"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
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]
GROWTH MINDSET IN 2022
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!
PBJamz Logo Contest
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.
Slippery Birthday Wishes
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 never thought much about the meaning of "retreat". Perhaps it conjures images of armies for you -- or maybe church youth retreats (which may have FELT like armies to the youth leaders). Perhaps it inspires pictures of soaking in a bubbly tub or camping in the middle of nowhere. The word retreat means "to withdraw, retire, or draw back, especially for shelter or seclusion" and that has never been a more apt definition than this week at the Sassy Goose retreat center at Cedar Mountain, NC. Susan VendeWeghe and her family have created such a lovely spot for "retreating" -- whether you are retreating from work, stress, family or retreating in order to work, recover from stress, or spend time with family, you'll find The Sassy Goose the perfect respite. This has been a beautiful week, full of new friends, new ideas, new insights, new resources, even a new recipe or two. :-). We've laughed, shared heart-wrenching stories, deep thoughts, big dreams and our passions. We've critiqued and encouraged and motivated each other in myriad ways.
I came Wednesday night with a vague sense of who one of these ladies was from our Twitter interactions. I'm leaving tomorrow (sadly) with 5 new friends who I know will be a constant source of knowledge, help, and encouragement moving forward. They have opened their little critique group up to me, a stranger, so beautifully, if temporarily. I worked as sous chef for evening meals, which gave me some one-one time with 3 of these ladies. We've shared stories of our lives, dreams and struggles over chopping veggies, shredding cheese, and searching out a new kitchen for just the right utensils. We've eaten well, and like any good writers' retreat, we've had wine and chocolate (and lots of healthy stuff too!) Susan was kind enough to make a variety of muffins (all of which were amazingly delicious!), in addition to providing yogurt and fruit and granola. Nancy and I made lasagna, salad and garlic bread Thursday night. Kelly and I made enchilada stacks last night (and improvised some gingers'mores, which seemed to be well-received). Tonight, Carolyn and I will warm some chili, bake some cornbread and put together a salad. We've eaten well and been sustained for all the creative work we've done.
Each morning we've chatted over breakfast and shared resources, spurred each other on to expand our social media presence through Twitter, Instagram, and even a YouTube channel. We've asked questions, and answered them, shared funny stories, ideas for books, marketing ideas, and so much more! Susan, an amazing puppeteer, took us to her workshop where we got to meet members of her marionette family -- the puppets that she has designed, created and performed with. for years. I even got to see some video footage of her performances and got to watch her light up like a Christmas tree as she shared her love of puppetry. We shared stories of our day jobs and hopes for our writing jobs. The ladies are all as different as can be, brought together by a love of story and wanting to share that love of story with others. Some of us are already-published or almost-published. Some of us have been at it for a while and still awaiting our "big break". Some of us are just beginning and figuring things out. No one held back. Everyone participated for the good of all -- whether it was unloading the dishwasher or critiquing a manuscript or sharing resources.
I'm going home with 9 new books by Miriam Jones Bradley, author of The Double Cousins series, and other great books. You can find more about her here: http://www.miriamjonesbradley.com You can order her books there for your children -- or one of her adult books for yourself!
Kelly Greene, aka Sunshine Story Time, is a story teller, story writer, VoiceOver artist, and so much more! She was our techie geek for the weekend, and she was our favorite read aloud artist for our stories for critiques. If you'd like to share some great stories with your littles, check out her YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UCsH0cTmTRGFhgWtxnaQR0Jg and keep your eyes open for more great content from her!
Carolyn B. Frasier has a brand new book coming out with more to come soon. You can stay abreast of her upcoming publication, pre-orders and more right here: https://carolynbfraiser.com
Nancy is a retired veterinarian with a passion for animals and lots of expertise and heart! You can find out more about her projects here: http://www.speakingforspot.com/index.php
Susan's website is here and you can find out more about her outside of her work at The Sassy Goose.
