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.

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!

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!

Third Annual Miss Bookshelf USA

This Monday was the 67th annual Miss USA pageant. Congrats to Miss Nebraska on her win, making her the first lady from her state to wear the crown. Now if y’all know me at all, you know my interests have a bit more bookish lean to them. Hence my 3rd Annual Miss Bookshelf USA pageant, where I scour my previous year’s bookshelf to bring you some of my favorites.

My Goodreads shelves say I read thirty books last year. Eight more than last year and that doesn’t count the books I beta read and the three I haven’t finished yet. Interestingly, a third of those are adult books which I blame mostly on my sister. Here’s the full list and my reviews if you want to check it out.

2018MissUSA

A stack of some of the Miss Bookshelf USA contestants

For my TOP TEN delegates in no particular order (Ok, twelve. I did fudge the numbers just a bit because of sequels. Hey, it’s my contest and if the sequels are as awesome as the first, them I MUST include them):

The Broken Earth #1 & #2 by NK Jemison

A SHADOW BRIGHT & BURNING by Jessica Cluess

Princess Academy #1 & #2 by Shannon Hale

STARS ABOVE by Marissa Meyer (specifically “The Little Android”)

HARRY POTTER & THE CURSED CHILD by John Tiffany & JK Rowling

THE ADVENTURER’S GUIDE TO SUCCESSFUL ESCAPES by Wade Albert White

BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE and THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater

THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY by Natalie Lloyd

RAVENCLIFFE by Carolyn Goodman

And out of these beautiful books and talented authors…

Miss Amnity 2018!Miss Amnity goes to… Miri of The Princess Academy, for always listening to her heart and her head equally!

Miss Style goes to… THE FIFTH SEASON and THE OBELISK GATE because whoa…Essun has a certain style about her. And that thing Ms. Jemisin does with Hoa’s POV–blew my mind, people.Miss Style 2018!

 

 

MrMr Photogenic Cover 2018! Photogenic Cover goes to THE ADVENTURER’S GUIDE TO SUCCESSFUL ESCAPES. I mean, you know it’s going to be fun just looking at it.

 

 

2nd Runner Up Miss Bookshelf USA!

Second Runner Up is…. STARS ABOVE! So many of the stories in this Lunar Chronicles collection are great but “The Little Android”, Ms. Meyer’s version of “The Little Mermaid”, tugged on my feels just as hard as the original fairytale.

 

 

 

FFirst Runner Up Miss Bookshelf USA!irst Runner Up is this sweet hopeful book…THE KEY TO EXTRORDINARY. Seriously, I’ll read everything Natalie Lloyd writes. She has an extraordinary way with words.

 

 

 

 

 

AND OUR 2018 MISS (AND MISTER) BOOKSHELF USA GOES TO…BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE and THE RAVEN KING! Kind of fitting right? The Raven Boys and Blue looking for royalty all along 😉

So what do you think of my picks? What was your favorite book you read last year?

For the curious and who’d like more book recommendations, check out my 2017 pageant contestants.

Writing Goals: A Look Back on 2017

Last December I wrote a post looking back on 2016 to see how far I had come despite the rejections (why are they always the easiest to recall???). The curious may find that post here. This year, I joined children’s author Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series. She challenged participants 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! 12-Days-of-Christmas-1-300x300

My personal challenge for 2017 was to submit specifically kidlit submissions at least twice a month. I’m happy to say I reached that goal for the year, so yippee for me 🙂

In January, I submitted one picture book manuscript and four poems to kidlit magazines, and was ecstatic when one was accepted by Highlights Hello. The personal essay that I was extremely hopeful for in 2016 was officially accepted by Chicken Soup for the Soul!

February was mainly revisions and working on the adult manuscript I’m co-writing with two others so I didn’t submit much, just the bare minimum I had set for myself–one PB MS and one short story. But I did survive being the Girl Scout Cookie Chair for my daughter’s troop and feel that’s a huge accomplishment, lol.

I entered one of my middle grade manuscripts into a SCBWI contest and submitted a poem, one MG and two PB MSS in March and April. The big thing I did in April was have a book signing for my Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever which was SOOO COOL. Luckily, it was at my best friend’s shop in my hometown so it wasn’t as terrifying as it could have been (and there was wine which always gives courage. Not so much with helping spelling names correctly). And my little sister got married which was a lot of fun!

