Monday, May 4, 2009

Meet LeFerna Arnold-Walch


It is my pleasure to introduce you to a truly amazing woman, LeFerna Arnold-Walch. LeFerna is CEO of Mary’s Lamb, Inc. and creator of The Character Studio Dot Com. She has also written a children’s novel, The Secret of Yahweh.

Shari: LeFerna can you tell us a little about your background? What is your training for all that you do?

LeFerna: I haven’t had a lot of formal training in music, illustration or writing. I took grade-school band. It didn’t teach me near as much as studio work in Nashville where I learned their shortcuts in music theory called “the number system.” I started singing and playing guitar at nine-years-old, all because of a friend of my parents’ who sang to me from the time I was a baby in diapers. The friend’s name was Sam Hagar, and he continued to come and visit as I grew older and talked my father into getting me a good guitar. He was my mentor.

At age fourteen my best friend and I were regulars on a local television show. We rearranged songs and sang harmony. Once they put a wig on me and had me play the drums! It was fun and started my career in the entertainment field.

Years later when my husband left, I had to raise my one-year old son, Travis, so I had more desire than ever to sing for my supper! I soon won the first Wrangler Showdown competition, singing an original song, and earned radio experience doing commercials, from that. Then later in my career, I wrote songs and recorded in Nashville. I toured and covered 42 of our 50 states, then had my own band, settling in Texas for my son’s sake (he needed to start school) where I worked the large venues like Gilley’s (back in Urban Cowboy days).

I was married again in Michigan, and we have been married for 22 years. I was given a real life and another son. I gave up entertaining to stay at home and raise my two boys. Once they were older, I was missing music and wanting to go back again (which you always do… it gets in your blood), so I had the idea to go into music ministry. Then our home burned and we lost everything except the music equipment I had with me at the time.

If that wasn’t enough, a few weeks after the fire, Travis’s car slammed into a brick church and he went into a coma! My oldest son was dying and I raised him unchurched! No mother should ever have to watch their child dying and not know if they are going to be saved or not. What a blow this was for me! I’d been going to church regularly and taking my younger son, since my parent’s death, and I was so busy going into music ministry, I never thought about my oldest son and how he needed to know Jesus.

Earlier that year I auditioned for a full music scholarship at the local community college and won it! At 42 years old. I was on top of the world. My dream was to compose Christian music. But it was my second week of school when Travis crashed his car into the church and went into the coma, so I had to give it up. I wrote a song for him and sang it to him in his coma and then later I added to it and wrote enough songs for a CD project for “The Mustard Seed Ministry.”

Travis had many a miracle and was attending college to get his degree one year after doctors said his brain injury was so severe he would die in that coma. So clearly miracles were happening for him, but when I tried to go on with my music ministry, something went wrong at every performance. I wasn’t sure why, but it was enough to make me give it up.

That was seven years ago. Now He has me using all that I know on my own, for little creatures known as characters for God… that never seem to complain that I don’t have a degree or formal training in anything. I just have faith–and great communication with God.

Shari: Which of your ventures for children came first? Your book, Mary’s Lamb, Inc., or the Character Studio Dot Com? Please tell us about it.

LeFerna: Mary’s Lamb, Inc. Actually, it was a promise to God that came first. When Travis’ car crashed into the church and doctors said he was going to die I promised God that if He spared my son, I would tell more children about His… and that is where some of the most amazing things started to happen.

I had recorded a project of songs, one of which was the one I wrote and sang to him in his coma, had a number one hit on the radio which I ignored, and quit music ministry. The reason was that one song in particular showed me a full color vision of a little lamb that was in school with children as a cartoon picturing all their clothing and their school supplies. After years of ignoring the vision, God had lambs popping up everywhere in my life. He even set me up with two jobs to show me what I needed to know in import/export and how to make this vision come to life. So my son and I started “Mary’s Lamb, Inc.” named after the song I wrote “Mary’s Lamb” all about the lamb of God being in school with the children to make them feel safe, whether he was against the rules or not! (He?)(is this Travis?) helped me incorporate my ministry so that we could sell common stock to help raise the money we needed to give this character popularity. The character’s name was J.C. Lamb.

Then to make the lamb popular enough to find his way to school, the only thing I could think of was to introduce him in books. It was supposed to be picture books, but God led me to the Institute of Biblical Studies where I learned SO much that I thought would be important for an unchurched person to learn. This is when it turned into a novel. One which adults are enjoying, too.

It wasn’t until I started trying to market this novel that I got a good slap in the face of the POD world and the prejudice that came with it. It was clear that more authors like me who had great characters that were teaching children the importance of manners, morality and life in general, needed help! I spent a fortune on marketing that got me nowhere. And most of the really good ideas I saw that everyone was using, were all the same and getting most everyone else nowhere, too. Then one morning, after recently struggling with why distributors would not handle my “unsolicited” novel, I woke at 4:44am with the idea to pull together everything I had and help other authors at the same time. That is when I went back to songwriting where it all began. I started The Character Studio Dot Com to help characters find their voice and promote their own books.

Shari: Didn’t you tell me you had a doll made of your character, Mary’s Lamb? What was that experience like?

