It seems strange that 2011 is almost over but it must be since I'm sitting down to write another annual newsletter. The end of the year sees us all fit and healthy, thank goodness, and a whole lot of good news to deliver.
The biggest news this year is definitely Nikki's book deal. After a huge amount of work writing several novels and finding a literary agent, her effort finally paid off when Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin, signed a two book deal back at the beginning of the year. Nikki's first novel, "The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy", a story aimed at 8 to 12 year olds about a spooky school run by witches, will be published on August 21st, 2012. You can already pre-order it on Amazon and I'm sure you'll all be heading over there immediately to be sure of getting your copy (links US , Canada, UK, Germany, China, Japan). In addition to the book deal, Nikki has also sold various short stories, essays and poems this year and her work has appeared in a recent "Chicken Soup for the Soul " book and in a new anthology of poetry including poems by some people even I have heard of!
When not basking in her success as a writer (and furiously trying to finish a book that Razorbill want to publish as number 2), Nikki is also teaching Zumba classes at the YMCA and another local gym.
The boys are still doing well. Drew is now in 3rd grade and has the same teacher as last year, a very good thing as far as we are concerned since they appear to like each other. He's still an outdoor kid and desperate to go fishing, exploring and, if he had a parent who could help, hunting. His artistic side is also flourishing and he has done well in several competitions this year including getting first place in the district UIL Storytelling competition, second in UIL Ready Writing (essay writing based on a theme) and first in the local PTA "Reflections" competition for music composition (he wrote a song and performed it while playing his ukulele).
Cameron made the jump to Dripping Springs Middle School this August and has settled in well. Homework is taking a lot of time so, despite gaining his Cub Scout Arrow of Light badge in March (the top badge you can earn as a Cub), he decided not to continue with Scouting in favour of Robotics Club (and homework and baritone horn practice and school band and reading and video games and.....). Before the school switch, his "Future Problem Solvers" team from Rooster Springs Elementary made it to the State-level competition in Austin.
Robotics Club has proven to be a lot of fun for both Cameron and Dave this year since Dave is acting as one of the team mentors. The Dripping Springs Middle School team was formed in September and competed in its first BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) competition in October. The kids did a great job winning the local competition and advancing to the Texas/New Mexico finals in Dallas. While the team didn't win any prizes there, they all learned a lot that can be applied to next year's competition.
Dave continues to work for Texas Instruments in their newly-consolidated Austin office where there is still plenty of software needing written. This year's (minimal) business travel took him to Chicago, New York and the California Bay Area. Outside work, his on-the-side photography business continues to grow. He gave a couple of workshops and arranged for a well-known British photographer to visit Austin and teach two classes back in February. He worked for the Austin Rodeo and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport where one of his images was printed 35 feet wide and hung above the main security line for several months (during a period that the space was not sold to an advertiser). The airport also included some of his work in an exhibit called "Functional Art" and he shot a commission there in July which involved full access to the facilities including shooting from the roof of the control tower and from a scissor-lift inside the main terminal building. He sold various pictures to book publishers this year so look out for one of his photos on the cover of a Harlequin bodice-ripper (the publisher is Photoshopping in the ripped bodice part) next summer. He was also delighted to have one of his pictures stolen by a local telephone directory company who used it on the front of one of their 2011 directories. The copyright infringement claim settlement did a rather good job of financing this year's expensive camera equipment purchases.
Although we didn't travel back to Scotland this year, we did take a couple of family trips during 2011. In June, we headed to South Padre Island for a long weekend where we played on the beach and did some birdwatching. Later in the summer, we spent a week on a Carnival cruise from Galveston to the Bahamas and Key West during which we met some dolphins, visited the most beautiful beach we had ever seen and did some sea kayaking. All in all, it was a great trip and we all thoroughly enjoyed both the shore activities and the relaxation on board.
After a year like this, how can things get better in 2012, I wonder? We're all looking forward to Nikki's book hitting the market and all the events and parties associated with that, and keeping our fingers crossed that things keep rolling as well as they have for the last few years. Hopefully your 2011 has been as outstanding as ours and please do let us know how things are going. You can keep up to date with our news via Facebook (Dave or Nikki), Google+ (Dave or Nikki), Nikki's blog or Dave's blog.
From our family to yours, have a wonderful Christmas and a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year!