"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
Photo credit: NBC News
This is my entry for SunWriteFun! This contest requires a nonfiction or informational fiction story based on a theme of discover, exploration, or adventure. Word limit is 200. It's also posted on the contest website here. I discovered this story last year and wrote it hoping to enter it in 50 Precious Words, but it was too complex to make it clear in 50, so I set it aside, and rewrote it a bit. After more revision and help from CPs, this seemed like the perfect fit. It was a fascinating discovery for me and I'm thrilled to share another of nature's mysterious and amazing cycles.
Photo credit: https://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/turtle-tears-butterflies
Tonnye Williams Fletcher
where the Tambopata River flows,
an amazing discovery lingers. . .
Dark, rainy skies
lack the salt that Butterfly needs.
The rains have traveled far,
losing minerals along the way.
A brilliant sunrise
explodes in the rainforest.
Pink, purple, and orange fireworks
arch across the morning skies,
hints of color peeking through the canopy.
Bright sunlight is just what Turtle needs
to warm his cold blood.
basking on logs and rocks,
resting on the banks,
napping in patches of yellow sun,
soaking up the warmth,
shedding excess sodium –
leaky tears wash away the salt,
a gift for Butterfly who needs the minerals
Turtle’s tears; He drinks --
proboscis extended, sipping salty sorrow
with its spiraled straw
Butterfly flies --
fluttering off to the weeds -
mineralized, fulfilled, sated.
ready to fly another day.
the need of butterflies, as
Butterfly kisses turtle’s tears.
Photo credit: https://www.brut.media/us/nature/what-are-these-butterflies-doing-to-this-turtle--2e40a142-0bb1-4c0a-bb83-4ea101f41b47
This post is personal -- and faith-molded, so consider yourself forewarned ;-). This is an interesting time of year for me. Yes, it's the beginning of school and that always brings reflection. What has worked well? What do I wish to change? What new strategies/activities will I implement? What will I keep? As a teacher, August is a heavily reflective month.
It's also the time when Facebook Memories assail. I find this feature on FB to be bittersweet -- photos when I was much thinner, special memories along the way, things I'd rather forget, yummy food, "why did I post that?" questions. . . .But August is pretty tough where FB memories are concerned, like yesterday:
For those of you who may not know me that well, I don't have any children -- not here with me on Earth. I have 4 very teeny tiny babies, who, I find comfort in believing are waiting on me in Heaven. (And just as an aside, for those of you who believe life doesn't start at conception, I would urge you just to consider that some of us take great comfort in believing differently -- and while I'm not asking you to change your opinion, I would humbly ask that you be sensitive to the fact that some of us have really good reasons to believe differently. . . .)
Summer, eleven years ago, I was pregnant -- for the first time. It was a very hard-won miracle. It was more than I can even put into words. The hope, the dreams, the fulfillment of so much, but what should have been the beginning soon became an ending. The hopes dashed, the dreams shattered. Beginnings, stomped into the oblivion of NOT. When I awoke from surgery, it was to a kind nurse wiping away the tears I cried even through the anesthesia. I was only 8 and a half weeks along, but the devastation of losing our little sweet pea was larger than life. When I say it was hard, that is such an understatement that doesn't even hint at the life-changing grief, enhanced by well-meaning people who had well-meaning things to say that instead cut to the quick of my very soul. I was 44 years old, with not much time left to play the mom card, so we began trying again pretty quickly, which resulted in another pregnancy, and ended in another surgery and no baby in my arms. February -- right between Valentine's Day and my birthday. I felt like there was absolutely nothing to celebrate. The window was closing with every birthday, and we had tasted hope, so we were determined. August (just one year later) brought a third pregnancy --twins -- and ended in a third surgery, and an empty house. Putting all of this into a paragraph doesn't minimize the grief. I can call it back in a second and feel every feeling. I have forgotten so many of the details, but I will never forget the feelings.
I will not lie and tell you that I did not question God during this time. He and I had many, many hard discussions. I melted at His feet in anguish and yelled at Him in anger. I had so many questions. I had so. much. anger. Nothing about this felt fair. And, it wasn't. It still isn't. Not fair that infants are abandoned, abused, and taken for granted. Not fair that we have a big house with plenty of room for children that sits empty when so many have no home to call their own -- living on the streets or without food and water.
