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Monday, September 28, 2015

Writer's Block

Writer's block - do you ever get it?


I have had it a couple of times - at least!

I have been working on a new middle grade novel, a sequel to one of my other ones I have written. I started on it a couple years ago - at least!

I let it set for a long time, and then recently brought it out, dusted it off and started writing again.

It is moving along at a slow pace. I took it to my writer's group and we put our heads together and came up with ideas on what, when and where.

I write a monthly column for kids. I usually come up with ideas pretty easy. I like to have the subject matter have something to do with the month or time of year.

This gives me more leeway than you think.

One of my April topics was the Pony Express (established in April 1860). Did you know February was National Blah Buster month? You would if you read my February 2011 Column. And, I love giving kids fun crafts and easy recipes to try.

But, for some reason, I was coming up blank for November's column. I have already written about turkeys, how the pilgrims celebrated, that November is National Peanut Butter Lover's Month, the history of pulling on the wishbone, food ate by the Pilgrims and how you (children) can help with the meal, National Novel Writing Month and PiBoIdMo (writing for picture book writers), and how writing letters helped establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday (the many letters that Sarah Hale wrote to presidents) and presidential pets and Tad Lincoln's beloved turkey named Jack.

I thought and thought and thought.
I came up with different ideas and started to write - but nothing clicked. Nothing clicked.

One night when we were walking, I asked my neighbor for ideas. She came up with some good and some not so good ideas. One of her ideas had merit, so I gave the topic a try. It didn't click.

Then an idea popped into my head. I did a little research and found out some interesting fun facts that I turned into a column I thought my readers would enjoy.

What is the topic?
You will have to wait until November to find out. But, like I told my neighbor, it is very different from her suggestion -- very, very different.

Mark Twain's suggestion:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

My suggestions:

Brainstorm, just write and see what comes, write on paper, try a new place to write,  have an idea book - write down ideas whenever they come to you - go to them when you are stumped as to what to write about and googling is always an option. But, my most important suggestion is never give up.

What are your suggestions?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Rejection - But, with a personal note

In November of last year, I sent a PB manuscript to a publishing company. I had submitted to them before and knew I would get notified in a timely manner, (usually before 3 months), if they wanted my manuscript or not. I had also researched what they published and my manuscript fit them to a T!

Since then I have been waiting patiently (if that is what you call crossing my fingers when the phone rang and constantly watching my emails). I was that sure my manuscript had a chance.

I even did a no-no. I did a follow-up email after waiting around four months. But, it wasn't so bad. They promptly got back with me and said it had been sent to the owners for a decision. So, I continued to wait.

One day, during the course of my waiting, I checked out my stats on my author blog, I saw where someone from the publishing company had visited my site. (My heart and hopes soared) They are checking me out, I thought.

Saturday, after arriving back from our family reunion, I checked the mailbox. There was my SASE waiting for me. That was not what I had hoped to see.

But, on the bright side, it was a personal rejection signed by the Editor in Chief.

She thanked me for my patience during their evaluation (9 1/2 months), they had given it their thorough consideration, but were afraid they decided to pass due to limited publishing slots available each year. Again, saying she was sorry and apologizing for their delays.


Oh, well. I'll do more research and send it off to another publisher.

 Also, I have another PB manuscript out there that I sent to another publisher after careful research. This one also fits them to a T.

 Keeping my fingers crossed.

What is new with your writing and submitting?


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Back to Writing

I've taken a needed, but much too long, break from writing this summer. Aside from writing my monthly articles for Two-Lane Livin' Magazine, I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to write something new again.

This morning I decided I needed to send out at least one of my  manuscripts. So, I planned to work on my cover letter and zip it out to the world.

The picture book I chose is one of my very favorites that I have written. It has went through many, many changes over the years (yes, I said years). It has been critiqued many times (by my critique groups, a professional critiquer and Rate Your Story).

This past June, it placed second in the annual West Virginia Writers writing contest. I can't complain about coming in second, because one of my middle grade novels placed first!

I thought this would be a piece of cake. It has been edited many times and placed in a contest, so it should be ready to submit. But, I decided to look at it one last time. I opened up the manuscript from my computer and took a look.

Was it ready?

No! I found many small changes I felt I needed to make - and, a couple of big changes.

Hopefully, these changes made it an even better manuscript than it already was.

My advice - never give up on your stories, never think they cannot be improved, always keep an open mind and let suggestions simmer and consider them all.

