"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
It has been a busy writing season this fall! We had #FallWritingFrenzy and #Halloweensie, along with a bunch of other fun little chance contests, conferences, trainings, and pitch parties . . . I'm currently part of 4 regular critique groups, in addition to some pop-up groups here and there. It's been a crazy fun and busy time!
I got no agent/editor love on any of the pitch parties in which I participated. Winners for FallWritingFrenzy and Halloweensie were posted this week, and I was not on either list. I sent out a query that I hoped was at least going to be a, "Yes, this has potential, but it needs some work and polishing." Instead, it was a, "Unfortunately, these stories lack structure and focus. . . sorry, but NO." Some might say, "Maybe it's time to give up." Some might say, "Well, at least you gave it your best effort." Some might say, "You're a little old to be starting on a new career path."
I say, "Nope." Even though I didn't "WIN", I didn't LOSE. I gained a lot from all these efforts:
1. I gain PRACTICE. Every time I put fingers to keyboard or pencil to paper, it is practice. Every time I exercise my brain in a new way, it is practice. Every time I stretch myself out of my comfort zone, it is practice.
2. I gain KNOWLEDGE. Sometimes, it is knowledge about myself or my writing skills. Sometimes, it is knowledge about the process of writing. Sometimes, I gain knowledge of how this or that platform works. Sometimes, it requires research about topics, which gives me more knowledge for the next writing.
3. I gain EXPERTISE. Every time I put myself out there, it's a new experience that adds to my expertise. The more I try, the stronger my expertise.
4. I gain CONFIDENCE. OK, this one is a bit of a double-edged sword. Losing can definitely put a hurting on my confidence. I'm human. It's hard. But I think of it more this way: Every time I do something, the next time gets easier. The first pitch party I ever did was nerve-wracking! Now, they're just another opportunity. I've gotten better at the process by doing it over and over. It's easier to put myself and my writing out there because of the practice, which leads to confidence.
5. I gain PATIENCE. I hear new writing friends talking about "waiting on pins and needles" to hear back from a query or in a pitch party. Through participation, I have learned patience. I do my best, then, I let it go. I wait. I've learned that often it's a NO. The more they happen, the less devastating they are typically.
6. I gain THICK SKIN. It's imperative in this field to have thick skin. Not so easy for this empathic, heart-on-her-sleeve, take-everything-personally, wounded person. Did I mention I'm human? :-/ But the more No's I encounter, my skin toughens -- like doing gymnastics or playing guitar, we have to develop callouses. The trick is to keep your skin thick and your heart soft.
7. I gain HUMILITY. It's easy to win. Not always so easy to lose. If I can learn to be a gracious loser, it will make me a more gracious winner when my time finally does come. Both are equally important, and we will encounter both many times in our lives. We need to be gracious whether we win or lose.
8. I gain EMPATHY. I don't ever want to forget what a NO feels like. If I experience them enough, that experience will be indelibly imprinted on my heart. It will help me be a better friend to people who are in the midst of a NO. This is not just true in my writing, but in my spiritual walk as well. Sometimes God says NO and it's hard. I need to remember that feeling in every area of my life because it helps me to be a better person.
9. I gain BULK in my writing. Every piece I write is another piece to pull from later. A poem that may become part of an anthology. An idea that may become a story. A story that may become a book. A character that may show up somewhere else. I add to my portfolio. I add to my cache of stories. I have more to work with.
10. I gain FRIENDS. I didn't say "followers" on purpose. I think we're so caught up in numbers in our world. I favor quality over quantity. I won't lie. I love seeing my follower numbers go up. There is a sense of accomplishment in that, but it can be a false indicator. I TREASURE those comments that indicate people's hearts resonate with what I write. I love hearing that I made them laugh, or made them feel better, or encouraged them. Life is short, and we never have enough friends. This is a tough road, and we need people to hold our hand on the crappy writing days when we don't feel like a gracious loser. We need people to remind us our voice is vital, and our stories are different from everyone else's. We need people to tell us that someone out there needs a story that we are carrying it. Then, we need to write that story. The one that will make someone laugh, heal, grieve, move forward, cry, overcome jealousy, smile. The one that will touch someone somewhere.
