December 24, 2019
Christmas Eve. The tree is decorated and the stockings are hung. All that is left to do is wait for Santa Claus to bring gifts. Ah! To be a child again and relive the magic of Christmas.
But wait! I'm an author. That means the child in me never left. That's why I love Christmas and Easter, and puppies and kittens, and coloring and crafts, and snow and sand. I haven't forgotten how to be childlike. And that's why I love writing children stories.
With the New Year close at hand, I thought I'd reflect back on the year and the progress of my writing career. I'm fortunate to belong to a terrific writers group, and I'm the SCBWI-IL representative for this Springfield Area network. We are the Scribes and we meet the first Monday of every month at the Chatham, IL library. As the moderator, I assign programs to the members, and even give them homework, such as: do a media kit, write a query letter for critique, read Ann Whitford Paul's book on writing picture books, and discuss what we learn at the meetings. In January my assignment is to do a book dummy of a picture book. I already have the dummies ready to pass out. My group only needs to fill in the pages.
One month our group was blessed with a program by the amazingly talented author, Jennifer Ward, thanks to the SCBWI-IL approving my request for her fee. Another month one of our members, Louann Brown, did a powerpoint presentation. In October Suzy Leopold taught us how to create a writer's journal. And December we held our holiday party at an Italian restaurant in Springfield. Besides a scrumptious meal, we played games, won prizes, and exchanged gifts. I'm lucky to be a part of this wonderful group of writers and illustrators. Their input during our critique sessions help to make me a better writer. I've learned so much from them. We help each other, and encourage each other to succeed.
I keep a calendar by my computer and write down important writing events. Janauary, 2019, I started out the year participating in Storystorm, Tara Lazar's brain child, to think of a picture book idea for each day of the month. I submitted to Tara Lebbe's Writing with the Stars' mentor program, but was not chosen to be a mentee. I love twitter parties, and January had two, #IWSGPit and #PitchCB.
February 3, I listened to Tara Lazar talk about picture books in the SCBWI-Indiana Webinar. At our Scribes meeting that month we wrote interview questions to ask an author about their new book, then exchanged our questions for the members to answer for the next meeting. SAVY AUTHOR had a sweetheart pitchfest, I submitted a manuscript to the Ann Witford Paul program, had fun pitching for #PBPitch, and enjoyed author Debbie Dady's Facebook Live talks.
March had AMM (author mentor match), #PitMad, and Vivian Kirkland had a 50 precious words contest. It's not easy writing a 50 word story, but was fun.
Besides showers, April brought more webinars, SCBWI-WI was on the fourth. There was #REVPit and an ask agent questions on twitter. SCBWI offered the Martha Weston grant submission, and Kidlit offered a webinar with Jorge lacera and Megan Lacera.
My May calendar dates show a Sataurday the 4th webinar and another one on the 21st, on PBs. but I neglected to write who did them. Must keep better records in 2020.
In June, I'm still following Debbie Dady's podcasts on Facebook. I also participated in #PitMad and SAVY AUTHOR's pitchfest. #PBPitch and #PBMentor also happened in June.
Whew! So much writing info, and the year is only half over. In July I watched two webinars, SCBWI-Austin, TX had one on deeper plots for MG and YA on the 16th, and SCBWI had one on the 18th. The prices for these SCBWI webinars are reasonable, between $10 and $25 usually, and there's no traveling or hotel costs. I also checked out the PB mini summit and the Picture Book Palooza by Mira Reisberg.
Besides our State Fair, August brought Rate Your Story contest. Our writers group sponsored one of Juli Caveny's students with a donation for books, and our SCBWI-IL Co Regional Assistant, Alice McGinty, relinquished her post. Alice was a great help in getting our program requests approved.
September, our guest speaker at our meeting was Jennifer Ward. September also had #PitMAd and Pitch Wars. I listed to Emma Walton Hamilton's Facebook podcast on revisions and resubmitted a manuscript to a publisher who offered me an R & R. I since heard from this publisher with an update, that they need more time before making their decision.
One of our writers in our group attended a conference in Ireland, and in October she talked about her experiences at this conference. Rate Your Story offered a free submission day. (My submission received a 5 rating, but with much praise.) There was another PB Palooza, this time on illustrating. I'm not an illustrator, but enjoyed and learned so much from watching the podcasts. I even picked out an illustrator that I would love to do one of my books, when the time comes. (Notice, I did not say if. as I know it is only a matter of time before a publisher/agent believes in my work as much as I do.) #PBPitch and a webinar about NaNoWriMo, and SAVY AUTHORS Pitchfest all happened the fourth week. Suzannah Leonard Hill had a fun Halloween writing contest, and my submission is listed on my last blog. October was the month I researched, made notes, did an outline and plotted the middle grade story I planned to start November 1st for NaNoWriMo. I've participated two other times in this event. The first time I wrote a 155,000 word novel, which I've divided into three parts. The second time I wrote a fourth YA novel using the same characters. The settings for these novels are London, Paris, Rome and Edinburgh, all places I've been fortunate to have visited.