And - do not get in a hurry. Leave your stories for a while and then come back. I bet changes will pop out at you.

When you have did all you can do and you believe in your story - cross your fingers and zip it out to the world.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summer Writing

I have really been neglecting my blog lately - I apologize.
It seems that summer is a very busy time for us here at The Blackberry Patch.

But - I promise you, I am still writing.  And, I am still surfing the web and reading helpful, wonderful blog posts of my friends.

To go out of July with a bang - below is my Two-Lane Livin' July column for kids.


     What would you get if you crossed George Washington with cattle feed?
     The Fodder of Our Country!

    WHOOOOOOOOSH! BOOM! HISS! CRACK! On July 4, 1777 fireworks lit up the sky celebrating the country’s first anniversary.  Many towns still have celebrations and fireworks on Independence Day.  Our town of Ripley, West Virginia boasts of having the largest small town celebration in the nation. After parading, eating, and celebrating all day, the fire department puts on a dazzling display at night. Fireworks flash across the sky in a sparkling array of color and sound, creating big booms and bright lights.
     Did you know that fireworks are also called pyrotechnic devices and the experts that handle the explosives are pyro technicians?  And, since fireworks are explosives, they should only be handled by experts
     They have been around for a long time and are as American as apple pie, but fireworks originated in China. The Chinese roasted bamboo, which explodes with a bang when heated due to the hollow air pockets.  Later in history they began stuffing saltpeter, charcoal, sulfur and other ingredients into bamboo shoots that were then thrown into the fire to produce a loud blast.
     BANG! The first fireworks were born.
     The colorful displays we know today began in the 1830s, when Italians added trace amounts of metals that burn at high temperatures, creating beautiful colors. Calcium produces orange and is the easiest color to create. The hardest color to create is blue. It is done with copper compounds and the temperature has to be just right. Sodium makes yellow and barium makes green. Lithium salts and strontium salt create red. Aluminum makes white and is a common ingredient of sparklers. Just like you produce different colors by mixing primary colors, pyro technicians mix copper (blue) and strontium (red) to create purple fireworks.
     Iron flakes create sizzling sparkles. Titanium powder creates crackling sounds and sparks.  The whistling sounds are created by using cylindrical tubes with an open end.  When the oxidizer and salts burn a layer at a time, the pulses of escaping gas produces the whistling sound.  Zinc creates smoke clouds.
     Not everyone likes fireworks. Dogs whimper, cats hide under the bed, birds may become startled and fly into things and even some people shake with fear.
     With my poem, Freedom Song, I wish everyone a fun, safe and sparkling Fourth of July.

WHOOSH! Fireworks
streak across the sky.
POP! Fireworks
dazzle way up high.
BOOM! Fireworks
sparkle in the night.
CRACK! Fireworks
whistle and take flight.
BANG! Fireworks
bellow loud and strong.
ZING! Fireworks
sing our freedom song!

I hope you enjoyed it. My column is titled, Fun Facts for Kids, so I always like to include fun information for kids. I've been told by many adults, that they also love my column and learn something new when reading it.

My book, Fun Through the Seasons, is filled with these type of articles, fun recipes,crafts and stories for kids and adults to enjoy.

I hope you are enjoying your summer. I'll start blogging more soon - I promise.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Writing Tips on Prose

I attended a workshop by Cat Pleska about putting poetry in your prose.

How do you do that?

To make your narrative flowing and beautiful you can add metaphors and similes and figurative language.

As always, with your writing, choose your best words. Revise and move parts around. And, my favorite, use rhythm and sound. Make the words sing when read aloud.

So, when writing, create a mood, entertain and play with your words and phrases. Using elements of poetry can make your story memorable and a pleasure to read.

Here are a couple of links to elements of poetry.

Elements of Poetry: Examples and Techniques

Poetic Devices - Judi Moreillon


 I love putting poetry in my prose, whether it be a middle grade novel or a picture book. 


One of my favorite picture books, Owl Moon, is written beautifully using some of these techniques.

With passages such as:


we reached the line of pine trees, black and pointy against the sky

the moon made his face into a silver mask

the trees stood still as giant statues


I have also written a picture book (unpublished at this time) where I have used lines such as:


We walked past the cattails near the pond, standing tall like toy soldiers all in a row

The ground rose before us like a giant stretching his arms tall and touching the sky. 


So, give it a try, whether you are writing a picture book or a novel. Add a little magic to your writing to make it memorable and fun to read.


 Do you put poetry elements in your prose?

Happy Writing!