Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Terri Kelley, Gingerly's Gift, plus #giveaway

AUTHOR: Terri Kelley
BOOK TITLE: Gingerly’s Gift
PUBLISHER: Sunshine Press
WHAT IS IT? I am giving two books away to two randomly selected readers who share with me the contact information for their school district’s Curriculum Director, Elementary English/Language Arts Director, Bilingual Director, and/or Homeschool Organization President. This information should be shared by signing my Guest Book at Please provide the entrant’s contact information as well, including mailing address, so that, if selected, I can mail the book to him or her.
HOW DO YOU WANT THE WINNER TO BE CHOSEN? I will select two winners from all entrants who provide the required information by pulling their names from a box. One slip with their name on it will be placed in the box for each contact they provide with complete information.
WHO WILL DELIVER THE PRIZE TO WINNER? I will mail out the books personally. I will also autograph each copy.

Tell me a little about your book. Gingerly’s Gift is the fourth in the series of elementary school chapter books about Gingerly Matson. She is an extremely tall, slightly overweight, and very shy 5th grade girl who spends most of her school days wishing that she was invisible. She is extremely lonely because she has no friends. She enjoys dancing, but will do so only in the privacy of her own bedroom. She is being raised by her mother who loves her but who must also work all of the time to make ends meet. Gingerly is bullied and sees no hope for change in her life until she bumps into (literally) Zoey, a new girl in school. Zoey is as rambunctious as is her long, orange, fly-away hair. The two girls become best friends and, with Zoey’s constant influence, Gingerly finds that she can become the hero of her own life. Together, they discover that with great friends, everything is possible.

In this edition, Gingerly and Zoey find that their school district has a policy against posting anything specific about Christmas. Words like Winter Holiday and Holiday Season are substituted for Merry Christmas. This is unsettling to the girls and to their new friend, former bully Eric, so they begin a campaign of their own to bring Christmas back into the school. They do it in a way that does not go against district policy, but that does get their messages across. Throughout this story, readers will see the power of working together towards a common goal and the benefits of having great friends.

What gave you the idea for this particular story? As an educator in the public sector for over nine years in Texas, I interacted with people on both sides of the Freedom of Speech issue regarding expressions about Christmas. Though I am a Christian myself, I could understand from where non-Christians were coming with their desire to remove references to Christmas from public schools. Without bringing religion into the discussion, I came to the conclusion that saying things like “Merry Christmas” had more to do with identification of the spirit of the holiday than it did with religion. Children recognize December 25th as Jesus’s birthday. In either case, children enjoy the holiday and look forward to it. The feeling of happiness and goodwill in school during the month of December is palpable. I wanted to provide a little bit of background to students about the issues around the holiday as well as showing that children have the power to bring about change if they stay within the guidelines and work together for good. Gingerly’s Gift accomplishes both.

Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it. There are many examples of school districts making decisions to outlaw or to allow the word “Christmas” in their schools. My personal experiences in public schools as a teacher, administrator, and parent have provided me with many examples from which I drew my story ideas.

Why did you choose to write a story with a Christmas or winter theme? I absolutely LOVE the Christmas season! I am like an overgrown kid from Thanksgiving through the end of the year. Because of the wonderful memories I have of Christmases past, I chose to write an uplifting and encouraging story about the season. Gingerly provided me with the perfect opportunity to do this.

Do you see special challenges to marketing a book with a seasonal theme?  If so, what are they? I do. I actually considered not writing about Christmas. It seems like over the past decade, some groups have become more aggressive in their attacks on things with which they do not agree. Unfortunately, public organizations, such as school districts, tend to give in to these naysayers primarily out of fear of being sued. For a moment or two, I wondered if this book, or the entire series, would be boycotted because of the mention of the word “Christmas”. Then I decided that I was doing exactly what I have seen these school districts and other public entities do and I didn’t like it one bit. So, I moved forward, wrote the book just the way I wanted, and will let the readers decide if I did the right thing or not.

How long before December did you submit to your publisher? I finished writing and editing Gingerly’s Gift in May 2013. It went into illustration in July and became available for purchase in August.

How and why did you choose this publisher? I self-publish through my own publishing company, Sunshine Press. I established Sunshine Press because of the frustration and difficulty I encountered in my original search for a larger and older institution. I also found that the financial benefits of doing my own publishing work was a great incentive. The learning curve was steep, but once I reached a comfort level with my abilities to produce, I felt that I wanted to share my good fortune with others. Through Sunshine Press, I help authors to get their own books published with minimal upfront expenses and I do not keep any portion of the royalties. I believe authors deserve to keep what their book earns in sales. In fact, Sunshine Press could almost qualify as a not-for-profit entity.

What about your book makes it special? I believe that the entire Gingerly series is special because each book represents real-life situations in which students find themselves. Whether it’s dealing with a bully, cliques, shyness, joining clubs, or speaking their mind, all children find themselves in many of the same situations as does Gingerly. As they read Gingerly’s Gift, children will recognize themselves and their friends and will see the benefits of making great choices in their own lives. Also, as with all of the books in this series, Gingerly’s Gift is published with larger font and in a size that makes it look just like the novels that older kids are reading. For struggling readers, younger students, and for good readers alike, the look and feel of Gingerly’s Gift will encourage them to read.