Three PB MSS submissions in May and my Mermaid Girl GRADUATED FROM KINDERGARTEN!!! We celebrated at PF Chang’s which is always a yum time 🙂

In June and July, I entered another manuscript into a different, regional SCBWI contest and it placed second, and had a dark flash fiction piece two light poems accepted into a fairytale anthology which was great for my confidence because I had been collecting passes like postage stamps for a bit. And Dinosaur Boy turned four which means he’s a big kid now. 20604615_10101620196879773_3007376234309447584_n

(My sister took him to Houston’s Museum of Natural Science for his birthday so you know he ATE THAT UP like a Longneck with a tree-star.)

In August, I had a picture book manuscript accepted, which obviously is a dream come true. More on that here. And in September, a short story cut from my Young Adult MS was a finalist in YA Review Network’s Halloween Contest. In October, I stumbled upon children’s author Susanna Leonard Hill‘s fun contests via Sub It Club which introduced me to SO MANY talented, helpful, and encouraging writers. Not to mention, inspired two pieces I later submitted to magazines.

November I gave myself a grace period on the submissions (and I sent in seven submissions in October to make up for it) when I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time. It was such a great experience that I plan on doing it again in ’18. I didn’t “win” in the traditional sense, but I am the proud owner of 20k words I didn’t have before!

And now that we’re to this current month, I hope to hear good things for the two middle grade MSS and one magazine submission I sent out before the holidays! I want to participate in children’s authors BeckyTara Book’s Writing With the Stars PB mentor program in the months to come, and maybe take a few online workshops in the upcoming year.

So why don’t you try this? Write out any and all, big and little successes you’ve had this past year to set yourself up for an amazing 2018!

 

 

Susanna Hill’s 7th Annual Halloweensie Contest

Have I mentioned yet that Halloween is my favorite holiday? The weather’s sometimes cooler, you don’t have to clean cobwebs out of ceiling corners, and if you don’t feel like brushing your hair, a green wig is perfectly acceptable.

And the candy…peanut butter cups are a balanced breakfast, right?

I also love contests. So when I heard about children’s author Susanna Hill and her Halloweensie Contest, I couldn’t wait to write my entry.

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The rules: Entry must have a 100 word count or less, and contain the words candy corn (counts as one word here), monster, and shadow. And be for little ghouls and goblins.

Here’s my entry at exactly one hundred words (that’s harder than it sounds, people!):

The Candy Corn Craft Monster

Bean’s best friend Jilly said he was a monster when it came to crafts. A complete mess. He’d get glitter up his nose. He’d glue his fingers together.

So Bean hid in the shadowiest corner.

Miss Ann found him. “Halloween’s tonight! Come make spooky art.”

“I’ll just make a mess.” Bean hung his head.

Miss Ann led him next to Jilly. “That’s okay. Messes mean you’re being creative and learning.”

Bean looked at the candy corn and had an idea. He got to work.

Jilly squealed, then giggled. “It’s Bean the Candy Corn Monster!”

He grinned as he gnashed his candy corn fangs.

 

A Stroller-Ride, a Squirrel, & a Story

Around five years ago, my daughter (then about a year old) and I took a stroller-ride around our neighborhood. We sang our ABCs, hearty renditions of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and mainly just enjoyed the shade of oak trees over the road, the distant, muted swishing of traffic, birdsong, and each others’ company.

Then a squirrel scampered down, looked at us, grabbed an acorn with its tiny paws, and scampered back up the nearest tree.

“Did you see it’s tail? I’ve never seen one so scrawny!”

“Gggggh-mmftph” (Because she’s one and probably chewing on something)

Looking at things with a different perspective is a value I’ve tried to instill in my children since birth, so the rest of the stroll was all about that little squirrel with the bristly tail:

  • Squirrels use their tails to communicate, so do other squirrels have a hard time reading the tail-flicks?
  • They use their tails for balance, so does this one fall a lot?
  • Do squirrels even care? Is it a thing? Do they spend extra time grooming their tails?
  • How many toes do squirrels have?
  • mmmmffftpphhh (probably imagining what a squirrel tail tastes like)

By the time we got back home, an entire story about a squirrel with a tail as bristly as a chewed-up pine cone was born.

But like all things that are born, it has to grow. Learn new things like formatting picture book manuscripts, brevity (picture books are notoriously low on the word count), and because of this: which words paint the clearest picture, which is the most concise way to get this info across in a way both children and the parents that read this to them will enjoy, when to show and when to tell.

And so, it’s with great delight that I can now announce that the picture book manuscript tentatively titled Sassafras and Her Teeny, Tiny Tail is now under contract with MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing.

Here’s her potential Back of Book content:

Sometimes your differences make you a hero.

