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Do you see those exclamation points in the title?  I've been 'accused' of using too many.  I can't help it... I get passionate when I write.  It's true, in my picture book manuscripts, I do need to cut back on them - but here? Hey, I'm excited!

I LOVE to WRITE!!!  (I guess you already knew that, right? After all, you're reading my blog - thanks by the way!)

But seriously - I've been doing this since grade school, so yeah, I guess it's totally natural that I have a blog.  And I've been really excited (and overwhelmed) by all the changes I've made here.  I moved from WordPress.com to a self-hosted blog on wordpress.org.  That transition went somewhat smoothly....somehow three followers got lost in the shuffle - but 231 remained strong (thank you!) and I was able to message the ones who did not get transferred to give them the news.

In addition, I've put the blog on a Facebook page to encourage more followers, make it easier for some to stumble upon me and to make it easier for some who would rather follow blogs thru Facebook than get sometimes daily emails in their inbox.  Don't forget there's also the Bloglovin' button too for the same reason! So part of the reason I'm writing this post is for those new followers - to get what it is that I'm doing here - and partly because - well, that's the idea I came up with and so here it is:

WHY DO I WRITE???

Writing, for me, takes me away into another land much like reading a book does.  Only this time, it's MY LAND.  It's whatever land, real or make-believe, I want to be in at that moment.  Whether it's remembering (on paper - or well, a computer screen but yes, I do often use paper for the first rough draft!) something from this morning, yesterday, last week or thirty some years ago (yes, or MORE...) or whether it's writing about something I'm doing or learning about... it's putting my mind in a place I want to be.  And to me that is magical like the places I read about - a  'little house in the big woods', the Hundred Acre Wood or River Heights.

It's an escape in a way - because when I'm deep into writing, much like when I have my nose in a book - there's a lot that can go on around me without notice.  My oldest son has finally learned to actually have me look AT him, before speaking...because he knows if  my eyes are in a book or looking at the computer or writing pad, chances are I'll have no clue he's even speaking to me, let alone actually know what he's saying.  When I'm writing I become ALIVE inside - passion overcomes me as I delve into whatever land I escape into at that precise moment and can forget all else...  If you're not a reader or writer and don't get that - my apologies  but I'm pretty sure you MUST have a passion - a way of escape that does the exact same thing!

My true passion for writing began in 5th grade when the lovely Mrs. Allred ( I can still picture her in that all RED outfit she wore on the first day of school) actually read MY story to the entire class and encouraged me to continue writing...she was a much bigger inspiration than she ever realized, I'm sure.

While I never devoted full time to writing, it stayed a passion in secret....always keeping journals and always writing fiction stories on the side.... I did enter a contest once with the Institute of Children's Literature - I was in 9th grade at the time... they sent me details on courses.  Yeah, that wasn't going to happen on my grandparent's budget.  Oh well... I kept writing. I seem to recall  making a middle school teacher chuckle quite often with the ridiculous fictional stories I would conjure up with my spelling words weekly as a sort of extra credit for English class.  Speaking of English class - I also managed to pull an A on a descriptive paper from the professor on my college campus known to be, um.... well TOUGH.  And he told us, for this particular assignment, if ANY of the details in this descriptive paper were made up, HE WOULD KNOW... uh, yeah, well, all but the real incident in my paper was 100% fictional...every single detail was made up....  I'm rather proud of that paper.  LOL

Move forward quite a few years....  I retired early (VERY early) from teaching and decided to stay home with the kids (we had two then) and suddenly my urge for writing deepened.... and I finally decided to take that course from The Institute of Children's Literature. In fact, I took two.  (and I'd like to take more....though with someone else this time - any suggestions?  Something geared for picture books?)  And then I learned about SCBWI!  WOW!!! (yeah, there's those exclamation points again)!!!

