2019 Blogs

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.

“Peep, peep.”


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!
Debra Daugherty