Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 Success / Anti-Resolution

Children's author Julie Hedlund, challenged participants of her 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series to post SUCCESSES (rather than resolutions) on our blogs this year. She believes the way New Year's resolutions are traditionally made come from a place of negativity - what DIDN'T get done or achieved in the previous year.  Instead, she suggests we set goals for the New Year that BUILD on our achievements from the previous one. I decided to participate in this Anti-Resolution Revolution! Here is my list for 2014.
My Writing Successes of 2014
  • 12x12 challenge
    • 23 manuscripts completed. (and 6 of them are great! IMHO)
  • I had multiple agents ask for more work and tons of personal feedback from agents and editors.
  • I joined a local Critique Group and they ROCK!
  • I became more disciplined about my craft.
    • Attended 5 webinars.
    • Took 2 college courses.
    • Attended 2 conferences.
    • Did my first two author visits (those kids were so welcoming and eager).
    • Created my own writing space that is just for me.
    • And a partridge in a pear tree.... no wait that one didn't happen
  • PiBoIdMo Winner.
  • Received a 4 on Rate My Story.
  • Adopted a stray puppy from the shelter who inspired 3 stories.

So as Julie Hedlund suggested, my writing resolution is to build on my successes and not focus on what I didn't do.  So I challenge you writers: Make a list of every success for 2014. Really think about it because I had a lot more than I thought.  Look at it.  Be proud of yourself. Enter 2015 on a positive note of light and optimism.

May 2015 be even greater.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Listen this Holiday

You may have Holiday traditions that revolve around the actual holiday; baking cookies, decorating, religious gathering. My favorite tradition comes after all the food, after all the gifts, when everyone sits around, drunk on pumpkin pie and cookies, and they tell stories. Not all the stories are holiday based.

Most in fact are the various ways we injured ourselves as kids.

Writers, listen to these stories. There are gems among them. Ask your older relatives how they met the love of their lives. Ask that crazy aunt the craziest thing she's ever done. Ask Uncle Bob how he ended up marrying a girl who punched him in the nose when they first met. Ask the twins how they saved 3 bunnies last spring.

Listen to the stories. Listen for the feelings. Joy, love, sorrow, regret, and hopefully hope and humor throughout. You never know when you will be inspired by those you love or even your own memories.

Next time someone says, "Remember when..." listen.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Everything Happens For A Reason

Everything happens for a reason. You’ve heard the saying, right? Well, this applies to your story and characters too.


Why does the villain hate the hero?

Why is the hero guarding their heart?

Why does the child think winning the science fair will get his parents back together?


There has to be a reason for your character’s motivation. When you sat to write today, you did so with a reason, a purpose. You wanted to write a story to entertain, teach, earn money. Perfectly good reasons.

Go through your manuscript and pretend you have a four year old at your side asking, “Why?” every twelve seconds.  If you don’t have an answer as to why your character is doing something then maybe it is out of character or doesn’t move the story along.

Remember, EVERYTHING happens for a reason.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Recipe for Being a Writer: Read, Write, Research, Repeat

Welcome to November 1st. The first day of PiBoIdMo. One picture book idea every day for the month of November.  But I want to be real with you. Not every idea is going to be an award winning, agent catching, dream story. Especially because of one important trend I’ve been seeing lately.

People aren’t doing anything with their ideas. I’ve been to writing classes where people have said, “I’ve had this idea for a few years now…”

Maybe we still have the middle school fear that makes us say, “If I don’t try, then I really didn’t fail.” That is bull hockey and we all know it.

If you want to be a writer, read, write, research, repeat. Say it with me - read, write, research, repeat.

Ideas are like good intentions-fabulous but worth very little when compared to using that idea and molding it into something.

It will take hard work, dedication, possibly some tears, possibly some grey hair, and a hidden chocolate bar. But do you want to have ideas or do you want to be a writer with ideas?

My personal goal this PiBoIdMo is to complete a rough draft once a week for one of my ideas.  I’m giving myself freedom to be horrible.  That’s okay. The first step to a great story is a craptacular first draft.  Some of those who like euphemisms call it Draft Zero. 

Write that draft! Take 20 minutes to take a step toward your goal. It’s also okay to let an idea sit for a while before writing.  I’m not saying that stewing over an idea is bad, just don’t let it stew for so long that there is nothing left but a dried up husk.

