never able to draw out my stories. I had the text on the paper, and images in my head. I finally said to myself: enough is enough!

Drawing is all about practice, it’s not about talent. It’s about being tenacious and relentless. Your kid can be the next Picasso. Just don’t let them give up. Because, my dear readers, art is highly subjective (I mean, have you seen any of the weird “modern art?”) Art is being able to express oneself, the form and style we choose is solely our own.

Your child should never give up drawing, because all he/she has to do is to learn proper techniques. In the words of Mark Kistler- like we learn how to write, we can learn how to draw. And that’s absolutely true! Drawing teaches children not only to be creative and imaginative, but that they have to practice to get better and be persistent and passionate about something. And lastly, it can boost their confidence- they are able to create something. How great is that?? So don’t you ever, ever, ever let your child give up drawing! And maybe, you should take a few classes yourself!

Leave comment below, I would like to read about your drawing stories!

If you want to follow my drawing progress, you can follow me on Instagram 🙂 My goal is to be able to illustrate my next children’s book!

P.S: My other books are available on Amazon– find the Rainbow Starfish with Sammie Snorkles or go on a stud abroad to France 🙂 🙂

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Referral spam makes bloggers think they have actual readers

I check the numbers of my blog on my lunch break. Instead of getting a nice ice-cream desert, I look at my posts and how (un)successful my writing has been. For the longest time, I didn’t truly understand SEO and all that other fancy data. Surely, people checking my blog were actual people, right?

Then I did some reading and even got into the fancy Google Analytics. I mean, my blog visits are in fairly small numbers so data analyzing on grand scale really is not too realistic. But with Google Analytics, I learned the hard truth. “All” those “visitors” from my blog were actually just spam websites. Referral websites which “advertise the website they want people to visit and it will improve the spammers search engine ranking by creating backlinks to their website off your website’s access log.” They are mooching off my website log while making me believe they actually read my thoughts, feelings, or satire? How messed up is that?!

Granted, WordPress does provide some sort of filtering, but I know my data is skewed. And my Goodness, Google Analytics is a hot mess! It leaves me wondering if I have any actual visitors, genuine visitors at all? The only true feedback I trust these days is when you, dear reader, like my post. That’s it. Because for the longest time I believed that these spam numbers were actual readers, that I was sharing my content with the world. So before you go and check your blog data in Google Analytics… just don’t. Take the blue pill. Believe whatever you want to believe because this statistic trickery and back-linking is depressing.

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Can an author sell books at all without harassing friends/family for likes or paying for promo?

It’s been a year and I have not sold a single book yet. I’ve had free promotions on Amazon and people have read them. You see, when I started out I decided I was not going to harass my friends to like my Facebook page or have them write reviews for me on Amazon. I wanted to do it clean. I wasn’t going to pay for ads to get my book out there. So many online blogs recommend having a blog to get readers, make sure you format the book right and have it proofread…. and you’re set.

When I got my first and only review, I cried. It was positive, but apparently they still found mistakes. I ran proofreading program more than a dozen times and mistakes still happen. I’ve been editing the book to make it better.

When I came out with children’s books and had free promotions I asked for reviews (good or bad) but there has not been any feedback. It is so hard to not feel like my books are just a needle in the Amazon hay.

I guess what my question to those successful authors out there is (assuming my books don’t suck) is what else do they recommend doing? Or should I cough up the money for promotions?

Male heros of children’s books

Children’s books are a special genre to write in. Not everyone understands the imagination children have or how they think. Or perhaps even what they find funny. Since I am writing my children’s book, I have- of course- done my due diligence to research the genre and not make any mistakes. Or, at least not as many mistakes.

What bothers me is that all this articles recommend using a male character. Little girls can better relate to male characters, while apparently vice-versa is impossible for them to do. I understand that probably a boy will not relate to a character of a ballerina (or will he?) but why can’t he relate to a bold, young girl who is seeking adventure? Or a young female scientist who is on the verge of a major breakthrough in dragon healing?

It is sad that even in children’s books there is sexism. By not including female characters or giving males main role, we are saying female characters belong in the background while the lead should be for men. It’s a disturbing thought! No one thinks about it so much, until actually faced with data (btw, here is a great article). Not all stories require a certain gender character, and sometimes one just wants to have a male character but the fact that writer’s are using male characters merely to increase sales is gross. Just gross. Our kids are the new generation of open-minded people, so start putting more female characters out there! Do it for the kids. If not for your sexist self.

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