Challenges

Rainy Day

It’s time for the shortest –and in some ways, most challenging– of the annual writing contests for children’s literature. Every year, Seuss week brings Vivian Kirkfield’s 50 Precious Words writing contest. And this year, once again, I’m throwing my hat in the ring with a new story that plays with the form of haiku. Enjoy!

“Rainy Day”

Dark clouds hide the sun.

Gloomy day; nothing to do

Till Mom brings out new

* * *

rain boots and raincoat.

Mud puddles plus yellow boots

Make rainy day fun.

* * *

Boots off, cocoa time!

Blow heat away. Sip slowly.

Sweet treat. A fun day.

Challenges

The Taste of Christmas

If you follow this blog at all, you know that I love writing challenges and contests. For a picture book writer, the challenge of having to write with a set word count is very useful training. It’s amazing what you can do with just 50 words, or 100 . . . or, in today’s contest story, 250. Because it’s time for The 9th Annual Holiday Story Contest!

Here’s my entry: The Taste of Christmas.

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Shopping downtown was like wandering through a holiday carnival. So much to see! Lights decked every signpost. Banners hung across the street.

So much to hear, too! Musicians played on street corners. Bells jingled from many of the doors.

Good smells floated everywhere. Food trucks filled the air with savory odors, and the candle shop smelled like every good winter scent mixed together. 

Camille was full of Christmas joy. Her brother? Not so much.

“Mom,” Aiden whined, “I’m COLD.”

“Almost done,” said Mom. “We’ll have hot chocolate when we get home.”

But there was no hot chocolate mix in the pantry.

Aiden pouted. Camille pondered. “Isn’t there some other way we could make it?”

“I think you can use baking cocoa, but I’ve never done it. What if I just make hot tea instead?”

“It has to be hot chocolate,” said Aiden.

“We can read directions,” Camille said. “Let’s try it!”

Aiden found the baking cocoa. “There’s a recipe here on the back.”

Together they measured water and sugar, a scoop of cocoa, a pinch of salt. Mom put the saucepan on the stove.

“A watched pot never boils,” Mom warned. But they watched anyway . . . and eventually the mixture boiled. Time to add milk!

Finally, Mom measured out tiny spoonfuls of vanilla and peppermint. Whisking it was fun.

“All done!” Mom poured out three cups.

“Sweet,” said Aiden. “We should make it this way all the time.”

“It tastes like Christmas,” Camille said. “It’s perfect.”

Challenges

Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy: “Reminiscence”

One of the great things about autumn is the arrival of autumn writing contests, followed by winter holiday contests. I love these blog contests, because they’re fun to write and they’re fun to read. If you’ve never followed one, start with the Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy right now, then wait for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie at the end of October!

Here’s my entry. It’s, um, a little more disturbing than my previous holiday stories. Let’s say this one is for older kids, okay?

This story is based on Image 11.

“Reminiscence”

Two crows perched on a single branch, sharing memories.

“I remember when there were cows in this field,”

Said Edgar. “Not cows,” said Allen. “Horses.”

“Maybe both.”

“I remember when there was a scarecrow in that field,” Allen said.

They both looked across the road, and shivered.

“I never liked that scarecrow.”

“Me neither.”

Edgar shuffled his feet. Allen ruffled his feathers.

“I remember one night . . .” began Edgar.

“Stop!” replied Allen. “I don’t like that story.”

“But it happened!”

“Maybe it did and maybe it didn’t. But let’s not talk about it.”

They looked away from the field. They cawed at a passing dog.

“Whoever heard of a scarecrow walking, anyway?” Allen asked at last.

“If all it did was walk,” replied Edgar, “That wouldn’t have scared me.”

“That night,” Allen said, “The stormy night. . . ” He couldn’t finish.

So Edgar told the story: “Its head blew away in the gale.

And the scarecrow walked.”

Allen covered his head with his wings.

“When it came back,” Edgar finished, “it had a new head.

I always wondered how it got it.”

