How My Start-up Business Re-ignited a Local Writer’s Passion

Stacy Haverstick shares advice on parenting, writing, and self-publishing

This past fall, I had the pleasure of teaching “Blogging and Website Design” through our local community education program. I have been designing websites, both for professional and personal endeavors, the past five years using WordPress and was curious to know if there were others in the community who, like me, wanted to have an online presence to share our passions.

Ten adults signed up with wonderful aspirations, from redesigning a vacation association site to creating an online shop for selling handmade Mexican desserts. One of the joys of teaching is the meaningful connections you get to make with others. This course was no exception!

Stacy Haverstick, a Hartland resident and mother of two children, ages 7 and 9, saw the advertisement for the course and felt inspired to republicize a children’s book she wrote and self-published six years ago: “Counting Colorful Monsters.” 

Inspiration for the book

The story of how the children’s book originated is relatable to all “on-the-go” parents. Stacy was attempting to return home from working the evening shift as a nurse at the University of Michigan hospital. As was typical at the time, she found herself stuck in a gridlock in the parking lot. As she sat there, inspiration struck, and she frantically jotted down the rhyme that would eventually become “Counting Colorful Monsters.”

The impetus for writing the children’s book came from her son’s lack of engagement in current books for his age. As Stacy shares, “Evan wasn’t interested in reading about puppies and, at the time, it seemed like that was all that was available for his age. I believe that parents are responsible for their own kid’s education. Writing this book was a way of taking ownership of his learning.”

The decision to self-publish

When Stacy sat down to dinner with her family and shared her little rhyme, her family was enthusiastic. It was her husband who suggested she publish it. It was 2013 and self-publishing was just starting to take off. Stacy became a part of a revolutionary idea — anyone can be an author if they are self-motivated with a passion they want to share. 

Working with a self-publishing company, she was paired with an illustrator and asked her daughter, who was three at the time, for her opinions on the artwork and suggestions for improvement. Through this process, the book became a collaborative, family process that the Haverstick family can now treasure forever.

Once the book was published, she sold it at craft shows and gave the book away as baby gifts to friends. Then, life got busy and the book was placed back on the shelf for a while.

Pursuing our passions 

Having just finished her Masters in Healthcare Administration and with the ability to create her own site and sell on Amazon, Stacy felt the urge to get her book back out there and inspire others to pursue their passions as well. 

When asked about her advice to those considering self-publication she shares, “Go for it! Just don’t expect to get rich. It should be something you want to do for yourself. Writing this book was on my bucket list.” 

Stacy not only has a passion for inspiring her children but inspiring those she works with as well. As an employee of Michigan Medicine for the past 13 years, she started as a staff nurse, then advanced from Clinical Information Analyst to her current position as Program Manager for the Center for Circulatory Support. Along her journey, she has published articles with her team for the publication Critical Care Nurse

Shop small this season

As you review your holiday shopping list this season, I encourage you to “shop small” and purchase Stacy’s book on Amazon. She will receive a small profit from every book sold. 

Stacy will also be available to meet at Cromaine Library’s “Shop Small Pop-up Market” this Saturday (November 30th) from 10am – 2pm.

“Counting Colorful Monsters” is perfect for early and emerging readers and will delight your little ones! 

Stacy and her family (photo provided by Stacy Haverstick)

By Miranda Keskes
Fifteen-year teacher veteran, professional editor, and published writer


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4 Steps to Secure a Strong Letter of Recommendation

Applying to college can be overwhelming; taking (and retaking) standardized tests, last-ditch efforts to improve grade-point averages, gathering transcripts, crafting a resume, filling out online applications, and writing what feels like an endless barrage of essays can make the strongest student feel weak.

While all of these pieces are integral to creating a strong applicant, one sure way to stand out from the sea of applicants is to secure a solid letter of recommendation. Sounds easy enough, right? Get someone else to write great things about you; no problem!

Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. I’ve written hundreds of letters of recommendation over the years, and I am always amazed by the myriad of ways I am asked. From resumes that mirror a dissertation to a casual, “Hey, can you write me a letter by the end of the day?” I have learned that many students simply do not know how to ask for this important document.

Now for the good news! The following simple steps will help you improve your soft skills while also ensuring you receive the strongest letters of recommendation possible.

1) Ask EARLY.

I cannot emphasize this enough! If you ask someone for a letter the day it is due, you are going to get a quick draft written by someone disgruntled. As a general rule, I like it when students give me two weeks. I like a deadline. If you say, “Whenever’s convenient,” it is likely your request will get pushed to the bottom of your teacher’s never-ending pile of work. Teachers are very busy and prioritize what needs to get done now over what needs to get done eventually. Instead, politely suggest a date (at least two weeks out) and see if they agree. You may be surprised; if you give them a deadline, you may get it sooner! 

Also, if you can, ask in person. Though it’s not always possible, it is very helpful, especially if you’re asking a teacher you haven’t had in a couple of years or a counselor with 500 students. Facial recognition is an amazing memory trigger!

Panicked because you simply don’t have two weeks? Chocolate and gift cards can go a long way in boosting someone’s mood and willingness to help out!  


2) Send a FORMAL email.

This isn’t the time to be casual; it’s the time to proofread! Treat this email like the final draft of an essay. It’s just as important, if not more so. After all, it’s your college education on the line! If you’re not sure what a formal email should look like, check out these samples.

Even if you feel really familiar with this person, a formal email shows you’re serious. After asking in-person first (if you were able to), follow up with a detailed email that includes the following information.

Share some background. Briefly explain where you are applying and what your future goals are. You don’t need to have every detail of your life planned out, but knowing that you hope to pursue Astrophysics can be helpful!

State what the letter is needed for. Is it for the Common App? A specific school?  A scholarship? A particular program or school within a university? Help your recommender understand who their audience is. Provide materials from the organization requesting the letter, if applicable. For example, if you are applying for a scholarship, knowing who is awarding the scholarship and what the qualities they are looking for in the recipient is incredibly important.

Explain what format you need. Do you need hard copies? Electronic only? Is there a link they should send it through? For example, if you want a letter for the Common Application, you will need to send an email link directly from the Common Application.

Attach a one-page resume. This provides the person you’re asking to get a letter from a more well-rounded picture of you. While your math teacher probably cannot comment on your cheer experience, she can comment on how you were able to juggle competitive cheer while still maintaining a 4.0 in the class!

Be sure to do your homework and have answers to these questions before requesting a letter!

3) Say THANK YOU. There’s nothing more disappointing than writing someone an amazing letter and not receiving any acknowledgment. A simple thank you, either in person or via email will suffice. An actual thank you card with a handwritten note may feel old school, but teachers love it! I have a box of thank you cards I’ve saved over the years to prove it. Saying thanks also ensures you can ask guilt-free for an additional letter later in the year (this happens more often than you think)!

4) Share the RESULTS! So many students forget this step! You may feel like you’re bragging but your recommenders LOVE to hear that their letter helped you land the school of your dreams or earn a scholarship. Even if it’s six months later, take the time to let that person know. After all, they took the time to write that letter!

This might seem like a lot of work for one little piece of paper, but it may just be the piece of paper that convinces the admissions committee to accept you! 

Good luck; you’ve got this! 

Miranda Keskes
Fifteen-year teacher veteran, professional editor, and published writer


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New Course: Blogging and Website Creation!

If you live near Hartland, Michigan, you have the opportunity to participate in a brand-new course I am offering: Blogging and Website Creation!

After five years of teaching students how to blog, I am excited for the opportunity to teach adults. If you have always been intrigued by the idea of blogging or run a business in need of a website, this two-night course will give you all the tools you need to create a professional-looking website that you can manage yourself. It’s easier than you think, and it’s a lot of fun!

Don’t miss this opportunity to stretch your creativity using 21st century skills. Questions? Please comment below or email at keskesink@gmail.com. I look forward to seeing you there!