The Sassy Goose is sidled up in the NC mountains, and Fall held onto its color and was glorious in its display. Thursday poured rain all day, but after that the weather has been chilly, but absolutely beautiful. It is a gorgeous setting for a retreat, a family reunion, or any other group outing. They have 7 lovely guest rooms in various layouts -- the lodge, the cottage, or 2 cabins. If you'd like to get away, you should totally contact them. The pillows are comfy, they have sweet touches of home everywhere you look, a beautiful lake, breathtaking views, great hiking, and the oversized bath sheets in the bathrooms will wrap you in fluffy comfort as you come out of the bath or shower. There are games under a pavilion, swimming and fishing available and so much more. (although a little chilly for the swimming right now. . . .)
If you're a writer, and interested in retreating for writing, contact Susan for opportunities in March, April and September. If you have a creative group that would like to retreat together, contact her as well and schedule your own time to get away and get with it!
I highly recommend The Sassy Goose if you're seeking a retreat -- from life or for life. Tell Susan Tonnye sent you. It won't get you a discount, but it will give me an opportunity to pay it forward :-) and say thanks for this amazing weekend.
While the hardest part will be saying goodbye to these amazing authors and wonderful women tomorrow, I am incredibly blessed to have shared in this weekend of writing, inspiration, friendship and retreat!
Eensie Weensie Halloweensie entry :-)
KidLit is all about stories for eensie, weensie kids -- and PBs about eensie weensie stories -- and micro fiction about eensier weenier stories and Twitter contests often have the eensiest weensiest stories of all! Such is the case with Susannah Hill's Halloweensie contest -- a Halloween story for kids 12 and under in less than 100 words! AND it has to contain special words! This year's words: goodies, glow-in-the-dark, and goosebumps! All those g's inspired me to write an alliterative story. I hope you enjoy my eensie weensie story and have a Happy Halloweensie!
HALLOWEEN GALA (100 words)
Green and gold glimmers grow
from glow-in-the-dark gourds.
Guests with goosebumps gather --
Gaggles of giggly girls and gangly guys,
Gussied up in grisly or glittery garb.
Glamorous ghosts and garish ghouls
glide among games,
Vying for gallons of goodies.
Then. . .
Glimmering lights go out!!
The sudden dark hides thievery.
When the glow resumes,
Goodies have disappeared!
Gumshoes on the job!
Grunts and groans grow,
from Angel Gabriel and Gladys Gladiator,
grasping their bellies,
Gabriel and Gladys go.
Later. . .
Until next Halloween.
Why Critiques? And How to Get Them!
I used to write alone. I think most of us writers start out that way. Many writers are introverts to begin with. The ideas are ours, and we are taught by well-meaning friends and family to guard our ideas like pirates' treasure! We work hard at our craft and we perhaps worry that people will "steal them". Or perhaps sometimes we don't feel our words and ideas are "worthy to share" with anyone. We plant our Adirondack on a lonely island with a laptop and we pour out our hearts and souls on the computer (or notebook or . . .)
At some point, we join a "writers' community" -- maybe SCBWI (which I highly recommend if you're not part of that group) or we buy a writers' guide or something to try to move our writing from one level to another, and we begin hearing about critique groups and critique partners.
So why critiques?
1. Fresh eyes
We know what we mean to say and we think we're saying it well, but sometimes fresh eyes that don't know what we are trying to say are invaluable in helping us determine which pieces we're not communicating effectively.
2. Alternate perspective
Someone who is living a different experience than us can help us identify pieces that might be perceived negatively by someone different from us, and give us alternate ways to communicate in a non-threatening or non-offensive way.
3. Sharing resources
Oftentimes, my CPs and CGs will notice something I'm struggling with or I'll say, "I need to learn how to do ??? better", and they'll share webinars, books, articles, etc. that they've seen that might be helpful. Or, they'll shoot a heads-up, "I signed up for this webinar. You might like it too!"
4. Alternate wording/extra layers/fun elements
Sometimes we're so focused on getting a story written that we forget to add in those extra hooks/windows/layers -- figurative language, alliteration, onomatopoeia, refrains, etc. Critique buddies can alert us to the potential for adding in those fun elements or extra layers to take our stories up a notch (or 5 :-)
Two readers are better than one, and five are better than two. One of the big questions in my critique groups is, "What comps can you think of?" Or, just today, I saw a book highlighted on Twitter that reminded me of a manuscript written by a dear critique buddy and I sent her the link, and said, "Check this out. It might be a good comp for _____". There are so many great picture books out there, and no matter how vigilant you are with your reading, there's no way you can read them all. Put your heads together to craft the best set of comps for your stories.
