Sunday, March 29, 2020

Summer is for Art and Learning Classes!

So ready for social distancing to be OVER!
But, as it turns out, social distancing isn't ending anytime soon 
AND I've accepted the position of ELA & Drama Teacher for 2020-21
 at Gila Ridge High School in Yuma, AZ!
So, art lessons will simply have to wait. There's a time and a season for
every good thing and the teaching opportunity feels like the 
best fit for now!

I'm not going to erase this blog, just post updates as things play out.
Whether I'll be teaching virtually or in a face-to-face setting is TBD, but, just like all of you,
will do my best whichever way it goes!
There will be 2 different times of the day that you can choose from, 
every Thursday for 8 weeks, beginning June 25th.
This can be a great way for teens to bond with parents, 
as well as an awesome alternative to video games or
hanging out at the mall.
I'll be posting images of what you'll be creating for each class
as soon as possible, but here's a list of the techniques 
I'll be using on my walls and sharing with you!
To get the low low rate of $25 per class (that includes supplies!)
sign up early for multiple classes!
But wait! Do you have young kids 
who need something fun to do while you 
go shopping or out with a friend?
Wednesdays are "art & learning camp" for kids 3 to 6 years old!
If you have a 7 year old who wants to join in, that's cool, too.  
This is just an approximation of the ages activities will 
be centered around.
A full list of classes coming your way SOON!
So, if you're feeling kinda shut in and gloomy, 
take heart! 
Together, we'll bring out the sunny side of summer,
no matter what!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Thriving through the Virus' Social Distancing!

Biggest news update is the new hardcover edition of Twinkle and Luna! 
The colors and quality are so close to the same as what I originally created, I couldn't be happier!
For now, the paperback versions only are still being sold, through Kids At Heart, at $16.99 each. I've re-lettered (by hand) some of the pages in each book, since the printing quality of those (created through Amazon) were disappointing.   
Those original paperback books include the audio version, sung and read, on CD. 
Once we get a good copy of the book approved from their printer who distributes world wide, the hardcover with digital audio download link will be available for $24.  
Kids At Heart website again, is here:
China continues to be a part of my life, but only part time, on line. Kaishu is a delightful new company, and 2 of my old coworkers from while I was working FT in Beijing, 
brought me in with the company as an editor and to help develop lessons. 
They sent me a delightful "Most Excellent Partner" for 2019 award:
I love working with curriculum developers "Eva" and "Nicole." 
They're professional and reliable and come up with some really fun ideas! I don't do a lot of
drawing, I'm afraid, with the long long days that go with any new
teaching position, but have done some, preparing to teach art classes this summer:
As you may or may not know, I accepted a FT teaching position as the GATE ELA teacher for Gallup Mid School in New Mexico, in December of 2019.  
It seemed like a great opportunity to work with 
students who might be a little more interested in learning ELA than others, as well as a chance to spend more time with some family here, in NM.

Turns out, the administration and my fellow teachers at Gallup Mid School ARE awesome!
But, there are serious problems with the way the district pays their teachers (inexplicable and excessive adjustments/reductions to and withholdings from each pay period) which have 
left me in difficult, unforeseen $$ circumstances. So, even though I was asked to continue
teaching during the school next year, I've decided not to stay on after this semester.  
I'll go back to Richmond, IN and start digging out from under the debt incurred from
New Mexico's pay policies. 
It's sad. Those policies are why they have such a hard time getting teachers to stick around.
But, we've had some really good days together, 
combining art and language, whenever possible.
The next "plan" is to do tutoring, proofreading, teaching, and so forth ON LINE 
for 1/2 the day so that the other 1/2 can be invested in finishing, creating, publishing and
promoting more books and lesson supplements. One day at a time...teaching FT may be in the
future again, but in a better, more supportive and fiscally rational area.

This week, as in many school districts right now, there's no school.  Spring Break was scheduled for this week, but 2 additional weeks of "on call" (for teachers) shut down time has
been added, waiting to see what's next with this crazy Corona Virus. I'm certain that the district will find a way to finish out the semester after that. We can't do a lot on line in this area because too many students do not have access to the Internet.  So, we'll see...

