Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Round Up

Usually I would say that it’s hard to believe another year is done, but honestly I don’t feel that way this year. I think the majority of the country has been counting down to the end of 2016 because...well, it’s been a YEAR. 

My hope is that the fresh start of 2017 will be the beginning of better times. I’m nothing if not hopeful! 

Despite some of the negative national & global events that happened this year, I feel like 2016 was a pretty good year for me writing-wise. I completed older projects and started new ones, I made new friends and grew closer to others, I jumped back into querying, and I read more books this year than I have in the past five years. All in all, I’d say it’s been a success!

Here are the goals I wrote in a post at the beginning of this year and how I did:

1)      Complete my novel manuscript this spring.
Check

2)      Create a list of agents and begin querying (and perhaps softly weeping. No, no, just kidding!)
Check (No comment on the weeping part!)

3)      Complete a rough draft of a new YA novel by the end of summer.
Check

4)      Finish a revision of that novel by the end of 2016 (at least).
Well…the revision is half done so far. That’s something right?!

5)      Revise the picture book manuscript I’ve been working on and write a second picture book ms.
Check

6)      Attend 1-2 SCBWI conferences.
Check

Looking at everything I accomplished this year makes me feel a little more positive about 2016. And I’m already thinking of a new list for 2017…more to come on that soon!

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year!





Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Post-Conference Update!

Last weekend I attended the MidSouth SCBWI conference for the first time. I will admit it was a LONG drive. I basically drove for an entire 8hr workday even though I was expecting it to be 6hrs, which isn’t great to start with.

But I like to find the positive side of things when I can, and the big positive for the long drive was that I was able to 1) finish one audio book, 2) listen to another entire book (KISSING TED CALLAHAN (and other guys)) which was super entertaining, 3) almost finish listening to THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER. I don’t know the last time I read so much in one weekend! Score!

Beyond my epic listening skills, I also had a wonderful time at the conference. Being on the board of COSBCWI, I know how hard it can be to even plan a half-day workshop, and that made me even more impressed with the conference. No minute was wasted, workshops ran like clockwork—it was really phenomenal.

The very impressive hotel lobby/atrium!


I got something out of every part of the conference. I learned new information to help me with my PB drafts and my current YA. It was a pleasure to listen to Darcy Pattison and Kathleen Rushall critique others’ first pages. And I most definitely enjoyed hearing Holly Root compliment my query letter during her query workshop. *grin*

I met a lot of great people and even had some time to brainstorm and write on Saturday evening. Plus, I ended up watching the OSU/Oklahoma football game in the hotel’s bar with a huge group of OSU alumni (a TOTAL coincidence but very fun anyway)!
A few photos of my room. MUCH bigger and nicer than the rooms I usually stay in!

I had my own couch! :)



I’m definitely glad I was able to attend. And now I can set my sights on writing and prepping for my upcoming trip to Vermont!


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Conferences, and Weddings, and Parties! Oh my!

September is always a busy (and fun!) month for me because my mother, mother-in-law, and myself all have our birthdays this month. This year September is even crazier though. I have something big scheduled for every weekend this month, including traveling to Vermont and Tennessee on back-to-back weekends!

Next weekend I'm flying to the east coast for my cousin's wedding. I LOVE weddings and I'm really looking forward to seeing my extended family as well.

The following weekend is my 35th birthday party!  And this isn't going to be any normal birthday party either. The theme is...Fairy Tea Party!! I'm envisioning scarfing tea sandwiches and tiny desserts while wearing flower crowns and catching up with friends. :)

But let's not forget this weekend. I'm driving 6+ hours to attend the MidSouth SCBWI conference in Nashville, Tennessee! Although I've been to a few SCBWI conferences now, I've never been to the MidSouth one so this will be a new experience for me. I've heard really great things about the conference and they have wonderful faculty members scheduled.

This will also be the largest conference I've attended. It starts Friday night and lasts until Sunday afternoon and I plan to do as much as possible! I'll be going to five workshops, keynote speeches, critique groups, first-page readings, and a professional critique. Whew!

It's been almost a year since I attended a conference and I'm eager to spend the whole weekend immersed in the kidlit community. I hope to have renewed energy and motivation to come home and dive back into my WIP.

I'll post again with my thoughts on the conference and the rest of my September travels!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Summer of "M"-inspiration

Writing is tough. There are days when you don’t want to sit down and work on revisions. Days when the delete key is the only key you feel like using. And, of course, the days when you get a rejection email and wonder, “Why am I doing this?”

