Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I Didn't Give Up. Neither Should You.

I received my first rejection letter in September of 2002 (that's it on the left).

About thirteen years later my first book was published.

There's a lot hiding in the blank space between those two sentences. A lot of learning and growing, hope and frustration, failures and successes. More failures than successes, to be honest.

There were more than a few moments during that time that I felt like giving up, but I didn't. I kept writing, kept submitting, kept trusting that God hadn't given me this passion for nothing.

Many of you may be in that space right now, wondering if it is worth continuing. I'm here to tell you that it is worth it. If you have a talent for writing, it will grow. And if you have a passion for what you're doing, you won't let something as simple as failure stop you.

If something is worth doing, it's worth the struggle it takes to get it done.

So don't quit.

Instead, take every rejection as a challenge, and every submission as an opportunity to present your best self. But stay humble. Connect with other writers, published and not. Learn. Grow. Improve.

Eventually, you'll get there.

Friday, January 05, 2018

My Goals for 2018

This past year has been a productive year for me as a writer. I wrote and/or revised several picture books, revised my middle grade verse novel, wrote 50,000 words during National Novel Writing Month, got two book deals, and received my first ever royalty check!

It was also a good year for me personally. I read a lot of great books, celebrated my oldest child's graduation from college, stayed healthy, made new friends, got to visit with old friends, became more organized and less stressed, and just enjoyed life overall.

I'm hoping that the New Year will be as blessed as its predecessor, and to help it along I've made a little list of goals for 2018:

  • Write and polish at least three new picture books.
  • Revise the middle grade fantasy novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo.
  • Read at least 200 books, including at least 50 novels.
  • Blog twice a month.
  • Grow my newsletter.
  • Sell another manuscript.
  • Write more poetry.
  • Spend more time in my art journal.
  • Visit some place new this summer.
  • Volunteer more.
  • Read through the whole Bible.

I think that's a good, attainable mix. And with this blog post, it's off to a good start!

What about you? What are some of your goals for 2018?



Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Best Picture Books of 2017

Throughout 2017 I've been on a mission to read as many newly published children's books as possible. I've read nearly 200 books this year, and more than 50 of those have been picture books that were published in 2017! There was one that made me cringe, two that I didn't like at all, five that were okay but didn't live up to their potential, and many that were perfectly good. Then there were those that stood out above the rest and earned a rare, enthusiastic five-star rating.

For a picture book to earn a five-star rating from me it has to do these five things:

1. Be a genuine pleasure to read aloud. For wordless books, a visual story that is easy to follow.
2. Appeal to my emotions, whether that be making me laugh, cry, or relate personally to the story or character.
3. Use language that captures the attention and imagination. For wordless picture books, clever surprises and details in the pictures.
4. Have appealing illustrations that add to the depth and charm of the text.
5. Have a take-away or theme that feels like a seamless part of the story.

It's not a long list, but it's a good one! If you've missed any of these books this year, be sure to check them out in 2018.





JOHN RONALD'S DRAGONS: THE STORY OF J.R.R. TOLKIEN by Caroline McCalister

Fans of Tolkien's LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HOBBIT will enjoy this beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated glimpse into his life.


SIMPSON'S SHEEP JUST WANT TO SLEEP by Bruce Arant

The sequel to SIMPSON'S SHEEP WON'T GO TO SLEEP, this books is full of humor and charm, with a flowing rhythm that is a pleasure to read.



LINES by Suzy Lee

A wordless picture book that tells a heartwarming story of friendship and forgiveness.


TWINDERELLA by Corey Rosen Schwartz

A funny and clever "fractioned fairy tale" with perfect rhyme!


MY VERY OWN SPACE by Pippa Goodhart

This story is sweet and charming, and I related to it on a personal level having come from a large family.



NOTHING RHYMES WITH ORANGE by Adam Rex

This book is hilarious, clever, and tons of fun to read aloud.


LOVE IS by Diane Adams

It's as sweet as it sounds without being overly cheesy. It's perfect.



THE POMEGRANATE WITCH by Denise Doyen

So much to love about this book. A fun story, nearly perfect rhyme, stunning use of language, and a sense of nostalgia that lingers far beyond the last page.


FLASHLIGHT NIGHT by Matt Forrest Esenwine

This book captures perfectly a childhood sense of imagination and adventure.


CAP'N REX AND HIS CLEVER CREW by Henry L. Hertz

A rollicking tale of swashbuckling adventure.


'TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS by Glenys Nellist

A lovely and creative retelling of the Christmas story, patterned after the classic poem, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore.


WATERSONG by Tim McCanna

A simple story about a fox seeking shelter during a storm, with vivid language and equally vivid illustrations.

I'd love to hear about your favorite books from 2017!


Friday, December 08, 2017

In Case You Were Wondering (or...did I win NaNoWriMo?)

