I'm puddle-jumpin' happy that I earned an honorable mention for "Unique Point-of-View" in Vivian Kirkfield's #50PreciousWords contest for my poem, "Puddle."
I recently completed a course in writing middle grade novels with the popular Children’s Book Academy. The instructors, Dr. Mira Reisberg, Hilary Homzie, and Rachel Stein, guided us through the process in manageable daily chunks. It was a fabulous class, including a supportive homework forum, Facebook page, and personal critique group.
What I learned surprised me: I love middle grade! Both reading and writing middle grade electrified me. For this class, I read widely—classics as well as more recent National Book Award and Newberry Medal and Honor books. With many of these books, I read late into the night because I couldn’t put them down! I enjoyed searching through a different section of the library and remembered why I had loved this type of book as a girl.
Writing middle grade after the strict limits (low word count) of picture books was liberating. I basked in longer scene lengths, descriptions, and more complex plots. In fact, one of the biggest challenges, but also most rewarding aspects, was learning how to structure a novel. The organizer in me loved planning and outlining, fitting all the pieces together in a logical, emotionally resonant puzzle.
At first, I was disappointed that I wasn’t writing like my hero, Kelly Barnhill (The Girl Who Drank the Moon.) However, the more I wrote, the more I found my own “middle grade” voice. Unlike that any of my favorite authors, I was happy to realize, my voice reflected me.
As I have revised, I’ve been learning to notice and celebrate my own writing strengths. Writing my first middle grade novel has been a satisfying challenge. One I can’t wait to repeat again and again!
Categories: middle grade, picture book, Children's Book Academy
Below is my entry for Vivian Kirkfield's annual (but new to me!) #50PreciousWords 2018 contest. The challenge is to write a complete children's story containing a beginning, middle, and end in 50 words or less.
PUDDLE (43 words)
“Rain again!” her mother muttered.
“What a shame!” But Jane’s heart fluttered.
Peanut-buttered lips curve wide;
grab rain boots and head outside.
Tiptoe, tiptoe, hurry, dash!
Knees bent low, now jump—splash!
Pitter patter back inside.
Fly back out, Mom by her side!
For fun, experience, and awesome prizes, I am entering Susanna's fun Valentine's Day writing contest. See below for my fall entry in her "Halloweensie" story contest. Here is Susanna's description of the "Valentiny" contest rules: "Write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone is hopeful! Your someone can hope for something good or something bad. Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone hopeful (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day You can go under the word count but not over! (Title is not included in the word count.)"
My entry hops in at a whopping 213 words!
Bunnies’ Heart-Shaped Hopes
As fluffy, white flakes fell to the forest floor, two bunnies peered from their burrow.
“It’s deeper than Papa’s ears!” squeaked Calliope.
“But it’s gotta stop,” said older sister Marisol. “Vole’s Valentine’s Day party is tonight!”
Mama cuddled the girls close. “By tonight, the snow may be too deep for your wandering bunny feet.”
Calliope blinked back tears. “No candy hearts and valentines.”
Marisol’s whiskers twitched. “No music and dancing.”
Snow covered the ground like Mama’s quilt. But deep in her belly, Calliope nurtured a glow of promise.
She carried that pinprick of light into naptime, where its embers grew and gleamed and danced in her dreams.
Marisol pressed her pink nose against the outside door and shook her head. They’d never make it to Vole’s house!
As her back leg thumped, an idea sprang up. She hoped she could hop to it in time.
Calliope sighed and stretched. When she peeked outside, her eyes widened to the size of chocolate-covered strawberries.
Red ribbons swirled like icing atop their family’s pine tree. Velvet hearts swayed from icicle-glazed tree branches. Animals' songs floated through the night sky, speckled with stars.
Calliope’s heart swelled to bursting as she grasped Marisol’s outstretched paws.
And the two swung in powdered-sugar circles … at their very own Valentine’s party.
Children's author Julie Hedlund, challenged participants of her 12 Days of Christmas for Writers (http://www.juliehedlund.com/12days) 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 2017.
1. Wrote at least 14 new picture book manuscripts.
2. Took several writing classes, including Karla Valenti's Picture Book Master Course (http://www.karlavalenti.com/master-course/), Renee LaTulippe's Lyrical Language Lab (http://www.reneelatulippe.com/writing-courses/), and Alayne Kay Christian's Art of Arc (http://www.alaynekaychristian.com/page05.html).
3. Enrolled in and participated in my first year of Julie Hedlund's 12x12Challenge http://12x12challenge.com/.
4. Took a second workshop at the Highlights Foundation Barn.
5. Hosted a writing retreat with my critique group; Tara Lazar was guest speaker/critiquer.
6. Watched SEVERAL webinars through Kidlit College, SCBWI chapters, etc.
7. Took a three-day "Un-Workshop" at the Highlights Foundation with my critique group, including an author critique.
8. Two manuscripts earned a #1 rating and several others #2 and #3 ratings in Rate Your Story.
9. Entered my first writing contest and won an honorable mention (Susanna Leonard Hill's Halloweensie Contest; http://susannahill.blogspot.com/).
10. An agent contacted me after submitting to her slush pile. She requested to see more of my work.
11. Participated and finished Tara Lazar's Storystorm (https://taralazar.com/2017/12/28/storystorm-2018-registration-is-open/) and ReFoReMo (http://www.reforemo.com/).
12. Created a writer website and blog.
13. Joined Twitter and began tweeting weekly picture book posts. Through Twitter, I met many new writers!
14. Told friends and family about my writing and goals.
15. Grew closer to my online critique group--we are like family now!
16. My critique group, the Highlighters, was interviewed for an upcoming article in a regional SCBWI magazine.
17. Learned the importance of amazing concepts and dramatically improved my own.
18. Realized I love to write poetry...and I'm good at it, too!
19. Began a structured practice of reading picture books on a weekly basis.
20. Read books on crafts: Stephen King's On Writing, Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic, Ann Whitford Paul's Writing Picture Books, and others.
21. Applied for mentorships through Tara Luebbe's Writing with the Stars http://beckytarabooks.com/wwts-contest/).
22. Developed more of a writing routine and began scheduling non-negotiable writing time.
23. Attended my second year of Picture Book Summit (http://picturebooksummit.com/).
I'm over-the-Halloween-moon thrilled to report that I won an honorable mention (and a cool free book on writing craft) in Susanna Leonard Hill's Halloweensie contest! You can find her excellent website/blogs at https://susannahill.com.
Susanna lured me into my first writing contest with her fabulous prizes! The process of writing an entire story using three key words all within 100 words was challenging...but also loads of fun. I also learned NOT to wait until the eleventh hour (the day of the contest deadline) to decide to enter! My writing is definitely better with revisions.
It was a whirlwind afternoon, but I'm so glad I tried. I will definitely enter more writing contests in the future--but not at the last minute :-).
Montgomery’s stinky monster feet
skit-skeetered down the darkened street.
He knocked and shouted, “Trick or Treat!”
One thing would make his night complete…
Was it fresh meat or maybe bones?
The crust of cemetery stones?
Montgomery’s ghoulish drool drip-dropped.
That thing was here! His heart flip-flopped.
Clair opened up the door and froze;
a monster stench of toes arose!
She shook as shadowed claws stretched out
with nails that smelled of sauerkraut.
But monster reached inside the dish
that overflowed with his one wish.
He’s had a taste since he was born
For sweet and chewy candy corn!
Categories: Halloween, writing, contests, poetry, kidlit, picture book