What does Christmas and/or winter mean to you? Christmas is my favorite time of the year. Although I am now an active Christian, this was not always so. I wasn’t raised in a religious home. My mother was raised as a Buddhist and my father as a Catholic. The result of their union was no active religion at all, though both of my parents were spiritual people. And, they both made sure that Christmas was a magical time in the lives of me and my brother. To this day, though my mother passed away in 2003, my father goes out of his way to make Christmas the happiest, most loving, and special season of all. I have such fabulous memories, both as a child and as an adult, of Christmases past.

What is your favorite Christmas or winter memory? There are so many great memories. But I’d have to say that a favorite memory is of the grandkids (my three children and my brother’s three) all together in the large family room where I grew up during Christmas Eve. All six of them, ranging at the time from age 3 to 14, building forts with sheets and furniture, giggling well into the night, and drifting off to sleep next to each other next to the Christmas tree. Christmas was the only time of the year when we were all together and the cousins had such great times together.

What was your favorite stocking stuffer? I’d have to say that it was the ornaments my kids made at school each year when they were little. They would make them at school and wrap them with construction paper that they also decorated. I still have many of these ornaments; they are treasures that I will have my Christmas tree every year.

What was your favorite Christmas present? I’d have to say that it’s the white gold locket and long chain that my dad gave me a couple of years ago, for several reasons. I love jewelry and had always wanted a long chain and pendant. More importantly, I now have a way to keep tiny photographs of my mother and father, whom I dearly love, close to my heart.

Where can people learn more about you and your work? Because I have over thirty picture and chapter books out now, with a dozen more in illustration, I have opened my own online store. My site is called “Terri Kelley, Author – Writing Worth Reading” and is located at I also have a blog, Terri L. Kelley – An Author with Something to Say, located at For anyone who is more comfortable with, you can find my author’s page there as well as links to all of my books, both hardcopy and e-book versions. And, finally, you can find my books on Barnes & Noble, Abe Books, Ingram Book Distributors, Baker & Taylor, and many other sites. Thank you for your interest in my writing!

