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I love a good story! Good stories start with great experiences and even better people and that is exactly what we found when we began working on Buckin' Bull Buddies. 
Everyone in this book is a real person with their own unique story that ties together through the two main characters, Bode Spence and Cade Smith. I became part of their story in 2022 when I interviewed them at the Junior World Finals in Las Vegas. 
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I was lucky enough to remain in contact with these two bull riders and followed their progress to the Iowa High School Finals in June. Soon after, my team and I started serious talks about a possible book project. 
In August, I traveled to Cade's farm in Sidney, Iowa for a gorgeous morning of photos and porch interviews. The pair made me laugh with stories about the pranks they had played on one another, told me their hopes for the future, and offered advice about what it takes to chase the dream of riding bulls. Before I left that day, they shared with me a stack of childhood photos. Bode at four years old in tiny red chaps;  Cade on his horse in the middle of a rainstorm, and a high school photo of them both together holding a pair of matching buckles, their prizes for a successful season. 

 
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Throughout the writing process, I kept in touch with the boys and their families, adding more characters along the way. They offered me grace when I emailed them with yet another delay in the process and gave corrections to the bull riding terminology that I had unsuccessfully Googled in my attempt to sound like I knew what I was talking about. 
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While I was busy with this book, the boys were busy chasing their rodeo dreams; adding more buckles to their collections and more miles to their odometers. In the year it took to complete this project, Bode won the Iowa High School Finals and committed to a college rodeo team, while Cade qualified to ride at the World Finals in Las Vegas and won the Extreme Bull Riding Tour championship. 
As for me, I presented research at my first international conference along with teaching leadership workshops across the state of Iowa. I traveled to Canada for a media internship at the Canadian Western Agribition, helped launch a new apparel line for the magazine I work for in Texas, and did coverage of the Junior High National Finals Rodeo in Des Moines. 
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Projects like this don't ever really end. After months of writing, rewriting, critiquing illustrations, and figuring out how to navigate the publishing world; copies of Buckin' Bull Buddies arrived on my doorstep.
Now, instead of warm summer porch interviews, the boys and I are meeting up at book signings and library stops, reading to elementary students, and consuming gallons of Chai along the way. Okay, that one might just be me, I have never actually seen the boys drink Chai. 
This has been an incredible journey and I cannot wait to share what our next project will be! 
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This is an amazing book!
-Fayeth Henningsen 
Kindergarten Teacher 
"The story topic is interesting and appeals to students who have a background in agriculture, which in our rural community is quite a few!"
Susan Bormann
-Instructional Coach CDCSD
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-Terry Blake
Owner of HNH Bull Riding Magazine
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