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.



Challenges

Summer Writing Plans

Memorial Day Weekend is just around the corner (can you believe it?). For many parents, finding writing time in summer is challenging. For me, summer is a bit easier: I’m no longer teaching classes, but my youngest children are still in daycare. Summer is a chance to work on research, revise my syllabi, and generally recover from the academic year.

Since I’ve gotten more serious about my creative writing, summer has also become a special time to focus on creative writing. Last year I participated in the Camp NaNoWriMo challenge in July. I recommend this to anyone looking for accountability: it’s more flexible than the classic November NaNoWriMo. You don’t have to work on a novel: you can also work on short fiction or multiple projects.

This year, I’m hoping to get some more time working on my picture book manuscripts. I’ve managed to keep up with the 12 x 12 Community’s “one picture book a month” challenge so far . . . but only just barely! I’m hoping to do better over the summer.

I also have a novel project that I’m hoping to finish. I’m not going to say much about that because my track record for finishing novels has been poor, at least since college. If I manage to finish it, you’ll hear more about it!

What are you hoping to do with your writing this summer, fellow writers? Whether summer is a tough time for you or a great time for writing, I’d love to hear your plans!

Challenges

“Magique Comes Home”

I’m about to disappoint anyone who came to this blog looking for my fiction. I’m removing “Magique Comes Home” because I am revising and expanded the story. But if you’re here, pull up a chair and I’ll tell you how I came up with the idea for this award-winning short fiction!

This story was inspired by a conversation with my oldest child. When I told him about someone I knew who had found their lost cat weeks after the Camp Fire in Paradise, he gave me a wide-eyed stare and solemnly said: “That sounds like magic to me!” And I knew there had to be a story about that . . .

I don’t really understand how cats know to survive a wildfire, but I’ve heard many stories of lost kitties finally being found and claimed, sometimes months after the fire. It seems like magic to me, too!


Challenges, Picture Book Journey

50 Magic Words, One Tough Challenge!

The very first kid lit writing contest I entered was Vivian Kirkfield’s “50 Magic Words” in 2018. I’ve done a few other challenges since then, but wow, this one is still tough. If you think writing a 100 or 214 word story is difficult, try writing with just 50 words and no illustration notes!

This contest is both a challenge and a delight!

The amazing thing about it, though, is that if you read through the entries, some people really rock this challenge. We’re only two days into the challenge and there’s already an impressive range of flash fictions for children: funny stories, sweet stories, and tug-at-your-heartstring stories.

And if you’re up for it, by all means try the challenge. I think this one encourages lyrical or poetic stories, because every one of those 50 words has to carry so much weight.

Challenges

Penguin’s Perfect Present

You know what today is, right? Today’s the day for posting contest entries for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Valentiny holiday contest. This story was harder to write than my December holiday story: I had several false starts. But I ended up with a sweet story about friendship. Say hello to Penguin and Bear!

Valentiny Bear

Penguin was delighted to be invited to Bear’s Valentine’s Day party. She had to pick the perfect present, because a friend like Bear deserved something special.

Penguin chose a delicate vase with a bouquet of sweet-smelling flowers, then wrapped a sparkly pink bow around it. Stunning!

At the party, Bear was in the center of a crowd. This could take a while, Penguin realized. She put down her bouquet so she could grab some punch.

When she came back, her bouquet was gone. “Did you bring that salad?” Moose asked. “DEE-LI-CIOUS!”

“I’m . . . uh . . . glad you liked it?” Penguin said. At least she still had the vase to give to Bear.

Then something hurtled down from the ceiling. CRASH! The vase shattered.

“So sorry,” squeaked Flying Squirrel. “I messed up my landing. Oh dear, what a mess!”

“Yes, it’s all a mess,” Penguin agreed. She blinked back tears as she picked up the pink bow—all that was left. So much for giving Bear a special gift! All she’d done was mess up. Some friend she was!

“Penguin!” cried Bear. “Is that for me?”  Bear slipped the bow over her ear. It twinkled like diamonds. “How do I look?”

Penguin stared. Then she found the right word: “Perfect!”

Challenges, Picture Book Journey

The Picture Book Journey: Get ready to write a LOT

One of the things I didn’t know when I first started writing picture books was that you need to write a lot. Like many writers, I thought I would write one book and then try to find a home for it.

The reality is that what you OUGHT to do is write another picture book manuscript, and another, and another. Kate Messner explains why in this post on “Picture Book Math,” which anyone who wants to write picture books should read.

What I want to talk about here is how you can write a lot. One of the tricks I discovered last year is Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm, a one-month challenge that encourages people to generate a month’s worth of story ideas. It’s not as daunting as it may sound, because there’s also a month’s worth of reading about how to generate ideas.

Last year, I was so excited by StoryStorm that there were many days when, rather than just writing out an idea, I actually sat down and dashed out a whole draft. I happen to be a fast drafter, and I had more free time due to a sabbatical, so I had a number of complete drafts at the end of the month, in addition to a page or two of ideas. That was great in some ways. Writing so many drafts in one month gave me a lot of material to work with as I tried to learn my craft.

I’m still trying to learn the craft, of course. But I already have drafts from last year that need revision. Plus, I have a new semester of teaching to prepare for. So while I admit that I’ve already turned one of my StoryStorm ideas into a January draft, I’m trying to pace myself. Dashing off a first draft is probably the most fun part of writing for me, but it isn’t necessarily what I need to be working on now. (Have I mentioned that revision is my nemesis?)

Of course, when we get to the first week of May, all bets are off, because that’s National Picture Book Writing Week!  A challenge that involves drafting a new story every day for a week is prefect. And it’s demanding: by the end of that week, even I needed a break from drafting.

For now, I’m trying to balance the work of generating new ideas –which is important–with my need to focus on revision and polishing. Picture book writers, how do you balance those two?