If our writing is doing any of that, then we are not losers, my friends. We are winners every single day. Keep writing the stories of your heart, and I'll keep writing mine. When the time is right . . . it will be a YES!
Oh, and one bonus thing I've gained:
11. I've gained hours of entertainment by reading all the amazing entries for ALL these contests! Such awe-inspiring, funny, sad, moving, informational, silly, awesome stories. I'm thankful I didn't have to be a judge ;-) Thank you to all of you who are writing the stories of your heart! I've smiled, laughed, and cried right along with you -- whether you "WON" or not ;-)
This year, I have been enjoying entering tons of little writing contests! It's been a blast, has challenged my writing, helped me hone my skills, and think outside the box. Halloweensie is the latest writing contest, and the challenge was to write a kid-friendly, Halloween-themed story of 100 words or less with a story arc, using the words (or variations on) skeleton, creep, mask. The link to the contest (and the other amazing stories) is here: https://susannahill.com/blog/ I hope you enjoy my little humorous buggy piece about Boneita. It's exactly 100 words. Happy Halloween!
DON'T BUG ME!
Boneita’s a skeleton with a bone to pick!
She’d never liked insects then or now. Her bones rattle and eye sockets bulge as she remembers the bugs that decomposed her. First, flies. Then beetles! Shudder!
Why won’t they leave her alone now that her bones are bare? She can’t mask her disgust as they crawl along her tibia -- their tickly feet creeping in and through her ribs. But this Halloween, Boneita has a secret weapon!
This October, flies flee and beetles bolt -- because she’s a black-belt skeleton in “fly-swat-do”. Now, Boneita is a happy skeleton and nothing “bugs” her anymore.
As a writer, I've decided writing is a team sport! Who knew? I did not. Yes, I teach my writing students the value of feedback every year, and yes, I know editors play a vital role in publication, but until this year -- 2020, I did NOT realize HOW valuable others are on the writing journey.
Enter, Twitter contests. No, literally. Go, now. Enter Twitter contests. At first, I didn't like Twitter. I'm a wordy Facebook girl. I don't like limits.
But, I have found an AMAZING kidlit community on Twitter and I now know the value of teamwork in writing. From inspiration to collaboration to celebration to lots of other -tions, Twitter's kidlit community has provided it since I got really active there in early 2020. In fact, it all started with #PitMad. That was the impetus for actually using Twitter. Then, I "met" Kailei Pew and entered her Corona Critique Giveaway. Then, it was Kaitlyn Sanchez and her Spring Fling. Then, SunWriteFun, FallWritingFrenzy . . . .and more. Then, there's the groups: PBChat with Justin Colon and PBParty with Mindy Alyse Weiss. Recently, I've been joining in with Brittany Pomales' Kid Lit self care group. I've won critiques, gained friends (not just followers). I went from one in-person critique group to a total of 5 groups now, plus a few individuals that I know are always ready for an impromptu swap.
That's a lot to accomplish from February 29 to October 26! I've been amazed by the support, even though some might say we're in "competition" with each other. None of us (at least not the crew I hang with on Twitter) feel that way! I saw a quote recently that said, "Someone else's success is not your failure." Thank you, Jim Parsons!
That quote is never truer than in the Kidlit community on Twitter. If you're an author who's needing to branch out, needing to learn, needing to network, needing to practice. . . there is room for you at the kidlit table on Twitter! I'm so thankful for all the lovely people who are in my life now because of it -- books I've read, trainings I've received. My life is richer and fuller. I'm a better author than I was on Feb. 29. I'm glad I took the Twitter leap on Leap Day.
It's another great time to LEAP into this community! This week, lots of cool things are wrapping up on Twitter, but you still have time:
PictureBookCritiqueFest -- Brian Gehrlein, another amazing kidlit community member and newly published author ends up on the 30th. That info is here:
https://www.pbspotlight.com/pbcritiquefestwww.pbspotlight.com/pbcritiquefest There are 36 critiques up for grabs, so go and enter! Now, before it's too late!
Susanna Leonard Hill's Halloweensie contest ends a minute before Midnight on Halloween! Don't turn into a pumpkin! Write a 100-word story for kids with a proper story arc using three secret words. You'll find them here:
And, this Thursday is PBPitch, where you can pitch your picture books to agents and editors who will peruse the feed. That info is here:
Lots of people have met their agents this way. I'll be pitching, and hoping it's my time. And, if not, that's okay, too, because this quote is in my email because I believe it and I need to be reminded EVERY SINGLE DAY.
