"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
Four weeks on this side of forever with Mama on the other side. It seems surreal. At least once a day, I've thought of calling her or stopping by to fill her in on something, only to realize that's a luxury I don't have anymore. Almost a month of wading through the waves and eddies of the grief cycle -- being dragged under, rising to the surface, treading water, swirling in a maddening whirlpool of emotion. Reliving memories, feeling guilty, wondering if we did the right thing at so many places along the journey, wondering how life would be different if we had made different decisions. Putting one foot in front of the other, crying and trying not to cry. A time of condolences and kind gestures, and of people who should care but don't seem to. It's been an interesting time, a mixed bag of emotions as grief always is. I've grieved enough to know. Yet, every grief is different and takes on a life of its own. I forget (and how blessed I am that I CAN) from one grief to the next the blinding fatigue -- getting up in the morning knowing you've slept but feeling more tired than when you went to bed. I forget how the memories creep in every crevice of your mind if you don't keep it busy with something else. I forget the heart-wrenching guilt of what-ifs and whys. I forget the utter emptiness that is grief.
Losing Mama added watching my daddy grieve as I've never seen him grieve before. I traded watching her suffer for watching him suffer. It's the worst part. As their daughter I know deeply the affection they shared. As a wife, I can imagine the empty bed, the empty house, the vast emptiness of a missing half, and feeling you'll never be whole again. Tears stream as I write how it must feel -- to be without your other half after 56 years of being together.
And, because of COVID -- and just life, there have been SOOOO many other deaths in this 4 weeks -- people I know, people who had spouses and children. It's incredibly overwhelming and at times, it has paralyzed me. My creativity has been at an all-time low -- requiring energy I do not have. Notwithstanding the state of the world or the affairs of this country I love. Trying to teach in a Pandemic with all the trappings. It has been a dark 4 weeks. Ironic at a time that is supposed to be full of light. Three major holidays of this season focus on light -- Hannukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. And yet, this has been such a dark season for me. It is not devoid of light, however, even though it's dark.
Hope shines. In the midst of darkness, hope shines. It is a beacon. I choose to place my hope in a kingdom not of this world -- God's eternal kingdom. I have a strong faith. My parents instilled it early on. As I grew older, I made it my own. It's been tested and purified. It's waxed and waned at times, but because my faith is strong, Hope's beacon shines.
A friend who shares my faith and hope was lamenting on her own grief recently, saying she knew she shouldn't be sad, but she was. But NO! Faith and hope don't take away the sadness. The grief is the love we felt and the hole that is left. We weep and grieve, but not without HOPE. Hope is what guides us THROUGH the grief. Hope is what we have to look forward to on the other side of the grief.
The scriptures say it this way:
It has been the season of contests on Twitter! Giveaways, writing contests, and more! I'm thrilled to share this story which is an on-going story of The Woodsy Woodwinds. These little characters are really capturing my heart and I'm enjoying their stories. I hope you do too! The word limit for this contest was 250 and mine checks in at EXACTLY 250! Everyone who knows me will NOT be surprised by that fact ;-). Big thanks to my critique partners Bonnie Kelso and Aundra Tomlins for helping me whip this little story into shape! Here are the deets for the contest if you're interested:
Huge thanks to Susanna for offering these writing microfiction contests! They are great fun and help us kidlit writers hone our "every word matters" skills! I'm excited to read everyone's stories. It's always amazing how differently we respond to pictures and prompts. That's the joy of creativity!
CHRISTMAS COMES TO HALIBROOK WOODS
Rudy Raccoon was excited for his first Christmas with the Woodsy Woodwinds forest band! He chatted with his fairy friend, Twink, “I’ve decorated this tree with everyone’s favorite foods as a surprise, but something is missing!”
He pulled out his list:
Peanut butter pine cones covered with bird seed - check!
Clusters of dried berries - check!
Apples - check!
Dried clover bunches and carrots - check!
Lots of nuts - check!
Strands of popcorn with cranberries - check!
