Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Gratitude Attitude

Today's exercise from Julie Hedlund's 12 Days of Christmas Anti-Resolution Revolution centers on gratitude. We are to fill the page thinking back to our surprises and successes from 2017 and how gratitude infuses itself in our writing journey. I instinctively began thinking of gratitude with my success list, so look back to my last post, #22. (It's the last item on my list.)

1. As I begin my 5th year as a children's writer, I am happy in the confidence I've gained in my craft. 
2. My world has grown so much larger thanks to the connections I've made with other writers in kidlit land.
3. I finally feel I know "who I am" as a writer - my strengths, my weaknesses, my favorite themes and topics.
4. I am amazed at how many published authors take time to help us pre-pub folks. Generous authors have encouraged and even offered critiques out of friendship. I am humbled by their actions. (Jen Swanson, Jill Esbaum, Linda Skeers, Alayne Kay Christian, Andrea J. Loney, Miranda Paul, Carmella Van Vleet, Michelle Houts, Sherri Duskey Rinker have been so giving.)
5. My critique group helps me with all aspects of my writing. They are personal friends who mean so much to me. (Janie Reinart, Pam Courtney, Charlotte Dixon, Melissa Rutigliano, and Monique Morales Wakefield.)
6. Both SCBWI Ohio groups have accepted me with open arms after I moved here from AZ. They are active, meet regularly, and have great conferences and events. 
7. Columbus OH libraries are some of the best in the country! They are open even on Sundays and the children's librarians at the Gahanna branch have become colleagues. 
8. Writing for children has opened up my inner child. I am more alive and aware in daily life as I look through a child's eyes at this world. (My two grands, Rosie and Tobin, always give me inspiration.)
9. I learn and grow everyday. I am never bored. 
10. Writer friends I trust are plentiful. I am energized and happier after I talk  or share stories w/Lindsay Bonilla, Pam Vaughn, and Liana Lee.  
11. My soul mate and partner of almost 30 years, husband Bob, is patient with me, gives me space to work, offers ideas and suggestions, and has even written a story or two himself. I am so blessed to have him in my life. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Looking Back at Success to Move Forward: The Anti-Resolution Revolution

The future is mine to define.

This is my third year of participating in this challenge to honor the work I did as a writer in 2017 before moving into 2018. I gain deeper insight every year from this challenge. Another perk is the nourishment I receive from other writers involved in the challenge.

Children's author Julie Hedlund, challenged participants of her 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series to post SUCCESSES (rather than resolutions) on our blogs this year. She believes the way New Year's resolutions are traditionally made come from a place of negativity - what DIDN'T get done or achieved in the previous year.  Instead, she suggests we set goals for the New Year that BUILD on our achievements from the previous one. I decided to participate in this Anti-Resolution Revolution! Here is my list for 2017 in no particular order.

1. I submitted more stories to agents and editors than in 2016. I counted 25 submissions total to agents and editors. I targeted my subs strategically looking for the best match for my personality and body of work. (I 'd had an agent before and jumped in too quickly, so now I am very judicious.) 
2. Twitter pitch parties became part of my submission repertoire and I garnered several requests to send work to agents/publishers. This is a first for me even though I didn't have any contract offers.
3. I've been blogging consistently with a group of likeminded writers for 3+ years. I'm now the go-to person for social media PR for this group. It takes time, but I'm building a great platform.
4. Published authors now ask me to interview them or review books for the GROG,  AKA group blog.  
5. Our group blog has been recognized by the influential KidLit411 curated blog many times in 2017.
6. My use of twitter has expanded and I have a stronger presence there than in 2016.
7. The online critique group I joined has really jelled and we are all subbing, helping each other with queries and pitches. The biggest bonus is these wonderful women are some of my closest friends.
8. At the Whispering Woods Retreat in Iowa, a WIP turned around with the help of 8 writers and author/leaders Linda Skeers and Jill Esbaum. I created a new ms there which is now getting some interest, too.
9. I attended NESCBWI Spring retreat for the second year and read at Open Mic night and entered the pitchapalooza.
10. I wrote for 5 contests this year which forced me to write in rhyme and for an adult audience. I received an honorable mention in Susanna Hill's Holiday Contest. 
11. I attempted NaNoWriMo for the second year and turned a PB into a chapter book, writing over 9,000 words. I have 3 chapters left to complete. This year I wrote 3,000 more words than last year during NaNo.
12. I completed Storystorm to generate ideas (more than 30 in 30 days) and participated in ReFoReMo for the 3rd year. I was asked to guest post for their blog, too. (Hats off to Tara Lazar, Carrie Charley Brown, and Kirsti Call.)
13. I began two new PB bios during WOW Week 2017.
14. One of my dearest crit partner's has a book coming out next year. She has graciously shared her journey every step of the way and I know so much more about the business side of our craft. (Thanks LB.)
15. I co-presented for our South-Central SCBWI during Social Media fair for the first time.
16. Again this year, I was a pullout presenter for both the Mazza Summer Institute and The Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature. (Both in Ohio, both stellar.) 
17. To round out my speaking engagements, I was asked to be the luncheon speaker at the Ohio PTA Reflections celebration. I had volunteered to judge middle grade student writing and pitched myself as a speaker. (I must have been crazy.) This was the first time I spoke to parents and students K-12. I actually had a few students ask for my autograph on their luncheon program. (I'm not published yet!)
18. I entered the Writing with the Stars mentorship program. Even though I was not chosen to receive a mentor, filling out such a detailed application was an excellent exercise.
19. I was asked to be a beta reader for a published author. The set of question the author gave me are so useful. Now I can use them when I need a beta readers in the future.
20.  Opening up a friend’s PB bio published this year and finding that I was in the acknowledgments section gave me chills. It made me cry to see my name in a printed book. (Amazing book, AL.)
21.  Having an editor in an intensive during an SCBWI conference tell me to send him an ms about an idea I pitched, gave me confidence.
Grateful to so many, especially my husband, Bob!