So I wrote and I wrote and I.....ooops!  got pregnant!  Yeah, right when I was in the beginnings of taking a shot at a YA manuscript (that's young adult in case you weren't sure), God decided he had other plans for me.  Between the nausea, the exhaustion and the utter shock (my oldest was 15, my youngest 11)....I stopped writing.  🙁

It took me several years to get back into it.  I started with my blog.  I had no idea what to write about... well, I had ideas...but getting started wasn't necessarily easy.  I really only started it as a journal, and also the possibility to tell others about Our Food Story.  Our Food Story is sort of personal, yet people constantly tell me I need to tell it.  So I wrote a very abbreviated version of that back in October of 2013 - just a year ago.  I am glad to get it out there, but I know more needs said.  I'll say it...in time.

Which brings me to this:

WHAT DO I WRITE ABOUT ON THIS BLOG?  How do I decide what to write?

I write about my PASSIONS in life.  And I have quite a few, I guess.  A lot of bloggers say that we bloggers should pick just one niche..... one topic we are passionate about and stick to that especially if you (I) want a lot of followers.  I've thought about it - a lot really - just narrowing down the blog to a few of the topics I cover - but there's so much more to me than JUST one or two of these topics!!!  I thought about separating the topics into two blogs....but can't figure out how to balance them and not leave anything out.  The bottom line is, I write about what I am PASSIONATE about.  And yes, I'm PROFOUNDLY PASSIONATE about my Orthodox faith, my marriage, my children, homeschooling, cooking natural whole foods - mostly Paleo now -, books, WRITING, and gaining balance in my life.....so that's what I write about.  I think I'm finally crawling out of my shell here - finally finding my voice.  So I'm sure I'll write more about that food story at some point - but for now I have SOOOOO many topics I want to write about - it's hard to just pick one some days!  Furthermore, there's other writing to be done besides the blog!

I'm ESTATIC over the start of PiBoIdMo TODAY!!!!!!!

I signed up on the 24th and have been reading the Pre-PiBoIdMo posts on Tara's blog ever since, notebook and pencils in hand!  I even took my son to the library the other day to specifically look for books by the authors that are being highlighted this month!  It's good to be familiar with someone's work when you read their post, but certainly not necessary to still get lots of inspiration and further insight into the writing process of picture books. (p.s. It's NOT too late to join - registration ends on November 7th.)

So here I am with my notebook, my pencils, pens and highlighters, my coffee mug filled with delicious Lonely Monks Coffee, (and no, fellow PiBoIdMo companions, I did NOT piboidmo2014officialparticipantsteal that list from Laurie Meyers - it REALLY is my own list! LOL) my chocolate, my laptop and YES!  I'm headed directly over to Tara's first official post for PiBoIdMo 2014!!!   Woot!!

 

p.s.   Did you know that November is Picture Book Month???  PBMBADGE-AMBASSADOR

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So I'm sitting here biting my lips.... a horrible habit of mine.  It's stress I suppose.....  though sometimes I just do it whether I'm consciously aware of stress or not... and I'm not usually aware that I'm biting until it's called to my attention by my dear husband or children.  Sigh.

I'm reading comments about this letter and reading more sources on how to write a good query letter.  I'm also trying to print out those sources but apparently my computer and printer had a fight and aren't speaking.  🙁   They let me print out the comments from SCBWI and 12 x 12 but won't let me print the blog posts I just found on The Query Letter by Kathy Temean.  I like to have certain things printed out so I can more easily spread these things out in front of me and go back and forth as I use things as references....   I suppose that's what all the windows are for on the computer, right?  Yeah, well, as much as I blog here, I am still what they call technology challenged.  I can not seem to manage going back and forth between windows.  🙁   Plus, the internet seems extra slow today....probably due to the weather here.

Ah well......  I shall persevere.  My silent writing time will probably end soon so I shall make this post brief....include a link to that wonderful source on writing query letters above (it's a site someone recommended on 12 X 12 and is actually her first of several posts on the topic) and attempt once more to edit and rewrite this letter!  Someone pray for me....oh, and send chocolate....  😉

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I have spent months on this picture book.  I'm not writing here what it's about because I'm not completely comfortable with that... but I'm feeling really good about it.  I have many picture books in the works, actually.  But this is the one that has called out to me the most to complete. I think it's there...  I'm letting it rest awhile and I'll take a look again before actually pressing that "send" button for the query letter to go out.  But I think it's pretty close to being ready. But the query letter!!!  UGH!      