So, keep writing, and check out the wonderful kidlit community on Twitter. It will change your writing, and your life!
I love a creative prompt. A picture, a phrase, a list of items to include. They stretch you and make you imagine things you wouldn't otherwise. That's why I love these fun Twitter writing contests. The piece I'm entering for #FallWritingFrenzy is definitely a departure from my usual. You'll notice, too, it changed quite a bit from the original posting I did. That's the value of critique partners and revision. These contests are great practice, great fun, and great ways to make new author friends and encourage each other. Thanks to Lydia Lukidis and Kaitlyn Sanchez for this great contest and to all the prize donors who will be reading stories for the winners or sharing copies of their books. This is image number 3, at 199 words (the limit was 200), and this is The Legend of Purple Hollow:
Ike always won the costume contest, but this purple smoke powder would ensure this victory. He hoped to make a grand entrance at the Halloween party, but when he got the pumpkin on, the smoke burned his eyes and nose. He tugged and pushed, but he couldn’t get it off! He couldn’t see or hear, but he could smell -- smoke and pumpkin. He swallowed to avoid puking. He had started off the night as The Headless Horseman, but now wished he had gone with a little less drama than the story they’d read in English class..
A shudder rippled through Ike.. A chill enveloped him. His head twisted under someone else’s hands until he was free from the pumpkin. His eyes began to clear and he saw -- a girl? His eyes still burned, but it looked like a very old-fashioned dress -- like one Katrina Van Tassel might have worn. She held a knife. She was nebulous -- if she was even real. But someone had freed him from the pumpkin head. He reached for her, but she grew more wispy and her flowing hair and flirtatious expression were the last thing he saw before he gave in to the nausea.
There was lightning in her eyes
on the crisp fall day
when oranges and purples
lowered the curtain
In her frilly, fall finery,
she was ready to gather
tricks and treats.
One blue eye shining,
one brown eye hidden,
a testament of
Her divergent natures.
Dare she give in
to her scarecrow side,
which drew her to
the fields of dirt
and roots and mud?
in her smile,
an autumn leaf,
but the leaf she held
and the blue of her eye,
and the ribbons she wore
in her golden hair
the daughter of earth
with dirt under her nails.
This is another possible entry for the fall writing frenzy on Twitter. Feel free to comment on your favorites or let me know which ones you like. Our goal is to write children's stories based on these images. They have to be 200 words or less. :-)
Her first pumpkin pie! Tieren could remember pumpkin pie at every Thanksgiving her whole life. Grandmama had made them, then Mama. This was her first year making it solo. It hadn’t been without its hiccups. The first pie crust she rolled out was beyond repair. She tried 3 times re-doing it and putting it back together before she gave up and started from scratch. Then she got eggshells in the pumpkin mixture. When all was well and the pie was properly put together and in the oven, she forgot to set the timer. If it hadn’t been for Bella, their family dog, barking like crazy, she probably would have burnt it, too. That would have been horrible, since they had never, once eaten store-bought pumpkin pie. The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg wafted through the house as it cooled. It was tempting to taste-test, but she didn’t want to mar it before the feast. When the first piece was cut and she heard the first, “Mmm, that’s good.” her heart swelled and she was thankful for family and family recipes. And for extra supplies and grace and barking dogs. “Happy Thanksgiving!” she said as she cut the remaining pieces.
Jake, well-known for pranks, thought it would be funny. His class had studied "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." He planned a re-creation of the character for Halloween. Zack provided something that would create cool purple smoke. Jake cut a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin, carved the face, and pulled his all-black outfit together. Unfortunately, the hole was a bit tight for his head. Once he got it on, he couldn't get it off. . . .the purple smoke burned his eyes, nose and throat. Added to the smell of the pumpkin, he thought he might throw up -- disgusting. He knew he had to get out of this pumpkin head. He could dash his head against a wall -- if he could see how to get to it -- it was impossible to see anything except purple haze. Luckily, Katy came up -- also dressed in black -- a ninja? She pulled a knife and cut, freeing Jake from the pumpkin prison. Just in time, as he tossed up the contents of lunch, along with purple smoke and a bit of pumpkin. He washed his face, brushed his teeth, added a black hood, some toy nunchucks and left Sleepy Hollow behind, Katy's hand in his.