This is where some of my friends will say, "Oh, you should have adopted!" And where I tell you, "We tried." Money was super tight and we had not always managed it well. Our house is old and would not meet the codes that they use to determine if you will be good parents by whether your electricity is up to code and your house is insured . . . .who checks all the millions of homes that children are BORN into? And yet, I understand the guidelines are there to keep children safe. Adoption was not an option for us. We didn't get very far in the process before we realized it was a moot point.
Grief and anger and hopelessness became my best friends. I put on happy faces, but I was drowning in sorrow. I struggled with why God didn't answer OUR prayers. We served Him, believed Him, worshiped Him. I struggled with so much, but He never turned his back on me. He held me when my husband wasn't home because he was working on his doctorate. He caught every tear -- and there were so many. He didn't hurl my questions back at me. He just let me yell and cry and feel the feels. He quietly woke me up every morning and nudged me to put my feet on the floor when I didn't want to, didn't feel like it. He provided a family that loved me (but didn't know how to talk to me about this), a husband who loved me (but was totally wrapped up in his own requirements and didn't fully grieve until much later.) He had placed me in an amazing church family who held my hands and brought me apple pies and milkshakes and starry glasses and gifts for my birthday when I absolutely didn't feel like celebrating.
I know some of my friends who don't choose Faith will blame God, but God was my constant source during that time. I choose faith. I believe with all my heart He is God, creator and sustainer. He is all powerful and could have miraculously given us a different ending, but He is also all-knowing, and for reasons He understands (and I still don't) He chose not to intervene to change our destiny. He did not withhold anything from me, nor take anything away. I believe we live in an imperfect world, made more imperfect by how we live and what we do. That imperfection is what kept me from being a mom. My body often fights against what I want. That's not God. That's genetics. My age meant that my eggs were losing their viability. That's not God. That's time. God didn't push a button and "take" my babies from me. He simply let nature take it's natural course. Genetics, hormones, time, age. . . What He did do is help me keep putting one foot in front of another. He gave me everything I needed to walk back into joy and fulfillment -- without babies.
Are there still moments of grief and sorrow? You betcha! In the last 11 years, we have lost not only 3 pregnancies/4 babies, but also Shane's grandmother, his dad, my mom, some friends, a bunch of aunts and uncles, a few cousins, and 2 churches. Every loss teaches me something about myself. Sometimes it is something I need to fix, but often it is simply something I need to understand. It has been a long season of loss, but also a long season of learning to be grateful and realizing how blessed we are.
How blessed are we? We have a quirky, old home that we love. We have each other -- celebrated 33 years of friendship and marriage in July. We have family that we love and that love us. We have careers that we enjoy and are good at that bring us much joy. We have had, and continue to cultivate amazing friendships and spiritual relationships. We have a strong faith that we draw from in hard times. We have everything we need and more.
The bottom line is this: Some days are hard, and some are harder than hard. Some memories are blessings, and some are tough to relive. But every hard day -- every rejection, every loss has made me stronger and more ready for whatever else was to come. If you allow it, the hard times may break you a bit, but God can fix the brokenness and make you whole again. And the moments that break you also give you opportunities to love people, understand them, and care for them. I'm so thankful that God loves me and continues walking with me and allows me to continue walking with Him. And I believe with all my heart that all the tears, all the hardship, and all the loss will fade away on the day when I meet Him face-face, with my mom walking by His side, and I get to meet my babies for the first time. It won't be sadness that I feel. It will be joy and it will be gratitude, so I'm trying to practice for that day.
Spring has sprung, and so has another kidlit contest! SpringFlingKidLit was the first contest I entered in the Twitter kidlit world 2 years ago, and I didn't place, but I made some great friends and was ushered into the amazing world of Twitter kidlit. I've not once looked back! I continue making great friends. @Kaitlyn Sanchez was one of the first ones to welcome me as part of this contest, followed by @Kailei Pew. Now, I have well over 3,000 followers - -many of whom I also count as friends. Two years ago I did not have a critique group nor a critique partner. I was just sort of almost beginning to grasp what writing a picture book looked like. Now I have several critique groups and critique partners and I consider them an invaluable resource in my writing life. Two years later, I have placed in several contests as a winner, finalist, or an honorable mention. The changes are apparent, helpful, and good, and it all started with a leap on Leap Day of 2020!