So much anxiety with it, you know?  When the letter is done, and I hit send... well, that's it. Either that editor it's going to is going to like it and request the manuscript or... well.... she will not like it, won't request it and won't ever see the manuscript to even give it a chance.  YIKES!

So the query has to be good.  REALLY good. And it's causing me more anxiety than all the writing and the revision of the actual manuscript did.

So I went to my friends at 12 x 12 and SCBWI..... still waiting for a response...  need some encouragement and guidance.  This is a big step. So in my 'spare time' this morning, I looked for all kinds of resources on writing query letters, especially for picture books.  I thought I would share some of those with you as I wait for a response from my friends at 12 x 12 and SCBWI:

Query Letters for Children's Book Fiction

Picture Book Query

Anatomy of a Query Letter

Children's Book Publishers - How to Wow Them With a Perfect Query Letter

Writing a Picture Book Query

There's many more sources, but these are what I ran across today.  Please share with me any other sources  you have found useful and I can add them to the list! As an end note, I found this handy bit of advice on Harold Underdown's site:

One Last Piece of Advice

Once posted, forget about it for at least three months. Begin writing something new. Stalking the postman will not make editors read any faster. Moreover, whatever it says on their websites about when you will receive their answer, plan to wait a minimum of six months. In some cases, it takes twice that long. A short note of enquiry, or a postcard after six months, is permissible. While you wait, take comfort in knowing that most writers feel a sense of inadequacy when it’s time to write a query letter. Join the club!

Okay... I guess I'm not the only one!  Well that helps! (a little)

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I sent out a manuscript to my new critique group on March 3rd.  YIKES!   Learning to listen to others critique your work is a skill in and of itself, I think.  You have to press down your inner urges to scream, “No!  I can’t cut that part – that’s like – what got the whole story going!” or “What??  How can you not get that?”  and “But that changes the entire plot!??” and so many other thoughts that jumble around in your mind and the wrenching of your gut as you realize that the story is not the instant best seller you wanted it to be !  Haha….such is the life of a writer.

Finding a critique partner or group is an important aspect of the writing process in my opinion.  We writers get very attached to our characters and words we write on the paper and can not always look at our work with an unbiased opinion. We need that 2nd or 3rd opinion to point out things that we may never see for ourselves because we are just too emotionally attached.

But just as important is learning how to critique someone else’s manuscript.  I joined another critique group over a month ago and spent some time doing some major research into learning how to do just that…. And I’m not done yet.  There is so much to learn.  But I did find some major sources to help me learn the process and sources I will consistently refer to as I work on improving.

My favorite sources thus far have been the following:

The Critique:  An Important Tool (Paul Czajak)

The Critique:  An Important Tool Part Two (Paul Czajak)

Perfecting Your Critique (Alayne Kay Christian)

And, of course:  the forums at SCBWI and 12 x 12.  SCBWI doesn’t seem to post manuscripts anymore…at least, not from what I’ve been able to see so far.  I remember years ago that they did that and I learned a lot back then.  On 12 x 12 people can post the first 250 words.  It’s a learning experience just to sit and read the posts and the comments people make.  I can read and see what people make the most comments about – what are they complimenting? What things stick out as quality aspects of a manuscript?  What are the things people react against the most strongly?  Even if it’s not my own manuscript, one can learn a lot just by reading comments on other people’s work.

The biggest pointer I’ve learned is when you critique a manuscript, you should read it first, clear thru – out loud, and then just walk away and think it through before writing down anything or making any definitive comments.  And not just for five minutes.  Maybe a few hours – maybe a day.  Think about it.  Did you like the story?  Did you not like the story?  What is the biggest thing that sticks with you even hours later? Of course that’s not possible if you are in a sit-down group, face to face, but most critiquing seems to occur online these days and gives us ample opportunity to do that.

When you receive a critique, it’s important to do that same thing.  Read it…. Try not to let your feathers get ruffled…. Get up, walk away….  Come back to it later.  I’ve often taken something personal the first time I’ve read a manuscript critique of my work only to come back later and think, “Oh…. I see… yes, they are right about that.”  Take time to digest it instead of feeling those first moments of conflict within yourself because of that reluctance to change what you have spent hours creating.

