Hi everyone --

This is an Aaron update...  Hopefully a Christmas letter will be coming soon that will catch you up on the whole family.  But I know I've left you hanging since the last correspondence, and I didn't want to get Aaron-heavy in the family Christmas letter, so.... hello!

When we last left our heroic protagonist, he was directionless and unemployed.  Let's rejoin him now.  Ah, there he is... still directionless and unemployed. 

However I also find myself in a state of wonder and awe.  Through all these months, God has taken care of every one of our needs.  At the end of each month as I sit to do the bills, I'm amazed that they all get paid!  I'm left thankful, with no idea how it happened, nor how it could possibly happen again the next month.  But sure enough the following month comes and goes and - WOW!  Wonder and awe.  It's George Mueller time.  I actually laugh out loud when I do the bills now.  It's just hilarious how they shouldn't get paid but do.  It's fun.

A very small part of our provisions has come from my job at Family Christian Stores.  I've been the Sticker Boy there.  (That would be fun to have on a business card!)  Every day consists of going through a mountain of boxes one by one, logging their contents into the computer, stickering hundreds of price tags all by hand, and filing the paperwork.  Someone's got to do it.  The highlight came one day when Amity and the kids visited the store.  I walked around the corner in my little purple apron.  Gracie's eyes got huge, one hand pointed at me, one hand covered her mouth, and she burst into laughter, shouting "You're wearing purple! You're wearing purple!"

Most of God's provisions however, had come via extremely kind, incredibly generous gifts from very loving people.  We have been so overwhelmed by the help coming from those around us.  It completely amazes.  In fact, during the course of writing this letter, Amity came home from the grocery store and said that in the checkout line someone came up behind her and insisted on paying for everything she had on the conveyor.  (Another story for the fridge...)  We are very excited and eager for the day when we can reciprocate everything we've been learning back to others in need.

We've been very grateful.  Still, after enough time went by with things like this happening, I began feeling funny.  Not out of pride.  I know God can take care of us any way He wants - who am I to tell Him how?  But it seemed to me that just as easy as providing funds directly, He could also provide the opportunities for ME to earn the funds.  So I began praying that way.  And I got specific.  God's given me the ability to speak to schools.  I love doing it.  He's given me a great program.  I just don't know how to connect with the schools to let them know.  So I began specifically praying that He would provide the schools.

About this time, I was scheduled to speak to a bookstore full of teachers.  Coincidence that an opportunity like that comes along?  I think not!  As a result of the event, I was invited to come to six schools during a week in November.  It was exhausting, but absolutely Wonderful!  And profitable.  That one week's earnings was enough to take care of our expenses for that whole month.  (It doesn't take very many visits... the question is just how to get the few?)

The week was great!  28 presentations, including about 15-20 puppet shows.  My voice was shot by the end (For anyone who has ever heard how I do the 'Hiccup' for the book, I did about 725 of those HICS that week!)  The final school - Townsend Elementary in Vandercook Lake - was amazing.  They know how to throw an Author Visit!  They began getting ready two weeks prior to my arrival.  Each grade level was assigned a character from the book, and the teachers all came up with art projects or writing activities based on their assigned characters.  There were hundreds upon hundreds of students' drawings inspired by the Hiccupotamus up and down the halls.  I wanted to snatch them all up and bring them all home!  It was very special for me to see.

Well, that week went great.  But there were no more visits on the horizon except for one lined up in March.  So now what?  God had given me this new art rep... But I wasn't getting any work.  So again I changed the focus of my prayers.  I began praying that God would give me an art job -- specifically an art job that would come through the reps, so they could see I was a viable partner.  And sure enough, that very week, my rep contacted me about a potential job.  I worked up a sample -- and out of several illustrators under consideration, the publishers chose me!  So yea!  I'm an illustrator again!

Now, this book isn't from one of the stories I've written, so the only downside to all this is the subject matter: Cars.  It's a Nascar ABC book.  Not that I don't like cars.  Or sports.  Actually that IS true -- I don't like either.   But that's not the problem...  I just haven't ever drawn cars.  Ever.  Anything mechanical.  Never.  Buuuut, I do like the prospect of illustrating.  And I do like seeing my family eat.  So..... I love cars!  Starting now!  Mmm, boy, cars!  Actually, to pull off drawing cars, I knew I'd have to come up with a whole new style without my typical perspective and details and rendering.  So for my sample I developed this cool experimental digital style that looks like cut paper - just flat color and shape.  The whole project should actually be a fun challenge for me....

It's a smaller paying job as far as they go -- but for us it's a ton right now!  It'll take care of us for about a month, month and a half...  But it was significant enough that I needed to quit my low paying retail job to make sure it got done.  I need all the hours I can get to work on the book.  Besides, it would have taken 7 months at FCS to make the same amount, so there was no question - I couldn't let that jeopardize getting the book done.  I'll miss my little purple apron....

In other news, I discovered that the soft-cover version of Hiccupotamus which Scholastic came out with had the option of an accompanying audio CD!  Of course I had to get one!  I had never once heard anyone read the book besides myself.  Not even Amity.  If I'm around, obviously I'm the one who is going to read it.  The CD is narrated by Skip Hinnant of the Electric Company.  The voice from my youth that taught me to read was now reading my book!  Too cool!  The recording also has a great original musical score and everything.

One last item of note -- There's a fantastic radio program out of Ohio called the Kacey Kowars Show.  Each week Kacey interviews authors and explores the craft of writing.  After airing, all his programs get posted to his website.  He started out strictly interviewing mystery writers, but has since been branching out into other genres.  Well, this week Kacey decided to interview me for his very first children's book author!  He gets some very big names on his show, and my ramblings pale in comparison to most of his past guests.  But his site gets 40,000 hits every month - so that's a lot of exposure for Hiccupotamus!  If you want to take a listen you can go to kaceykowars.com

Well that catches you up on our work status!  Look for a YearEnd/Christams family update soon! 

Take care - I'm off to draw cars!

 - AZ