November 1st I started my MG novel for NaNoWriMo. I paced myself, doing 2 chapters, 10 pages at a time. Since the setting was a place from my childhood, the memories stirred with my imagination, and the writing went smoothly and quickly. I finished November 19th, with a bit over 51,000 words. I have since done 5 more drafts/revisions of this novel. My word count is closer to 53,000 words. The story sings to my soul, and I love it. I also listened to a SCBWI-UT webinar on the 3rd. I wasn't able to attend our Illinois writers conference that same day, but felt I learned a lot from the webinar.
Emma Walton Hamilton and Julie Hedlund did a webinar on Hook on the 21st and I decided the hook to my latest MG is a musky, the fish the young girl is determined to catch for a tournament. I can't think of another single children's book that features a musky. This has to be an original, one of a kind idea.
December 4th I watched literary agent Rachel Orr's webinar, participated in #PitMad, watched Highlights' webinar on Instgram, and another webinar on formating. I learned the formatting has changed for MG and YA's, or are at least different that what I've been taught. #MSWL had an online party and my pitch was read and liked. My big news is I submitted the first chapter and synopsis to my MG to Erszi Deaks, Hen & Ink Literary agent, on Open Coop Day December 20th, and Sunday, the 22nd, she emailed me. She said, "Sounds like fun. Send the Full manuscript. I look forward to reading it." Yikes! and Yay! Within an hour of her sending the email, and only like ten minutes after I read it, my manuscript was sent.
Besides writing the MG this year, I've also written several picture book manuscripts. I've been submitting and revising, and even helping other writers with critiques. Being a writer is a full time job. If not in chair, hands on keyboard, I'm thinking of ideas and writing stories in my head. I fall asleep going over my stories, and when I wake up, I dash to my computer and make the changes I dreamt about. Looking at my 2020 calendar, I already have 2 writing webinars booked, and plan to book two more the first of the year. I have the new year calendar covered with twitter dates and writers meetings. I'm looking forward to my next year of writing.
To all my writer friends, as well as my family and friends, I wish the happiest of holidays and the best in the New Year. My next blog probably won't appear until 2020, so until then, keep on writing!
October 28, 2019
Writing contests are fun and I always enjoy Susanna Leonard Hill's contests. Here is my 100 word story for her 9th Annual Halloweensie Contest.
A HALLOWEEN TRICK
by Debra Daugherty
It’s Halloween. I knock on the door of a spooky old house. It opens, and I enter.
“Ugg! Cobwebs!” I brush them aside.
A foul-smelling witch stirs a bubbling potion in a large, black kettle.
“Taste my brew,” she says.
I swallow a tiny swig and gag.
“Yuck! Sour lemonade.”
The witch cackles. “I have no treats, so I tricked you.”
“I’m supposed to trick you.”
She points a bony finger at me. “Fool! I’ll turn you into a toad.”
I tip over her kettle and run.
My eyelids flutter open. “Phew! Only a dream. Croak.”
July 30, 2019
Wet spring and HOT summer. That sums up the last few months.
It rained so hard in June, my road turned into a mini-river. I didn't dare drive in it. I feared the water would get into the electrical system of my car and mess everything up. The next day the road was dry, so I didn't suffer a hardship like many experienced with their roads being washed away and homes buried under water. I did have water in my basement, but only because my sump pump quit. A little jiggling and it started and the water dispersed.
Then the 100 plus degree weather hit. With asthma, I found it oppressive to be outdoors. The stifled air, no breeze, made it difficult to breathe. Thank heavens for air conditioning! And then even that failed. For a week I survived with ceiling fans and a floor fan. When the repairman replenished my system with freon, it was a welcome relief.
My brother happened to be visiting me that week. He lives in Texas, and found it hotter here than there. He couldn't wait to get back.
So what else could go wrong? My dishwasher broke down and my repairman said I needed a new one. With only me at home, this time I bought the simplest and cheapest dishwasher I could find. The only setting is wash/dry.
Oh, and earlier this year my washing machine quite draining. I had to hand scoop all the water out so the repairman could work on it. It turned out a simple switch needed to be replaced. The repairman told me to hang onto this machine as long as I could. He says it's too expensive to have the newer machines repaired when they break down. Too much technology is not always a great thing.
Despite all the household problems and unusual weather, I managed to write several picture books, and after revising, having my work critiqued by my writers group and revising again, I am submitting to agents and publishers. Each time I hit SEND, I feel hopeful that this time my words will connect with an agent and he/she will sign me on as a client. That is a goal I set for myself. FIND AN AGENT.
Although the rejections still pop into my box, I am finding more with feedback and encouraging words. I embrace these rejection letters. They are telling me my work is valuable. I am a good writer. I am on the right track. These agents took the time to reply, so I can't give up or lose hope. They see worth in my work.
