Celebrating the Launchiversary of Strum and The Wild Turkeys

The experience of having Strum and The Wild Turkeys produced and published was only the beginning of this year of learning and self discovery. Creating characters and a story are wonderful ways to channel your purpose, and the plot is full themes that resonate with readers of all ages. Having to promote the book once it was published, though, was full of unanticipated challenges and highlighted by accomplishments that I had not even imagined. There are so many skills that I needed to develop, and when things got particularly difficult, it was the messages in the book that gave me direction.

Be yourself

When writing or learning how to use social media tools to get the message out, you need to discovery and know your voice. How you post is a projection of yourself as an individual, which can be different than how you project yourself as an author, especially if you are representing more people than just you. Everything I create and post for @StrumandTWT channels the voice of the book which came from me. It took me a while to figure it out, but I got got better and better at my tweets and posts because I spoke my truth. One I found my voice through the Strum handle, it made creating graphics a bit easier to do. The messages on inclusion, belonging, a love of reading, and the transformational power of music, along with any special events and announcements, were developed with more ease once I was able to be myself behind the handle. The more I am true to myself and the values I espouse through the story, the better I feel about what I’m putting out there. I am the voice of Strum and The Wild Turkeys, and all of the messages are things I wholeheartedly believe in.

Find your band

I love music, but I don’t play music nor can I read it. If you know me, you know that I am musical because I often break into song, come up with lyrics proprioceptively, or have a vision that includes a musical element or two. I have been so lucky to discover so many groups and communities who are part of my band.

I love the group behind the book. Avi and Barry Glina are friends who feel like family and people who I refer to as window cousins because we share blood relatives. They came to me with a real life event and asked me to write this story for them. When I discovered the story that would connect a peacock to a pack of wild turkeys, I knew it had to be in schools. They became co-producers, and I was so lucky that Dr. Sarah Thomas and Edumatch were as keen as I was to get this book into the hands of kids, communities, and classrooms. Throughout every stage of the process, we met as a team. This includes Michael Glina, Avi and Barry's cousin, who guided us through the set up and is always a helpful ear or shoulder. Alana McCarthy, the illustrator of the book, has become my partner, and she is the most incredible collaborator beyond the creation of the artwork for the book. We agree that we make each other better. I have never been a part of an author/illustrator team but that is how I see us. This is a powerhouse of a group.

In every meeting, this team empowered me to follow my vision and they supported me with ideas, connections, and more. When I started singing the chorus of what became an entire song, Different is Good, they connected me with Marc Shapiro of Main Event music who spent time with me to compose the song based on my lyrics and melody. Now it’s been recorded by Sonshine and Broccoli and will be on their new album coming out this June. You can find a sneak peak of their version on our newsletter out May 1st, and you can sign up to receive one through our website. There were real challenges that we had to face, but they always built me up whenever we collaborated. When I look back on this year, there are so many examples of how being a part of this band has been a creative catalyst and motivational aspect of this work. They were cheering me on every step of the way, and I was fuelled by it.

I felt this same support and enthusiasm being a part of the Edumatch family. From the launch through the tweets and blog posts, it feels like the community rallies around its fellow authors and celebrates the contributions of the educators there with great excitement.

My entire network has been a positive force supporting the book and me. So many friends, colleagues, fellow authors, and family members purchased the book. Some even facilitated large orders for staff through their boards or districts. I was invited into many schools and classrooms to share the story, sing the song, and explore the different activities that kids could do such as writing their own story based on the photographs I worked from. Kids drew or designed characters from the book which I happily posted to our Creative Corner. I was given platforms to present teacher packages to complement the book and all of the activities that I developed are on our website. We continue to receive amazing feedback on the impact of the story, but we are just starting to hear of additional activities that people are doing with the book so, because we want this to be a shared space, please let me know if you have developed a dance, implemented a Strum Day (thank you Jillian DuBois), or something else wonderful we don’t yet know about.

My family has been so supportive. From edits to being sounding boards for my endless stream of ideas and excitement around the book, my husband and daughters, parents and sister, and my closest friends have put up with an avalanche of peacock prose and paraphernalia. They have read every iteration of the story, and they have weighed in on the proposed series- asking questions about the characters and where I want to take them next. Their engagement has helped me stay grounded when I could so easily get lost down the rabbit hole of the infinite stories I imagine writing for these characters. I don’t tire from Strum talk, and I’m grateful that, even when they are tired of hearing about it, they still ask.

No great accomplishment can ever be achieved alone. When you find your band, it means you have found the people who help you be yourself. Those are the people who fill you up and help you make your dreams a reality. They are the people that help remind you of your why when you are too entrenched to recall it or too overcome by fear to take the next step. I am so grateful to find my various bands again and again.

Rock your differences

The story of Strum and The Wild Turkeys is about a peacock with an imperfect plume who discovered that friends can feel like family and that you can feel good being yourself, even when you are “different”. Everyone seems to be able to connect to Strum whether it’s around his disability, his feeling of exclusion, or that he finds his voice through a creative medium. In life, expectations are often put upon us that we can’t control. What we can control, though, is how we manage them and, to some degree, who we surround ourselves with. We need people who remind us to celebrate our unique selves and give us the space to be who we are. As I wrote in the song:

It’s hard to be the one who feels like the other

It’s hard when you’re different from your sisters and brother

It’s tough when you don’t feel like part of the family

It’s tough, when you know you move to a different beat…

Here is the full score.

As a parent and teacher, the messages in this book are for all kids, big and small, but it is also for me. I have always been “different”, and the more I learn (still learning) to embrace that, the more I can accept and love myself, as well as my gifts, and feel safe enough to share them. In the end, there are many things that connect us, but of us are really the same. Diversity deserves to be celebrated.

These three big ideas from the book are lifelong journeys. I am so proud to stand behind a story, a site and socials where these three messages that I inscribe in books when I sign them are things I believe in and try my best to live.

You can see some surprises popping up on social on April 30th, our official Launchiversary. Following and sharing the messages from Strum and The Wild Turkeys makes you a part of the band. Thank you for a wonderful year. There is a lot more to come!