The Blogger Recognition Award

blogger-recognition-award

Middle grade writer and recommender-extraordinaire of books, Laura tagged me in this fun blogging event. Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Select other bloggers you want to give this award to.
  6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them & provide the link to the post you created.

Now onto the fun stuff!

The story of how I started my blog.

I’m pretty new to the blogging world. My first post was written on May 26th, 2016, so I’m just a smidge over a year old.

1st blog post announcement

I started the blog because I wanted another way to connect–not only writing and mothering and magically things–but to connect those things with other folks. I had a writing buddy ask how I balanced writing a novel and mothering a newborn, (that post is here) and an illustrator friend requested a post on creativity (click on my Melusine-caricature widget on the right for that). I thought, maybe I do have something important to say. Maybe I can help inspire someone, and wouldn’t that be the most magical thing ever??

Advice for newbie bloggers.

Since I feel like I am a newbie blogger, I think the best thing for me to do is give advice on writing in general (because a blog must have content, right?) I adore this Nelson Mandela quote a writer friend recently reminded me of when she posted it to her facebook author page:

Nelson Mandela quote

We are born to create and be creative. Our greatest fear is the limitlessness of our potential

So my advice? Let your light shine.

My other bit of advice is to study Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. If you aren’t familiar with this, I highly recommend it–it’s what finally tore down my mental blocks and allowed me the courage to write my first novel.

The Artist's Way

My pretty much illegible morning papers

My nominations for this fun tag:

I can’t wait to read what inspired these ladies to start blogging. If you’d like to play along too, tag me in yours so I can discovers what inspired you as well!

 

Mysteries vs. Thrillers vs. Whatever the Heck I’m Writing

I wrote a YA novel I thought was a sort of coming-of-age mystery. The protagonist, Bea Pearl, has lost her brother, her memory, and subsequently, a good bit of herself. The small Southern town she lives in thinks her brother is dead, and her crazy for thinking he’s not. The mystery unravels as Bea Pearl sets out to find out what happened that day her brother disappeared. Though with no memory, she has a hard time trusting what’s real.

Query Hook for my YA mystery now out on a R&R | How to Write A YA Mystery

This was my query hook that initially intrigued my agent and a New York editor. It has come a loooong way since then!

Or that’s what I thought I was doing. Turns out it was leaning a bit too much on the magical realism side and not enough on the mystery. I thought, well, everything is super mysterious (I didn’t even know what happened to the brother in the first draft) so that makes it a mystery, right?

Nope and nope. The super-helpful editor who requested a revise & resubmit suggested my magical realistic beginning needed to have a similar tone to my more thriller-ish ending. I didn’t even know what the difference between a mystery and a thriller was. Up ’til now it was just something I read and knew, but I didn’t know the differences–what made each genre unique.

For those at home curious (which I assume is why you’re here), I went to Nathan Bransford’s always-helpful blog. He wrote a great post here on the differences and includes a link to BookEnds Literary’s more in-depth breakdown.

I wondered if there were any specific rules to writing mysteries for a young adult and stumbled across this Writer’s Digest post on Writing Tenacious Teen Sleuths (anything that refers to Veronica Mars is sound advice). The eight tips they mention helped me streamline my thought process AND my plot.

My agent kept pushing me to further get out of my protag’s head and into the action, so I thought reading YA mysteries would help me in a leading-by-example sense. I could unravel how their mystery plots unfold organically and see if mine following the tips did as well. (This took a few read-throughs as it was hard not to just fall into the story.)

Reading example novels of YA mysteries & thrillers to better my own manuscript.

Reading is my favorite kind of research

The books I studied were:

Carol Goodman’s BYLTHEWOOD because it’s considered a mystery but has a lot of supernatural aspects, like mine has the magical realism.

Kimberly Giarratano’s GRUNDGE GODS AND GRAVEYARDS, the Writer’s Digest suggestion from the above post. And another mystery with supernatural aspects, this time ghosts.

Kristen Lippert-Martin’s TABULA RASA, a YA Thriller so I could better understand my pacing further into my own manuscript.

So this is how I worked through it, what has helped you define your story’s genre? And if you have any tips on writing mysteries, or suggestions to further my library, please leave a comment!