Happy writing my writing peeps! Take those ideas and get cooking! Remember the recipe for becoming a writer:

Read, Write, Research, Repeat

Sunday, October 19, 2014

It's Almost Time for PiBoIdMo

Can you smell it? Fall is in the air. Time for sweaters, hot cider, and more time indoors. That means it is the perfect time to get all those story ideas you've been toying with down on paper (or on the screen).

What? You don't have any Picture Book ideas right now? Well, you're in luck.  My favorite event is coming soon. Picture Book Idea Month aka PiBoIdMo.

The goal is one story idea per day.  Last year I exceeded my goal. Of the over thirty ideas only about three truly usable picture book ideas, and one magazine article idea stuck with me through multiple revisions and on to critique partners. I see that as a complete success and it was tons of fun.

There are prompts, which I love, and guest bloggers, and tons of support from the writing community. If you write picture books go check it out. I need to go decorate this year's PiBoIdMo Notebook. I'm thinking sparkles...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What To Do After a Literary Conference

So you've attended a literary conference.  All the prep work perfecting that pitch, all the butterflies when you meet an author you idolize, the nerves of your critique with an editor.

 You've had a little time to decompress.


Now what?

First, lets get organized.

Who did you meet at the conference? If you received business cards input them into your contacts. Not very techie? Staple them to a piece of notebook paper with the date/conference you met them and a note or two about them. (i.e. email about critique when finished adoption story, she is interested in trading manuscripts. Or owns a farm and said he'd answer your question about horse feathers, frogs, and saddles.) It would help if you jot yourself a little note on the back of the card when you first get it.  You meet so many wonderful people and you think you'll remember all the details, but then your brain goes on conference overload.

Second, what agents or editors do you think are a match for your work?  Look them up in your info packet and make note of their submission guidelines. I've seen deadlines of 3 weeks and I've seen no deadline/don't send until it is polished.  For ones with date cut offs, make a note in your calendar. Give yourself time to polish but don't lose out on an open submission just because you forgot a date.

Which leads me to the Third step.  Compile the info that is going to help you with your current WIP. Review, get it fresh in your head, and write/revise.

You can't be a writer if you don't write. So write.  Right now...Go. Okay, finish reading this and then go write.

Before this last conference I held off sending my most polished pieces of work off to agents (mostly due to fear if I'm being honest) because I wanted to see if there was anything at this conference that I could apply to make them better.  For most of my work, absolutely, from teeny tiny tweaks to holy crap I just had an epiphany on how to completely rework this story to make it sing.

These conferences have built my confidence and taught me new things with each I've attended.  If you haven't gone, I highly recommend them.  If you've been, you can still learn more at another. Consider them continuing education for your writing career.

So I'm off to write, revise, critique, and send some queries. *shudder* The scary part of writing in my opinion. Happy writing.

Seriously..... GO WRITE!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I'm Back

So things got a little crazy for a while.  Family member in a car wreck, kid starting school, and agent requesting to see some more of my work (Yes, I did a little Snoopy dance when that happened) and conferences to prep for.

                Life gets in the way sometimes and we can’t do everything. Unless you have a time machine or a cloning machine. If you do please share so others can be super heroes too.

                Writers, please take time to take care of yourself, your family, then your writing. I shouldn’t have to remind you, but I’m a mother hen – so there.

                Good news though: One agent expressed interest in my work, then at a conference another agent heard a pitch for a completely different picture book and said it would be easy to find a house.  I’ll be doing revisions and sending that to her soon.  This is in no way a guarantee of landing an agent.  I know this. But it was a great boost to my confidence and has made me less afraid of sending out the dreaded query letter.

                Let’s face it. It is fun and usually easy to write in our basements, away from prying eyes, and we love/hate/love it. But to send those babies out into the world where there could be ridicule, indifference, or rejection.  It’s hard. It’s scary. It’s plain ol’ not fun. Sometimes, after a handful of form rejections all it takes is one kind personalized rejection to make us happy. (Seriously, I keep the personal rejections in their own special folder to remind myself that I’m not completely crappy with this whole words-on-paper thing.)

                To have not one but two positive things (even though nothing is solid) is a boost. If this doesn’t pan out, will I be sad? Yes, I’ll pout and then I’ll get over it.  If something great comes out of it will I celebrate? ABSO-FLIPPING-LOUTLY. With ice cream and horribly embarrassing Snoopy dancing around my kitchen.