I also, this month, have taken the opportunity to send a manuscript into this amazing blog site hosted by published children’s authors:  Rate Your Story.  It’s a little nerve-racking waiting to hear back…  I must keep in mind, whether the manuscript rates well or not, it’s a learning process.  It’s a process to make my writing stronger.

So what are your thoughts on the critique process?  Is there a source you like to use?  A service you like to use?  Please share with me and my readers!

 

 

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I'm smiling and laughing.  So I sit down Monday morning, after waking at 4am....even though I had went to bed before my 10: 00 usual 'bedtime' and hadn't set the alarm for 4, but rather 5:45, and am irritated by my lack of sleep, open up my "BLOG folder" because I'm determined if I'm going to be awake I should at least let myself enjoy the time writing, and in what used to be the next blank spot on topics I'm posting this month is this:

My Son Loves Me
My Son Loves Me

Do you see it?  Right there at the bottom....  My husband has written in 'My wonderful family wants me to have a gazebo'.....

What's that?  Oh.  You don't get it?

Well......  several years ago....okay, quite a few actually.... I went to New York City and attended an SCBWI conference.  one of the speakers - I believe it was Katherine Patterson but don't quote me on this as I don't have it written down in my notebook - told a story of how their child's friend didn't believe that their mother was an author because she didn't have a gazebo in the backyard and 'every author has a gazebo in the backyard'....

So it's been this standing joke (I think it's a joke...we'll see) that when I'm a published author (doesn't that sound cool?) that my family will put a gazebo in the back yard for me.

I DON'T think it will be this one....
Maybe closer to this one?
Maybe closer to this one?

Either way,  I feel highly motivated and encouraged!  🙂  And loved 🙂

So I guess I should get really busy writing....because the cost of gazebos is going up (isn't everything?)!  And apparently my family wants to see it happen....

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Well it's near the end of the year, so I thought I'd just write today about.... My Writing... and where I'm at with it.  Hopefully a year from now I can look back at this post and say, WOW!  Look at you!!!

Actually, I say that to myself today because 2 months ago I wasn't anywhere close to where I'm at today with my writing!  And I wouldn't have believed anyone that would have told me that I would accomplish this:

 

 

  • Become a member of SCBWI!!!
  • Participate in PiBoIdMo and end with 38 ideas!!!
  • Establish a three hour block of writing time that's JUST for me to spend on creative writing (picture books, etc.) each week!!! ( Thank you to our beloved neighbor for her time with my little guy)
  • Write three brand new manuscripts!!!
  • Get 5 people to give me critiques on the first manuscript!!!
  • Drag out all of my old writing materials and dust them off (cough, cough)!!!
  • Re-read and revise one of those old manuscripts!!!
  • Be given (by my supportive husband) and start reading the 2014  Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market!!!
  • Be given (again by my supportive husband) and start reading  Writing Picture Books: A Hands On Guide From Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul!!!
  • Be writing post #117 on this blog!!!
  • Have 67 followers!!!  A BIG thank you to all of you....especially those that give me feedback!  I love your comments!
  • Feel Accomplished and Motivated!!!  🙂

To my fellow writer's out there.... I hope you are feeling just as accomplished yourselves... if not, DON"T GIVE UP HOPE!!!  It's amazing what can happen in just a short amount of time!  Keep your head up and your pencils (fingers) to the paper (keyboard)!!!

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PiBoIdMo is over.     🙁

But I am soooo glad I discovered it at just the right time!!

It was an awesome month!

PiBoIdMo, as I stated at the beginning of November, is Picture Book Idea Month.  PiBoIdMo challanges the children's writer to come up with 30 picture book ideas.  I took on the challange and ran with it!

Not only did I have  38  ideas by November 30th but I was once again a member of SCBWI and I also had 2 complete manuscripts...still in rough draft form and I have no idea where to send them off to when I feel they are finished but, hey, that's a LOT more than I had over a month ago!!!   🙂

I'm also trying to find some critique partners.  I had three people take a look at one manuscript which was in a very rough form and it helped me refine the idea and get it headed in a better direction. My husband also bought me the 2014 Children's Book Writer's and Illustrators Guide so I can start getting a handle on what publishers are looking for in manuscripts these days.

