Dear Teachers, Principals, & Library Media Specialists,
Here we are in the 2019-20 school year. I can’t believe this is my 28thyear of doing school author visits! How can that be???? The time has flown by so quickly. In those 28 years, a lot has changed. I had my second child, divorced, was a single mom raising my children on my own for 13 years, got remarried when my daughter was in 8th grade, bought a new home and am now renting out my old home.
Interesting story--I was showing my rental home to a potential renter and told her my name. She looked at me and said, "You're name is familiar. I know you, but I'm not sure how." I told her I am a children's book author and speak in schools. Come to find out, I did a few author visits in her school and she had some of my autographed books. She even had a couple pictures of her and I together when I had spoken at her school and autographed her books! Talk about a small world! Of course, after finding that out, I had to tell the other potential renters that I'd already found a renter. How could I resist?
A BIG thank you goes to ALL the teachers, principals, and library media specialists who are reaching out, touching lives, loving, and encouraging children to be the very best they can be. You’re making a big difference in children’s lives—I should know, because I am one of those children.
Love to you all,
Darleen PS: Here's a look back at my writing journey and family life for the past 28 years . . .
The wonderful teacher who changed my life--Mrs. Jacqui Schickling. She made learning fun and introduced me to writing. One day, she put her arm around my shoulder and said, "Darleen? If you work really hard at this, I think that you can be a writer when you grow up." And you know what? I was young enough to believe her!
My first school visit was when my son was two years old. He and I went to a friend’s school where I read a story to her daughter’s class. It was a small story I had published in Highlight’s for Children Magazine. Spencer was so small, he stood on a chair and held up the magazine for all the children to see the pictures. Now, he’s “Ranger Beard”, a 6’ 3 1/2” park ranger at Brookville Lake in Brookville, Indiana.
Dad and Spencer
This was me at one of my first few author visits. It was at GUES--Guthrie Upper Elementary School, in Guthrie, OK--I was about 30-years old and so nervous that I remember I had to go to the bathroom, lock the stall door, and tell myself I could do this and breathe real deeply in order to have the courage to stand in front of the students and staff. Back then, I didn't have a PowerPoint show or even a slide show. It was just me, a costume, and a few props.
This was me around age 39. By this time, I'd developed a slide show for older kids and another for younger kids. I was speaking like crazy all over OK and several other states. I got a divorce at age 39 and by this time my son was 9-years old and my daughter was 3-years old. Since I had done a lot of speaking in Norman and really liked the schools, I decided I'd move to Norman and put my children in the Norman school system. Best decision I ever made. They loved the schools and so did I. I did a TON of volunteer work in their schools, teaching hands-on writing workshops and trying them out on my son's classes before I'd try them out on other classes. I'd figure out what to change on the workshops before I'd put them on my website. His classes were good trial-lessons for me and the students helped me to shape my lessons. I had as much fun as the students did! I did the same thing for my daughter's classes, too. In fact, I wrote a book with my daughter's second-grade teacher, Mrs. Ford, in it. I've sent that book out but it still hasn't sold. Maybe one day!
This is me now, age 58. I've done so many school author visits and speaking engagements that I can practically do them in my sleep! LOL! I had this photo taken as I was preparing for my 40th high school reunion at Noble High School, Noble, OK, 2019. My daughter took the photo and said, "Mom? I'm so proud of you. I want to get your photo before you leave." I felt like I was going to my prom and that a boy should be arrive to pick me up with a coursage! Isn't it funny how life is full circle like that? I can still remember my own mom going to her 40th high school reunion and I thought she was so "old" and now here I am at that age myself! If I'm lucky, I will live as long as my dear, dear friend, Dorothy Brinker, who is 98 years old. I helped her edit her biography when she was 94 years old. She did a book signing at Hastings Book Store in Norman and the manager said she had the biggest turn out of any author they'd ever had at their store. She sold about 100 books that day. What a fun time that was. And guess what? Now I'm helping to edit her second book!
Karalee and her daughter, Chloe Snow
When my daughter was born, six years after her brother, I’d take her on school visits with me. In fact, my first school visit after she was born was when she was one month old and I took her in a stroller and nursed her between my sessions. I also remember taking her to Encyclo-Media when she was four months old in her little umbrella stroller. I had her dressed in an orange onesie that looked like a jack o'lantern. Wish I had a picture of that!
Now my daughter is 23 and she just graduated from massage therapy college. She is studying to take her test to become a licensed massage therapist. She has a daughter, Chloe, 21 months old, who is the joy of our lives. We adore her and they both still live at home with David and I. Chloe was "unplanned", making Karalee a young single mom, but we couldn't be happier with our sweet bundle of love. Just as I was typing this, she came walking into my bedroom with crayons in her ears saying, "Ears? Ears?"
When I think about how my writing career began, I go back to fourth grade when I had a little black and white composition book. I remember sitting in my den, watching the “Brady Bunch” and writing this sentence in my book over and over, amazed at how beautiful it was and how it created a picture with words: The leaves fell from the trees making a golden carpet. I thought that was the prettiest sentence I had ever written and I read it again and again, amazed at the words and how they came together and how they created a feeling in my heart. I think it was then, at that very moment, that I became a writer. That's when I learned that words have power, words can create images, and words can create feelings.
It wasn’t until fifth grade when I fell in love with writing stories with my spelling words. That's when I met my teacher, Mrs. Schickling, who made us write stories with our spelling words and that's I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
I remember Mrs. Schickling putting her arm around my shoulder saying, “Darleen, if you work really hard at this, I think you can write a real book when you grow up.” And you know what? I was young enough to believe her. I took her words for the truth because teachers told the truth—they didn’t lie—and if she thought I was a writer, well then, I was a writer! That’s the power of a teacher’s words.
Here I am in 5th grade. I'm the one with a red circle around my head. And to the far right is my wonderful tall teacher, Mrs. Schickling. (Back then, though, her name was Mrs. Etter.) She was 5' 11" tall and I loved having a teacher taller than me because I was such a tall girl that I was taller than most of my previous teachers. I was even taller than my 3rd-grade teacher! Now I am 5' 8 1/2", so I didn't quite make it as tall as my wonderful teacher.
I’m extremely proud of my books and the fact I’ve been visiting schools, doing author visits for 28 wonderful years. What a career—how lucky I am to be able to touch the lives of thousands of students all over the U.S. And for the students to touch my life, too!
It’s been a fantastic 28-year journey and I can only say, here’s to another happy 28 years touching students’ lives and fulfilling my 5th-grade teacher’s belief in me that I— 10-year old Darleen Bailey, shy, tall, skinny, totally awkward, and raised in a crazy, dysfunctional family—could become a real writer when I grew up. Thank you, Mrs. Schickling! You’ll never know how much of a difference you made in my life!
This is me with Bill & Carol Wallace and Mike Wimmer. I sure miss Bill. He was a great writer.
These are my friends who wrote the I AM OKLAHOMA biography series about famous Oklahomans. Left to right is Gwendolyn Hooks, Pati Hailey, me, Cheryl Schuermann, and Jane McKellips. All five of us wrote one of the books in this biography series. It was such fun and we had a ball getting together to edit and write these books!