Two years and many contests later, we're back to SpringFling Kidlit. 150 words. Inspired by a GIF. Geared towards kids. etc. Interestingly, last weekend was busy (THAT's nothing unusual). It was my nephew's birthday weekend and he'd had a sleepover at a nearby Christian camp lodge. We had hauled stuff, worked a full day , slept on camp mattresses, stayed up late chatting, and had lots of fun. We were also very tired. So, hubby and I took a nap. My sister was supposed to come pick up some things, and was supposed to text before she came. In the middle of our nap, I was awakened by a "knock knock, knock knock". Shane awoke, too, and said, "Is someone at the door?"
He got up to check. . . .
No one was at the door. He checked the turtle's aquarium. That wasn't it either. As he continued to investigate, he discovered a woodpecker pecking on the eaves of our house. "Stupid woodpecker!" he said and he went back to sleep. The knocking mystery had awakened me too far to go back to sleep, so I got up, planning to write the story that was formulating in my head. Then, I realized -- this would be the perfect spring fling kidlit story! A mom of one of my nephew's friends had told the story of her youngest child who was wanting to do a knock knock joke, but none of his siblings would listen to him, so he finally let out a big sigh, shrugged, and said, "Wrong door. . ." From those two bits, this story was born. When I was searching for a GIF to use, this one popped up and the rest of the story came together. I hope you enjoy my version of KNOCK, KNOCK!
Woodpecker taps a door in Spring.
Owl opens both eyes wide.
Woodpecker flies away.
Woodpecker taps a door in Spring.
Squirrel skitters and chatters,
Acorns and peanuts scatter
Woodpecker flies away.
Woodpecker taps a door in Spring.
A man looks out the window
With a scowl and a growl,
Woodpecker flies away.
Woodpecker taps a door in Spring.
Snake lurches out,
Woodpecker ZOOMS away!
Woodpecker taps a door in Spring.
A girl woodpecker comes out to dance.
They tango up and down their tree
And build a nest to lay their eggs.
Woodpecker is finally home!
Another day, another contest. . . It seems like contests abound this time of year!
Valentiny -- check
KidChoice -- check
PBParty -- check
50 Precious Words -- coming at you down below.
This is a superfun contest because you only have 50 (Yes, I said 50. . .) words to craft something precious. The topic is up to you, but it should be a complete story and be appropriate for kids 12 and under. Furthermore, it happens AGAIN in May -- only this time for KIDS! If you have children who are interested in writing, check out www.viviankirkfield.com for more details on this contest and her 50 Precious Words for Kids.
My 50 Precious Words were inspired by this precious artwork by Felipe Lancha, a kidlit illustrator I discovered on Twitter. His image of these very different little birds, with an audience of other birds on a wire inspired this little piece. Having grown up in a church that sang acapella, and being part of an acapella chorus in college, I have a great affinity for acapella music, including barbershop quartets. When I saw this picture, that's where my head went, so I hope you enjoy this mini-story about a treetop quartet. You can find his original illustration here: twitter.com/fe_lancha/status/1495940370483531777/photo/1 I can just hear them belting harmonies and singing for this sweet little audience. Love the variety of birds, and the detail -- look at the eyebrows on the little guy far left, and the glasses and beanie next, and that little short bird with glasses is near and dear to my heart :-). That far right bird is so full of personality. I took a little liberty, since a titmouse is not technically in Felipe's illustration, but I love this picture! Thanks, @fe_lancha for the inspiration, and these cute little birds!
I hope you enjoy Felipe's illustration and my short little story about finding your voice and your place to shine with perfect harmony.
Four dapper songbirds formed the Treetop Quartet.
But with a wonky sound,
The harmonies were disharmonious, and
Their melody fell flat,
Until. . .
Big-hearted Benny swung down to bass.
Timmy Titmouse tumbled up to tenor
Acapella Ozzie sang lead
Brave Brad belted baritone.
Now. . .
As the quartet sings.