I'm really excited to be writing again!  Can you tell?

Anyone else out there do PiBoIdMo?  How did you do?

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I knew about Nano (National Novel Writing Month) which is held in November each year and challenges to write a novel in one month, or 50,000 words which, according to the website, is doable even for an active person.  Do they know what I do in a day??  (laughing incredulously).  Well, I tried Nano once.  I don't recall how many words I accomplished that year, but it certainly wasn't close to 50,ooo and I wasn't as busy then as I am now!Someday, maybe, I'll bring out that YA I started years ago, and attempt Nano with it again.  Or maybe just be content with adding a paragraph a week. That may be more like it.

But this year I am doing PiBoIdMo!  PiBoIdMo is Picture Book Idea Month. This is the fifth year for PiBoIdMo. That's obviously why I haven't heard of it before.  I haven't really written in over 4 years or more.  How I didn't know about it the first year, I'm not sure.  But I am glad to know it now.

Immediately, upon finding out about PiBoIdMo, I got very excited, registered, and pulled out my( still blank) Ideas and Images journal I obtained from a SCBWI conference many years ago. It was perfect for the newly inspired me!  And I wrote in the numbers 1-30 over two of its pages......  So the idea is that through the course of the month, which is November which has 30 days, the picture book writer comes up with at least 30 different ideas for a picture book (I already have 5 listed besides the one I've actually spent a little bit of time starting this past week).  In addition, Tara Lazar (founder of PiBoIdMo) will be putting up daily blog posts by picture book authors, illustrators, editors and other professionals from the kidlit world!  I am so inspired by this.  It was really perfect timing.

So I have opened the cupboard in my sitting room that has been closed since the cupboards were built.  Inside, I found very dusty folders and notebooks I've not looked at in quite sometime.  It was really sort of humorous (and maybe a little sad) as I glanced through folders with started manuscript titles not remembering half of them!  I mean, sure memories came back after reading through a few lines, but I honestly hadn't remembered starting half of them!  So it will be interesting, I'm sure, taking more time to sort through and read through them all again.  I'm sure, this many years later, I will have a totally different perspective on many of them if not all of them!

I also found my notes from SCBWI conferences and other related sources.  Right now, sitting at the top of the pile on my desk, a notebook lies open displaying the notes from the Katherine Patterson talk.  Here are some of the things I wrote that Katherine said:  "I can never be Jane Austin or Tolstoy, but neither can they be me." (So true!) "I am the only person that can tell my stories." (Yep!) "We must bring out what we fear and what we care mostly about." (I must remember this).  Katherine ended her talk that day by exclaiming, "Go Home and Dare!"

So I'm daring.  I'm not sure what will become of all this but I am grateful to you, my followers, for making me feel that maybe, by following me or reading this blog from time to time, that you must think I have something to say, something worth reading.  I appreciate that.  I don't give myself enough credit, or so I'm told.  You help me do that.  So thank you, dear reader, for giving me encouragement to go out and dare!  And now it's time to do a little more looking into those past manuscripts and notes... maybe a new idea for a picture book will emerge and I can add more to my list!  They come up in the most unusual places....like sitting and watching a little old man filling his car up with gas at Sam's Club 😉

My favorite quote that I read this week was by Katherine Patterson.

" I love revision.  Where else can spilled milk be turned into ice cream?" 

This needs to be my motto!  I love Katherine Patterson.  I was fortunate enough to see and hear her speak at a SCBWI conference quite a few years ago (and grab an autograph!).  At the time she was anticipating the release of the movie, Bridge to Terabithea.  Her son was actually part of the filmmaking process, though I don't recall the details but it was absolutely wonderful since he was part of the inspiration for the book!  She was highly inspiring.  Perhaps I need to dig out my notebook from that conference and reread my notes!  Perhaps I'll get lucky enough to find time to do that today!

I've felt accomplished this week.  I have blogged each day about the things I am most passionate about.  I have also found some more blogs to follow.... blogs by other authors and other topics of interest to me.  I have read a little about blogging, learned how to put an image in a widget on my sidebar (It shows that I signed up to participate in PiBoIdMo) and I dug out a book I've had on the shelves on writing for children.  I've read this book before but feel I need lots of refresher courses so to speak. I picked one, for now, that I recall being very simplistic in reading and understanding.  One I can read just before bed and not be overwhelmed.