Boy, don't we need a LOT of that in this business? It's grueling and often thankless, and full of rejection! We need some people in our corner that will say, "You're a wonderful writer and this is a wonderful story, and you'll get it there. Just keep going." or maybe to say, "You're beating this story to death. Give it a rest and come back to it later." or maybe to say, "This one's not ready, but I'll help you get it ready." or maybe to zoom in and drink a glass of wine or a cup of hot chocolate with you when you get those really heart-wrenching rejections.
7. Shared experience!
Because this business is so challenging and so unique, it helps to have someone else experiencing it alongside you -- to have someone who understands the idiosyncrasies and the ups and downs. Knowing you are not alone is absolutely essential to the tenacity and perseverance required to make it in this arena.
Those are my top 7 reasons why YOU should get yourself a critique, a critique partner, or a critique group! What reasons would you add? Put them in the comments for the benefit of others reading!
There are lots of opportunities to get critiques! Read on and find out how!
If you're on Twitter in any of the #amwriting communities, no doubt you've heard plethoras about critiques/CPs/CGs, etc. Sometimes it's hard to get started with these in the beginning, so here are some ways to get critiques and begin the search for a critique group if you're "in the market".
1. PBCritiquefest! @BrianGehrlein (Twitter)
hosts an annual critique event where you sign up via a Rafflecopter and have the opportunity to win critiques from authors/agents/other writing professionals. The link to sign up and learn more is here: https://www.pbspotlight.com/pbcritiquefest2021?utm_campaign=21be0d2f-ecd1-4873-82ed-6e4523431b31&utm_source=so&utm_medium=mail&cid=8a472a4b-6af1-4aaa-b55a-d52064448724
The more you participate, the better your chances of winning critiques!
2. Twitter contests!
There are almost always writing contests abounding on Twitter. Usually the prizes are brand new picture books or book swag or critiques for manuscripts or query letters. Currently, folks are prepping for Susannah Hill's Halloweensie. Check out the deets here:
3. Mindy Alyse Weiss runs a monthly critique train where you write a rough draft and get a critique from another author in the trenches. These are great ways to meet new people and possibly find folks that resonate with you for future critiques. The details are on her website here:
4. SCBWI -- If you've joined SCBWI, check out your local/regional chapter. Oftentimes, they have critique groups listed for your area. Or they have a person who can point you in the right direction.
5. Reach out on Twitter or FB writing communities to find other folks who are searching for CPs or CGs and create your own group!
Good luck and many blessings as you strive to become the best author you can be! Here's to fresh eyes, encouragement, and success! Cheers!
Fall Frenzy . . .
When I tell you that Fall has been a frenzy this year, believe me. Summer was wonderful -- still FULL, but full of summer school and writing and travel and relaxation and leadership conference for NCRA, and more travel and friends and family and. . . . . Then August came -- and the frenzy began. We were traveling to GA to spend time with family on the heels of making a decision to open our new family venture -- Serendipity: Vintage, Gifts, and Antiques. Currently, we just have a little 6x8 booth in an antique mall an hour away. Between starting from scratch with that, (You can read my earlier blog post for more details on that here: https://www.tonnyefletcher.com/snippets-bits-of-life-blog/our-serendipity-story ) starting a brand new school year (still in the middle of a pandemic), starting up year 6 (I think) of CCNCRA, our local NCRA council (of which I'm serving as president this year), home improvements and family /house responsibilities, my writing time has SUFFERED! Bigtime! My nice organized writing life with its schedules and goals went flying out the window at jet speed! It has taken me a while to get things back going, and it's still not where I want it, but I was able to attend SCBWI-Carolinas' conference, and I had a couple of writing pieces accepted by them for inclusion in a little anthology they are putting together. I've managed a few drafts and critiques and revisions during this time, but it has not been at my normal productivity. In fact, I didn't manage a single blog post in September! But, it's okay. Life happens. And you have to live it. And that, brings me to Fall WRITING Frenzy!
Fall Writing Frenzy
I love Twitter writing contests! You can read more about my history with them in several blog posts, including this one: https://www.tonnyefletcher.com/snippets-bits-of-life-blog/what-i-gain-from-losing
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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