It’s exactly at these times that I need a little inspiration. And one way I become inspired is by meeting other successful writers. (Another way is through unhealthy eating, but I wouldn’t recommend that one!)

Over the summer, I’ve had the chance to meet several such authors. Weirdly, it turns out that all the authors have a first name that starts with M: Maggie, Marcie, and Mo. So this is the summer of the M.

Maybe next year will be the summer of the K?! *crosses fingers*

In May, Maggie Stiefvater came to Cincinnati and I happily drove the 2 hours down to see her. The Raven Cycle series is an all-time favorite. AND I just read on Twitter that’s she’s writing another series about Ronan—YAY!  But I digress…

Maggie addressing the HUGE crowd that came out to see her. I can't hope to ever be as cool as her!

In August, our SCBWI group had a meet-and-greet breakfast with Marcie Colleen. Marcie has two PBs and a chapter book series coming out. It was amazing to hear about her journey to publication and all of the behind-the-scene details that readers don’t usually know about.




Then, within the same week, my good friend Kathryn and I met Mo Willems! My son is a big fan of Mo’s books and I knew I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to hear him speak.

I do have a version of this photo where Kathryn's face isn't blocked by the pigeon, but I thought she might want me to use this one! Plus, now I get to stand next to Mo Willems AND the pigeon! ;)


One thing that all three writers have in common is that they are entertainers! All of them know how to tell a great story and pull listeners in. Surprise, surprise!

In addition to being inspiring, these writers also made me laugh. A lot! It turns out that Mo actually did sketch comedy and stand up when he was younger. I don’t think Maggie did the same, but she could if she wanted to!

I’m so glad I took the time to meet all of these authors. It’s so much more than getting my books signed. It’s seeing that these are real people, with real lives and families and struggles. That they weren’t always amazingly successful, but they persevered anyway.

(Well, maybe Mo was always successful but there’s no point comparing myself to Mo Willems anyway!)

I can’t wait for the chance to meet more authors, and in the meantime, this encourages me to continue my own writing. :) 


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Summer Goals Continued

This summer continues to fly by! Since it’s the last day of July, it’s a good time to check in about my goals and think about August and beyond.

One of my big goals was to keep querying. I decided to tweak my query letter and first pages before sending more queries out and this ended up taking more time than I originally thought it would. I think it was time well-spent though. I guess I’ll find out once I start getting responses (…or not getting responses), but either way I want to know that I did everything I could to be successful in querying. As long as I’m doing that, I can feel comfortable and know that the rest of it is out of my hands.

My other writing goals included writing a PB rough draft (check!) and rereading the rough draft of my latest YA that I wrote in May (check!) So, I’m doing pretty well!

I have three weeks before autumn classes start and I want to make the most of it. I really only have one goal for August and that is to begin revising my YA. But before I can do that, I’m going to summarize each chapter of the book on a notecard, type up a chronological list of edits for this first revision, and probably do some more character sketches to really dive deeper into some of the characters. All of that is time-consuming, but incredibly important.

And, you know, I might want to do a few fun things during my break too! I’m fairly obsessed with the Olympics so I see some TV time in my future and maybe a little more quilting. It’s all about balance! ;)

Here is my monthly calendar as always:




Sunday, July 3, 2016

Summer Goals

I can’t quite believe that it’s July already! This summer is moving much too quickly for me.

May was both productive and crazy. I spent the entire month doing “MayNoWriMo” and ended up finishing a new novel by the end of the month! YAY! 

Final word count chart for MayNoWriMo 


I’m really happy that I pushed myself to finish a first draft quickly. It was a huge challenge and completely new to me (the last time I wrote a first draft it took me a year…I know). Even if I do nothing else for the rest of the summer, I know that I’ve already made so much progress.

June was filled with lots of “life stuff”: starting my summer class, gardening, scrapbooking, and having my son’s 4th party. These are all things that I like to do and things that needed to get done, but I was surprised how much I missed my intensive writing. 

I thought I would luxuriate in the break from writing, but really it just made me crabby. The one nice thing about this realization is that to reaffirms that I’m a writer. I shouldn’t need that confirmation at this point, but I still find it comforting to know that I NEED to write. It’s not a cute hobby or a distraction, it’s a crucial element of my life. I’m not at my best when I’m not writing. Which leads me to my July goals…

I still have two months until autumn semester starts and I want to make the most of them. So, I’m setting some new goals for July (and the rest of the summer):

  • ·         Read my first draft and make a game plan for the revision
  • ·         Revise ½ the novel
  • ·         Write a PB draft
  • ·         Continue to query


That shouldn’t be hard at all, right? ;)


Maybe the goals are ambitious, but clearly I thrive on the challenge. As usual, I’ll continue to update this blog with my progress!

