Bringing the Writing Workshop to You: Creativity Exercises for the Stuck-At-Home Writer

Activities to get creativity flowing…brainstorms and origin stories.

The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

Last summer, two other authors and I held a Lil’ Haints Creative Writing Workshop at the bookstore tailored to young authors from nine to fourteen. It was absolutely amazing to see the kids’ eyes light up as they told us about the stories they were working on. The students inspired us just as much as we inspired them, I think.

As I was casting around for ideas on how I could use my talents in this uncertain, coronavirus time to help others, I wondered, could putting my Lil’ Haints workshopping lessons online help encourage and entertain young authors at home?

What follows is the workshop I gave on “Brainstorms & Origin Stories” redesigned for this format:

Today’s workshop is about how to be a creative person—whether you write, draw, or underwater basket weave as my middle school teacher used to say. Being creative is about keeping yourself open to possibilities…

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Laughter is the Best Vaccine: Funny Books to Get You Through These Coronavirus Times

Need to boost your immune system with a good laugh and the books that’ll make that happen? Here’s a post I wrote for the indie bookstore I work at as a kidlit specialist.

The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A ghost walks into a bookshop. The owner asks, “How can I help you?” Ghost says, “I’m here for the BOOOOks.”

Yeah, that was more groan-worthy than a haunted staircase. But in these weird times of uncertainty and distancing ourselves from friends and family, having a sense of humor, and feeding it, is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves.

A good guffaw can help soothe tension and physical symptoms of stress by stimulating circulation and relaxing muscles. Positive thoughts (which go hand in hand with laughing) releases neuropeptides that help battle stress and potentially more serious illnesses. Thus boosting your immune system.

A shared joke can help you deal with difficult situations and bond you with a person more fully, even if you can’t be within six feet of them.

Laughter can also be as helpful as a workout…

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Valentine’s Day Giveaway

Love is in the air! But so is something else…

Hi, y’all! If you’re a newsletter follower, then you already know about the Mobile Writers’ Guild’s third annual anthology that recently released called Valentine’s Day Pieces. It’s a collection of short stories, creative non fiction, and poetry. Some fun-filled and loving, others chilling when love goes awry.

AnthologyGiveawayPicAnd because this Valentine’s Day I want y’all to know how much I appreciate the time and attention and positive thoughts from you to follow my tangly journey to publication, I’m giving away a copy! And it’s not only signed by me, so that’s pretty cool.

All you have to do to enter is SIGN UP HERE for my newsletter. If you’re already subscribed, you’re already entered, easy-peasy. I’ll have the kiddos draw Sunday evening and announce the winner on my facebook author page so you can get it before February 14th.

Thanks so much! Y’all enjoy the upcoming chocolate and king cake season that will soon be upon us!

I also want to thank my critique partner, Carrie Dalby, for walking me through all things newsletter-ish. Like this giveaway for instance, lol. If y’all like Southern Gothic family sagas and/or YA historical fiction, go check out her books!

Writing Goals: Looking Back on 2019

MGTreeWe’re about to load up the car to visit family for Christmas but I wanted to take a moment and look back at my year writing-wise. It’s helpful to see where I’ve been to know where I’m going (or at least in what direction), and I encourage you to do the same.

This was the year I took a leap and invested in myself. I started off January by taking a Children’s Book Academy course as well as enrolling in a Writing Magic class. I learned a lot from both and ended up being inspired by Mira, the founder of CBA, to write a new picture book manuscript that earned a Golden Ticket to submit to three editors of houses I normally couldn’t submit to on my own. It’s also Girl Scout Cookie season so January was pretty packed, haha. Submissions: 1 YA, 1 sub (full request!); 3 PBs, 3 subs

February submissions: 3 PBs, 3 subs; 1 MG, 2 subs (another request!) and y’all know I can’t resist Susanna Hill’s ValenTINY writing contest.

March was Mardi Gras and more submissions: 1 MG, 5 subs (2 full requests!), 1 YA, 1 sub (contract offered and accepted with Owl Hollow Press!); 3 PBs, 5 subs; 1 BB, 1 sub. I entered the amazingly generous, Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words contest for the first time. I also wo’manned a table at the Mobile Literary Fest and did a reading (I’m slowly getting more comfortable with those, but gotta get better at making eye contact!).