LeFerna: The character is J.C. Lamb. He is a 21” plush, fully jointed lamb. Everything about him, was given to me by God, and most of which was relayed to me at 4:44am for years. I would wake at exactly that time and start writing down the ideas. The entire novel is full of what I was taught in that time. The plush doll or stuffed animal is based on what I was told to give him in the novel. He is part of God’s heavenly flock, so you can’t see him if you don’t fully know Jesus. In the novel, “The Secret of Yahweh!” this is the mystery the children solve after they learn all about Jesus. As God’s messenger sent to earth, (Un-Secret Agent 777) he was given a gift from God of a heart that announced what Jesus would say, but without warning, so it always startled him. The voice would come from behind a little purple heart-patch with the secret sign of the fish on his chest. So the plush J.C. Lamb has an embroidered heart-patch just like this, and an opening in his chest forming a pocket that holds a heart-shaped recorder that you can record your own personal message or prayers inside of.

At first it was hard to picture such a BIG undertaking. I was such a “made-in-the-USA” person until God showed me that most all stuffed animals were made in China. A popular bear maker in Vermont was one of the only ones made in the US, and they charged twice as much as I wanted to charge for J.C. Lamb. But I noticed they sold these high priced bears by dressing them in personalized clothing, some of which was made in China. This was when I realized one of the short jobs I worked (another story) taught me what God wanted me to know about import/export. It took a few years of trial and error, but I finally developed a relationship with some people who could help me in China. People I could trust. Now I have a flock of 3,240 plush J.C. Lambs and hearts coming in a couple months and I am fighting tooth and nail to make enough money to pay for them. The idea of this plush lamb is that just the “sight” of him represents Jesus. And we want to reach a lot of children of God! Young and old. To interest all ages we also have a collectible line of versed and inspirational T-shirts and other clothing. Hopefully we will see J.C. Lamb dragged about by every child as a witnessing tool, as well as college students and seniors who keep him on the couch of their apartments, homes or in their RVs. The perfect travel pillow everywhere you go.

Do you know that in one year alone Americans spent 440 MILLION dollars collecting Teddy Bears? Well… that tells me that J.C. Lamb has a great chance of popularity! If I can only get him here!

Shari: I am impressed by your determination, creativity and willingness to promote what you do. I understand you are working on a podcast for children’s books. Tell us about that too please.

LeFerna: The podcast is a prerecorded radio show called “The J.C. Lamb Morning Show” where J.C. Lamb (and myself, The Story Grammie) interview other characters from Children’s books. It is designed to promote great children’s book characters while getting children off to a “God-start” each morning. They download a coloring page from the book we feature and also download “The Ten Simple Rules” from “The Secret of Yahweh!” to recite aloud with us. These are The Ten Commandments for children. It is amazing what planting a few morals on young minds can do for children when they react with each other in school, you know? The shows all have a Biblical theme and promote the author’s book, but are also very entertaining. Especially if they have a new song written and recorded by the character at The Character Studio Dot Com. The final goal for this podcast is to reach a number high enough so we can syndicate the show on Christian radio. And we are prepared to have a J.C. Lamb puppet to MC a television show of all the music videos done at the studio as well if we get enough of them ahead. It’s Jazzy J.C.’s MV4TV which will be offered to Christian broadcasting. All of which will be great advertisement for authors. POD or not! There may not be enough room on the shelves for all of us… but there is plenty of room in children’s hearts! But they can’t read what they don’t know about! So let the characters come alive!

Shari: You have written and recorded theme songs for the Rooter and Snuffle books and Stubby’s Destiny. You also made a music video and interviewed the characters for your podcast. I think they are great promotional tools.

LeFerna: I like writing cute stuff the best. One of my favorites from that project was “The Mustard Seed Song” which is due to be released by Angel the Singing Chihuahua who is J.C. Lamb sidekick (if I can ever find what I did with those studio tracks from Nashville.) This is probably why the entire vision came to me of J.C. Lamb when I wrote and sang “Mary’s Lamb,” which is a twist on Mary Had a Little Lamb, as in the novel. I love to be clever and cute. I think, since I am overweight, I would much rather write songs than to be on the stage singing them anymore. And to write for other people is very rewarding—but to write for book characters? THAT is the ultimate!

Shari: What kind of response are you getting to The Character Studio Dot Com?

LeFerna: So far, it is great, considering I haven’t even advertised it yet. I am still working out all the bugs, but I am staying busying with one client after another. I already have people lined up to help me if I get too many jobs in at once. I will always write and sing the songs if I can and do the interviews. Where I will use the help is on making the music videos and now I am doing animated shorts. Thirty second jingles of the characters advertising their website, saying hello or whatever the author wants them to say in that amount of time. You can see our new animated commercial at our website and on YouTube at
www.youtube.com/thecharacterstudio which is also where everyone can see Rooter & Snuffle’s music video and Stubby’s. Both are very different in the way I altered the illustrations and fun to see.

Shari: Please tell my readers how they can get in touch with you and provide links to your sites.

LeFerna: You can read all about the corporation at
www.maryslambinc.com and even follow links to our ministry site and read Travis’ story and hear the song that started it all by visiting www.jclamb.org I’m on myspace, facebook, twitter and jacketflap. But I apologize in advance that I am too busy recording now at www.thecharacterstudio.com to keep up with most of those. You can reach me through the contact pages of all these sites. (I hope) since I also designed all of those with no formal training. If you can’t Shari will give you my email address. :-}

We are all gifted in many ways by God. It is not until we turn those gifts back over to God and put ourselves in Jesus’ hands, that we see why we had them in the first place!

Thank you SO much for having me here today Shari!

Rooter & Snuffle love you! And so do I!

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