Friday, May 27, 2016

MayNoWriMo Update #3

Week 3 update!

I'm 3/4 through my fast drafting experiment and I've made great progress! Since I started on May 6th, I've written over 40,000 words!  Yay!

And, because I wrote some scenes before I started this, in total I've written over 50k! So, technically I've already won MayNoWriMo.  :)  But really, the only way I "win" is if I finish this draft, no matter whether it's 50k or 75k. So, there's still work to do!

I'm optimistic that I'll be able to finish this book by June 5th. Then the real work of revising will begin!

Here are my weekly totals:


Friday, May 20, 2016

MayNoWriMo Update #2

Another week, another update!

I'm now 2 weeks into MayNoWriMo. I kept up with my word count goals this week, but it was HARD at times. I've never written a substantial amount every day of the week. There was one day (this Wednesday) where I wrote almost 4,000 words. That felt like an amazing accomplishment...but then the next day I had to wake up and do it all over again. I definitely understand why people need encouragement, daily charts, etc, etc when they're doing NaNoWriMo!

One upside of these daily goals is that I now have a new writing technique to help me reach my word count each day:

Dictation!

Sometimes I just can't sit at a desk or on a couch any longer. I can't sit at all. When the weather is nice, I've been going for a walk during the afternoon. It's amazing how the words start to flow as soon as I'm moving again.

I don't have a good dictation app on my phone right now so the dictation is messy to say the least. But I'm finding that I'm a lot less critical of myself when I just say what comes to mind instead of having to type it. Of course, that means that sometimes I say some pretty dumb stuff, but overall I can't tell a big difference between typing and dictation in terms of first draft quality. But I see a hell of a difference in time.

Now I just need a dictation app that knows when I say Dev (an important character in the book), I don't mean Devil.  That would be a very different book!

The plan for the next week is: keep writing.

I've crossed the 25,000 word mark (technically I've almost hit 40k because I wrote a good amount over my Christmas break). Hopefully I can add another 12-13k in this next week.

Friday, May 13, 2016

MayNoWriMo Update #1

It's been one week since I started MayNoWriMo with a few friends so I thought I'd post a quick update. Every day we've been texting each other to check in on our daily writing goals. While they're working on revisions and illustrations, I'm doing "classic" NaNo: trying to write a first draft of a novel in one month (...or a bit longer). 

So far so good! 

Since I don't have all the fun extras that come from participating in NaNoWriMo during November, I decided to track my word choice in excel so that I'd have a nice visual at the end. 

This week I've written 13,000+ words which is AMAZING. It's hard to say how many of those words I'll keep once revisions roll around, but I'm still really excited to have made that much progress!



I'll post again in a week with the newest word counts!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

MayNoWriMo

May is my favorite month of the year. Why? Yes, the days are longer and the weather is nicer. Yes, summer movie season officially begins (Hello, Civil War!) and my husband’s birthday falls during this month.

But for me, May = Vacation. Sweet, luxurious vacation.

Every year I try to make the most of May, but this year the timing couldn’t be better. I finished my YA novel a few weeks ago and I’m really excited to start on my next project. I’m also very motivated to write the first draft quickly since I know how long the revision process can be.

SO, I’ve decided to create my very own MayNoWriMo!

For anyone who doesn’t know what this crazy acronym stands for, it’s a play on the acronym NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is actually held in November of every year and it’s a BIG deal. Over 400,000 people participated last year with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month.

I’ve never been able to participate during November. Between the ramp up to finals week and Thanksgiving there’s just no way.

But that’s where May comes in…

This is the perfect month for me to try my hand at fast drafting. So, I figured, why not create my own version of NaNoWriMo and see how quickly I can write a first draft!**

I’ll post updates here and if anyone else is interested in joining then comment below!  We can be accountability buddies!

Here’s hoping that May turns out to be an incredibly productive month!

**FYI: I’m actually planning to extend this into the beginning of June, but MayJuNoWriMo really is too much. ;)


And here is my monthly progress picture. Hoping to blow this one out of the water next month ;)




Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Next Step

For me, writing is definitely an exercise in patience.

In the past few years, I have done a lot of things. I’ve taught 20+ college classes. I’ve gardened, crafted, and read lots of books. I’ve spent time with family and friends and have raised my son from infant to preschooler.

