All posts by Janet Sever Hull

Janet Sever Hull grew up in Elkhart, Indiana and is a graduate of Purdue University. She has been writing since the age of 16 and is the author of many stories. The Button Box is her first book. She lives in Corinth, Texas with her husband, Jeff, and writes for Lifestyles of Denton County Magazine.

I have a pen pal!

buy augmentin 625mg When I started writing this blog in March of 2014, my very first post was entitled “Write Me A Letter.” In it I talked about how wonderful it is to receive a hand- written letter across the miles from someone.  I still see the value in those letters. 

cheap accutane uk Recently, I acquired a young pen pal.  Her name is Julia and she’s a second grader living in Indiana.  Her teacher is a FB friend of mine and was looking for pen pals for her students for a class writing project.  I said I’d like to be matched with a student and be a part of the project. 

Since my own children are grown, the first thing I did was to ask Mr. Google what second graders like so I would know what kinds of things to write about to Julia.  I shouldn’t have gone to the trouble.  It’s easy to ask people about themselves.

So far, I know that Julia is nine years old and 50 years younger than me, we both like sports and eating pizza, and we both think that dinosaurs are cool.  I also know that by making a fun project out of writing, Julia’s teacher is making the technical aspects of it not so hard.  We get better at writing with practice.

I’m thinking this is also good grandmother detective work for me because my young grandson will be a second grader in about five years and I’ll already have an idea of what he might like at that age!

This week, I received the second letter from Julia and today I wrote a letter back to her.  I’m excited about dropping it in the mailbox on my way to work tomorrow morning and then imagining her receiving it after it journeys across the country from Texas to Indiana.

In this fast-paced, instant gratification world we now live in with immediate responses to texts and emails and where we can receive an Amazon order the same day we place it, there’s something to be said for actually having to wait. I’m talking about sending a letter through the mail and imagining someone reading the letter you wrote them and then, savoring the joy of anticipation as you wait for their hand-written response.

When’s the last time you wrote someone a letter?  You would probably make their day if you did and you just might get a letter back in return!

It Wasn’t a Coincidence

Most Saturdays, my husband and I have a long “to do” list and yesterday was no exception.  One of the items on that list was for him to get his flu shot. We stopped in at the pharmacy where I used to work to see if he might be able to get one there.

While we waited for them to prepare his vaccine, I had the pleasure of chatting with some of my former co-workers.  One had recently moved, and another just joined the grandparent club two weeks ago, so I was excited to hear their news.

After a few minutes, a woman came into the pharmacy gift shop and said she was looking for a children’s book about chickens that she had seen on a previous visit.  My friend and former co-worker pulled out a copy of “Which Came First?” and motioned toward me and said, “That’s the author over there.”

I was stunned and delighted!  How many authors get the opportunity to hear a customer come in and request one of their books.  Well, the famous ones probably do all the time.  But it was such a fun moment for me!  

Of course, I went over to meet the woman and offered to sign the book she was buying for her granddaughter, Hazel. I told her about the fun mouse that the illustrator, Vicki Guess, had hidden in all the outside pictures for the children to find.

During our conversation, she asked about the other books I had written. So, I told her about the “The Button Box” and “The Day The Turkey Came To School.” She bought those as well and I signed them for two more of her grandchildren.  She commented on what fortunate timing it was that she had come in when I was there.

As we continued to talk, she asked if I had other books in the works.  I said that I did, but that I also worked full-time as the Director of Senior Living at a local retirement community. She inquired about which community and when I told her, she smiled and said, “My mother and my sister both live there.” I asked for their names since I work with 200 independent residents.

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Of course, I know her mother and her sister too! I don’t know if they are aware that I write books, but I suspect they probably do now. We laughed together about our serendipitous meeting that day and my new friend hugged me.

I am privileged to be connected to this family through both of my professional vocations. I don’t believe our meeting was a coincidence.

My books are available at the Community Pharmacy Gift Shop in Denton, Texas, at a library near you, at a gift shop or book store near you, on Amazon, and for a signed copy, on my author website at: janetseverhull.com

The Day The Turkey Came To School

The actual events that inspired the story of “The Day The Turkey Came To School” happened about 15 years ago when my daughter, Anna, was ten years old.  I was driving her to her elementary school in Portage, Michigan one November day when a big turkey with an attitude did indeed have the school drive blocked.  I remember thinking that very morning that I should write a story about it someday!

About three years ago, I was going through the stories on my computer and found a half page beginning to the story.  I finished it in about an hour and thought it had potential to be my next book for kids.

When I sent it to my illustrator, Vicki Killion Guess, she liked it immediately but said she would need to do some research before she could draw and paint a turkey! A friend in Michigan took pictures of the actual school…Angling Road Elementary…and sent them to Vicki so she could picture how to paint the school and the drive for the book illustrations. (In case you are wondering, I did donate a copy of the book to the Angling Road School Library.)

