"Snippet" -- a small piece or brief extract
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 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!
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.
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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