Friday, August 21, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: A Haiku for Back to School

Thanks to Catherine at Reading to the Core for hosting Poetry Friday today
This summer brought a whirlwind of travel and fun for our family—we camped at the mountains and the lake, spent time with family and friends, and finished our “summer tour” with a quick trip to Charleston last week.
One of the sweet turtles at the SC Aquarium's sea turtle rescue

But on Monday, our summer officially ended and my boys went back to school. Although it is hard for me to believe, they are now in the seventh grade! 

My boys on the first day of school

To celebrate back to school, I am sharing a haiku for Poetry Friday today. Wherever you are, enjoy your last few weeks of summer, and Happy Writing!

Lazy summer days
Collide with early mornings
No more sleeping in

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Great Websites for Children’s Writers

I get super excited when I come across helpful websites to use during the writing, editing, and marketing process, so I am sharing a list of my favorite online resources today. Please include any of your favorite sites that are not here in the comments below—I am sure I have missed some, and would love to have as comprehensive a list as possible!

General Writing Resources:

SCBWI (the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) is a wonderful resource, with local groups in many states:

The SCBWI Blueboards (formerly the Verla Kay Blueboards) are a wonderful resource, and access to most of the information does not require membership in SCBWI. Lots of published authors, illustrators, and agents post regularly, and it is such a great support group for the children's/young adult writing community:

Absolute Write is another great (free!) site for writers of all genres. Check out the forums:

Rhyme Zone is one of my favorite writing sites! You can look up rhymes, definitions, famous quotes, synonyms, antonyms, etc. for any word. I use it ALL the time!

Visual Thesaurus is also a great tool. There is a small yearly fee, but it has been worth every penny to me!

Harold Underdown is an experienced children’s editor who freely shares his knowledge about writing for kids:

“Grammar Girl” Mignon Fogarty is a go-to resource for questions about grammar:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is observed every November by writers brave enough to tackle a first draft of their novel in 30 days. The whole concept is very inspiring, and the NaNoWriMo community is so encouraging:

The Poetry Foundation is an excellent resource for poetry lovers:

The Academy of American Poets also has a fantastic poetry website:

The American Library Association is a great resource for anyone interested in children's books:

The Children's Book Council has a fabulous site, as well, and is a handy resource for finding children's books:

Agent and Editor-Related Sites:

AgentQuery is a good agent-hunting site. Click on "Blog Roll" in the left-hand column for a good list of agent and editor blogs:

Query Tracker is a great site for tracking submissions to agents and editors. A basic membership is free, but you can pay $25 for a premium membership:

Publishers Marketplace costs $25/month, but is worth it while agent hunting. It has great information on what is getting published these days:

Publishers Marketplace also has a free weekly children's publishing newsletter called PW Children's Bookshelf. Go to: and click "subscribe" if you are interested. 

Writer's Digest editor Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog has super information: 

The Predators and Editors website lists agents and editors, and has tons of other information:

Literary Rambles is a website that has a huge list of literary agents specializing in children's literature. Every agent is not listed, but Casey and Natalie add new agent profiles regularly:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Big “Thank You” and a Chapter Book Submission Opportunity

Last week I was thrilled to receive my July “St. George’s Reward” from my writer friend Tabatha Yeatts. St. George's Day was celebrated in Geoffrey Chaucer's time as a day to reward people who worked at artistic endeavors, and this spring Tabatha selected one of her blog readers to be the recipient of her own "St. George's Reward" each month (you can read more about this on Tabatha's blog here). I have enjoyed all of my surprises, but especially love this month’s reward:

These beautiful magnets (created by writer Robyn Hood Black and available at her fabulous Etsy store, artsyletters) are the perfect melding of functional and decorative. I absolutely love them! Thank you so much Tabatha and Robyn!

Also, Sunscribe Publishers, a brand new South Carolina publishing company, is accepting chapter book submissions for their children’s imprint Dancing Squirrel this week. You can find their submission guidelines here.