Because it was Spring Break, I was able to visit a few close friends,
3 of my brothers (Hey, Utah County folks! Vote for Tom!)
and a few members of their families in Utah.  
It was wonderful seeing little ones, especially tiny Lily, 
doing so well after her recent surgery! We've been so blessed!
I've kept away from strangers and washed/sanitized my hands after every gas stop.  
Never-the-less, I'm imposing a quarantine of sorts on myself, 
staying close to home with the dogs for a week or so, 

to make certain I haven't picked that nasty virus up along the way.
MUST make sure I'm healthy, to head over to California the end of April
as my darling grandson, Cal, turns TWO!

Stay safe, healthy and sane, everyone!
Keep in touch and thank heaven for technology, hmm?

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Warm Glow: Twinkle and Luna Book Signing

1-4 pm, Saturday the 27th of July at The Warm Glow 
in Centerville, Indiana, right off of I-70.  
Funny thing about this location: several years ago, during one of my many trips back and forth between the East and West sides of the USA, I stayed at a little motel right across the street from this place. I really loved the store and area, so took my time leaving it--thinking, "I really like it here." Then, "Joanna," I said, "you're never going to live in Indiana; don't be silly." 
Ha! Serendipity strikes again and here I am.
 Twinkle and Luna's been written, with music (all of my stories seem to form themselves into music and lyrics), since my last semester completing my BA in English Lit. at BYU. Completed the illustrations while teaching in Sacheon, South Korea, and then tried the self-publishing route through Amazon's Createspace with unsatisfactory results. Next, I paid a company called Lulu quite a bit to get an even worse printing.  Both companies were disappointing because neither of these companies cares much about the quality of your book once it's sent out to be printed, nor is there anyway to pin down and resolve problems since both companies, apparently, send self-published books out to the lowest bidder, and printers vary from printing to printing.
T&L's cover turned out fine, but the inside...
Since I used bright metallic sharpies to hand-letter the original text, the words should've been brilliantly legible.  Not so. I'm having to hand re-letter several pages in every one of the 200 books I ordered to distribute, so many years ago.  That's how dull the resolution was.  Sigh. SO, if you have a children's book you want to self-publish, I can't recommend either of these routes.  
Because I didn't realize that CD's are pretty much obsolete, I had them made for the professionally recorded audio reading and singing of the book, and inserted a CD into each of the books I'm re-lettering. In short, this batch of original editions, which my new publisher and I are selling off to make way for the newer-improved version, will EACH be partially hand-lettered with audio CDs inside.  Some serious, hands-on loving care, hmm?

BTW, the pseudonym of "J. E. Sakura" won't be used with the new edition, either. 
There are reasons that nickname resonates with me,
so it may be part of the Japanese version 
(which is already written and recorded too), but...
My own name, Joanna Sakievich, makes more sense to use. 
That's the thing about trying to turn your dreams into reality: 
silliness and mistakes are strewn all along the various paths attempted. 
All that aside, I'm still really happy with the book itself, the story, song and characters.
So, it's a pleasure to finally see some possibility for getting them read to and by more 
darling little people in the near future!
Here are a few special things about my publisher, Shelly Davis, 
founder and owner of Kids At Heart publishing:
  • She started her company 9 years ago, as the result of being a frustrated self-publishing children's book author/illustrator herself. She had the firm belief that there should be something better out there for anyone who wants to publish a children's book and acted on that belief.
  • While her company is also a "self-publishing" enterprise, Shelley personally oversees every step and has only 2 printers that she works with and trusts. Those printers not only print the books for her authors, they also mail them out to wherever they're bound. Physical copies of each book are reviewed by the author and her, before they go out to buyers.  Not the quality you expected? Back it goes to the printer.
  • Shelley is one of the most genuine human beings I've met in a long time. She does this because she believes in and loves it, not because she has to.
  • She and I share similar visions and are working as a team, as opposed to one being "in charge" of the other.  The quality of each author's book is as important to her as it is to the author--sometimes even more so, to Shelley!
  • I'll be working for/with her as an illustrator and proof reader for other author's books.
While very few copies (relatively speaking) have been sold or distributed, Twinkle and Luna's made its rounds and received warm reception in China, Japan, South Korea and the USA.  I'm excited to do more with it, including the 日本語 (Japanese version) and 
activity books already created to accompany the story, 
as well as scripted class presentations, complete with patterns for big cut-outs of the characters.
MOST of all,  I'm so very impatient to get my other "children" 
(that's how each book's characters feel to me) out into daylight to make other kids smile!
Finally working with someone with whom mutual trust and professionalism are shared, 
these illustrations represent just a few characters waiting to come to life in 2020!

