"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
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.
Note: This was my entry for last year's NCRA Young Author Project in the "Forever Young" category. The theme was, "The Power of Words" My entry, and others from across the state have been published in an anthology attesting to the power of words.
I am a logophile -- a lover of words. My favorite games are Scrabble and Boggle and Scattergories. I love the song “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” -- (and no, I didn’t even have to look up how to spell it). . . . it resonates with me...having a word that is just right when you don’t know what to say. Words have power. Some have power when they roll off the tongue -- you feel it to the core of your being when you say, “superfluous” or “meticulous” or “serendipity” or “paradoxical” or “zephyr”-- the power of words well-spoken -- just right for the occasion. Some words have power in the meaning -- they are deep and life-changing: love, betrayal, acceptance, loyalty, and trust. The power of some words come from the speaker and their abilities, their charm, their magnetism -- for good -- or for bad. When Hitler spoke -- or Martin Luther King Jr -- people listened to their words -- and there was power in them -- power in words well-crafted, framed and embellished by a powerful speaker, lilted, tilted, and crescendoed at just the right time in just the right way -- eloquence. Poets and authors -- gifted with mellifluous words that drip off the tongue like so much honey -- have long since and will forever more draw us to anger or tears or fear or love -- just by their words. A word, spoken in anger and frustration can ruin a friendship. Another word can just as easily build one. Words are the DNA of life -- the building blocks of careers and relationships and stories, passed down from one generation to the next -- the genes of literacy.
Even God used words to create something from nothing -- “Let there be light.” -- and there was light. Such power flows from tongue and lips and teeth. Such power resonates from heart and head. With great power comes great responsibility. That is why the scriptures say to guard our heart -- because everything flows from it. That is why the psalmist says, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” I don’t know of any greater prayer. It has been weighing heavy on my heart -- to make my words count -- to make them encouraging and positive. If, indeed, the Creator shared his gift of words with me, the least I can do is to use them in ways that will make Him smile and make a difference for good in this world, because words have the power to do just that!
This photo was taken when our house was still in the city limits, being used as a real estate office... major highway out front, gas stations, drug stores, fast food and a Chinese restaurant surrounded her here. In fact, a Wendy’s fast food restaurant now occupies this lot.
Last week I shared a bit about our old house. When I set out to write last week's blog, I had originally intended to write about our experience relative to one of my favorite picture books, THE LITTLE HOUSE by Virginia Lee Burton. It wasn't always a favorite book. I only encountered this one as an adult. It has always been one of my husband's favorites, though. Now it is very special to both of us because of our experience with our own "little house".
Like both of the houses in question, the book is a classic and nothing new. . . The copyright is 1942. If you'd like the read the biography of author, Virginia Lee Burton, here is a link to an excellent brief bio from an educational publisher. She was an amazing woman who was good at so many things. http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/features/mike_mulligan/biohome.shtml
The book begins, "Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country. She was a pretty Little House and she was strong and well built." The same is true for our little house. When she was originally built in 1882, my hometown was still developing. We had a courthouse near our little house, so she would have been part of a small town of the times. She was a Victorian farmhouse, built for a family.
In the book, the city begins increasing and encroaching on the little house, and the same happened to our little house as the population and the town grew up around her. Pretty soon, she is surrounded by buildings that blot out the sun, and she missed her country life of bygone days. Our own little house was surrounded by traffic and buildings as well as she sat in one of the main thoroughfares of our still-small-but-not-as-small-as-she-used-to-be town .. . .
Then the book reaches a major turning point, "Then one fine morning in Spring along came the great-great-granddaughter of the man who built the Little House so well. She saw the shabby Little House, but she didn't hurry by. There was something about the Little House that made her stop and look again." When we found OUR little house, she was serving as a real estate office, and in fact, had so served throughout my years in high school. Although I had been inside maybe once or twice, I think, that day after it was placed "for sale to be moved", just like the great-great-granddaughter, I saw something in the house that was special.
Then, in The Little House, the granddaughter and her husband inquire of the Movers if she could be moved. They said, "Sure, this house is as good as ever. She's built so well we could move her anywhere." And the same was true for our little house as well. So both houses were jacked up and put on wheels. In the book, the Little House moves hours away. In our case, it was only about 8 miles, but it was still quite the adventure!
The book ends with her re-establishing herself in the country, getting a facelift and enjoying her new quiet, peaceful life in the country. She is painted a "lovely shade of pink." We chose lavender instead :-) And while it's been long in coming, and there is still much work to do for our little house to be everything she can be, I hope, like the Little House, she is smiling happily, watching the seasons come and go, being lived in and taken care of.
If you don't know this book, you are missing out on a classic. Yet, no matter how old the book or the house are, they still have an intrinsic value that in unparalleled and I am thankful to have the book -- and the house -- as a part of my life.
You can listen to a read aloud of the book here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7D-UnakYw7A
OR, you can
Purchase the book from your favorite independent bookstore, or here: https://www.amazon.com/Little-House-75th-Anniversary/dp/132874194X/ref=asc_df_132874194X/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312680791333&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12870730653959576604&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9010090&hvtargid=pla-527476992433&psc=1&tag=&ref=&adgrpid=62255331975&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvadid=312680791333&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=12870730653959576604&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9010090&hvtargid=pla-527476992433
This was when they situated our house onto the lot on the farm. By this point, the roof had been restored, foundation was complete and we had pressure washed/scraped and were just getting ready to start painting. You can see a bit of the lavender on the upstairs dormer.
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!