With her stubby, bristly tail, Sassafras is the laughingstock of the oak tree. But when danger strikes, the thing that makes her different might just save the day.

She still has some growing to do once I receive edits from my new editor, but one day this little squirrel will have her story.

(And squirrels have four toes on their front paws, and five on their hind legs, for those curious.)

The Blogger Recognition Award

blogger-recognition-award

Middle grade writer and recommender-extraordinaire of books, Laura tagged me in this fun blogging event. Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Select other bloggers you want to give this award to.
  6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them & provide the link to the post you created.

Now onto the fun stuff!

The story of how I started my blog.

I’m pretty new to the blogging world. My first post was written on May 26th, 2016, so I’m just a smidge over a year old.

1st blog post announcement

I started the blog because I wanted another way to connect–not only writing and mothering and magically things–but to connect those things with other folks. I had a writing buddy ask how I balanced writing a novel and mothering a newborn, (that post is here) and an illustrator friend requested a post on creativity (click on my Melusine-caricature widget on the right for that). I thought, maybe I do have something important to say. Maybe I can help inspire someone, and wouldn’t that be the most magical thing ever??

Advice for newbie bloggers.

Since I feel like I am a newbie blogger, I think the best thing for me to do is give advice on writing in general (because a blog must have content, right?) I adore this Nelson Mandela quote a writer friend recently reminded me of when she posted it to her facebook author page:

Nelson Mandela quote

We are born to create and be creative. Our greatest fear is the limitlessness of our potential

So my advice? Let your light shine.

My other bit of advice is to study Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. If you aren’t familiar with this, I highly recommend it–it’s what finally tore down my mental blocks and allowed me the courage to write my first novel.

The Artist's Way

My pretty much illegible morning papers

My nominations for this fun tag:

I can’t wait to read what inspired these ladies to start blogging. If you’d like to play along too, tag me in yours so I can discovers what inspired you as well!

 

Mysteries vs. Thrillers vs. Whatever the Heck I’m Writing

I wrote a YA novel I thought was a sort of coming-of-age mystery. The protagonist, Bea Pearl, has lost her brother, her memory, and subsequently, a good bit of herself. The small Southern town she lives in thinks her brother is dead, and her crazy for thinking he’s not. The mystery unravels as Bea Pearl sets out to find out what happened that day her brother disappeared. Though with no memory, she has a hard time trusting what’s real.

Query Hook for my YA mystery now out on a R&R | How to Write A YA Mystery

This was my query hook that initially intrigued my agent and a New York editor. It has come a loooong way since then!

Or that’s what I thought I was doing. Turns out it was leaning a bit too much on the magical realism side and not enough on the mystery. I thought, well, everything is super mysterious (I didn’t even know what happened to the brother in the first draft) so that makes it a mystery, right?

Nope and nope. The super-helpful editor who requested a revise & resubmit suggested my magical realistic beginning needed to have a similar tone to my more thriller-ish ending. I didn’t even know what the difference between a mystery and a thriller was. Up ’til now it was just something I read and knew, but I didn’t know the differences–what made each genre unique.

For those at home curious (which I assume is why you’re here), I went to Nathan Bransford’s always-helpful blog. He wrote a great post here on the differences and includes a link to BookEnds Literary’s more in-depth breakdown.

I wondered if there were any specific rules to writing mysteries for a young adult and stumbled across this Writer’s Digest post on Writing Tenacious Teen Sleuths (anything that refers to Veronica Mars is sound advice). The eight tips they mention helped me streamline my thought process AND my plot.

My agent kept pushing me to further get out of my protag’s head and into the action, so I thought reading YA mysteries would help me in a leading-by-example sense. I could unravel how their mystery plots unfold organically and see if mine following the tips did as well. (This took a few read-throughs as it was hard not to just fall into the story.)

Reading example novels of YA mysteries & thrillers to better my own manuscript.

Reading is my favorite kind of research

The books I studied were:

Carol Goodman’s BYLTHEWOOD because it’s considered a mystery but has a lot of supernatural aspects, like mine has the magical realism.

Kimberly Giarratano’s GRUNDGE GODS AND GRAVEYARDS, the Writer’s Digest suggestion from the above post. And another mystery with supernatural aspects, this time ghosts.

Kristen Lippert-Martin’s TABULA RASA, a YA Thriller so I could better understand my pacing further into my own manuscript.

So this is how I worked through it, what has helped you define your story’s genre? And if you have any tips on writing mysteries, or suggestions to further my library, please leave a comment!