                So what is the point of this?  I’ll remind you that I’ve been working on this words-on-paper thing seriously for years. I have had works that I've revised 30 times. I’m too stubborn to give up and freakishly optimistic. I could find the silver lining to a bunny-zombie-apocalypse. If you love writing, stick with it. If it was meant to happen it will. Patience is a virtue.  A really hard to remember and frustrating virtue.  But go to classes, conferences, join a critique group with people you trust enough to say, “Shred this apart like a rabid Tasmanian devil,” to. Practice, Practice, Practice.
                One speaker at the last SCBWI conference wrote 49, yes 49, novels before he got an agent and published his work.  That’s not the worse part.  His wife wrote 1.  Yup. ONE.  Some people will see that prize of their book on a shelf nauseatingly early.  Most of us have to hit a couple dozen foul balls before we see that home run. There is a saying, “Don’t let fear of striking out keep you from playing the game."


Monday, July 28, 2014

The Writer Blog Hop


Hey there writing Peeps. The writing community is playing a game of tag known as the Writer Blog Hop. Jenni (see her post here) has tagged me.  So I’m ‘it’ and here is my post answering their questions.


What am I working on/writing?

My focus is Picture Books.  At any given time I have about three stories that are at the forefront of my mind.  The Primary is a non-fiction about working animals.  The story balances the goal of the animal, from their point of view, along with the facts about the animal’s job and training. My goal is to keep it under 800 words

My fiction works are funny, silly, and sparse. My secondary focus is a story of a child who refuses to have a pet, even though his parents want one. Keeping it under 300 words. I love Picture Books for their ability to weave an amazing story without any wasted words.


How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

I am an eclectic person and my writing style is the same.  I like to look at things from other angles.  I want to know both sides of the story. I like to try different techniques. I am comfortable looking into darker issues, like loss, and equally comfortable acting like a clown. My characters are willing to do the same.


Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always been a dreamer.  Long car rides could give me the time to build entire worlds in my head. As a child, books were my safe haven, they were constant.  No matter where you moved, there is a library. No matter what you are curious about, there is a book written on the subject.  Books can help you escape. Books can help you find yourself.

I write for children because I want to inspire a child to love books.  I want to create stories that are fun, entertaining, engaging, and if the child learns something, they don’t even notice that they were learning. Non-fiction can be entertaining too!

I write to, hopefully, make children happy.


How does my writing process work?


My process is simple. I dream. My best ideas come on quiet Saturday mornings. I listen to birds, watch my dogs play, and just let my mind wander before my family is up and about.  Then an idea starts to form… sometimes.

Other times ideas just pop up like stray animals. You weren’t expecting to find them, but now that it followed you home, you have to keep it, clean it up, and show it off.

After the idea hits, I like to hand write rough drafts.  My mind works a little slower when writing on paper and this helps a scatterbrain like me focus.

Sometimes there are web diagrams or lists to help get my ideas in order. Other times the words flow like candy from a piñata.

Next, I enter it onto my computer and edit/change/add/whatever as I go. 

Then rewrite…cut… revise… wait….wait some more… look at it again, while trying to be objective… hit head against desk a few times…love it/hate it… edit again.

Read to my family, for only the most obvious corrections and the needed pats on the back that family gives you even when you suck aren’t quite there yet.

Finally, to the critique groups! This step is so important.  They will find the missing commas, the ‘there’ that was supposed to be ‘their’ and the apple pie desert that spell check didn’t tell you was there (Unless you wanted a barren apple pie). But more importantly they will help you with pacing, character development, letting you know if the words you paint with created the picture you were going for. Critique partners are vital to getting your work agent/editor ready.


Want to know more?

Odd Facts:

I don’t do everything in the same order.  Sometimes, I like to revise backwards so that I truly look at each paragraph separate from the story (I doubt I could do this for a novel, but for Picture Books it works).

I am involved in more than one critique group and not afraid to hand my work to anyone willing to read and literally say, “Tell me what you hate about this, so I know what to fix.”

I get so lost in books that I walk into things while reading.  If you aren't reading, then you probably aren’t really writing either. They go hand in hand.
I frequently write in a Snuggy.  Yes- a Snuggy.  It is warm and I'm always cold. Don't Judge. :-)

My debut Picture Book DONNA IS EVIL will be out next month with MeeGenius. Check it out.