 

Second Annual Miss Bookshelf USA

I realize y’all have been waiting all year for this pageantry of books that follows Miss USA. I did better this time around, woke up from my celebratory Mother’s Day nap just in time to watch Miss District of Columbia straighten her wobbly tiara.

The books eligible for this prestigious award (yes, it’s fine, go ahead and snort at that)  are the twenty-two books I reviewed last year on Goodreads. You can find the complete list here.

In a book slump and need some recommedations on what to read next? Check out my spoofy Miss Bookshelf USA lieterary pagent to see some of my favorites, from middle grade to adult!

After much deliberation and only three hardbacks falling off my bookshelf onto me (they were immediately disqualified for unruly behavior), here are my Top Ten Delegates in no particular order:

Ronald Smith’s HOODOO

Karen Russell’s SWAMPLANDIA!

Marissa Meyer’s CRESS

Kristen Lippert-Martin’s TABULA RASA

Angela Quarles’ MUST LOVE CHAINMAIL

David Mitchell’s THE BONE CLOCKS

Melanie Benjamin’s THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE

Sarah Glenn Marsh’s FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP

Shannon Hale’s THE GOOSE GIRL

Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett’s GOOD OMENS

Once again, a nice, eclectic mix. Be sure to check out my Goodreads reviews to see why they made it on such an awesome list.

Without further ado… Miss Amity goes to GOOSE GIRL

ggIsi is such an amazing and brave character for believing in herself and her aunt’s stories when others refused to.

Mr Photogenic goes to MUST LOVE CHAINMAIL

thThere are no mipples that Ms. Quarles is fond of, but the cover is electric all the same, and in my head, Robert is indeed photogenic *swoon*

And Miss Style was a no brainer one–this book positively oozed with style… THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE!

I must say, we were quite stylish too at the 50’s Cocktail Party.

Second Runner-Up is THE BONE CLOCKS!

and it didn’t hurt its chances one bit when David Mitchell actually responded to me on twitter. Total fan-girl moment!

First Runner-Up goes to GOOD OMENS

go (which I cannot wait ’til it hits the screens. Loving what I’ve seen so far of American Gods)

And now… the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

Miss Bookshelf USA is FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP!

Nt5KvertThe Isle of Man and it’s folkloric inhabitants have always been fascinating to me.

So what do y’all think? I’d love to know who you would have crowned from your list of read books. And if you’d like to see which books made it into last year’s pageant, check out that blog post here.

The Magic of Mardi Gras

Dinner is a rushed affair of sloppy joes and not enough vegetables. Shoes are sensible and closed-toed for the streets will get messy. Downtown is more packed than the kids have ever seen but we manage to squeeze into a parking spot not far from Royal Street. As soon as we get out of the truck, jazz music swells up in our toes and it’s impossible not to walk in rhythm to the horns.

We find a spot against a barricade and the crowd swells. Both kids gasp. My three year old grabs my hand in his.

Always try to see things a little differently--that's real magic. Check out this blog post to experience a tiny but of #mobilemardigras

The magic of Mardi Gras

A train, the Conde Express, massive, gloriously green, purple, and gold steams toward us.

“Hands in the air!” I instruct the kids as beads and stuffed animals and moonpies rain down.

“Hey Mister! Throw something to me!” My daughter, at six, is a pro at this now.

A mermaid, as tall as the oaks, swims by shortly. Then Darth Vader. Gorgon Medusa. By the end of Carnival season, the kids will see a smoke-billowing dragon slither down streets that look normal in the daytime. But at night, and on Fat Tuesday, something magical happens that allows one to see the world a little differently. The fantastical comes to life. mardigrase7fda6b782fc781940e46900ceca9174

Mobile, AL is the birthplace of Mardi Gras. New Orleans may do it louder, bigger, and raunchier, but the magical event that is Mardi Gras was born right here in 1703 when Mobile was the first capital of French Louisiana.

Even just being present, being part of a tradition that’s been around for centuries is magic unto itself though, for the most part, the two-tiered, gilded floats have come a long way from the very first parade: sixteen men of the Boeuf Gras Society pushing a cart with a papier-mâché cow head.