Princesses, ninjas, and spooky brides,
Scary costumes make you want to hide
Witches, ghosts, and scary ghouls,
Soldiers, superheroes, and jesting fools,
Go a-traipsing on Halloween night,
Setting off to give a fright,
Pumpkin heads carried in hands,
To carry the treats they playfully demand,
Dreaming of candy, rich and sweet,
Hoping for no nasty tricks, only treats
As the night darkens,
The children hearken
To every scary story heard
Hanging fear on every word.
Fear, fed by darkness of night,
All the fear and the fun of Halloween fright!
Alexis sniffled and snuffled, tissue box close by, along with cold medicine. She was still in her pajamas. Even though she was home sick from school, she was tired of being inside -- cooped up! She was tired of her bed and the couch! She missed her friends. She even missed her teachers. It was fall! Her favorite season! She wanted to bask in the briskness of the breeze, twirl with the leaves, enjoy the firepit with her crew -- but the cold she had wasn't letting her enjoy much of anything. She took the cup of hot orange spice tea Mom had made her, the book she was reading for her English assignment -- Pride and Prejudice -- and her favorite blanket out to the porch to at least feel the cool temps and the swirling falling leaves -- a change of scenery. Her favorite comfy socks warmed her feet, the book warmed her heart and the blanket warded off the chill. If being with her friends wasn't an option, she was grateful to have the autumn feelings to keep her company. It wasn't quite S'Mores and a fire, but it was close.
Today was a challenging day. Schools (along with everyone on the planet) are being called on to do some fairly extraordinary things. Stress levels are high and that can bring out our base, selfish, human instincts -- the ones where we look out for ourselves -- and no one else, the ones where we take offense when none was meant, the ones where we throw everyone else under the bus for our personal benefit. There is such a need for compassion and grace -- maybe now, more than any other time in my life. And yet, we tend to gravitate to the opposite extreme in times of stress. I came home venting, eating ice cream, stressed and frustrated, put a dollop of Baileys in my afternoon coffee and came upstairs to my place of solace, and felt more at peace.
I was excited to have received a little package in the mail today -- some adhesive tabs for my writing journal. The one I'm using is almost full -- of anything and everything --for the last 4 years. There are some things I want to keep coming back to, so I wanted to mark them. As I settled into the WordSmithery with my new adhesive treasures and my writing journal, I found this poem I wrote 4 years ago as part of the Teachers Write Program with Kate Messner. It spoke to me especially today in the midst of so much chaos in my personal little world -- with talk of a Cat 4 Hurricane coming for part of our country, wildfires raging in another part, yet another part that was devastated by storms over the last few days -- with racial turmoil and upheaval high, with Covid/Corona wreaking havoc on everyone's heart. . . . it spoke to me. Then I spoke it aloud. Now I "speak" it here -- hoping it will speak to you and you will speak it in your heart or aloud, that you will share it and others will speak it and we will change the turmoil into peace by being "only one" . . .
I am Only One
I am only one, but I am one.
Father, help me be one --
That smiles at the one who needs a smile.
Help me be one who lends a listening ear.
Help me be one who reaches out with a hand of help -- not condemnation.
Help me be one who shines with the light of Jesus --
One who shares His vision,
One who shares His love for each soul,
One who speaks truth with love and compassion,
One who is willing to STAND!
Stand with those who are alone.
Stand for those who are marginalized.
Stand beside those who are hurting.
Stand firm in truth and justice.
Stand up to those who would take rather than give.
Stand up to those who glean pleasure from another's pain.
Stand up to those who base their judgements on a person's skin color --
or their profession.
Stand up to those who divide.
Stand up to those who choose evil.
Father, I am only one, but help me be the ONE
That can make a difference today.
I've been a teacher of K-3 students for over 20 years; I'm also a writer of poems, short stories, devotionals and picture books. I'm wife to an amazing husband and mom to Sparkles the kitty. I love reading, writing, singing and listening to music. I enjoy nature, Bible study and spending time with friends and family!