April showers brought another writing contest, a Spring Fling from the lovely Kaitlyn Sanchez where I received Honorable Mention. I also helped plan Indie Bookstore Day with the Mobile Writers’ Guild and The Haunted Bookshop. Submissions: 1 MG, 1 sub; 1 PB, 1 sub; 1 YA, 1 sub.

The first week in May was NaPiBoWriWee or 7 picture book drafts in 7 days which was A LOT of fun and I ended up with 2 viable manuscripts and 1 magazine piece. Submissions: 1 YA, 1 sub (full request!); 3 magazine, 3 subs; 1 PB, 1 sub. I also started to work part time at The Haunted Bookshop, our local indie bookstore which is just the best.


With authors and critique partners Carrie Dalby & Joyce Scarbrough

In June, I was an instructor with two other fabulous ladies at the Lil’ Haints Creative Writing Summer Workshop. It was so much fun hearing ideas and brainstorming with young writers. I submitted 1 short story which was accepted for publication and just came out this October. I received a pitmad request as well as sent out 3 more picture book queries. I also submitted a chapter book to SCBWI’s Southern Breeze writing contest and won first place–WIK 2020, here I come!

July submissions: 1 MG, 1 sub; 1 PB, 1 sub

August submissions: 1 PBs, 2 subs; 1 CB, 1 sub; 1 MG, 1 sub; 1 BB, 1 sub

September: 1 MG, 4 subs (2 full requests which led to me signing with my new agent!); 1 YA, 1 sub; 1 PB, 1 sub; A picture book I submitted April of last year was accepted for publication!

October: my submissions stop because I sign with the amazing and intuitive Katelyn Detweiler of Jill Grinberg Literary Management and we’re busy working on my mg, Marvel & Happy. My short story, “The Levee and Bea Pearl” is published in OHP’s anthology, Cabinet of Curiosities. And my Publishers Weekly announcement for Bea Pearl released! I also helped judge A Fall Frenzy which was tough because there were SO MANY exceptional entries. PWannouncement

I now have a GoodReads page for THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL, joined the #Roaring20sdebut group, and have my very own writerly newsletter! (The sign-up link is on my Contact page, if you’d like to see what that’s all about)

I’m sure I’ve forgotten things but I really need to help the kiddos pack–no telling what they’ll bring on their own. So I wish all of you the happiest of holidays and hope you take a moment to reflect on everything you’ve accomplished in 2019 too!


A Fall Frenzy & Sunflowers

The temperature was 84 degrees the other morning so I’m pretty sure that was Fall. Maybe? It’s still my favorite season even if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

This year, I’m getting in the Fall spirit with a contest to spark creativity by my writing buddy, Kaitlyn Sanchez. I’m a judge too, but am told I can play along as well ’cause y’all know I can’t resist a reason to write. Check out all the rules here so you can enter too. You have until the 11th.

The image I chose from the many gorgeous ones listed: Sunflowerpexels-photo-2901913

Some people say
sunflowers—whose cheerful,
many-petaled face follows the sun—
will face each other
when skies are grey
to share their energy.

I don’t know if that’s true. But
I do know
if my eyes are grey
I can press my face to yours
nose to nose kiss
forehead to forehead
and your sunshine
and warm delight
in the world lifts
my face from the shadows.

Sunflowers–and kiddo snuggles–are the best.

I hope to see your entry too. Good luck!

Every Rejection Happens for a Reason

Did I get tons of eyerolls for that title?

Of course, there’s a reason for the rejection. I’m not talented enough. My writing needs to be stronger. I’ll never make it as an author. Look how good everyone else is.

Or, Magic8Ball

Acquisitions didn’t see my vision. They didn’t get what I was trying to say. They didn’t give my writing the time it deserves.

Or even,

They already have XYZ genre, subject, or theme on their lists. I’m too late.

I’ve wallowed and gnashed my writing teeth in all that mire. But once my head clears and I don’t take the rejection quite so personally, I wonder: what if I was selling myself short? What if I was settling, an injustice to the words I carefully selected and strung together? Worried and pried to make them the best and strongest they can be?

What if the rejection happened because it wasn’t the right place for my writing?