February is short, but packed full! At school, we've had Groundhog Day, 100th Day, SouperBowl luncheon, Valentine's Day is coming, along with "TWOS-DAY", and more! The writing community is kickin' too -- with folks gearing up for PBParty contest, NFFest going on, and SpringFling is just on the horizon. There is always so much going on and so many fun things to write about and participate in! Today, I'm sharing my entry for the Valentiny contest, compliments of Susanna Hill You can read more about the contest there, but here's the short notes: kid-friendly (12 and under), no more than 214 words, about feeling PROUD, and a clear connection to Valentine's Day. I hope you enjoy PROUD THAT YOU ARE MINE!
I Curve my fingers,
And point my thumbs
To make a little heart.
Lift it up and blow a kiss
Proud that you are mine.
I hold up my Pinky,
My pointer, and thumb
To say “I LOVE YOU”
When I can’t say out loud
How proud I am you’re mine.
I squeeze your hands three quick times.
You know it means “I love you.”
It’s our special signal
To tell you with my hands
how proud I am you’re mine.
I sing it out loud and proud,
“I love you a bushel and a peck,
A bushel and a peck
and a hug around the neck.”
I’m so proud you’re mine.
I whisper it in your ear.
As I twirl my fingers in your thick red hair,
And you stroke my cheek with gentle hands,
I’m so proud that you are mine.
Proud that you are mine
On Valentine's Day!
Well, if you've been here before, you KNOW how I feel about contests. I love the challenge, the competition, the fun, the comradery, the growth, and so much more. You also know how I feel about Kailei Pew. She was one of my first writerly Twitter friends, and really was helpful in showing me the ropes when I started my serious writing journey a couple years ago. So when Kailei posted this amazing one-of-a-kind contest where the judges are -- KIDS?! (Imagine that!! Go figure. . .Kids judging a contest where people like me write for kids, like them.) It might seem like a no-brainer, but it took a brain like Kailei's . . .and here we are! The first Kids Choice Kidlit Contest! 200 words. Kid-friendly. PB, MG, or YA. You can read more about her brilliance here: https://www.kaileipewbooks.com/post/the-1st-annual-kids-choice-kidlit-writing-contest-is-open
So, I dug up a manuscript that I thought was a pretty funny idea. I had done some work with it, but had set it aside in frustration. But this. . . this might be just the time, and just the place, for UP YOUR NOSE. We'll see what you think. And most importantly, what the kids think, because this is my entry for the Kids Choice Kidlit Contest.
UP YOUR NOSE!
Ed had a big problem. He couldn’t stop picking his nose!
Boogers! Loogeys! Slime! While drawing, Ed felt something in his nose, but it didn’t feel like regular bogeys. He pressed, pulled, wiggled. . . After 19 tries, “Kaphooey”
. . . out came a crayon! How. . .?! It was covered in slime. He threw it away.
When Ed was picking and flicking, and racing loop de loops, something felt strange--What now? He pressed, pulled, wiggled . . . After 49 tries, he trumpeted. . . out came his toy car!? He couldn’t throw away his favorite car (even if it was covered with snot!) He cleaned it and stuck it in his pocket.
Ed was watching TV, eating gummy worms, and mining for nose nuggets. A tingly sensation. He pressed, pulled, wiggled . . . After 94 tries, he honked! The remote control?!
What happened to my cartoons?
Ed was digging for gold while playing in the sand pile, and something felt odd. He pressed, pulled, wiggled. After 149 tries, he bellowed . . . out came . . . a dump truck?!?
It didn’t come out easy. He felt a bit sick. Ouch! That really hurt!
“I’m not sticking my fingers up there any more. Who knows what you’ll find up your nose?!”