That's it for my fun game.  Now I tag Eugenia Sozzi. You're it!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What's in a name?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right? Well, that depends.  Would you even smell it if the name was Manure Flower?

What about Death Star? Works for a ship, but not a flower. 

So what do the names you choose tell me about your characters?

Blake Irwin could be the next Indiana Jones.  Hubert Copperbottom IV? Not so much, but he could be the great and wise wizard. 

If you name your heroine Sandy Shorts, you better be writing a comedy.  It would be hard for her to get a job as a lawyer in your book. 

I want to be able to pronounce the names I read, as well.  They can still be alien names, or names from other countries. Just be conscious of being able to say it out loud.  The blue alien Cronkle Borg can be spoken about out loud.  The pink alien WHLYQUAZYVLOBLE? Well, I doubt I'll be telling any of my friends about her story. 

Think about your names.  These books are like your children and they will live with them their whole lives.

So your writing prompt of the week is to tell me about one of the following characters.  Who are they? What kind of job do they have? What was their mother like? What are their hobbies, hopes, dreams?

Blake Irwin
Hubert Copperbottom
Chrysalis Meadows
Andrew Hawks
Aszure Jacobs
Griffin Arnold

Make up your own if you don't like mine.  But think of the last time there was a president named Bob (Hint: Never) or James (Hint: Six).  Names can be ironic but they still need to be believable.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Prompt Writing

Today, I want some emotion.  So to get you in the right mood...

Sorrow is a strong emotion.  The best books go beyond a happy ending.  They make us feel things.  Fear, Anger, Joy, Sorrow. 

This week's prompt:

Scene: your father, whom you have idolized and set on a pedestal, has betrayed you. You are disappointed, hurt, confused.  I want an inner monologue roughly 300 words ending in the only dialogue.

"How could you?"

Have fun.  Promise I'll make a happy post for the next one. Or maybe anger...hmmmm.....

If you are feeling brave, share your first draft with us below. No need for edits, rough drafts are just to get it out there.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Weekly Prompt

Calling all Picture Book Writers, or anyone who would like some writing practice. Today is another Picture prompt. They say pictures are worth a thousand words but we keep it simple with 300. 

Finish this sentence.

"What had happened was...."

Bonus points to anyone who knows where that line comes from.

So lets get to it.  In roughly 300 words tell me the story behind this picture.

Let's be brave and share your stories.  No second drafts, no judgment, just fun free writing.

Monday, June 2, 2014


I was going to wait until Thursday, but I came across a picture.  One that made me think. And wonder. And Hurt. It tugged at me and said, "What is my story?"

I have may pictures that I've come across that pull me in and spark something deep in my imagination. These are my favorite prompts.

Without further ado, for this weeks writing prompt, in roughly three hundred words, tell me.

What is the story here?

Young Mowgli's first friend?
A poor child with dinner?
A mischievous boy who's mother will scold him?

You tell me...

No second Drafts, no Revision, just your first shot as a story.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014



Are you stuck in your writing?  Need an idea to light the fire under you?  Today is about prompts. I think I’ll start some weekly prompts. What is a prompt?

From Webster’s

1.    prompt



3rd person present: prompts

1.    1.

(of an event or fact) cause or bring about (an action or feeling).

"his death has prompted an industry-wide investigation of safety violations"

2.    2.

assist or encourage (a hesitating speaker) to say something.

"“And the picture?” he prompted"

§  supply a forgotten word or line to (an actor) during the performance of a play.


So I’m going to give you a writing prompt.  You will create a story or scene in roughly 300 words (or more if you are feeling froggy).


You don’t have to let anyone see them.  It is allowed to be crap.  The important thing is that you are stretching your writing muscles and, who knows, maybe creating some new ideas that will grow and blossom into something more.


Even if it isn’t your genre, even if you think it is silly, if you are not already writing then spend 15 minutes exercising your writing brain. Seriously, this counts as exercise.  When my husband asks I totally tell him I’ve been exercising.


Today’s Prompt: Alien Turtle.


Yup, that’s it. So it can be a real alien from the planet Shelose or it can be a Picture Book about a kid who thinks this strange looking creature is from outer space, it can be a thousand different things.  Everyone has their own story and their own way to tell it.



If anyone wishes to share their writing below, we in the writing universe would love to see it.
Next week, perhaps we'll do a picture prompt.
Happy Writing!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Picture Book Query

The dreaded query. The roughly 250 words you have to grab an agents attention and make them fall in love with you.