Two days ago a short story of mine was accepted into an anthology. As the lovely congrats comments posted, I realized a good bit of them were from authors I had ‘met’ from last year’s anthology, published by the same press.

And I thought, if last year’s short story, “Swamp Mallow”, had been published by the first place I sent it, I would never have met these nice authors. And honestly, it wouldn’t have been as strong of a story as it is now. I wouldn’t have been as proud of it as I am now. It would still be called “The Girl and the Gator” and feature a carrot as a weapon. *facepalm*

In 2015, 500 ‘new’ fairytales were discovered in Germany, compiled into The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales collected in the mid-19th century by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth. One of those was “The Girl and the Pond”. I’d always liked the fairytale, “Moss Gown”, the Cajun combination of King Lear and Cinderella, so I wanted to retell “The Girl and the Pond” with that bayou atmosphere. Hence “Swamp Mallow” was born.

I knew it was a good story: had a great setting, developed characters (the villain needed more motivation, mentioned one editor), and a nicely-paced plot. The feedback I received was positive: original, creative, etc, but it was always a no. Dejected, I put it aside. Even though I loved the story, I was forcing it to fit themes that didn’t work.

But then a publisher announced their 2018 theme: a full moon. It spoke to me. I rewrote it. All of a sudden, my story had heart and that pesky villain had motivation. This time a theme not only fit my story but made my story even better than it had been before.

My story found the home it was always supposed to have.

So yes, every rejection does have a reason. And sometimes it’s not anything to do with your writing abilities. Sometimes the reason is because better things are waiting on the horizon.

Don’t give up.
Keep writing.
Keep sharing your words with the world. My hope in this example is that the rejections don’t get you down for long.

How do you get through rejection? I’d love to see your tips in the comments!

Interested in reading “Swamp Mallow” and the 27 other fabulous short stories that take place UNDER THE FULL MOON’S LIGHT? Here’s the link.

4th Annual Miss Bookshelf USA


The Miss USA pageant completely passed by my notice.

But I couldn’t let May end without a pageant more to my taste. Yes, it’s time for the super prestigious event where I take all the books I read the previous year off their shelves, dress them up, spruce up the dust jackets, and parade them around. They love it. I promise. Miss Bookshelf USA

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the 4th Annual Miss Bookshelf USA…

According to my Goodreads, I read 10 adult books, 5 YA, 9 middle grade, 4 anthologies, and 3 picture books (which is super way off because the kiddos and I read at minimum one book a night at bedtime.) It was difficult to pick my TOP TEN DELEGATES as there were so many great books to choose from.

3kamjWmXCassie Beasley’s TUMBLE & BLUE



Darby Karchut’s DEL TORO MOON



Jewel Parker Rhodes’ BAYOU MAGIC

Ruta Sepetys’ SALT TO THE SEA


Miss Amity goes to… BAYOU MAGIC! Maddy is such an earnest, caring protagonist. I love how she grew to care so much about Grandmere, Bear, the Bon Temps bayou, and Mami Wata.

Miss Style is awarded to… THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL! I mean, it has footnotes, how cool is that. I enjoyed Doreen’s story so much that I actually dressed up as Squirrel Girl for Halloween, chikkt! (Yes, I am awesome, thanks for noticing ;))

Most Photogenic Cover goes to… TUMBLE & BLUE. Look at those woodcuts! The dreamy colors! Alligators! I like to pet it, it’s so pretty.


Second Runner Up goes to… DEL TORO MOON! The war stallions took me back to my childhood love of horse stories. This middle grade had the perfect blend of heart and legend. Of creepiness and bravery.

For First Runner Up, I dithered. I waffled. I couldn’t make up my mind. Then I thought, hey! This is MY bookish pageant! I can pick both SALT TO THE SEA and THE SERPENT KING to tie. They’re so different. SALT is a YA historical fiction set in 1945 about the Wilhelm Gustloff maritime tragedy, and SERPENT is a YA contemporary with Pentecostal tendencies. But both have a super strong cast of characters which is why they’re my 1st Runner Up picks, and interestingly, both authors live in Nashville. How cool is that?


And now, the moment you all have been waiting for…

Miss Bookshelf USA is…


Absolutely gorgeous and important book. It hit me right in the feels. You’ll want to hang out with Brittany and observe the world through her eyes just like I did.