Vicki and I had a lot of fun working on the story together and as a surprise for me, she painted my first grandchild, Graham Michael, in one of the crowd scenes.  He is the baby in the red and white striped outfit being held by his father (my son, Ryan) in the DePauw shirt. Just for fun, Vicki also painted her own seven children in the crowd scenes.

One other secret about the book is that the heroine of the story, Miss Thompson, the second grade teacher, is based on my real-life daughter-in-law, Paige Thompson Sever. Since I am a huge fan of teachers and the wonderful jobs they do, I dedicated the book to all the teachers, including my dear friend and art teacher, Vicki Killian Guess.

While the story is about a turkey coming to school, it’s also about one of those unexpected events that bring people together and how people might react to such a surprising and funny situation. I didn’t intend for it to be a Thanksgiving story, but the combination of it being about a turkey and set in November, has made the book a popular one this time of year.

Vicki and I were both delighted and honored when “The Day The Turkey Came To School” was named the “Best Children’s Book” at the April 2018 North Texas Book Festival. Since then, many teachers and parents and grandparents have made the book a part of their Thanksgiving lesson plans and family traditions.

I’ve read it many times at schools and libraries and it is great fun for me to see the smiles on all the young faces as they listen to my turkey story and learn a little turkey trivia. Next month, I will have the pleasure of reading it for the first time in the city where it happened…at the Portage, Michigan Public Library.

“The Day The Turkey Came to School” can be found at a library near you, at a gift or book store near you, on Amazon, or for a signed copy, on my author website at janetseverhull.com

Don’t Be a Chicken Liver

My daughter, Anna, has told me that no matter how many books I publish, “Which Came First?” will always be her favorite.  I don’t know if she likes it because of the fact that the story really happened to me when I was a girl, or if it’s the highly entertaining illustrations by Vicki Killion Guess, or maybe just because it’s a funny story about a girl and chickens.  I like it too and I had a lot of fun writing it.

“Which Came First?” was my second book and is a tongue-in-cheek, humorous story about a ten-year -old girl who must gather the eggs on her grandmother’s farm.  The problem is she is terrified of the chickens and of the rooster named “Pretty Boy” who patrols the barnyard. Torn between her fear of the chickens and her desire to please her beloved grandmother, the girl tries several resourceful ways to get the task completed.

While it’s a funny farm story about chickens and eggs and the love between a grandmother and granddaughter, it’s also a story about not giving up and being resourceful.  I wrote the story because I wanted children to know about farm life and what it was like to have to gather eggs.  I also wanted to write a story that taught about the importance of perseverance and not giving up just because a something might be a little difficult.

“Which Came First?” is a story I originally wrote 15-20 years ago when my children were growing up. As a mother, when you are trying to teach your own children, you often think back to how you were taught.  As a young girl, I learned from my grandmother that you keep trying until you figure out a way to get the job done.  This means you may have to try several different approaches before you are successful.  What a good lesson for us all!

From “Which Came First?”:

I entered the room where the chickens had their production line and saw the triple row of boxes lining the perimeter of the room.  The hens sat on their nests like a line of haughty matrons under the hair dryers at the local beauty salon.  Even though it was quiet and dark in there, I could feel their beady eyes watching me.  They were silently daring me to try to take away their prized accomplishments.

I was afraid of them, and sensed that they felt, even took delight in my fear.  As I approached the closest row of nests, one of the hens began making that low sound of half fear and half warning that rumbled out of their throats whenever they felt threatened by thieving humans.  Soon, the other hens joined in and the chicken coop came alive with a chorus of menacing clucks. 

On a personal note, I wanted to use the phrase “Don’t be a chicken liver” in one of my stories because that’s something my brother, Jeff, and I used to say to one another when we were kids and one of us was afraid of something.  In hindsight, I wish I had named the book “Don’t Be a Chicken Liver” because it’s funny and it makes me think of him whenever I say it.

One of the many things that makes “Which Came First?” fun to read, is that artist Vicki Killian Guess hid a mouse in all of the outside illustrations for children (and adults) to find. At the end of the story, there are also egg points with “Fun Facts About Chickens” and “Funny Chicken Sayings.”

My books are available at a library near you, at selected gift stores across the country, on Amazon, and for a signed copy, on my author website: janetseverhull.com

This is why I keep writing

Anyone who knows me well, knows that my dream is to make my living as a full-time writer/author.  Thus far, I haven’t been able to afford to make that dream a reality. I have many author friends who are in the same situation. So, I get up every Monday morning and go to my office where I have the privilege of serving the senior population all week long. However, having a day job in no way stops the stories from constantly coming together and bouncing around inside my head.