1923316_506931169223_353_n The secrecy of the masks and mystic societies make ordinary people seem larger than themselves. An anything-is-possible thrum in the air that connects us, that makes adults beg for plastic beads and cups, but then hand everything over once the parade passes to little children with wide-eyes and chocolate-smeared mouths.

15439702_10101325313189053_7928266597404588128_nAnd all that will remain once Lent arrives are beads draped like Spanish moss from the live oaks. A tiny reminder to see the world on different terms.

Have you had a chance to experience the magic of a Mardi Gras celebration? I’d love to know how it helped change your perspective of things.

 

Writing Goals: A Look Back on 2016

I began the year with a goal. setting-goals-tony-robbins-quoteBeing on submission was nerve-wracking and I needed smaller creative outlets so I wouldn’t drive myself (or my agent, critique partners, and beta readers) crazy. So I challenged myself to get published at least once a month for the entire year. It’s tricky as a goal, because as a former Mobile Writers’ Guild president once cautioned us, a goal should be something YOU can control. But I could control the opening up to inspiration, the butt-to-chair writing time, the search for publications, and the strength and confidence to put myself and my words out there. I did better than I thought I would, although rejection never got any easier and was sometimes hard to bounce back from.

I submitted fifteen poems, six short stories, and eleven personal essays. On the first day of the new year I received an e-mail that my personal essay, The Fairy House, would be published online by Mothers Always Write.

Setting writing goals is how I coped with being on submission. Check out my blog post to see what is working for me, maybe it can inspire you too!

I was ecstatic. It was the first personal essay I had ever written, and I found the challenge cathartic. I felt like it would make me a better writer and a better mother. More truthful with myself.

Then in February, Mothers Always Write wanted to publish my poem, Lake Geneva. The Fairy House fit their acceptance theme slated for March and was published then. In April, I was beyond excited when Mamalode published my Top Ten Reasons Why Playgroup Moms Make Awesome Friends. Babybug Magazine printed my poem, Gardening, that I had actually signed the contract with back in 2013. Then, I–or really my secret identity, the Saltwater Scribe–was invited to be a part of the author/illustrator group, The Inscribables, and they published my post, Being Creative is as Awesome as Surfing on Dolphins.

Mothers Always Write published another one of my essays, Earless Bunnies in May, and The Good Mother Project allowed me to share my Mother’s Day gift to my mom with their readers when they published my poem, Dear Momma.

Short stories are hard for me to write so I was giddy when the Scarlet Leaf Review published Weak in June. Then Haiku Journal published a haiku of mine mentioned in this previous blog post.

In July, I had my first reprint when The Good Mother Project asked to republish Earless Bunnies, and then again when they republished my Top Ten list in August. In September, they published my poem to my daughter, You Walked Away from Me, as I struggled to be okay with the fact that she was now all growny in kindergarten.

I had a YA short story accepted for publication in October, but the editor decided to push the publication date back. So I’m still hopeful, though I couldn’t make my goal. November was full of rejections, but more positively–revisions on my YA manuscript that’s out on R&R (an editor-requested revise and resubmission). I also have a poem and short story accepted for publication later on next year and a personal essay that’s made it to a final round selection that I’m extremely hopeful for.

I read twenty-two books this year, critiqued four manuscripts, and beta read too many to keep count. I met some awesome authors at book signings. I was part of a 4-H Authors and Illustrator’s Panel, a facilitator at a Young Author’s Writers Conference, a writing contest mentor for FicFest, completed my fourth manuscript, a middle grade magical realism, revised (and revised again) my YA mystery, began my fifth novel, a YA Southern Gothic named Amalee, and am co-writing an adult psychological thriller with two other creative mamas. So throughout the rejections, I’d say a lot of awesome things happened writing-wise for me in 2016.

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What positive things happened to you writing-wise this year? Did you read a book that changed your perspective? Did you write the book that will change your life?

