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!

4th Annual Miss Bookshelf USA

Whoops.

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

Emily Blejwas’ ONCE YOU KNOW THIS

Shannon & Dean Hale’s THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL: SQUIRREL MEETS WORLD

Darby Karchut’s DEL TORO MOON

Watt Key’s TERROR AT BOTTLE CREEK

Jaclyn Moriarty’s THE EXTREMELY INCONVENIENT ADVENTURES OF BRONTE METTLESTONE

Jewel Parker Rhodes’ BAYOU MAGIC

Ruta Sepetys’ SALT TO THE SEA

Jeff Zentner’s THE SERPENT KING

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…

ONCE YOU KNOW THIS cI4UE-Ja

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.jpeghttps://viviankirkfield.com/2019/03/02/the-50preciouswords-writing-contest-is-open/

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?”
“No.”

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?”
“Nope.”
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…
…plop!…
…plink and scatter.
Bean’s heart sank to his toes. “Now I don’t have anything to bring to the class party!”
Except…
… the decorations: a clay heart, a goopy, gluey paper heart, and a heart-shaped leaf. Bean hugged Jilly.

Writing Goals: A Look Back on 2018

Last year I participated in children’s author Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series. She challenges participants to post SUCCESSES (rather than resolutions), believing 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 felt good about what all I accomplished last year so I decided to participate in this Anti-Resolution Revolution again. It really helps for when someone kindly asks: “Anything new with the writing?” and I give a hesitant “no…”

January: I didn’t make it into the Writing with the Stars mentorship or Sun vs. Snow, but I did join an online picture book critique group with five fabulous writers, who have proven to be invaluable. I can’t imagine submitting something without their critiques. I was also featured on Sub It Club’s blog for winning their “Small Steps to Success” contest. And I came up with 30 picture book ideas in 31 days thanks to Tara Lazar’s STORYSTORM. Submissions: 1 MG ms, 5 subs; 1 PB ms, 3 subs

February: I joined the picture book debut group, Newin19, for Sassafras and have learned SO MUCH (and how much I still have left to learn, gulp!). I was also encouraged to create an Amazon Authors page which made me feel pretty legit. I wrote another Bean & Jilly entry for Susanna Hill’s ValenTINY contest, and while I didn’t place, I hope to one day expand it into a chapter book. Submissions: 1 article, 1 sub; 2 PBs, 4 subs

 

 

March: Fireflies & Fairy Dust published 2 poems and 1 flash fiction piece of mine, and our local Mobile Writers’ Guild published our first ever anthology which had one of my poems, and 2 of my short stories in it, one being a story I co-wrote. I manned a table at the Mobile Literary Festival which was exciting to be a part of. Also got an agent #PitMad request. Submissions: 2 articles, 2 subs; 1 MG, 1 sub; 1 YA, 1 sub; 3 PBs, 3 subs

April: Submissions: 2 MGs, 2 subs; 1 PB, 1 sub

May: My YA was a top 3 finalist in Southern Fried Karma’s 2018 Novel Contest. Submissions: 2 PBs, 8 subs; 2 MGs, 3 subs (1 garnered a full agent request!); 1 poem, 1 sub

June: I entered picture book manuscripts into SCBWI’s Southern Breeze contest and Rate Your Story’s Free Day and received super helpful feedback on both. Submissions: 2 articles, 2 subs; 2 MGs, 4 subs

July: I sent my resume to 2 educational publishers as a Writer-For-Hire. Submissions: 1 MG, 1 sub; 1 PB, 1 sub

August: I participated in Marcie Colleen’s August Study Hall with 4 PB mss which was intense and eye-opening. Also met some lovely writer-friends there. Submissions: 1 MG, 1 sub; 1 article, 1 sub

September: I spent this month revising the mss from Study Hall critiques, and received a full agent request on my MG magical realism. My picture book critique group and I launched our brand new blog, Wonder of Words!