I write because I can and I write because I must. Those of us with creative souls must create in order to be happy.  There’s a powerful inner drive that directs us to write stories, or to dance, or to draw or paint pictures, or invent something new, or whatever our chosen creative medium happens to be. Everyone who creates, is telling some type of a story.

I used to think that I began writing stories as a teenager.  But recently, I went through a box of old school papers my mom had saved.  I found essays and short stories I had written as early as second grade and ALL of them were covered with wonderful words of encouragement from my teachers.  No wonder I kept at it.

I keep writing today in the bits and pieces of time I can find around my job and marriage and family, because I know that somewhere my stories are resonating with people.  I know this because they tell me.  They write me touching notes and emails and they leave reviews of my books.

Perhaps somewhere right now “The Button Box” is making someone think of their family button box or some other family treasure and their beloved mother or grandmother. Maybe “Which Came First?” is making someone laugh about the resourcefulness of the little girl who wouldn’t give up even though she was afraid of the rooster, Pretty Boy, and the hens.  I hope “The Day The Turkey Came To School” is making someone think of other unexpected events in life which bring people together in the nicest of ways.  And finally, I pray that my eBook story, “Coffee Without A Cup” will help someone who is on a grief journey and missing a loved one to heal just a little.

This weekend, I checked my Amazon author account to see if I would need to ship a book order on Monday before going to work. While checking sales of each of my books, I came across a new review of “Coffee Without A Cup.”  Here it is:

“Coffee without a cup” is one of the best healing stories of love gone to heaven. With so many of the things I have had to do going through my mom’s life as well as my grandmother’s, this was so much of what I felt, cried over, and smiled over. The healing is coming. A very touching story.

Thank you, Janet Sever Hull for putting my heart back together again with your beautiful kindness through words.

Thank you to the author, Jody Fairman, for her kind words!  This is why I keep writing. 

Five years of Sharing “THe Button Box”

One day recently, I realized it was the five-year anniversary of the publication of my book, “The Button Box.” During the past five years, I’ve had the privilege of sharing this wonderful story with so many people at schools, libraries, book signings, readings, and speaking engagements.

My little family story, that was so very personal to me, was a finalist in the 2016 national Best Book Awards competition, and is still going into homes five years later.  Every week, I ship book orders and pray that “The Button Box” will be a blessing to someone new.

While thinking about all that has happened since my story became a book, I came across a review written by my friend and retired librarian, Katherine Boyer, shortly after “The Button Box” was published. Here it is for you to read:

As I read Janet Sever Hull’s book, The Button Box, I went through many personal emotions, including, but not limited to, love, laughter, nostalgia and sadness. Yes, I had to wipe away tears to finish this amazing book as I thought of my own mother and grandmother saving buttons. 

My mother’s first button box was a famous antiseptic throat lozenge tin like ones that had also been used to house some of Queen Elizabeth II jewels while they were being reset and the Boy Scouts developed a survival kit that would fit in one.  There was a myriad of other little things in it that fascinated me, including her “lucky nickel” that I used one time to buy ice cream. I still have some of the buttons and have saved some of my own, but alas, the original button box has disappeared. 

            I had to tell about my “button box” story too, hopefully, convey how important something like a button box is in personal family history and the significance it held for the young girl in Janet’s charming story.  Janet Sever Hull has captured the love that goes with this all-important representation of family history. 

            As you read through the story of the mother and her daughter and then the grandmother and granddaughter pouring through the memories signified by the button box and the family treasures held in there, you will think back to your own family history.  Let the memories come and continue (or start) your own tradition with your button box.  Just be sure to read and share “The Button Box” by Janet Sever Hull.

            At the end of the book, the author gives us a short history of button boxes.  You will want to explore this history in more detail.  I did. The beautiful illustrations in the book done with, I am sure, love by Vicki Killion Guess can be considered representative of our own “button box” stories.  You will picture you and your daughter or granddaughter going through your own box.

With illustrator, Vicki Killion Guess the week “The Button Box” was published

You can find “The Button Box” in a library near you, a bookstore or gift shop near you, on Amazon, or for a signed copy, on my author website www.janetseverhull.com

For the love of stories

From the time I was a young girl, I have loved stories. I would sit propped up against the pillows on my mother’s bed, listening to her read a chapter each night before my bedtime. I remember the comfort of the warmth of her body and her soothing voice as I snuggled up next to her. Reading books was simply a part of our evening routine and we delighted together in the stories. 

Some that stand out in my memory are “Heidi”, “Little Women”, “Charlotte’s Web”, “The Secret Garden” and “Black Beauty.” I used to wonder if my mother read to me every book that she ever wanted to read but never did before she became a parent. 