Have a wonderful week, and Happy Writing!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer’s Secret Hours

Every year I wonder at the busyness of summertime at our house. So far this summer we’ve camped, climbed mountains, tubed the French Broad River, vacationed with old friends, slid down waterfalls, baked cookies, chilled out at a water park, made cotton candy and snow cones, eaten lots of watermelon, played games, gone swimming, etc. (I could keep going and going…but I am tired ☺). We are having a wonderful summer, but once again it is flying by. School starts for my boys on August 17, so that gives us only five more weeks of fun before “real life” creeps back in. But such is the rhythm of life!
One of my boys playing in the water.

Although this summer has been just as busy as every other year, I’ve discovered one important thing: the “secret hours” of writing time between when my husband leaves for work and when my boys roll out of bed. Now that they are almost 13, this time has stretched to 9:00 or 9:30, often even later. That means if I can drag myself out of bed and start writing by 7:00, I can have 2 to 3 hours of blissfully quiet time to myself in the mornings!

These “secret hours” have been a tremendous discovery for me. During the school year I have chunks of quiet writing time in the mornings, but this is always *after* the hustle and bustle of making breakfast, getting the kids off to school, exercising, etc. (I am not one of those disciplined writers who can get up at 5 a.m. and start writing before the whole house is awake—not yet, anyway.) It is a fun change to be able to wake up and start working in my PJs, a perk of writing that I’ve heard about forever but have rarely been able to do until now. I’ve used this time to work on a new picture book manuscript, complete some fun magazine assignments, and edit several other projects.

I hope you are all enjoying your summers and finding some “secret hours” of your own to take advantage of! Stay cool this week, and happy writing!
Our sweet puppy Gracie loves camping because she gets to sleep with the boys!

Friday, June 19, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: "One Boat, One River" by SC Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth

Thanks to Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for hosting Poetry Friday this week
* * * * *
In the wake of this week’s heartbreaking events in Charleston, I have been thinking about “One River, One Boat,” a poem written by SC Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth. In January, Ms. Wentworth was supposed to read her poem at SC Governor Nikki Haley’s inauguration, but was omitted from the program due to “time constraints.” (You can read more about this here.) Since January, the exposure her poem has garnered has been enormous, and the praise is well deserved.

Yesterday, as I was reading online about the beautiful men and women who lost their lives on Wednesday night, one of my boys came up behind me. “Why are you reading about this if it makes you so upset?” he asked. “Because we can’t just ignore all of the bad stuff that happens and pretend it doesn’t exist,” I responded.

I have thought about his question ever since. My children are growing up in SC in a wonderful Norman Rockwell-esque neighborhood that I refer to in my head as a “bubble.” But down the road, in a city where we have family and visit frequently, yet another crime has been committed that is whipping the already agitated social consciousness of this country into a frenzy. I want to protect my boys from this type of thing, but at the same time I know that it is important to share and discuss it with them. They are 12, on the cusp of their teen years, with high standards of justice and a huge capacity to feel everything—love, empathy, outrage, sorrow, the list goes on and on. It is my job as a parent to channel this enormous ability to feel into an attitude of loving acceptance and a desire to BE the change this country needs as they grow and mature. So today our conversation will continue.  

Please take a moment and read Ms. Wentworth’s poem, which I decided was well worth a second blog post this week. The specific references to Charleston’s history are especially poignant today, as we are
“...huddled together on this boat
handed down to us–stuck
at the last bend of a wide river
splintering near the sea.”