22. There are many more "successes" I could list, but I feel my confidence in my craft, my connections to so many in the kidlit world, and my sense of knowing who I am as a writer are the biggest successes of all. I am blessed to be a children's writer. I thank all who have helped me on this path. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Roger the Christmas Squirrel: 7th Annual Holiday Contest -by Kathy Halsey

Yes, readers, it's time for mistletoe, holly and Susanna Hill's contest. Snuggle up with some hot cocoa and sugar cookies. For this story I recommend munching on Christmas trees. (You'll see why soon!) 

The rules are deceptively simple...actually writing these teensy stories is more complicated than it looks. Squeezing a story into 250 words can be quite the task. (My entry is 249 words.) In a nutshell, rules indicate the word count and a holiday surprise story for kids up to age 12. (The nuts for my "nutshell' are acorns, also germane to my story.)

For this tale I mined memories of my mother and the special relationship she had with my niece. Mom created a tradition that stayed with Lauren her entire life. Now she's sharing this tradition with her first child, Eloise. I dedicate this story to Mary Hackman, Lauren, and Eloise. May Roger's legend continue.

Roger the Christmas Squirrel

by Kathy Halsey

             Lori longed for a large family so she befriended the backyard animals. Cardinals robed in red cheered winter skies. Whitetail deer peeked from the brush. She fed them acorns and blackberries.
            One frosty day, she heard chatter. A bright-eyed squirrel skittered in the old oak. Lori held out a handful of acorns. He scampered to her. She smiled. His eyes twinkled knowingly.
            “I’ll call you ‘Roger.’  Let’s celebrate Christmas.”
            He chitter-chattered his agreement.
            Lori searched for Roger everyday. He left little surprises in the oak hollow — a shiny coin, a berry crown, a heart-shaped rock. She gathered the gifts and shared them with mom.
            As the days grew shorter, Roger visited less. Lori missed him. Was he hunting for food before snowfall?
            She and Mom baked pine-shaped cookie treats for her friend and placed them in the special oak tree. They disappeared. Where was Roger? She watched the barren backyard for signs.
            In the crook of the oak, she spotted a note written on brown paper. Lori’s hands trembled as she read.   
            Merry Christmas Lori,
            I found your cookies — much better than acorns. I am the Christmas squirrel. I only       visit this time of the year. Remember me by the present under your tree.

            Lori darted inside, surprised by the pinecone doll. She cradled it gently.
            Years passed. Today Roger’s magic returned. Under Lori’s tree lay a pinecone doll with a note, “ For Roxie: Love, Roger.”
            “Momma, who’s Roger?” asked Roxie as Lori’s eyes twinkled knowingly.

Original illustration by Teresa Robeson
Bonus gift. My brother found a few notes from the real Roger. 
This is a section of one note. Mom has been gone 7 years, but her special traditions live on for my niece and grand niece now. (Roger always wrote in capital letters, too.)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Bwahahaha -Halloweensie Is Here by Kathy Halsey

Ghoul friends, writers and readers, it's time for Susanna Hill's Halloweensie contest. You still have a few days before the bewitching hour to write your own. OR - read them all and share with family and friends. Soon you'll be able to vote on your fave. 
Competition's always keen, but we writers are good spirits and cheer each other on. 

Rules state only 100 words or less, kid-friendly, a true story arc, and use of these words: Candy Corn ( count as 1 word), monster, shadow. (Other forms of the required words may be used, too.)
Hope you find mine delightful and not too frightful.

Candy Corn's Dilemma

Candy Corn is forlorn.
It's almost Halloween.
She wants to mix with goblins who trick,
But Mom says, "Don't be mean."

Monsters and ghouls roam this night,
Yet Candy frets in despair.
Sweet and cute are her strong suit,
Tonight nobody seems to care.

"If I could just be a zombie, a mummy,
or shadowy, or spooky, or scary...
Not syrup and honey, not yellow and sunny,
I'm just too darn ordinary."

Her doorbell rings; kids stand and stare.
"EWWW," they scream as one boy states,
"Run away, run away, don't take the bait,
that Candy Corn is out-of-date."

Thursday, March 2, 2017

And We're Off to the Races: 50 Precious Words Contest by Kathy Halsey

Say, what? Yes, another contest...it's time for author Vivian Kirkfield's 50 Precious Words modeled off Bennet Cerf's challenge to Dr. Seuss to create a story using only 50 unique words. This was the origin of GREEN EGGS AND HAM. I recycled an old picture book manuscript and shaved it down to 47 words, no easy feat, believe me. 

Let's have a bit of word association before we begin, shall we? There's "feat" and "feet," but in my story we have  a race to the finish with "hoof" versus "paw." Yes, it's Blaze Cheetah versus Giraffe. (Did you know that a giraffe's hooves are as big as dinner plates? Did you know they can cruise at 35 mph? Did you know that we PB writers learn many odd facts?) Onward to our race!

Kalahari Elementary Track Meet

by Kathy Halsey

Blaze's fast,
Always best.
Giraffe laces up,
Cannot rest.

They'r-r-r-e OFF!
'Round the track.
Blaze zooms ahead,
Giraffe bounces back.

Giraffe tangles up.
Legs run amok!

Neck and neck,
Hoof to paw.
Near the half mark,
Shock'n awe.

Photo finish.
Who will win?
Mile-wide grin.