 

 

The Autumn Reading Tag

Autumn lasts only a couple weeks here on the Gulf Coast but maybe that’s why we love it so much. We can drink coffee outside, have a toddy around the grill as we eat jalapeno poppers, wear leggings that reach our ankles, all without sweating! The crisp air is so fleeting, most of our trees are oaks or evergreens so if we want to see a color change we have to go north, or transplant a maple so we can experience a green leaf turning red. I’m not even going to comment on the pumpkin-spice-everything epidemic that began as soon as temperatures dipped into the low 80s.841222_10100312904658863_333803395_o So when writer and book recommender-extraordinaire (seriously, she’s never steered me wrong on a book rec. If you read middle grade, you should follow her blog.) Laura Noakes posted about an Autumn Reading Tag (created by Amy Jane Smith), I couldn’t wait to participate.

Are there any books you plan on reading over the autumn season?

Thirty-eight books are stacked on my desk, waiting to be read. pkqpiry3 It’s glorious. Of those, I plan on reading GRUNGE GODS AND GRAVEYARDS by Kimberly G. Giarratano, a YA mystery recommended by Writer’s Digest. Ghosts and ’90s grunge music? Sounds like the best of my high school memories. Perfect for an All Hallows Eve read.

I also plan on reading HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD because like Laura said, nothing says fall and winter (especially Christmas!) quite like Harry Potter. And my kids are finally getting into the movies which warms my muggle heart (though my youngest is terrified of Dobby).

Cooler months for some reason allow for nonfiction more than any other season for me, so I’d also like to read A PRIMATE’S MEMOIR by Robert Sapolsky.

September brings back school memories: what book did you most enjoy studying? And what were your favorite and least favorite subjects?

I’ve been exposed to so many good books in school, though I must say my absolute favorite to study was A WRINKLE IN TIME. I didn’t even know books like that existed before then! Favorite subjects: English and zoology, least favorite: any math (hence my degree in English!). Absolute worst was Math in Society. Compounded interest confounded me.

October means Halloween: Do you enjoy scary books and films?

Much to my husband’s chagrin, I can’t handle scary films. I didn’t sleep for a week after watching The Ring. Saw? Nope, I know my limit. Bookwise, I can handle a little scarier–psychologically speaking, not gore. I was on a Dean Koontz kick in high school. Now, I’m worried the wights might be more than I can handle in the movie-version of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, though of course I read the book.

With November, it’s time for bonfire nights. What’s the most exciting book you’ve read that’s kept you gripped?

1425754_10100335642292463_1970888259_nI cheated. This bonfire, or Circle of Love as my husband’s family calls it, was actually in North Carolina.

Oooh, this is hard so I’ll break it up by age group:                                                                                                                                                                                  MG: Wrinkle in Time series, including all the companion ones like AN ACCEPTABLE TIME    YA: I devoured Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series, as in, read a 600 page book in two days, also Laini Taylor’s Smoke & Bone trilogy. Adult: my guilty pleasure is Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series (not a fan of HBO’s True Blood. Deviated away from the books too much for me.)

What book is your favorite cozy comfort read?

As much as I like to own books, I don’t usually reread them in their entirety. Mainly, I like being able to dog-ear passages that speak to me and randomly reread those (yes, I’m a dog-earer. Throw your stones!) That said, I have reread Harry Potter and my favorite cozy read is probably Frank L Baum’s OZ series.

Curled up with a good book, what is your hot drink of choice?

1557453_10101061863763813_1615716691172101697_n Mmmm… Hot Caramel Macchiato. It’s just usually too hot to drink it.

Coffee. Unless it’s late at night, then some honey lavender tea.

Any plans you’re looking forward to in the next few months?

All the Halloween Things!

I appreciate any occasion to dress up. Last year I was Elphaba from Gregory Maguire’s WICKED and the Queen of Hearts.

It’s my favorite holiday, though this year will be the first our family costumes aren’t themed. Kiddos have their own opinions now, so we’ll be Alice and the Mad Hatter, a cowgirl, and Marshall from Paw Patrol.

Then in November, my birthday (!), my daughter’s in December, and then Christmas and all the family and friend festivities that come along with it. I’m also hoping to have revisions on my YA mystery turned in, and it would be The Best if I get good news on any of my manuscripts currently out on submission.

Even though today reached 82 degrees, football’s on and the air conditioner is turned up high. It’s officially Fall. This was a fun post to do so you’re welcome to play along too. Just make sure you tag me so I can read your responses!