No pressure, right?

But we can't run and hide, we must write.

There are not too many examples of Queries for Picture Books. So let’s look at what works.

Actual Query that sold DONNA IS EVIL-coming out in 2014.

Dear XXXX:

A suspicious young boy has a very odd neighbor, Donna. He is convinced that she is evil. He spies on Donna and everything points to her being evil.

One day Donna needs help and he realizes that Donna isn't so bad, in fact she might even be...good.

DONNA IS EVIL is complete at 405 words.

I am a member of the SCBWI.

Thank you for your time.


June Smalls

Is this perfect? HELL NO. But it is short and to the point. Your query shouldn’t be longer than your story. You can have a less than perfect query if your story grabs them. Now with more experience I mention the age range that the book is targeting. I expanded my Bio paragraph with published work and other bookish things I’m involved with.

This was direct to a publisher and I had nothing personal to add the way I do for agents I submit to. So if I were rewriting this now, older and wiser, it would go something like this.


A suspicious young boy has a very odd neighbor, Donna. He is convinced that she is evil. He spies on Donna and everything points to her being evil. One day Donna needs help and he realizes that Donna isn't so bad, in fact she might even be...good.

DONNA IS EVIL is complete at 405 words and geared to ages 4 to 8.

I am a member of SCBWI, the 12x12 Challenge, and I host the blog Reading, Writing, and Reaching for Chocolate at My debut Picture Book DONNA IS EVIL, is scheduled for publication in 2014 with MeeGenius. I also write MG and have other PB titles available.

Thank you for your time.


June Smalls

Note that some agents prefer the:

Hook, Book, Cook. That is to say; the Hook (Quick Pitch) of your story, the details of the story, and the Bio of who wrote the story. Some WANT to know that you’ve looked them up personally. Say, either before the hook or at the book detail info why you like them, when you met them, or what books compare to your work.

Keep it professional, keep it real, and keep it around 250 words or less.

Check out agent blogs and guideline before you submit. Some are crazy specific. Font, size, layout, etc. are specified on their guidelines. Whether or not to attach a doc or paste the story in the email. This is like your first test. CAN YOU FOLLOW DIRECTIONS? Please pass this test!

Best of luck with your queries and remember that rejection letters are battle scars. They hurt and some feel ugly, but you earned them by going out and fighting for your book. I have dozens and I keep each and every one, even form rejections. No one in the writing world publishes without some rejections.

If anyone out there would like to share a PB query that worked, I’d love to share it so others may learn.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Throwing Your Voice

We’ve heard about the “voice” of our stories. Every editor, agent, and critique partner you will ever deal with will tell you how important voice is. But what is “voice”?

As writers we all want to remain invisible behind the curtain of words we create. But much like a ventriloquist we throw our voice into our work. The characters speak for us. Our voice is carried on the wind that drifts through our scenes, invisible yet touching everything.

Voice should be the part that speaks without words. The feeling that our readers get as they read our works. The thing that makes people say “I got it”.

For those of us that are blessed, our voice is distinct right from the beginning. But most of us, much like a freshman at a new high school, try to force our voice into what we think people want to hear.

We think picture books need a rhyme, so we join a flea and bee on a trip to the sea, but forget that our story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. Or we think that every underdog story needs an orphan, or a wimp, when really even us average people can overcome things each day.

Next time you sit down to write don’t think about who’s reading your words. That can come later during edits. But speak through your text, and let your voice be heard.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Creative vs Critical Writing

So today I started a basic writing class. Why? Because no matter how good you are, you could be better. No matter how much you think you know or remember there is more to learn or remember. I know I have a lot to learn.

Today’s lesson was on your creative mind vs your critical mind. You know that mean critical part. The one who interrupts your glorious scene where worlds collide to tell you to go back to that last sentence and correct two spelling errors and a comma. That devil on your shoulder, watching as you are about to put your fingers to the key before shouting “STOP! You aren’t going to say it just right.”

Today was about freewriting first. Letting your creative side go, spleleing errors and all (yes, I did that on purpose) to just get words down on paper. To roll around in the words and enjoy them like Scrooge McDuck in his money pit.

Last, we had an assignment. Let your sides argue. How do they feel about each other? Here is what mine had to say:

Creative: Yay, I get to come out to play

Critic: Only briefly, then I have to come clean up your mess

Creative: But I’m the one who comes up with the great ideas. Ideas that kids will love to read.