 Random Thoughts for Saturday:

  • It is incredibly cute and precious to watch a little toddler say Morning Prayers with the family while wearing his pirate hat.
  • A mug of hot Sweet Italian Sausage Soup on a chilly October afternoon is very comforting.
  • Crock pots are a wonderful form of technology and convenience 🙂
  • Men and women have very different views on priorities and what they should be.  (Bet you already knew that one!)
  • We shouldn't make assumptions....  Our family has problems with this one. I will admit that I do.  I'm sure everyone does (or is that an assumption?).  But  the thing I'm thinking about in particular is from the article I read this morning on the lady that sued McDonald's about 20 years ago.  The public generally only got part of that story and really ridiculed the event.  There are lots of facts about that story I was completely unaware of until this morning.  Here's a link:

    Did You Ever Hear About The Lady That Sued McDonald's?

Well, that is all for today!  I have several things to do this morning (like fill that crock pot I mentioned with a venison mushroom stew), putting in some new contact paper in some kitchen shelves, washing a beloved 'blankie', and drinking my tea before it gets cold...and then hopefully I will tackle that cupboard containing all those old dusty manuscripts and notebooks!  I hope you all have a wonderfully blessed day!

I thought I'd write a bit today about writing.

I've always loved to write.  I can remember and writing being my first loves from as far back as... well, as far back as I can remember.  Reading was an escape for me and I suppose writing was and is as well.  But I know the 'dream' started in 5th grade.  Mrs. Allred, my ultimate favorite teacher of all time and I suppose this is one of the reasons why, read aloud my story that I had shared with her to the class.  It was a story that was highly influenced by my love of Little House on the Prarie and featured a young girl riding through the prarie to save her younger brother who was suffering from the same illness as her recently deceased mother.  I believe the name of the story was Mary, The Serious Child and may just be laying around here somewhere tucked away with a few other childhood memories as well as my 'humerous' rendition of the three little pigs.

Mrs. Allred praised my work and encouraged me to continue my interests in reading and writing...though she prefered me not to do so during Social Studies! What can I say?  Learning about Brigham Young and Salt Lake City did not do much for me.  I moved away from the praises of Mrs. Allred in Heber City, Utah halfway through my 5th grade year and kept my writing to myself for the most part for the remainder of my school days (though one English teacher did enjoy chuckling at the absurd stories I could make up with spelling words), only keeping the dream alive in the corners of my mind.

Only after early retirement from teaching Learning Support type classrooms in the public schools for ten years did I finally consider making the dream real.  I took two correspondance courses through the Institute of Children's Literature, read lots of books on the subject and joined SCBWI.

Over the course of several years, I completed two manuscripts for early chapter books and worked on several still incomplete picture book manuscripts.  I was just beginning to dive into really figuring out how to send those manuscripts off into publishing land and began a young adult manuscript that I had been pondering over for quite sometime when I found out God was blessing (HUGE surprise) us with our third child.  At that precise time I wasn't exactly thrilled nor sure it was a blessing and my writing got railroaded with nausea, fatigue, and then diapers and more fatigue and, well, life.

But,  now with my blessing of 3 1/2 years, I am grateful for God's amazing ways. He is, indeed, a blessing despite God deciding to do things His way instead of my way.  I'm so glad He does that!  However, I still long to write!!!  So here I am, trying again.  A bit with this blog and maybe one day soon, I'll dust off those manuscripts and do a bit (okay, a LOT) of revision and get busy on some new ones again.  I actually have one thought in mind... but I'm not sharing.  I only have a thought and barely four or five sentences written!

So wish me luck... I'm doing well with keeping up with the blog so far but it's not a habit yet and is just a beginning.  I'm hoping to join SCBWI again soon ( thanks to my darling dh who promised to make it a birthday present!  Maybe an early one?) and take a look at those books again...  maybe today, after mixing up a batch of candied pecans and playing with that little blessing I mentioned,  I'll check out a few blogs by children's authors! Do you know of any good ones out there?