One River, One Boat
by Marjory Wentworth

I know there’s something better down the road.
~ Elizabeth Alexander
Because our history is a knot
we try to unravel, while others
try to tighten it, we tire easily
and fray the cords that bind us.
The cord is a slow moving river,
spiraling across the land
in a succession of S’s,
splintering near the sea.
To read the rest, click here.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Poetry Friday Fun

We are in the midst of a fun friends and family marathon at our house, but I wanted to be sure to post a link to this week’s poetry Friday roundup. Please head over to Jama's Alphabet Soup for a look at this week’s links. Thanks for hosting, Jama!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Summer Reading

Every June, I download lots of books to my Kindle and pile my bedside table with stacks of books I plan to read in all of the “free time” that is supposed to miraculously appear in my schedule because it is suddenly SUMMER. But, like for lots of people, “summer” doesn’t necessarily equal “free time” around here. I have set goals—to rise early every day to write, spend fun and meaningful time with my boys, tackle overdue household projects (those closets are not going to clean themselves), catch up on scrapbooking (aack!), etc.—so this summer I am consciously adding “reading” to my summer “to do” list. Even at my busiest, I read every single day; I can’t go to sleep without reading a few pages at night, and often I will read while I eat my lunch. But this summer I am going to be more intentional about finding time (and giving myself permission) to simply enjoy reading good books!

Along with the various kids' books that I am always reading, right now I'm finishing the latest book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. For those of you familiar with the Starz series, the books have much more literary value than what you might assume from the (quite steamy, often disturbing) onscreen representation. But Gabaldon is an extraordinarily talented writer, and I kind of view her as the J.K. Rowling of adult writing. As a writer, I am fascinated by her style, plotting, characterization, and the many threads she weaves in and out of her books. I am convinced that she must have an extremely high IQ!

The next book on my list is C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I have heard wonderful things about this one, and am looking forward to finally reading it. And just last week I ordered and received The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. (I'll let you know how this goes!) I am looking forward to learning about Kondo’s unconventional approaches to helping her clients “transform their cluttered homes into spaces of serenity and inspiration.”

My boys came home with their own reading lists for summer. This year, all rising sixth through eighth graders at their school must read at least two books off of the SC Junior Book Award Nominees 2015-16 List during summer break, or read one book from this list and another from a list of preapproved classics. For my boys, this won’t be an issue; they are enthusiastic readers and have already selected their books. I will definitely read some books off of these lists, as well—there are some amazing choices here!

SC Junior Book Award Nominees 2015-16 List:
1. Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg - Fiction
2. Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible on Schindler’s List by Leon Leyson –Non-Fiction
3. Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan - Fiction
4. Eruption! Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives by Elizabeth Rusch –Non-Fiction
5. Falcon in the Glass by Susan Fletcher - Fiction
6. Far Far Away by Tom McNeal - Fiction
7. Gated by Amy Christina Parker -Fiction
8. Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson - Fiction
9. The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe by Dan Poblocki -Fiction
10. Jungle of Bones by Ben Mikaelsen -Fiction
11. Lawless by Jeffery Salane -Fiction
12. The President Has Been Shot by James L. Swanson –Non-Fiction
13. Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz - Fiction
14. QB1 by Mike Lupica -Fiction
15. SYLO by D.J. MacHale -Fiction
16. Tesla’s Attic by Neil Shusterman -Fiction
17. Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald -Fiction
18. Winner’s Curse by Maria Rutkowski -Fiction
19. Zebra Forest by Adina Gewirtz- Fiction
20. Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi - Fiction

Classics List:  
1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein -Fiction
2. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein-Fiction
3. Fahrenheit 454 by Ray Bradbury-Fiction
4. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes-Fiction
5. Call of the Wild by Jack London-Fiction
6. Dune by Frank Herbert-Fiction
7. A Separate Peace by John Knowles-Fiction
8. Watership Down by Richard Adams-Fiction
9. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson-Fiction
10. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Fiction
11. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier-Fiction
12. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane-Fiction
13. Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss-Fiction
14. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson-Fiction
15. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder-Fiction
16. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery-Fiction
17. The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis-Fiction
18. Sounder by William Armstrong-Fiction
19. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott-Fiction

What books are on your summer reading list this year? Have a great week, and Happy Writing!