Happy weekend and stop by The Warm Glow if you're in town tomorrow!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Pondering Poodles

She's just received a very close haircut and actually looks like a poodle now! 
Everyone we met, before this dramatic change, 
thought she was some sort of mix: a "doodle" of some sort.
I LOVE the shaggy dog look, but, surprisingly, I like this close-clipped version of her too. I like poodles. Who'd have thought it?
Why is that so surprising? To quote my son's recent text: "Ha ha you always hated poodles! Karma's a bitch. Pun VERY much intended." That's been true for as long as he can recollect,  because most poodles I've encountered have been spoiled jokes instead of dogs.
My last dog was a gorgeous, long haired, 123 lb. german shepherd.
Gideon was massive, noble, gentle beyond belief. The sweetest dog ever to grace this planet.  
Until Lizzy.  A smaller, exquisite specimen of a dog, too.
Equally noble, sweet, gentle and even more intelligent, I'm certain that she
and Gideon will be pals in the here-after.
SO, what led me to get a big, standard POODLE? Besides the influence of Karli's Mom (my son's mother-in-law raises sweet, gorgeous mid-sized poodles: and the simple fact that my cousin in AZ had too many puppies.  
I mean, huskies, shepherds and collies had always been my idea of perfect dogs.   
But then... a very young girl, I'd thought of poodles as surreal, lovely, feminine creatures, 
based on cartoon illustrations, that is. 
By the time I met any real poodles, they were unfortunately 
horrid creatures, with watery eyes, weird grooming and nasty tempers. 
This looks like the black standard poodle that regularly tried to attack my huge german shepherd.

Poodles, I decided, are a bad joke born of inbreeding and distortion of the natural dog.
As darling border collie, Lizzy, enjoyed playing with every golden doodle, labradoodle, or poodle that crossed our path, my perceptions began to change. Remarkably, everyone kept commenting on how smart and fun poodles are and, as I mentioned earlier, the family my son married into, 
absolutely charming people, raises them.
SO, when I got serious about finding a roommate for Lizzy, the universe decided that my cousin should happen to have a surplus of 14 week old standard poodle pups. 
I only fell for one.  Look at this little doll.
So, my feelings toward poodles have been transformed, back to the admiration I felt as a child, 
plus an appreciation of the poodle personality, 
Lucy is funny, bossy, smart...we'll try to overlook her tendency to eat stuff that can kill her... 
I can't imagine our household without both her and Lizzy now.  
Two more different dogs rarely end up together.  
Lizzy is elegant, classy and a little wild.
 Lucy's a rumpled comedian, when her hair's grown out, content to cuddle all day every day,  
pawing me if I stop petting her,
and she wilfully brings the puppy out in Lizzy with her 
"no such thing as too close" attitude.
It's true: "every dog should have a poodle around." (Michelle Hall, you're right!)
So, it seems, should I.

Monday, February 25, 2019

New Location for a New Year

Let's see if I can make this simple:
In April of 2018, I came home from working FT in Beijing, China.
It was an incredible experience: I learned SO MUCH, made a lot of good connections...but brought home a cough that I'm still fighting. Have had it checked out and, apparently it's a nasty allergy.  SO many things trigger it--dust and pollution being high on the list.  After returning, I continued to work PT on line for some Chinese companies, creating phonics songs, recruiting, proof-reading, etc. But, the work was dwindling and I wanted something steady.  Even though my dream to publish and market in Asia is coming closer to a reality, because of what I learned abroad, it's not solid--not yet.