“Is there something for everyone to enjoy when we untrim the tree?” Rudy asked.
Twink nodded and jingled.
Rudy looked up to the top of the tree and saw the stars in the sky!
That’s what is missing!” he said to Twink.
Twink did a sparkly somersault.
Sticks crunched as Rudy walked around, thinking.
He and Twink found the perfect twigs and glued them together with pine sap, tying the corners with pine needles.
“YES!” he shouted, shimmying up the trunk of the tree to the tippy top. He tied it on with a vine and scurried down to take a look.
“It’s not big or bright enough for anyone to see. That will NEVER do.”
Twink said, “I can help!”
There were twitters, giggles, and skitters as Twink flitted to the top and sprinkled sparkly fairy dust on the twiggy star.
As the star lit, music filled the clearing. All the forest friends were thrilled with Rudy’s surprise.
With Twink’s help, the magic (and the music) of Christmas had come to Halibrook Woods.
One of the things you hope as a writer is to influence someone -- to change their life in some way. Maybe it's simply to bring a smile or a giggle, to bring new knowledge, or to encourage. I have a mission statement as an author that pretty much says that -- I want to use my words -- spoken and written -- to educate, encourage, exhort, edify, enlighten, entertain, etc. The short version is that I want to use my writing to make the world a better place. That's what happens when we share positive stories. During the recent Fall Writing Frenzy on Twitter, many KidLit authors shared. Fictionalized accounts, rhyming stories, lyrical pieces, emotional journeys. They were awesome! You can check out those entries here: https://lydialukidis.wordpress.com/2020/09/30/fall-writing-frenzy-entry-form/
I loved all the entries I read. Some made me laugh. Some made me cry. Some made me shake my head at the sheer creativity! But, there was one -- that changed my life in a small, but significant way. Enter Pie Night! Meredith Flory wrote about a family tradition in her world. My family thought it sounded like a fabulous idea, so we borrowed their tradition and made it our own. You can read her entry about their Pie Night here: https://www.meredithflory.com/home/creative-work/fall-writing-frenzy-2020?fbclid=IwAR2hs5icRSUdLppHOeLGCbF_lHp45Pde0ZTIaNYN07VNwDPBFQzZcLVDE58
My husband, sister, and I all set to work to create our own Pie Night. We chose the night before Thanksgiving. We needed to do a real supper, for protein's sake. . .so Shane and I made a big pot of chili. We ended up with a plethora of pies! Far too many. . . :-O but it was super fun. We ate chili, nibbled on small servings of pie, and watched Home Alone.
Home Alone has been a tradition of our family for quite some time. At some point during the season, we try to all gather to watch it together. Oftentimes, we'll watch it twice -- once on our own to enjoy the story, and once all together to watch my daddy watch Home Alone. He laughs until tears stream down his face. And it doesn't matter how many times we watch it. In fact, in one of my earlier posts, I talked about giggle fits on a Sunday afternoon, and that was precipitated by Daddy thinking about Home Alone. We laugh so hard. It's wonderful family time and a great tradition!
It's a great tradition made better by the addition of Pie Night! This year, we had Millionaire Pie, Banana Pudding "pie", pumpkin pie, apple cinnamon swirl pie, salted caramel chocolate pecan pie, and pumpkin cream cheese pie, as well as mini espresso chocolate pies. Oh, what pies! This is our new tradition -- the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is Pie Night with Home Alone. Although perhaps next year a few less pies might be more prudent :-). Or perhaps we need to have multiple Pie Nights :-O
We shared our new tradition with friends and now, they celebrate Pie Night also! It's not life-changing in a universe-altering way, but it has enriched our holiday season, and that of others - all because someone shared. Meredith wrote her story, and it allowed us to write a new chapter in our story.
That, my friends, is what writing and sharing do. They help us write our own stories and create new memories that will become the stories of tomorrow. Because we write, someone is smarter, happier, not feeling so alone -- or more full of pie and laughter.
And that is a great goal, so keep writing.
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.
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!