Critic: No kid will ever get to read your stuff if Agents think you are an amateur.

Creative: You distract me. You know that? Sometimes I hate you. Seriously.

Critic: I’m the side that pays the bills, Honey. Learn to live with it.

Creative: (eye roll) Fine, whatever. (Stares out window daydreaming)

So what does your creative side really think of the critic?

Writer’s Conference Tips and Advice

With Spring right around the corner, and our New Years Resolutions still echoing through our heads, you may be planning to go to a spring writers conference. If this is your first time or your fifth, here are a few helpful tips and hints for survival. At my first conference I split my pants, had to change into jeans, spilled hot chocolate on my white sweater, and still somehow had a blast. Trust me; Conferences aren’t as scary as we make them in our heads.

Lower Your Expectations

If you are planning on being discovered by an agent in the lunch line, scheduling a meeting by next week, and having your book published in the next six months, then I want to you take a breath and listen. You may meet the agent of your dreams, anything is possible. More than likely, though, you will learn amazing things from the speakers. Get insights from agents. Even find out the Do’s and Don’ts of Query Letters, Cover Letters, Premises, etc. Look at this as a learning experience. Meet others like yourself. Have Fun.

Dress professionally yet comfortably.

You will be on your feet some, mingling and meeting of pros in the industry. Business casual will show you in your best light. This is a business and you must treat it as such. No holes in your jeans, no funny phrases on your t-shirts.

Common Sense

Bring something to write on and a folder Take notes. Listen. Learn. Bring an extra pen or two. Tissues, Breath Mints (garlic bread at lunch?), a sweater, a band aid. • Business card If you have one, keep it simple. Name, contact info, the basics. If you are an Illustrator then your own art is fine, but authors don’t need to distract the agents and editors from who they are. Plus, plain cards give you room to write. (i.e. NAME OF CURRENT BOOK WE JUST DISCUSSED AND THEY SOUNDED INTERESTED) That is more important for them to remember than flowers and butterflies.

Personal Recommendation

No Perfumes. You will be in close contact with people all day. Some people are highly sensitive to smells. What if the editor is pregnant? Do you want to be the writer who made her laugh or the one who gave her a headache because you smelled like daisies?

Have fun

Education is a gift. You will be learning about the craft you love. You will be meeting others who get what you are saying when you talk about the POV for a MG Adventure that would be perfect for Random or Penguin. Or that horrible problem of Head Hopping and Tense Issues. Take a deep breath, smile, have fun. Let me know if you have more helpful hints.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Does writing get in the way of life? Or does life get in the way of writing?

Clearly my dog gets in the way of writing, but I wonder, what is being sacrificed when I write and when I don't write. When I'm writing, there are worlds I am creating. Completely immersed in color, sound, taste, smell, and touch, I am an artist in love with the creation process. Alone in my basement while the family laughs upstairs, I am happy. Content. Possibly a little crazy to love the imaginary worlds I create, big or small. But then there is guilt. What am I missing with my child? My husband? My friends? And,yes, even my pets? I imagine this is an issue all authors and artists deal with. So then we decide to make more time for our loved ones and ourselves. We exercise more, watch tv with our family (even though we hate that show they love so much) and we snuggle with the cat until the dog chases him away. But then there is guilt. What am I not writing that could be amazing right now? What character? What world? What perfect plot twist.
Dear Authors and Artists, all. We will never stop the cycle. Well, I could go live in that mountain alone, a happily writing hermit with a pet rock but that could be lonely. All we can strive for is balance. Don't neglect your family, your writing or yourself. Possibly, we all need some time management skills. We need exercise, food, and most important, our family and friends who love us even though we are weird writerly types. Because without balance... well...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

We have Libraries People

While working in the library this weekend, trying to find perfect comps for my next query, I heard a young girl ask her mother one simple question. All of a sudden I had a story idea. The kind of idea that hits you with full illustration ideas, at least three ‘problems’ to overcome and a funny/silly ending. I immediately scribbled the idea down in one of my handy notepads (seriously, don’t leave home without one). I am itching to work on this now.

I’ve been talking to other writers lately from my crit group, 12 x 12, and such. One thing I have found astonishing is very few talk about regular trips to the library. The library is where you can sit close to the help desk to hear what children and parents are looking for. The library is where you can see what books make the librarians get excited (This weekend was the classic Paper Bag Princess and The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash).