Besides writing, revising and submitting, I am honing my craft, ALWAYS, with SCBWI webinars and webinars by other writing groups. SCBWI has offered some wonderful courses this year, with opportunity to submit to the publisher presenters.
I love the first Monday of each month. That is when my critique group meets at the Chatham, IL library. As the SCBWI-IL network rep, I monitor these meetings, to be sure we accomplish what needs to be done in the 1 1/2 - 2 hours we have. There is so much talent among our members, and I value their input. Their suggestions have improved my stories, and improved my writing. We are now studying Ann Whitford Paul's book on Writing Picture Books, and discussing what we learned during our meetings. In August, one member is doing a presentation on Power Point, and in September, we have a guest presenter, author Jennifer Ward, a STEM author of several non-fiction books. A grant from our Illinois SCBWI chapter makes her visit possible.
Writers are the nicest people. I find on twitter and the Facebook groups, that writers encourage and offer support to other writers, the well-established and the newbies. I learn from their postings and try to offer the same support to others. A great way to help other writers is to retweet or share their posts. If they have a new book coming out, get the word out to others. In turn, I hope they will do the same for me.
I know my blog posts are few and far apart, but it doesn't mean I have nothing to say. It means I'm busy writing my stories, honing my craft, attending meetings, posting on social media and fighting the every day nuances of daily life. My advice to all writers, don't give up, no matter what obstacles life throws you. Keep writing!
March 2, 2019, I entered Vivian Kirkfield's The #50Precious Words Writing contest. Here is my entry:
Mama hen sat on her eggs to keep them warm.
When the baby chicks pecked their way out of their shells, one looked different.
A duck egg had rolled into the nest.
Mama hen gathered the chicks under her wings.
“Cluck! You, too.”
Duck was home.
February 5, 2019
The polar voltex swept through my state in January and left bitter cold temps and icy roads. Thank goodness the ground hog didn't see his shadow on the 2nd of February! I am looking forward to an early Spring.
On December 27, 2018, my niece gave birth to a boy, her second child. Rory Chasteen arrived too big to fit into his newborn outfits. A healthy, albeit chunky, child, his life is blessed with a loving mother and father, and older sister.
I mentioned Rory because his life is a new beginning, full of promise and opportunity.
Each January I feel a sense of a new beginning in my writing. What stories will jump on my pages? Will this be the year I land an agent? Is this the year my next book gets published? 2019 is a year full of promise and opportunity.
Author Tara Lazar hosts StoryStorm in January, and I'm glad I participated. Each day an author or illustrator posted wonderful stories and ideas on how to discover Picture Book ideas. I wrote my ideas down in a doc. file, and from time to time will visit this file and see which story I want to tell. Out of the 30 ideas I have, two seem promising.
The first year I did this, then called PiBoIdMo, two of my stories were published, CALAMITY CAT by MeeGenius, and the short story, THE MYSTERY OF THE GHOSTLY THIEF, by Guardian Angel Kids. Two out of 30. The more ideas you have, the better chance to come up with one that sells.
I entered a couple of cute holiday contests in December and received a consulation prize from Gayle C. Krause for my Rock Star Santa entry, a critique of a query letter. I've written hundreds of query letters, yet when I read Gayle's critique, I was blown away. She took what I thought to be a decent query letter and turned it into a fantastic one. It helps to have another set of eyes checking your work, and that is why I am so glad to belong to a critique group, the SCBWI Scribes, one that I am now the network representative.
We met last night at the Chatham, Illinois library. Fantastic writers and illustrators, every one. Juli Caveny offered to take photos of each of us for our author pages, social media sites, etc., and she did an amazing job. At our January meeting, I gave everyone an assignment, write 6-10 author interview questions. We shared a few during the meeting and then traded questions with each other, by a secret drawing. Next month our assignment is to answer these questions, either about a book we have published or a work-in-progress. When done, we will each have an author interview ready to post when our books come out. And thanks to Juli, we have a professional photo to include with our interview.
I've been struggling with the first few pages of a finished manuscript. I had the first page recently critiqued by a guest agent for a blog post, and made several changes she suggested, but still felt my piece needed improvement. After I shared the pages with my writers group last night, the final pieces of the puzzle clicked. I now have a first sentence that I love, and small changes in wording has given me a polished first chapter that works. We had time for 3 other critiques and I think each author left the meeting satisfied with the advice offered.
Super Bowl Sunday is not my thing, so I was grateful for the webinar the Indiana SCBWI offered featuring Tara Lazar. Again, I learned so much. Tara was generous in sharing what works for her, and what doesn't, and she gave advice on marketing, school visits, author notes and writing PBs. This hour and a half session passed too quickly, but I'm grateful for what I learned.
Although I haven't written anything new yet this year, I've worked on several of my manuscripts, polishing and improving, and I submitted to a few agents. I'm satisfied with what I have accomplished.
So, my January was spent finding new PB ideas, polishing my query letter and first chapter, connecting with writer friends and sending out submissions. Here's to a new year and new beginnings, new promises and opportunity. Will this be my year? I'm counting on it!