I’m tagging Margie Brimer at The Write Niche, MeLeesa Swann, and Carrie Dalby, the Wonderwegian.

 

 

 

 

Autograph Your Book

As a writer, you’ve worked on a glorious assemblage of words that can tower up to 200,000 in the case of one of my critique partners (it’ll probably end up as a trilogy, don’t worry). The longest amount of words I’ve strung together so far is 70,000. Then, once you have every word exactly how you want it, deeply imbued with meaning, and loadbearing-ness, and imagery, you have to summarize it into a one page synopsis, then a paragraph in a query letter, then a two sentence hook, and maybe a 140 character tweet if you participate in twitter contests such as #pitmad.

I thought of something else while I was in the shower–too early for my right brain to be awake and tell my left brain and me how silly we are–what about the authors who summarize their grand literary conglomeration into an autograph?

A couple well-known author autographs in my collection, like Maggie Stiefvater and Rick Riordan, are just their names–and I feel honored to have them on my bookshelves. Many that I have say something along the lines of “good luck with your writing”, which is awesome because it means I had a chance to talk with them in person about the craft of writing.autograph

But some authors take their book itself and connect it to the readers.

I imagine JK Rowling’s is pretty easy. All she would need to write is “Always.”

Here are some of my favorites:2qdeqfyx

“Here’s to finding our edge but never going over it!” -Lena Roy, author of Edges.

This one is great because, as the title implies, there are so many edges in this book: the literal ones of the canyons in the Moab desert, and the figurative ones the main characters must find-Luke with grieving for his dead mom and alcoholic dad, and Ava with tiptoeing the edge of sobriety as she tries to regain control of her life.

autograph2“What’s the one thing you want most?” -Stephanie Lawton, author of Want.

The main theme centers around what the characters, Juli and Isaac, want whether it be a prestigious music career, or something off-limits, juxtaposed with society’s (especially Old Mobile) traditions and familial responsibilities.

autograph1

“Stay true to yourself” -Joyce Sterling Scarbrough, author of True Blue Forever.

This novel (and now a trilogy!) is about the ever-changing friendship and rivalry between Jeana, Mickey, Billy Joe, and Wade and staying true to each other.

autograph3“Never give up on your dreams.” -Robin Bridges, author of The Gathering Storm.

Her protagonist, Katiya, holds fast to her dream of becoming a doctor in 1888 Russian royal society which gets her through all the craziness that being a necromancer brings, namely, zombies and vampires.

What would mine be?

Yes, I know it’s way too early to be thinking about this though I thought it would be a fun exercise and maybe help me with query hooks. One of my manuscripts is a YA mystery about a girl who’s brother is missing. My main character, Bea Pearl, copes with memory loss, questioning reality and wondering if her dreams might actually be memories. So my autograph message for her book might be something along the lines of Mrs. Scarbrough’s and Mrs. Bridges’ with “believe in your dreams”.

Another manuscript I have out on submission is an upper middle grade fairytale retelling of Melusine, the two-tailed water spirit on your Starbucks cup. It’s about a girl, Mellie, who is banished and cursed by her mother. It has an ecological theme so I’d want to incorporate that, maybe something along the lines of “It’s not easy being green (-tailed!)” Haha, that’s horrible but I have time to come up with something better.

I’d love to know what your autograph message is (or will be), how you connect your story to your readers. You’re welcome to leave a link in comments if you have a book out, or share what you’ll write once your writing dreams come true.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Faith, Trust, & Pollen Dust

The kiddos and I are eating breakfast one morning when my daughter sighs deeply into her Cheerios. “Magic’s not real, is it, Mommy?”

I drop my biscuit. Gosh, that hope rests so tremulous in her little girl voice. I’ve worked hard at instilling wonder and believing in possibilities that I have no idea where this is stemming from; did someone in her preschool class tell her Santa didn’t exist? This innocence is so important to me that I don’t want to say the wrong thing. So I take a big swig of coffee. Choke a little bit. Realize I need more information (Something I recently discovered to do when I don’t know how to respond, like when they asked where babies come from. Never answer a kid’s question at face value, I’ve learned.)

“What do you mean?”

She shifts in her booster seat. “Well, princesses aren’t real.”