November has been over for more than a week, and I feel like I'm still recovering. But I did it! I managed to write just over 50,000 words of a middle grade fantasy manuscript during NaNoWriMo. It's not a full draft yet, so I still have a while to go before I'm finished, but I'm well on my way. I hope to have the draft done by the end of the year.


How about you? Did you "WriMo" this year? Any projects you're hoping to finish by the year's end?

Friday, November 17, 2017

NaNoWriMo Halfway Point Check-in

It's the afternoon of November 17, 2017. The sky is grey, yet friendly; the house is quiet; and my NaNoWriMo journal sits on the dining room table, waiting. It's been sorely neglected today, despite my best intentions.

November is a little more than halfway over, my journal is a little more than halfway full, and I'm closing in on 25,000 words.

When I think about it, having written close to 25,000 words in just over two weeks sounds like an amazing thing. But I'm behind. I should have been at that point on Wednesday. I had hoped to reach 30,000 words by Sunday night, and I'm not sure if I will make it!

But I must strive for it. Because I want to be able to say at the end of the day on November 30, 2017 that I did it. That, for the second time in my life, I won NaNoWriMo!

Even though I'm a little behind, I'm not discouraged. If I keep plugging along, I'll get there. Maybe I'll catch up, then get ahead, and finish a day early!

As long as I don't get any surprise out-of-town guests for Thanksgiving next week, I think that is doable.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017


Tomorrow is the first day of National Novel Writing Month, and for the first time in a few years, I'm going for it! This challenge of writing 50,000 words of a new novel is crazy, but fun. It's crazy fun!

This will be my fifth time participating in NaNoWriMo. Out of the four times I've participated in the past, only once have I been a "winner." And twice have my manuscripts actually ended up as full drafts. Both of those, by the way, have been revised and polished. Alas, neither has been accepted for publication. Yet.

This year's project is a middle grade fantasy that I am tentatively calling The Black Pool. To prepare for the writing of this novel, I have written a one-line pitch, a one-paragraph blurb, character sketches for the primary characters, and the beginnings of an outline. I've also created a board on my Pinterest profile for world-building inspiration. I'm not exactly a planner, but for this kind of challenge I need a bit of direction before I get started.

My oldest daughter is taking the NaNoWriMo plunge too, and as an extra incentive for us both, we have decided that our reward for "winning" will be to order some fun NaNoWriMo gear. And I'm GONNA WIN, because I really want that T-shirt. Or maybe the travel bag. I can decide later!

Are you doing this crazy challenge this year? Here are a few tips that helped me get through it in the past:

1. Plan. At least a little, so you have some sense of direction.
2. Do NOT edit, as far as it is humanly possible.
3. Write out of order if necessary.
4. Participate in Word Sprints on Twitter (@NaNoWordSprints)
5. Ignore the haters! Even the little invisible one that whispers in your ear.

Here we go! Who's with me?


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Top Ten Rhyming Picture Books

Rhyme is one of my favorite things, whether it be in the form of a poem or a picture book. I love reading it, and I love writing it. In fact, when an editor poses the question, "Why rhyme?" the first thought in my head is, "Why not?" I want to share my love for fabulous rhyme with you, so here is a list of my top ten favorite (currently) rhyming picture books.



1. THE FORGETFUL KNIGHT by Michelle Robinson, illustrated by Fred Blunt

This book is rhyming perfection, with a clever story and lots of laughs to go with it!

2. BEAR SNORES ON by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

A pleasure to read over and over, and a book I recommend to anyone who wants to write in rhyme. The writing captures the mood of the book perfectly, and the story is fun and sweet.

3. THE THREE NINJA PIGS by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat

A funny and active retelling of the classic fairy tale. And don't forget the other two ninja books in this series, NINJA RED RIDING HOOD and HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS.

4. TEENY TINY TOADY by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi

An adorable story about a heroic little toad told in rhyme that bounces and rolls and flows off the tongue.

5. WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi

I had to include this book in this list, and not just because it's one of my own. One thing this book is consistently praised for is its flowing rhyme and its unique language. And it always elicits some giggles during read-alouds!

6. THE PRINCE AND THE PORKER by Peter Bently, illustrated by David Roberts

So funny and so much fun to read!

7. SIMPSON'S SHEEP JUST WANT TO SLEEP by Bruce Arant

The sequel to SIMPSON'S SHEEP WON'T GO TO SLEEP. It's charming and funny, and the rhyme is basically flawless.

8. TWINDERELLA by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Deborah Marcero

A "fractioned" fairy tale that is as fun to read as it is clever. Who knew a book with a math theme could be this much fun?

9. IT'S ONLY STANLEY by Jon Agee

An amusing and clever book that has flawless rhyme and a surprise ending. What more could you ask for?

10. NINJA, NINJA, NEVER STOP! by Todd Tuell, illustrated by Tad Carpenter

This book is just so active and fun. You'll love reading it aloud to the littlest ninjas!