The library is where I study openings, character introduction and building, themes, just read *for FUN*. Remember those days of fun reading rather than study? Let’s get back to our roots people. Libraries are FREE, they opened doors for us as children, and they are full, floor to ceiling, of the greatest treasures. BOOKS! And you never know when you’ll hear one simple question that will inspire you to think of amazing, over the top, and creative answers.

Happy writing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Finding Honest Critiques

Finding Honest Critiques

This year I have joined a number of groups where I can get solid, honest feedback from other writers.  My picture books are by no means perfect and we cannot grow and learn without someone there to teach us. Even though we all have different writing abilities we can all help each other.

Is this the blind leading the blind? Yes, and it works.  When you look at your own work, you already know the tone you want to convey.  The feeling, the emotion, the point to the whole thing.  But the thing is, if others don't get it, you need to rewrite. 

There are phases you go through in the loss critique process.

1. Denial- No, you just don't get what I am trying to say.

2. Anger- What do you know? This is perfect.

3. Bargaining- What if I change this one word? Then do you get it?

4. Depression- I am NEVER going to make it as a writer.  I'm hopeless

5. Acceptance - I must rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite to make this work.

Having someone point out your errors suchs  sucks. But our eyes are trained to skim when we know most of the content. It is a proven fact that we miss more of our own errors than we do on works we've never seen before.  Its true, I read it on the internet.

Just remember that no one is trying to bully or bash your work.  If they are then you need to find a new critique group or partner. We writers want other writers to succeed.  Does that mean we don't get jealous?  Hell no! I totally say, "Why wasn't it me to get an agent?" Then I remember-because this work must not be ready yet/right for them.

If you are willing to put in the work, write, study, write, rewrite, cut words, and keep writing, then you can make it.  Just don't give up! If you dream of being published then keep that dream alive.

Friday, January 10, 2014



This year I completed PiBoIdMo. Please say this word out loud so people around you can laugh... go ahead... I'll wait.

This was a wonderful kick in the rear  motivational tool for me. I had a ton of ideas.  Some of them were actually good.  Some, well, ahem, some will stay in file 13, labeled under 'Seriously What Was I Thinking?'.

By months end I had over 40 ideas.  Some were related and were consolidated.  I had a few rough drafts and one very solid draft that is already on draft three...maybe four.

For all you writers out there, even though the month is over you can create your own little PiBoId day, or week, or weekend.  I swear by making goals and/or lists and then getting to work.  Try it this weekend.  Create two or three lumpy concepts that you can begin to mold into something wonderful.  Take that first step.  Pick up a pen.  Have fun with it.

My Writing Journey

My journey to writerdom started years ago.  I planned on being an instant hit.  Since I'm not famous yet you can see that it wasn't as easy at I'd hoped.

Two years ago I made a goal. By 2014 I'd either have an agent or a work being published.  With this goal looming over me I wrote often.  On my lunch brake, in the car (as a passenger of course), evenings, weekends, in between meetings.

I attended my first SCBWI conference in spring of 2013 and realized... dang... I still have far to go.  Many drafts and two critique groups later I've entered contests and done well.  Not great but well. and I went to a second SCBWI conference.  Here I received one on one feedback from a successful author who has 60 published books of her own. She liked my work, tore some of it apart and then made me feel like I was ready for this.

More stories, critiques, drafts, ideas on napkins while scarfing down tacos, dozens of rejections which I proudly keep as proof of my efforts, reading so many writing blogs my eyes are permanently fuzzy. Finally, it happened.  Someone loved my story.

This year I have my first picture book under contract and I am working with an Editor. I reached my goal. 

So now what? Well, that part is easy. Write some more. The more I write the more I realize I love writing.  Even when my hair is on end and my eyes burn, when words hover just out of reach.  I love it.  As an added bonus, researching means *MORE BOOKS TO READ*.  Is the life of an author great or what?

I continue with my journey, enjoying even the steeper trails, and I hope that this is the first step towards more stories for children.  Picture Books, MG, and YA.  I love them all.  From Fat Cat on a Mat to Divergent. The Saddle Club and Captain Underpants. American Girl and The Familiars. I can't chose one. Books open up doors to other worlds and, hopefully, I can open doors for others into new worlds, old worlds, fantastic worlds.  The possibilities are only a pen and paper away.