Author Kristi M. Butler shares how her new books about Groundhog Day and groundhogs emerged from attendance at Write2Ignite Conference, a vacation cabin, and meeting illustrator Samantha S. Bell.
Write2Ignite is one of my “happy places”! Perusing the website and blog brings back sweet memories and never fails to bring a smile to my face. Ah…the scrumptious Italian smorgasbord with the W2I team on the night before the conference . . . chauffeuring well-known authors from the Sleep Inn to NGU . . . belly laughs with friends, old and new . . . hanging out with faculty and attendees over coffee and cookies . . . listening to and learning from some of the best in the business . . . being encouraged and encouraging others . . . growing in my walk with the Lord . . . watching God work in lives to further His kingdom as [participants] write and illustrate for children and young adults!
I was privileged to be at the first Write2Ignite conference! As I had the joy of watching W2I grow and develop over the years, little did I know that God had been at work since that very first meeting to forge a relationship — a friendship and a working partnership — to bring fruition to His plans for our futures.
If you’re a follower of Write2Ignite, you should be familiar with my sweet friend, Samantha Schweizer Bell. She is a part of the W2I planning team. She is also a fabulous artist and has written and/or illustrated over 100 books for children!
Now, long before I met Samantha, groundhogs started running amuck in my brain. That craziness began in a mountain cabin named “Amazing Grace.” I’d actually never given much thought to groundhogs until the weekend I spent there, but since that time, my life has been forever changed! A groundhog burrow and its inhabitants just outside the door quickly became fodder for stories that led to adventures I’d never dreamed of . . . traveling not just once, but twice, to Punxsutawney, PA (the home of the famous weather prognosticator Punxsutawney Phil) and cuddling cheek to cheek with North Carolina’s own predictor of winter’s length, Sir Walter Wally! These events gave a new meaning to Habakkuk 1:5, which says, “ . . . be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”
The groundhog playground in my mind, and in my writing, is called Amazing Grace Acres. Samantha has brought that place and its many creatures to life through her beautiful artwork. Guardian Angel Publishing has contracted with us for the series of Amazing Grace Acres books.
This is the beauty of God’s work to me. His grace. As the hymn “Come Thou Fount” says, “Oh to Grace, how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be.” Those words are so piercing. So profound. Yet, in my desperate need for grace, He sees fit to work in and through me to lead others to fundamental truths in His Word and to spiritual life lessons — even in the antics of two little groundhogs. Amazing Grace. The uniting of two women seeking to use His gifts to further His Kingdom, and the joy of working together. Grace upon grace.
I give thanks to the Lord for Write2Ignite and the case of grace He gave me there!
Kristi Butler has been promoted after over 20 years in the elementary classroom to full-time Grandmommy to the cutest groundhog-loving grandbabies you’ve ever seen! In her free time, she continues to pursue “putting pen to paper” and sharing the adventures of Gracie and Grover Groundhog. Two of her books, Groundhog Day in Amazing Grace Acres and Christmas in Amazing Grace Acres, have been illustrated by Samantha Bell and published by Guardian Angel Publishing. Samantha Bell is currently illustrating Kristi’s first nonfiction, rhyming alphabet book, G is for Groundhog! They are also collaborating on Gracie and Grover Go to the Beach. Please visit Kristi’s site for all things groundhog at Amazing Grace Acres!