I also wrote a novel. 

Sometimes I wish I could add an “s” to the end of that last word. It would be so satisfying to say that I’d written multiple novels in that time. And I have done more than work on one novel. I also wrote a first draft of a MG novel, outlined another YA, and finished my first PB. But really, the vast majority of my writing time has been spent on one novel.

I hope and believe that it was time well spent.

DESCENDED FROM FATE will be arriving in agents’ inboxes very soon (well, the query will at least). Now I have to give up control and allow others to decide what happens next. But no matter what, I know I’ve made huge strides in my writing from the time I began this project to where I am now.

So, I’m excited to take this next step of querying and I’m thrilled to throw myself into my new YA contemporary set in England.  I’m still crossing my fingers that writing this next book will be enough justification to spend some time in London “researching”!

Not all of the drafts...but quite a few!

Here’s to the future!


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Fun of Experimenting

I haven’t posted in a little while now, but I think I have a pretty decent justification. In addition to the semester ramping up, I’ve been busy with my last revisions on my YA manuscript…and doing something else entirely.

Writing a picture book.

In the past, I didn’t see myself as a picture book writer. I’m not sure why. I love picture books and read A LOT of them to my 3 year old. I guess I never thought I’d be any good at it. My brain didn’t seem to work that way—I was too busy plotting out teenage drama and romantic interludes for my YA characters. :)  But then an idea for a picture book came to me and I started jotting some notes down. You know, just hypothetically.

Over Christmas break, I had some time on my hands and I figured I’d at least try. What’s the worst that could happen? So I started writing—in rhyme of all things—and a crazy thing happened.

I became obsessed.

Every evening I would pull up the text and start playing with the stanzas. Changing one line out for another. Using a different rhyme or trying a different verb. Writing a picture book is so different from writing a novel. There’s something both wonderful and horrifying about having only 300 words to tell an entire story. I do love being able to see the entire manuscript on one page, but BOY does every word count!

Once I got it into decent condition, I started sharing it with others. My friends, family, beta readers, and members of SCBWI had some really positive comments about the story, as well as helpful suggestions. Over the last few months I’ve continued to revise the story and recently I began to send it out into the wild world of publishing. 

It’s hard to say what, if anything, will happen with this story about a rat who wants to sculpt cheese instead of eat it. But I know I love it. And I’m really proud that I pushed myself outside my novel-writing comfort zone and expanded into a new genre. I’m already working on ideas for two more picture books and I hope the experience continues to be just as fulfilling. This is definitely a testament to being open-minded and allowing yourself to play (as the wonderful Sarah Aronson wisely recommends)!

Finally, as always, I’m including a picture of my sticker calendar. (I’m a day late posting it but who’s counting!)


Sunday, January 31, 2016

January Update

Wow, tomorrow is the first day of February! I can't say I'm sad to leave January behind since this time of the year is always a little blah, but it still feels like time is moving fast.

Taking a look at this month, I think I did fairly well. I spent a lot of my time reading. Between audiobooks (I listened to Dumplin' and loved it!), ebooks, craft books, and beta reading, I was plenty busy.

I'm ramping up for much more writing in February though. It's time to finish polishing and line-editing my YA novel and then...start querying. Eek!  I'm sure I'll be writing more about that in future posts though. ;)

Okay, here's my sticker calendar for the month...


See you next month!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

2016 Goals

Now that 2016 is in full swing, I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals for this year. It’s always a little scary to write out your goals because that makes them real. And it’s even scarier to put them on a blog because that means they’re public. *cringe* 

BUT, I’m going to do it anyway. Hopefully this will make me accountable to myself and to everyone else who reads this. So, here it goes…

1)      Complete my novel manuscript this spring.
2)      Create a list of agents and begin querying (and perhaps softly weeping. No, no, just kidding!)
3)      Complete a rough draft of a new YA novel by the end of summer.
4)      Finish a revision of that novel by the end of 2016 (at least).
5)      Revise the picture book manuscript I’ve been working on and write drafts for two other picture book ideas.
6)      Attend 1-2 SCBWI conferences.

Whew! I’m already exhausted.

There are other goals I’d love to meet as well, but above are the ones I can control. I can write and revise to the best of my ability. I can attend writing meetings, workshops, and conferences. I can query agents.

I can’t control whether an agent will offer me representation or an editor will take a liking to my work.

(Boy, wouldn’t that be nice though? ;))

So, I’m just going to focus on doing what I can and work toward having a productive 2016. I hope everyone else does the same!