Nervous, I launch into a monologue about the differences between our democracy and a monarchy, and by the time her eyes glaze over, something catches my attention out the window behind her. A Gulf fritillary deposits eggs on the passionflower vines that climb up the posts on our back patio.

CjOmqYCUUAkAquY

I point it out to her. “That’s kind of magical, isn’t it? That butterfly is laying a teeny, tiny egg, and we’ll get to watch the caterpillars hatch and grow, then harden into chrysalises that look like dried leaves curled into question marks. And then a butterfly comes out!”

She looks doubtful, but nods. “What about pixie dust? There’s nothing like that in this world.”

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By now, I know how to answer her, how to answer this question of faith, and believing, and growing up but holding onto possibility. “Look at the patio table outside. What’s on it?”

My son yells, “Pollen!” He’s happy to be able to contribute to such a serious discussion. And poor thing, he knows all about pollen because every time something new blooms he gets congested.

I nod. “And what does pollen do?”

“Turns your car yellow!”

“Gets in my nose and makes boogers!”

I laugh. “What do bees and butterflies do with pollen?”

“Takes it to all the flowers. Bees make honey, too.”

“And isn’t that what Tinker Bell and all her friends do with pixie dust? Use it to help things grow? It turns seeds into flowers, and acorns into oak trees?”

She nods, the smile on her face showing me she’s satisfied with my explanation. We’re both happy that she can see the magic now. Because really, it’s all at how you look at things. As Roald Dahl wrote:

thDahl magic meme

This breakfast exchange got me thinking of how nice it would be to have these little reminders of all the magic constantly around us, though maybe we’re too tired, or too busy, or too in ‘our world’ as my daughter called it, to see. So I’m going to start a hashtag on my author page and twitter called #everydaymagic.

And I’d really love it if you’d play along too. Seeing from someone else’s perspective is a magic unto itself.

Time Zones: It’s A Paw-ty

My baby turns three tomorrow.

A6rbne1iGabelpostbday 
So, technically, and according to him when he flexes his super-hero muscles, he’s not a baby.

As very little is more magical than a birth and the thriving, I thought today’s blog post would be apt to talk of that with the combination of writerly things.

Back track almost three years ago: I poured my first cup of fully caffeinated coffee I’d had in a year at our local writers’ guild meeting when a writing-buddy turned to me. “I have a friend who just had a baby and she’s really struggling finding time to write. How do you do it?”

_8MgoxTvGabelpost

My baby was six weeks old, my daughter almost three. The schedule my eldest and I had come up with—balancing playdates and naptimes and my writing—had twisted into something unrecognizable with the arrival of my son. Before, I wrote during her naptime. Constantly exhausted keeping up with her, I’d snuggle in and take a twenty minute power nap, then wake up with scenes vibrant, writing furiously for the next hour and forty minutes. We were clockwork, she and I. I was the big hand, she the little and our days spun around the clock face.

The baby was a different time zone. Naptimes where no longer times to write but times to nurse and change diapers and soothe so he would be happy while she slept. Days when their naps coincided were glorious but rare. When I changed course and woke early to write, one or the other did too. I didn’t make a sound but they could feel the moment I turned on the computer through cracked bedroom doors and down a hallway. I grew frustrated and raged that the universe was against me.

I wrote after the three am breastfeeding for a week or two.  The crash was spectacular and messy.

And I felt so guilty that I blamed them for needing me. Writing is a priority but these two amazing children are so much more. I needed to change my mindset on what I expected out of myself. This baby might be my last so I needed to appreciate the fleeting infant time more. The incredible bond while nursing, the coos and gummy smiles. The tiny fist gripping my pinkie.

nJ90AUIxgabelpinkie

He still prefers to hold only my pinkie. It’s like our secret handshake. A way he reminds me that he’ll always be my baby no matter that he’s growing up.

I reminded myself of a pass I had put in place. I had given myself a goal, a manageable 500 words a day, to finish writing a middle grade fairytale retelling before he arrived. I’m goal-driven and finished it a month before his arrival. Revising doesn’t take the same mental capacity that creating does to me so instead, I used my writing time to draft. And journal. I wanted to remember every tiny detail of their babyhood and toddlerhood, so why not exercise my writing muscles by recording? And it was easy to put down when they need me.