October: I participated in my 1st ever twitter chat hosted by Matthew Winner with the Newin19 debut group, and did my 1st public reading at a local indie bookshop’s grand opening! Owl Hollow Press published my short story “Swamp Mallow” in their anthology and I really, really just love Halloween. The poem I submitted to Susanna Hill’s HalloWEENSIE contest didn’t place but I expanded it to a prose PB ms that I am absolutely in love with and hope to start querying in the new year. Submissions: 1 PB, 1 sub

Halloween18

SQUIRREL GIRL! & family Halloween

November: For my birthday, my super supportive parents gave me Callie Metler-Smith’s Writing Magic Lab so I can focus on one of my MGs. Submissions: 2 PBs, 2 subs

December: Pretty much shocked that this month is almost over. I read one of my Christmas poems at the Mobile Writers’ Guild Christmas party and was pleasantly surprised at the applause, lol. My picture book manuscript “Little Oak” won Honorable Mention in the Writing Magic Holiday contest. I decided to invest in myself and used Christmas money to enroll in the Children’s Book Academy workshop in the New Year. Super excited for that! Submissions: 1 poem, 1 sub

So maybe there is ‘something new’ with my writing. Laying out my accomplishments like this helps me see how my writing has grown this year. Maybe next time I won’t answer the question with a hesitant no.

I encourage you to do the same!

Eighth Annual Holiday Contest!

Susanna Hill’s holiday contest has arrived–the festivities may officially begin! Complete rules are here but the gist is that it cannot exceed 250 words (mine’s at 243, whew!) and must have an act of heroism. Mine is a quiet sort of heroism, so we’ll see if it works. It’s my love letter to old-growth forests, the sacred Earth, and Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree which I’m unable to read without tears. -EHdPqZU

Thank you, Ms. Hill, for hosting these contests that exercise our writing muscles.

I hope y’all enjoy!

Little Oak

In a deep forest, the wind whispered adventures that made a little oak tremble with excitement.
Little Oak wanted a big adventure too. But his roots went deep into the earth.
One night a storm blew in on the daring wind.
CRACK!
Lightning struck the tallest tree. Squirrels fled to Little Oak’s branches.
“You’re so little that we should be safe here,” chittered one.
“I’m glad my smallness is good for something,” said Little Oak.
“This is a forest,” the squirrel reminded him. “Everything has a purpose.”
The next morning sunlight streamed where the other tree once stood.
“This could be my adventure!” Little Oak reached his limbs as high as he could.
Time wheeled by. Forest creatures used his growing branches for shelter. Gathered his acorns for food. Collected his leaves for warmth.
Oak knew that he would never have the adventures he had dreamed of.
“I hear something,” Squirrel whispered to Oak one day.
But Oak had stopped looking for adventure.
A child paused in front of Oak. “This is the one.”
“Good choice for our Yule log,” the father said.
“It needs an adventure,” the child whispered.
Startled, Oak’s limbs twitched and snow fell on the child’s head. The giggles sent joy through his bark.
“I have a purpose now” said Oak. “To be a light on cold, dark nights.”
“Oh, Oak. You’ve always had a purpose. You give so much for so many.”
What a grand adventure, thought Oak.

 

A Witchy Halloweensie

One of my new Halloween traditions is participating in children’s book author Susanna Hill’s Halloweensie contest. Last year was my first time and I had so much fun–plus exercised my writing muscles, and practiced brevity–with all her seasonal contests. (I even won Honorable Mention for Memorable Characters!) It’s called “weensie” because it’s just that, entries max out at 100 words and must include shiver, cauldron, and howl. For all the spooky details, you can check out her site here.

While I was mulling over what my short would be about, Mermaid Girl had Honors Assembly which fell on the same day as Hat Day. As I was going through ALL my pictures (yes, I’m that mom), this one where she’s taking an AR Witchy NASAtest started a brainstorm–the witch hat, the NASA book in her lap… What witch wouldn’t want to ride her broom to the moon?

I hope y’all enjoy!