[page covered with odd objects]
2021 -- how will we remember it? The Second Year of Covid? While Covid has certainly changed us and our world. For some of us, it has stolen loved ones, family vacations, weddings and funerals, and more, my prayer is that we will find a different way to remember 2021. It was a year of survival, yes, but it was also a year of growth and change. It was a year of masks, but also a year of seeing clearly what was truly important. I pray that you can look back at 2021 and see something positive amidst the chaos. For me, it was a year of family and travel and making memories -- a year of finding a new normal after losing Mama in late December of 2020. Interestingly, my word for 2021 was balance. We took some chances with our travel this year, and I know there are some of you who think us foolhardy with Covid afoot. My daddy is 79 years old, and just experienced what was probably the biggest loss of his life. It was an honor and a joy to be able to take him on some excursions this year. This year really was about balance. Life is short. I've lived much of my life in fear of what people thought, fear of failure, fear of not being "enough". I refuse to let fear rob me of spending these amazing times with my family. So, we did 3 big family trips this year: to Memphis, TN and back -- an Elvis Presley/music vacay. You can read about it in great detail here: https://www.tonnyefletcher.com/snippets-bits-of-life-blog/will-the-circle-be-unbroken In the Fall, we went to visit a farm in South Georgia for a weekend, and made some new friends and got some great ideas for some creative endeavors our family is considering. Christmas of 2021 found us in Asheville at Biltmore Estate and The Grove Park Inn (to view the National Gingerbread House competition winners). Three amazing trips! They weren't perfect trips. The first trip Daddy had quite a few minor mishaps that could have been major. The second trip got totally rained out from our original plan, but that ended up being even better in so many ways. The Christmas trip, I got sick and felt terrible for a large part of it. Yet and still, there are GREAT memories, and I am so thankful to have them! If we look for and honor only perfection, we'll live a sad and lonely life.
Last night, Shane and I watched a movie called The Secret: Dare to Dream. It didn't get fabulous reviews, but we enjoyed it. What struck me was how negative this family was -- always waiting for the other shoe to fall. Expecting failure, expecting poverty, expecting issues. I know people like that. Don't you? Maybe you ARE a person like that? We all have moments -- we all have that capacity. It's especially difficult when a lot of bad things have happened one after another. The whole premise of the movie was to become a magnet for good things through positive thinking. How are you doing with that? Bad things happen. We live in a fallen world. Life's not fair. We can sit around and mope and complain about that or we can get about the business of living. Not living in fear. Being smart, taking precautions, listening to the experts, yes, but finding ways to keep living! Every day is a gift!.
2021 ended with me feeling pretty rough -- bronchitis and a sinus infection plagued me over the entire Christmas break. After getting back to school, Covid hit our house -- Hubby first, then me. It was not fun. It's still not fun. I'm needing another day or two to recuperate before I tackle 500 kids. :-O But, I'm fever-free, feeling more human, thinking more clearly, breathing better. Yes, I still occasionally sound like I'm coughing up a lung, feel like a bowling ball is square in the middle of my chest, etc. but I'm improving every day. It could have been so much worse, so I am grateful.
I'm approaching 2022 with a growth mindset -- looking for progress, not perfection. I understand that there will be good days and bad days. I know that failure is part of the learning process. I'm trying to learn not to live in fear of not being ________ enough. I'm trying to learn not to compare myself to others, but only to compare where I am today with where I was before today. I want to be the person that embraces those new mercies every day and starts fresh to see where today will take me. I want to live each day with gusto and enthusiasm. I want to be willing to try new things, to learn new things.
Indeed, this is my prayer for all of us in 2022. Whether you are my friend or my co-worker, a part of the kidlit community, or a part of my Jesus family -- my prayer is that we can all focus on a growth mindset, be willing to learn and stretch and grow, that we would face each day as a gift -- an opportunity. I know if we can do that, 2022 will be a great year -- not perfect, but still GREAT!
Illustrator friends, this one is for you! PBJamz needs a logo/illustration. And art is NOT one of my talents. I'd like to share some love with the #kidlitart community. So I'm having a CONTEST!! I have a $50 Amazon gift card coming to the winner! You can use it to buy amazing #kidlit books, art supplies, or anything your heart desires that is on Amazon for $50 or less! :-) The deadline is January 16. Read on for more details!
Deadline: January 16 (Sunday) by 11:59PM EST
The contest is open to any illustrator, but I'd LOVE to give the honor to an un-agented illustrator.
The image needs to be high-def, digital, and scalable. (This is where my art ignorance shows. I want to be able to use it as a logo, possibly a background for the video portion of the show, in promo materials, social media posts, etc.) jpg format
I get rights to use the image in any way needed for #PBJamz
I will give kudos, high fives, lots of credit and shout-outs on the show, blogs, and social media :-D.
Illustrator can use image for portfolio or in any other way that is not in conflict with #PBJamz.