An excerpt from Gingerly’s Gift
Written by, Terri Kelley

Chapter 2
     The halls of West Intermediate School were filled with hundreds of kids as the bell rang signaling the time for a class change. Gingerly, Zoey, and Eric piled into the mass of bodies as students pushed their way along, hurrying to their next class. Ever since the great Turkey Crusades last month, the three of them had been spending all of their free time together. It seemed odd to Gingerly that Eric, a popular athlete and honor student and a former enemy of hers, would want to hang around in a group where Gingerly was present. Because of the history between the two of them (and between Gingerly and just about every other West Intermediate student), Gingerly found herself holding back around Eric. She had not quite learned to trust him enough to just be herself like she was when it was just Zoey and her.
     Eric, however, didn’t seem to notice that Gingerly was uncomfortable in his presence. In fact, he was completely at ease around both Gingerly and Zoey, often times cracking jokes and doing his best to get Gingerly to smile. Zoey was also very comfortable with their current arrangement. If she sensed Gingerly’s cautious attitude, Zoey never let on. Instead, she too laughed and kidded around with Gingerly and Eric as if the three of them had been best friends for years. At times, Gingerly felt anxious about Zoey’s attitude towards Eric and at other times she just felt jealous. Not jealous about Zoey liking Eric or Eric liking Zoey as a boyfriend/girlfriend thing…Gingerly was jealous because Zoey seemed to enjoy Eric’s company as much or more than she did Gingerly’s.
     Plowing through the crowded hallway, the threesome finally made it to an area where there weren’t quite so many students. Eric stopped and turned to face Gingerly and Zoey. “Whew!” he said as he looked down the hall from where they had just come, “That was a nightmare! Why do people always stop right in the middle of the walkway to have their conversations? Don’t they see other people trying to get through?” No one answered him since his questions were more rhetorical than anything.
     Zoey adjusted the Santa hat she had been wearing for the last few days before she spoke. “Hey, have you noticed how the school doesn’t have the words, ‘Merry Christmas’ up anywhere? I mean, everywhere you look, it’s all like ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Wonderful Winter’. What’s up with that?” Unlike Eric, Zoey did expect an answer to her questions.
     Gingerly replied, “It’s because they are afraid of being sued by people who don’t like religious things.” Although she knew that was the answer to Zoey’s question, Gingerly didn’t really understand why anyone would object to Christmas.
     “Yeah, I heard my parents talking about it the other night,” Eric said. “They said that some schools had gotten threatened with lawsuits because they put the word ‘Christmas’ up in their cafeteria or something like that. It offends people who don’t believe.”
     “Who don’t believe in Christmas? Why would you get offended if you don’t believe in Christmas?” Zoey looked confused as she processed what Eric had said.
     “No,” Eric smiled as he answered, “People who aren’t religious, I guess. You can’t have anything religious being promoted in public school.”
     Gingerly added, “I think it’s called ‘separation of church and state’.”
     Zoey stood quietly for a few moments. Gingerly noticed that her “Zoey Alert”, the feeling she got that was like nervous butterflies in the pit of her stomach, was starting to go off. One look at Zoey’s expression told Gingerly that the alert was not wrong. Zoey’s mind was obviously racing and she was planning something, again.    
     As if she could read Gingerly’s mind, Zoey said, “I’ve got an idea!”
     Gingerly groaned internally; Zoey was her best friend and there was nothing that Gingerly wouldn’t do for her, but times like these, Gingerly felt like she might be better off being invisible. That feeling only lasted for a brief moment, however, because Zoey had a way of making Gingerly feel empowered with her ideas. So, Gingerly asked quietly, hoping the answer would not be too surprising, “What’s your idea?”
     Zoey grabbed Gingerly and Eric by the arm and pulled them to a side hallway where they could talk without having to elevate their voices. Looking around to make sure no one else was listening, Zoey spoke in a hushed tone, “Listen. I think we should be able to celebrate Christmas in our own school. I mean, who is it hurting? It wouldn’t bother me if other people wanted to celebrate their religion here too. Don’t you agree?”
     Zoey looked from Gingerly to Eric for their responses. Both of them nodded their heads and Eric murmured, “I guess so…”
     Zoey’s face seemed to brighten even more than normal. “Great! So, remember how we organized the Turkey Crusaders?” Both Gingerly and Eric nodded again. How could they not remember the Turkey Crusaders? Just before Thanksgiving, Zoey, Eric, and Gingerly had motivated a large population of the students to picket the local turkey production farm. The result was a good one, with the owner of the farm converting her business to a more turkey friendly method of farming. Still feeling the positive effects of that experience, now Zoey was motivated to do something about Christmas.
     Zoey fumbled with her notebook and found a pencil and blank piece of paper. She handed these to Gingerly and said, “Here, Gingerly, do you mind making some notes?”
     Gingerly was used to playing secretary whenever Zoey had a brainstorm. Zoey was great at planning and motivating people, but she wasn’t the world’s best organizer. Gingerly knew that when Zoey started planning, she would shoot out her ideas quickly and verbally. As it is with most great friendships, Gingerly and Zoey each had different strengths which complimented each other. Zoey’s strength was coming up with ideas and Gingerly’s strength was organizing them.
     Pencil poised and ready to write, Gingerly waited to hear Zoey’s Christmas plan. Eric stood by quietly and listened. “We’ll call it ‘Say Yes to Christmas’,” Zoey began as she started pacing back and forth in the area directly in front of the two of them. Gingerly started writing as Zoey continued, “First, we have to find out what the actual law says about posting Christmas stuff around the campus. Second, we need to let the kids know about what we’re doing…maybe get the school paper to run an article. Third…” Just as Zoey started to get excited about the things they needed to do, the bell rang signaling that it was time to go to class.
     “Shoot!” Zoey exclaimed when the bell stopped ringing. “Gingerly, can we get together this afternoon at your house so we can work some more on this?”
     Ever since they had become friends, Zoey preferred to spend time at Gingerly’s house after school and in the evenings. Since Zoey lived with only her dad and since her dad worked nights, Zoey enjoyed the company and comfort of being with Gingerly and Gingerly’s mom.
     “That’s fine,” Gingerly said, smiling at her friend. “You know you’re welcome any time.”
     “What about me?” Eric spoke up as they started to move towards their next class, “Am I invited to come over too? After all, I am one of the Crusaders, right?”
     Gingerly felt her face heat up as she turned red with embarrassment. She always had the same reaction whenever Eric addressed her directly. For a moment, no one spoke. Gingerly knew that she had to say something so she said, “Sure. You can come over too. I can give you my address.”
     “No problem,” Eric said as he moved ahead of the girls. Over his shoulder he added, “I already have it.” Then he was gone, lost in the crowd of merging students.
     Gingerly stopped walking which caused the students behind her to bump into one another. She didn’t hear their complaints as she stood there thinking. Her heart skipped a few beats as she replayed Eric’s words in her mind. How on earth did Eric know where she lived? Why would he know where she lived? Conflicting thoughts raced through Gingerly’s mind. Some of them were good ones, like maybe Eric found out where she lived because he actually liked her, and some of them were bad ones, like perhaps Eric had found out where she lived back when he bullied her and had been planning to do something awful like rolling her house with toilet paper. Gingerly shook her head as if the movement would clear it of all the jumbled thoughts.
     Zoey had moved ahead of Gingerly but turned around and backtracked to retrieve her friend. “Come on! We’re gonna be late for class and we’ve got a busy day ahead of us,” Zoey said as she pulled Gingerly forward.
     Gingerly allowed herself to be led into their next class before the tardy bell rang. Although she was present in the classroom, she was mentally absent from school for the rest of the day. After all, Eric Donovan, one of the most popular boys in school, was coming to her house this afternoon. To Gingerly, it felt like Christmas was coming early this year.

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