“I NEVER wanted to know.” They looked back at the empty field, and flew away.



Book Announcements, Picture Book Journey

It’s Alive! It’s Alive!

It’s almost October, so what better time than now to announce the publication of my first picture book, Spooky and the Gargoyle? It’s available on Amazon in kindle (including Kindle Unlimited), paperback, and hardcover. The hardcover can also be purchased from Target.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and other online sellers– so if you’d rather not support Amazon, you do have other options.

This is the perfect season for enjoying a slightly spooky but very sweet friendship tale. If you do read it, I’d love it if you left a review!

And before I go, let me give you a head’s up about what you’ll see on this blog in the coming month. I hope to do some posts about revision, because that’s what I have been working on right now. And there may very well be a 2019 Halloweensie story for you to read.

Hope your autumn is off to a great start!

Book Announcements, Picture Book Journey

Something SPOOKY this way comes!

If you’ve visited this site before, you may notice that I’ve changed the color scheme . . . and I have a new logo. What’s Thousand Acre Wood Books, you wonder? It’s the name of my writing business, and the name under which I’m going to self-publish one of my picture book manuscripts!

This particular manuscript is near and dear to me. I wrote the earliest version back in 2016, when I had no clue what I was doing. In 2017, it was the first manuscript that I shared with other writers for a critique, and wow, did I learn a lot about what I didn’t know about writing picture books!

The story has changed a lot since 2016. The current version is quite different from what I originally imagined, but it has the same aesthetic and the same lovable characters as that flawed draft. Now, it reads like a picture book rather than a short story. I’m excited to launch this book this fall.

Why not traditionally publish? Have I given up on that route? No, I haven’t given up: I’m still hoping to traditionally publish picture books, and I’m still seeking representation. But after querying agents with this manuscript quite a bit, I’m at a point where I really ought to set it aside. And I’m too attached to do that. So I’m launching it myself, largely because I want to have this beloved book in hand to read to my children while they are still young enough to enjoy it. Plus, it’s going to be fun. 🙂

You may be wondering what the story is about and what the title is. But you’ll just have to wait for a cover reveal. Mwa ha ha!

Picture Book Journey

Make Pitching Playful

I have a confession to make: I like writing pitches. It’s fun. And I like to think that I’m good at it (though I don’t have any concrete support for that claim!).

If you already are a pro at writing short pitches that you can use for Twitter pitch parties or in-person pitch fests, you can maybe skip this post. If you don’t know why you need a short pitch, do a little reading first.

If, on the other hand, you know what a pitch is and why you need it, but feel like you are terrible at it, I have a suggestion for you. Get ready to . . . <drumroll, crescendo> play a board game!

Specifically, see if you can track down Balderdash. You’ll need the version that includes the movies category. In that category, you are given the title of a movie and you have to construct a one sentence description of it. Your challenge is to make it sound just wacky enough to be a believable real-life weird movie. You’ll do better at the game if you can imitate the language and structure of a traditional movie logline. And the practice you get from making up those loglines, I think, can help prepare you for pitching.

Don’t want to play an actual board game? You can still make pitching a game. If you don’t know what good pitches look like, I urge you to prowl through the #pitmad pitches on Twitter. See which pitches get lots of hearts or lots of forwards. What makes pitches work? Ask yourself which pitches make YOU want to read the book, and why.

Then practice. Try to “pitch” your favorite classic works of literature as if they were popular works in your preferred genre. Or, make it more fun and try to pitch classic works of literature as if they were in a DIFFERENT genre. What if you pitch GREAT EXPECTATIONS as a thriller rather than a bildungsroman? Or what if you pitch STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI as if it were primarily a romance, with Leia and Han as the main characters? This could get really fun, I promise. And if you play it was a game in a group, it’s a great way to build community . . . which is important for writers, as I’ve written about in the past.

If you want more serious practice, try helping other writers write THEIR pitches. This will give you practice in taking a title and concept and making them compelling. You will grow stronger yourself while helping another writer. It’s a win-win! So, why not play?