My new leniency with myself allowed me to adapt my writing to teething times and night terror times and every time a child needs comfort and attention from their mother.

We figured out our own time zones. Though with my daughter beginning kindergarten in two weeks, I have a feeling we’ll need to figure this out all over again. But that’s a different post.

How has your writing time adapted to new children or new schedules? I’d love to hear what works for you

 

 

Writing Contests & Tahiti Tours

This past weekend forty-five finalists culled from over 400 entrants had their queries and first three pages of their manuscript presented to twenty-six agents. Much better odds than a slush pile, right?! So today I want to focus on writerly things and talk about contests and what they can do for authors.

FicFestlogo

In a nutshell: mentoring, networking, and getting your work in front of agents are the three most important things you can get out of participating. And that’s for everyone, not solely contest winners.

As a team mentor for the new writing contest, FicFest, I’ve now been on both sides. I first began entering writing contests in 2013. My manuscripts did well in them without winning (yes, that’s possible, haha) and the mentoring I received is what helped me connect with my agent. You can read that story here on QueryKombat co-founder and twitter contest-extraordinaire Michelle Hauck’s blog.

And so I wanted to pass my appreciation along to a writer I could help, deciding to mentor in the contest. It’s helped me too as I’ve met a lot of other writers, some of who in turn have beta read for me. The writing community truly is the best. My team leader, UK author Laura Noakes, feels the same way:

When I was querying, I entered a tonne of competitions similar to #FicFest. I met so many writer friends, learnt loads about publishing and writing, and had so much fun in those contests—querying is sometimes really hard, but contests made it fun. I suppose I wanted to be a mentor because I wanted to help someone else feel that way.

There are lots of writing contests and the best place to find them (and other writers) is on twitter. They mainly fall into two categories, merit and mentor. Merit contests are based on how well your entry already is, while a mentor-based contest focuses on an individual working with a chosen entrant to make their work the best it can be. It seems like a no-brainer to go for the mentor-based contests, but I was surprised at how polished some of the entries were–I didn’t know how I could help improve it. So they would be better suited for merit-based contests.

Maryland author Tiffany Hofmann, founder of FicFest, says she set out

to create a contest were all books were given equal opportunity, and equal representation. I believe we accomplished just that.

All genres are represented in #FicFest: Children’s Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult. Each genre has three teams and each team is made up of three mentors who choose a mentee each and an alternate to share. What’s not to love about a contest that could potentially have forty-five winners?!

Being a mentor on Middle Grade’s Team Tahiti is awesome! (This year’s theme for FicFest is World Tour so each team chose a country.) In my pick, I fell in love with the voice and world building immediately, and after emailing the contestant, was excited that we could work together so well.

TeamTahiti

Team Tahiti mentor Laura says:

I don’t think I realised how cool it would be to read revisions on a MS I already loved and think ‘WOW!’. The difference from the first time I read Devon’s MS to her revised MS is amazing, and shows how much hard work she put in. It was such an honour to see that journey!

Mentee Tennessee writer Erica Waters says:

I was surprised by how well [my mentor] understood my characters—sometimes it seemed like she knew them better than I did. She pointed out when they were acting out of character or speaking in inauthentic ways. None of my beta readers/CPs were quite able to do that.

The mentees had two months to work with their mentors. Hearing (and giving!)constructive criticism isn’t always easy (and sometimes overwhelming) when a manuscript has gone through so many revisions, especially in the all important first pages. But Erica has some comments she didn’t mind reading:

“Oooh, total Gollum-vibe. Excellent job setting this up since I felt the same horror as Vaya and Jada even though I eat fish lol.” I love this comment because it showed me how immersed she was in my story and let me know that I was accomplishing what I meant to in conveying an unfamiliar worldview. (The LOTR reference doesn’t hurt either!)

Curious to read Team Tahiti’s entries and see if they’ve gotten any agent-love? Check them out here! Only show your support by liking; commenting is reserved for agents.

I’d love to see your thoughts on writing contests! How have they worked for you? If you haven’t entered before, I hope this post inspires you to change that. It might be the push your manuscript needs.