 So, next, while chatting with an online teacher for the last company I worked with as a supervisor, she told me about the charter schools she subbed for in AZ.  I went and interviewed for a position and accepted a job teaching HS in Apache Junction, AZ, near 3 of my brothers!
I had forgotten how gorgeous the sunsets are and was ready to call Arizona HOME again, after decades away. Enjoyed getting together with my AZ brothers & friends, and was excited for a new teaching challenge.  However, Guess what? The dust in AZ is worse than in Beijing and the cough got worse, MUCH worse, so, by the end of August, I was back in Utah.  Tired.  Exhausted, actually, and sick of being sick.  I kind of called for a time out from life.  The thing about anything that consistently interrupts your lifestyle is that mortality becomes real. All those years of painting 12-16 hours a day on ladders and scaffolding, 5-6 days a week have taken a toll on my back and knees; many teaching positions expect miracles without the means to pull them off plus 200% of your time... working myself into an early grave isn't something I want to accomplish.

Shortly after getting back to Utah and adjusting to unemployed life with TWO dogs (Lucy came home with us from AZ)... online cite I've followed for years, "," sent a link with a photo for a super cool deal on an 1880 house in Richmond, IN.  The price was such that I was drooling...AND it's green there. Dust? Covered up by foliage. Pollution? Minimal bc it's not really close to anything that pumps it out and the population is small.  Smaller than Logan, Utah's.
Before going, I did some research. Richmond, Indiana has super low crime rates, it's just 3 miles from Ohio, AND it's within driving distance to FOUR airports, making it perfect for frequent trips to see my son's growing family (instead of driving 11-12 hours through snowy canyons).  Also, it's right off of I-70 & only 7 hours from my home city, Frederick, MD.

So, I decided to take a road trip with my 2 dogs.  The wonderful realtor in Indiana, Rhonda (, who'd listed the house which caught my attention, set up a bedroom for me, Lizzy and Lucy to stay in in that gorgeous old brick home.

 We LOVED it.
But, that particular neighborhood, not so much. Too many renters and too many vacant houses.  So, I explored a couple of others, on the south side of Hwy 40, and felt at home in this one (which my awesome big brother, Tom, had found on line before I left):
Built in 1927, on a .12 acre lot, it's got a yard for the dogs and is set on a tree and flower-lined street. This house is a perfect fit for me, the dogs and visiting family, friends and summer art classes.  I signed a contract, contingent upon the sale of my Logan, UT home.

Went back to Utah and wondered if I'd lost my mind. I mean, I'd LOVE to live close to my son and his family, but neither they nor I know where that'll end up being in the long run and, pray as I might, God's not granting me a crystal ball for the future.
So, again, why am I doing THIS? I've wondered...but, the pros just outweigh the cons by a landslide. Improved air quality (which is becoming a must for me) and getting out of debt rank highest on the list.  I've been self-employed for most of my life and have NO retirement plan. This location will allow me to live in a paid-for-in-full home, which equals the closest thing to freedom a person in my position can ask for.  It's close enough to my Maryland, PA, DC roots to drive back and visit, paint for a few faithful clients, etc.  I can work on publishing goals, fly out to visit family & friends regularly (& fly my son's family out once a year--at least),  raise puppies AND Indiana has an on line certification program for prospective teachers.  All this, plus living in a paid for house in a neighborhood that is lovely, safe, and friendly.

That's about as retired as I ever want to be. I can put money aside regularly to spend as many days as possible with my beloved son and grandkids.  Maybe, I can always hope, God will grant that we end up physically closer together, but again, I don't know where the heck they'll settle and neither do they.
Having felt torn between the east and the west most of my life, this solution is an unexpected, but good one! It's been difficult to decide.  I'm sick of moving! But...there you have it.

Provided nothing arises to topple the plan, the dogs and I are headed to Indiana before Easter!