"COWGIRL PEG'S SOMEWHAT AMAZING STORY"
My life in recent years has been all about turning negatives into positives and chasing after two lifelong dreams. An incredible sequence of events led to the achievement of both.
I bought a horse ranch in the Rocky Mountains, which was the first dream-come-true. I started riding horses at the age of six, in the state of Texas where I grew up. That involvement with horses continued through the years and is a big part of my life. In 1998, when I suddenly found myself single after many years of being married, I debated whether to sit around with no direction in my life or go after an opportunity to build a horse ranch. I chose the latter. (I was able to telecommute my job, so could work from anywhere.) I purchased a beautiful piece of raw mountain land and spent that summer going to the "ranch" on weekends. I camped in my horse trailer with my dogs, building my own fences Eventually a horse barn was constructed, with big stalls for the horses and a small room in which I could live. I basically lived the life of a pioneer for about 8 months, learning new ways to accomplish things without the luxuries of power and plumbing. In November, the temperatures plummeted below zero 5 nights in a row. I was wrapped in sleeping bags and awoke to ice on the inside walls. But I survived, and now have a new appreciation for the hardships endured on a daily basis by pioneers.
Once my ranch was complete, including a house, my first goal was to begin horse rescue operations, especially for older horses. I immediately adopted 4 "geriatric" horses, bringing my growing horse herd to a total of nine. Little did I know that my rescue work would open the door and lead right into the achievement of my second lifelong dream of writing a children's book. I love to write, had won several literary awards when in high school. Writing a children's book had long been a goal, but I was still in search of the right message for the story.
One night in 2002, the county sheriff called and said they found a little, lost, ill horse and asked if I would take a look at him. I did, then asked them to bring him to my ranch in the morning, which they did. Two weeks later we found his owner. When she shared the story of this little horse, I instantly realized that the perfect subject for the book I had always wanted to write was standing outside, eating hay in my corral. The problems he had encountered in his life provided great lessons about friendship and bullying along with a drug awareness message.
I proceeded to write his story, which was quite easy since it is based on actual events. After several teachers reviewed and approved of the story, I pursued the publishing process, fully aware that first-time authors rarely find a publisher. I decided to investigate the possibility of independently publishing the book. The big disadvantage, however, was the funding which I would have to provide. It would cost $15,000 to publish the book and produce 3,000 copies.
At precisely this same time, my company decided to down-size, closing its Colorado executive office - my employer. Instead of seeing this as a negative, I instantly realized that the severance pay would be what I needed to fund the publication of my book. At this point, the book became the sole focus in my life. Many of my business-friends thought I had "lost my mind". They constantly reminded me that I was a first-time author with no publisher, and it would be impossible for me to survive financially on one book. My response was that "I so strongly believe in the messages in this book, I would rather try and fail than never try at all, but I do not intend to fail."
The first objective was finding an illustrator. Pat Wiles, the owner of a neighboring horse ranch, just happened to be a nationally-known watercolor artist who specializes in painting horses. After reading my story, she agreed to do the illustrations. Her work perfectly tells the story in paintings; she did a beautiful job.
The book became a reality in August, 2002, when 3000 copies were delivered to me: my other dream-come-true at last. While the book was at the printers, I spent many hours developing a marketing plan, knowing that schools would be my biggest market due to the messages in the book. I began by contacting every educator I knew, requesting an opportunity to visit their school with my new book. Several agreed. Now schools from around the country are calling me, requesting copies of the books and reserving an author visit. Kids figured out I was “Cowgirl Peg” in the first book and began sending letters and emails to me. Once I realized that the “Cowgirl Peg” image was becoming popular, I decided to create a book series for children under that name. As of 2008, a total of 6 books comprise the “Cowgirl Peg Book Series”. Each book uses real animals, mainly my horses plus one famous dog, as the characters in the stories, which always contain positive character-building messages.
I now visit schools nationally, sharing the messages in the books, especially focusing on friendship vs bullying; making smart choices; kindness and respect; dealing with peer pressure, etc. My school presentation includes an interactive discussion of the messages included in the stories, along with the writing and publishing process for elementary students. Many school counselors are now using the books for programs relating to actions vs. consequences and right vs. wrong choices. The Director of Parenting for the State of Texas Association of School Boards reviewed the first book (Lonesome the Little Horse) in a statewide newsletter, recommending it for parenting and family education.
Although the books are now sold in retail markets worldwide by several distributors, my favorite venue is the school program. I absolutely love meeting and visiting with students and staff around the country. The feedback from schools has been 100% that this is the “best author program they have ever had”, a fact of which I am quite proud. I talk with kids from my heart, not from a prepared speech. I get them excited about writing and reading, plus leave them thinking about positive character traits. I now travel approximately 30,000 miles per school year, sharing my books across the country. Each title has sold out multiple times and the popularity continues to grow nationally and internationally.
I often donate visits to inner city schools because those students need to hear the messages. In addition to discussing the character traits, I include the story of my dreams, telling the students to have goals and never give up no matter how long it takes to achieve them.
"Amazing" is the only word that can describe the sequence of events that led to the achievement of my becoming a children's author. Every time one door closed, another one opened. At first the books and the schools programs were just an expensive hobby, but now it’s a business that is my pride and joy. And those friends who thought I was “crazy” are now believers!