Logo must contain:
Other pertinent details:
I'm going for a fun, joyful, colorful vibe.
You can read more about the intention in my prior blog post "PBJamz"
The audience for this video/social media series is::
To enter, send your good quality jpg to my email (tonnyefletcher at gmail.com) with the subject line: PBJamz logo contest NO LATER than Jan. 16 at midnight EST. I will narrow the entries down to my favorites, and then I will post those for a vote. The one with the highest number of votes will be the jamming' winner of this #PBJamz logo contest!!!! And I will send the winner a $50 Amazon gift card. And I will announce the winner here on my blog on Jan 22! Let the illustrating begin NOW!!!!! I can't wait to see what you come up with!
Some things just go together -- Lucy and Ricky, salt and pepper, macaroni and cheese, and the ubiquitous PBJ -- peanut butter and jelly. It's always been one of my favorite combos. I'm still a sucker for a delectable PBJ sandwich -- made with just the right ratio of each on soft white bread. It takes me back to my childhood in a blink. I've always thought music and learning were 2 more things that go together like peanut butter and jelly. When I was in the regular classroom, I used music to teach every single subject at some point. I have 2 professional development presentations where I pair music and learning to help teachers make learning fun. Seven years ago when I began teaching K-2 Music, I started looking out for books that incorporate music to share in the classroom. As I've traveled this picture book journey over the past few years and learned more and more about PBs and the business, I've been overwhelmed by the connections that can be made between music, teaching and picture books. Those thoughts led to a brainstorm which is quickly leading to . . . PBJamz!
My yearly word for 2022 is CONNECTION, and that's the purpose of this new PBJamz. My hope is to connect teachers, readers, musicians, and authors in new ways surrounding picture books (PB) and music (Jamz). I'll be interviewing industry professionals in those intersections where reading, writing, teaching, and music meet. Musicians who create content relative to picture books. PB authors who incorporate music in their books. Teachers who integrate books and music. Performances of new kidlit music. Kid-friendly content. Teacher tips. Read-alouds and reviews of musical picture books. Currently, I'm working with Annie Lynn on a little theme song for the show, and I have an opportunity coming for artists for a logo contest (Stay tuned -- that info should drop by next weekend!) PBJamz will share in various ways how picture books and music connect through YouTube videos, Twitter, Instagram, FB posts, and this blog.
This show and additional content is the perfect way to bring together so many things that I love. It's a way to give back to the writing community and the teaching community and the reading community and the children's community. We'll start rocking it out on February 24, which is my birthday!! Stay tuned, and get ready to jam with PBJamz.
Birthdays and Twitter contests both abound right now! Happy birthday to Gennie and Amy who are having this fun writing contest! And Happy birthday to my baby sister -- who is now 41 years old. She is friend and sister and shopping buddy and more. In my teenage years and into my adulthood, we always celebrated my birthday and my brother's (both in February) with a family oyster roast. Sometimes we went out, but we usually brought a bushel home from a local seafood market and scrubbed and steamed and slurped. Eating steamed oysters is not for the faint of heart, but they are one of my faves! Somewhere along the way, my brother revealed that he actually was not a big fan of oysters, so our tradition ceased. His revelation inspired this short birthday story that I'm entering into the BIRTHDAY BIRTHDAY contest in honor of Amy and Gennie. You can find out more about it here: https://motherhoodblockparty.net/birthday-birthday-party-time/. My story, SLIPPERY BIRTHDAY WISHES is below.
“No oysters for my birthday!”
I want pizza for my birthday!”
“But we always have oysters!”
“Not this year.
I want pizza -- with pineapple.”
“But Grandpa loves oysters!”
“Not Grandpa’s birthday.”
“But oysters are yummy and good for you.”
“Pizza is yummier and gooder.”
Della crossed her arms,
with her grumpiest face.
What a conundrum!
Della conjured a big tear in her eye,
with her saddest face.
Mama looked at her.
Della put her hands together and said, “PLEASE?!. . .”
So Mama brought out. . .
for the birthday girl. . .
Topped with pineapple --
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, Mocha, and Rusty -- our feline fur babies . I love reading, writing, singing and listening to music. I enjoy nature, Bible study and spending time with friends and family!
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