I hope y’all enjoyed my little pageant! If you have recommendations for next year’s contestants, let me know.

(Thanks to Mermaid Girl for letting me borrow her Rapunzel tiara once more!)

Raindrops on Kite String

Hi y’all! Happy Spring! Happy Easter! Happy Ostara! I love this time of year–all sorts of surprises constantly popping up in my gardens and yard (rooftop irises, cilantro, snapdragons) and a million and one shades of green, my favorite color.

But to me, Spring hasn’t officially arrived until the kids and I fly a kite for the first time of the year. So when I was mulling over my entry for the inaugural Spring Fling Writing Contest (y’all know I can’t resist a contest), I knew it had to have kite flying in it. And rain, because April Showers. Be sure to visit the link above to find out more info about the contest, and without further ado, here’s my entry at 70 words.

Enjoy! Go fly a kite! 🙂

kite blog

Raindrops on Kite String

Tie your laughter onto kite string
and toss it in the air
so a wild wind can send
it soaring,
swirling around ones who have no song.

Let joyful giggles catch on cotton-ball clouds
and make raindrops
heavy with the magic of happy
dreams that plop
back to earth in puddles
we splash in.

May all sense that smidge of joy
mingled in mud,
even if they only see rain.

50 Words on Mardi Gras

Laissez les bon temps rouler! It’s Fat Tuesday!

This year I participated in children’s author extraordinaire, Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words contest. It has a great backstory of how her contest came to be and fabulous entries so be sure to check out her website: 130CF08D-DABD-41C0-B6CD-44B7878D031F.jpeg

Since the contest runs during Carnival season this year, I chose that as my inspiration. I hope you enjoy!

Magical Mardi Gras (49 words)

First the boom, boom.

Then the clip, clop.

Batons on fire

pinwheel among the stars.

Do you see what’s coming next?

Mermaids shimmy in the air.

A giant dragon zigzags down the street,

smoke and fire blasting out its snout.

Hands up to catch beads and MoonPies

and magic.



ValenTINY Sprinkles

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all! My emergency chocolate jar is once again filled (Godiva truffles for the curious. Thanks, Honey!) so the writing may commence. Just in time for children’s author Susanna Hill’s super fun ValenTINY contest. Like last year, our wordcount is a mere 214 words (mine is that exactly) and to shake things up a bit, must have someone feeling guilty.

2hW0-v4YAs usual, I get my inspiration from my kiddos, so as Dinosaur Boy clutched the sprinkles for his class Ice Cream Valentine’s Day party, inspiration struck. Oh, the messes we can make with all those teensy bits!

And you may recall my characters, Bean and Jilly, from previous contest entries. If there’s a potential mess to be had, and a friendship to make everything all right, they clamor to be included.

Y’all enjoy!


Bean & Jilly and the Valentine’s Day Sprinkles

Bean walked into his preschool classroom as if his sneakers were marshmallows.
“Why are you walking funny?” Jilly asked.
“I don’t want to drop the sprinkles for today’s Valentine Ice Cream party,” he said.
“Sprinkles!” Jilly said. “Can I see?”
Bean shook his head. “You might spill them.”
“Are they unicorn sprinkles?”
“No, hearts. I picked them out myself.”
“I love hearts! Are you sure I can’t hold them?”

At the activity table, Jilly pinched clay into a heart. “I’ll give you this heart if I can see your sprinkles.”
Bean shook his head.
Jilly narrowed her eyes.

In the art center, Jilly made a goopy, gluey paper heart. “I’ll give you this heart if I can smell the sprinkles.”
Bean shook his head.
Jilly wrinkled her nose.
On the playground, Jilly plucked a heart-shaped leaf just for Bean. “Can I touch the sprinkles with my pinkie?”
Jilly stomped her foot.
At lunch, Bean’s banana tasted boring. The teacher won’t miss a couple sprinkles, he thought.
He wiggled the lid. Then jiggled…
…plink and scatter.
Bean’s heart sank to his toes. “Now I don’t have anything to bring to the class party!”
… the decorations: a clay heart, a goopy, gluey paper heart, and a heart-shaped leaf. Bean hugged Jilly.