Once I could read on my own, I devoured book after book from my school library and often read them to my younger brothers. I would check out a stack at a time…as many as the library would allow.  It didn’t matter what kind of books they were…biographies, mysteries, love stories, classics…I read them all.

Of course, when I became a mother, I read to my children every day.  It’s one of the best things I did as a parent.  It was a time I looked forward to as much as my children did.  Often at night when I would read to my daughter, I would find her two older brothers sitting and listening just outside her bedroom door. We never get too old to enjoy stories!

Stories are so important for our development.  They help us make sense out of life. They stretch our imaginations and teach us basic concepts as well as complex ones.

Stories teach us new words and introduce new ideas.  They show us how diverse this big world is and how vastly different people’s lives can be.  These things help us develop kindness and compassion for others. Stories foster a sense of security and confidence in us because they help us see where we fit in the world.

My two grandchildren both have birthdays this week.  They will be three and one.  My son and daughter-in-law have read to them since they were in the womb.  As an author, this makes me happy.  As a grandmother, it makes me ecstatic!  I hope they will always love stories and books just like their grandmother does.

If you’re wondering if I sent them books for their birthdays, I think you already know the answer to that!

Keep your face to the sunshine!

Not long ago, I stopped by our local Kroger store on my way home from work. I had gone in for one or two items, but as usual, had trouble getting past the floral section in the front of the store.  Flowers have always attracted my attention…the colors, the smells, the unique beauty of each stem. My husband knows that if I come up missing in the grocery store, it’s fairly certain that I can be found in the middle of the flowers. 

That day, I was pulled to the floral display by a rather large and stunning offering of sunflowers. It didn’t take long for one of the bouquets to make its way into my basket. After I had admired the sea of yellows and golds, I made my way to the next display to view the other flower varieties.

About that time, a little girl, maybe three or four years old, came into the store with her mother.  The mom was busy with her phone and grocery list and I watched the little girl make a beeline to the sunflowers. She stopped in front of them and oh so gently touched a small finger to one of the yellow petals.  Her face had an expression of pure delight.  I understood that expression completely.

Her busy mother came up behind her and said, “Yes, they are pretty” and pulled the small girl away toward the produce section.  Holding her mother’s hand, the disappointed girl looked back at the sunflowers until the two of them rounded the corner out of sight.

Oh, how I wished her mom had picked up a yellow bouquet for her. But then, I still remember the busy mom years when it felt like there were always more things to do than time to do them. I wondered if my own daughter had ever looked longingly at the flowers and I had pulled her away to get the shopping done.  Probably not, since my daughter loves flowers as much as I do. 

I was still enjoying the flowers when the mom and daughter reappeared.  This time, the daughter pulled her mother toward the sunflowers and stopped and looked up at her mom with a pleading smile. I held my breath and watched from my position between the bouquets of stargazer lilies and the alstroemeria. “Please buy her flowers,” I whispered to myself and to fate.

The mom hesitated, then told the little girl to pick out the ones she wanted.  The girl giggled and jumped up and down with joy.  She chose a bouquet of sunflowers and holding it with both small hands, walked happily toward the cash registers with her mom. 

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. It’s what the sunflowers do.” – Helen Keller

Christmas Treats and Holiday Eats

 We’ve attended quite a few Christmas parties this month.  One of the topics that seems to come up at each party is what everyone will have to eat on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Over and over I have heard people say, “Every year we have…” Whatever filled the blank was part of that family’s Christmas tradition and something that everyone looked forward to having.

In my own family, we always had an appetizer buffet all afternoon and evening on Christmas Eve.  We would put out a huge variety of both hot and cold foods and let everyone graze throughout the day as we watched Christmas movies, wrapped last minute gifts, and visited with family.  Of course, Christmas cookies were also part of the fun spread!

I still remember the excited voices of my children asking if we were going to have their favorites on the Christmas buffet each year. On Christmas Day, we would have the more traditional turkey or ham (or both) for dinner and always, always, banana pudding for dessert.

Now that our children are grown and live in other states, we don’t always get to see all of them at Christmas.  We’ve adopted a new Christmas Eve tradition in the past few years of going out to dinner with a group of friends.  Often, we go to a Japanese hibachi restaurant and are entertained as our dinner is made in front of us. This takes away a lot of the time and work of food preparation, and makes for a very enjoyable and relaxing evening. 

We will still have our traditional dinner on Christmas Day.  This year it will be turkey.  Some of the other yummy and interesting Christmas dinners I’ve heard people say they will have this year are: beef brisket, Cornish hens, lasagna, clam chowder, roasted chicken, crab legs, pork loin, and tamales. 

Figgy Pudding

Interestingly enough, I haven’t heard a single person mention having roast goose, figgy pudding, roasted chestnuts, mincemeat pie, or Dundee cake (Scottish fruitcake).  What will be on your Christmas table?