A Broom to the Moon

Willa was a good witch,
she wore her pointy hat with pride,
her whipping cloak gave shivers
when she hopped on her broom to ride.

She collected crawlies for the cauldron,
nightshade and lost lockets.
But when she looked up at the moon,
Willa also dreamed of rockets.

To fly her broom up to the moon,
it’s what she wanted most of all.
Her aunties howled,
“But there’s a chance you’ll fall!”

Willa had Halloween plans—
she’d build boosters on her broom.
A bit of engineering, a tinkering here and there,
With a BOOM, she zoomed up to her moon!

A Fruitful Post

Hi y’all! I hope everyone had a nice, relaxing Labor Day. We just got back from a family beach trip in time to batten down the hatches for Tropical Storm Gordon’s arrival.

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Yep, this is the sister that always urges me to read those adult thrillers and mysteries. We love reading together, it’s our favorite thing. 

My lovely picture book critique group started a joint blog and our inaugural post went out this Saturday. BbfCLoet Each of us focus on a different area of children’s literature, mine centering on creativity and inspiration, and we’d love it if you follow along with us at the Wonder of Words. Our posts will go out the first and third Saturday of each month. Obviously from how I post here, I need the accountability 🙂

If you’re in T.S. Gordon’s path, stay safe and make sure you have plenty of books. If not, simply having plenty of books on hand is always sound advice 😉

Are You An Early Morning Writer?

Last week I posted this picture on my private Facebook page and a friend and aspiring writer asked me for tips on waking early to write (thanks, Danielle!). SNPLCQGQAs I replied to her, I realized I had a good bit to say on this so thought it might help and encourage other writers who are also searching for more time to write.

Two years ago on the eve of Dinosaur Boy’s 3rd birthday, I blogged about my struggle of finding time to write with a toddler and a newborn. You can find that post here. Now, as DB is on the cusp of turning 5, here are what works for me, and hopefully some of these resonate with you as well.

First off, I’m one of those people who need pretty much silence to write. I can edit and critique with noise and flurries of activity around me, but I can’t hold onto plot threads when there’s too much distraction.

I figured out pretty early on that my writing time would need to be when everyone is asleep. Before even the chores wake up and start demanding my attention.

How Do You Get Out of A Nice Warm Bed to Sit In Front of A Computer?

Nothing gets you out of bed faster than the sounds of a hacking cat or screaming child.

Some mornings are incredibly tough.

Especially if I’ve been up and down all night with a sick child. Or if the A/C hasn’t kicked off once and the house is finally frigid and my covers deliciously warm.

What makes me drag myself out of bed is reminding myself that THIS IS THE ONLY TIME I GET. My day runs so much better when I start it feeling accomplished rather than regretful.

Because my writing time is so limited, that in itself is a motivator. I’m usually forced to close my computer by hungry kids so the whole rest of the day I keep a brain-browser open in the background (and my journal), brainstorming different ideas so that when I finally do have the chance to write, I’m excited to do it.

I look forward to pages to fill and coffee to drink.

I’m Up. Now What?

As my brain and body got used to our arrangement, it became easier to wake up and immediately have enough brain function to write. I don’t always have the ability to speak coherently, but that comes once coffee is consumed and the hubs wakes. Sometimes taking a shower first thing is what it took to get my creative grey-stuff moving along.

A habit must be created and that takes time and doing it over and over.

But for the times I don’t wake bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, or I don’t have an active KzdLVn57manuscript, I have my to-do lists so sleepy-me doesn’t waste time. Just crossing things off helps me feel accomplished and jump-starts my brain. It’s something I can leave out and add to throughout a busy day too.

 

 

 

Accountability

I’m a self-motivator for the most part, but accountability is a pretty awesome thing. Don’t have any early-riser writing buddies? No worries.  Some super smart early birds set up a twitter account with the hashtag #5amWritersClub to help connect with other early bird writers.ZvBfwOkNI hope sharing what works for me helps motivate other writers who want to start their day with words.

Please share any tips for what works for you too!