I’m so excited to be one of the authors on the newest project from Little Lamb Books, ALL GOD’S CREATURES! 60 DAYS OF DEVOTIONS FOR ANIMAL-LOVING KIDS! Little Lamb Books has put together an amazing Kickstarter program to help fund the printing of the companion journal for this beautiful book. If you do your pre-orders through Kickstarter, you’ll be eligible for some amazing prizes. Click here for more information:
I’m excited to welcome fellow Little Lamb Books author, Amberly Kristen Clowe to Sensibility and Sense today! We’re celebrating the release of the newest book in her Teeny Sweeney chapter book series, TEENY SWEENEY AND THE COUSIN CALAMITY! Amberly Kristen Clowe, is a veteran elementary school teacher and writes from her home in Kingwood, Texas. She and her husband have two children, and two dogs, Roxie and Bella. Amberly loves cycling and coffee and spends her days crafting stories that share faith in a fun way with young readers. TEENY SWEENEY AND THE COUSIN CALAMITY is the second chapter book in the Teeny Sweeney series. Welcome to Sensibility and Sense, Amberly! Now, let’s talk about your new book:
TEENY SWEENEY AND THE COUSIN CALAMITY
PR: Since this is the first post about your new children’s book Teeny Sweeney and the Cousin Calamity, tell us about it.
AKC: Glad to. So, very early in the book, readers find out that Teeny’s cousin, Winston Waddlesworth, will be visiting the Sweeney household. Readers also find out that Teeny doesn’t really dig her cousin. This book was so much fun to write because there are many pieces at play. Not only is Teeny struggling to get along with her cousin, but there’s someone or something terrorizing the neighborhood. There’s a lot going on in this story, and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE how the setting changes throughout. Kids will visit an indoor waterpark, a food truck festival, one of my absolute favorite places—the library, the zoo, and more. How fun is that!
PR: Will we see some familiar faces, like Amanda Mayweather? Will we be introduced to any new ones?
AKC: Readers will get to hang out with Amanda for a little while in this book and meet one of her family members. There are new characters galore! I’m also really excited that we learn even more about Teeny.
Writing the Second TEENY SWEENEY Book!
PR: How did the experience of writing the second book in the series compare to the first?
AKC: You know, it was really fun to dive more into this made-up place, to learn more about the characters we knew, while introducing the many new ones. I did find myself referring to my character documents and making sure to not contradict what we had already established about the characters. That was super interesting. I have the best editor, so it was awesome to work with her on another project. My publisher is also so lovely. This year we started Zoom-ing, as opposed to phone calls, so I (like a zillion others) did set up a space to do that. Haha. It was such a treat to see the illustrator, Janet Samuel, put color to Winston and especially Mustard Steve the Mustard Seed, the hero from a graphic comic strip in the story. The first time I saw his little character in his little cape I definitely cried. Not gonna lie.
PR: What message do you want readers to take away from this book?
AKC: Honestly, I think the message, though packaged a bit differently with different scripture, remains the same. My goal for this series is to help young readers look to scripture to guide them in their everyday situations. I don’t want church to be on Sunday and life to be Monday through Saturday. It took me a long time to even understand that I was compartmentalizing. I would love for it to take readers much less time to not do that. We need God’s guidance every day of the week. Teeny isn’t telling anyone to do that, but instead, she’s showing them how. She tries really hard to always think about what does and doesn’t please God.
More TEENY SWEENEY Books?
PR: I hear that there are more Teeny Sweeney books in the works. Can you tell us what to expect next?
AKC: Hmmm … I can’t say too much, but I can say that I would LOVE to have some holiday Teeny Sweeney books and some short stories.
PR: At the end of every blog post, I like to leave a little sensibility and sense for the journey. Could you share some of your wisdom with our readers?
Sensibility- Remember to have fun. That can be easier said than done, when we have these constant ambitions.
Sense-Think about what you’re currently passionate about. Our passions can be super fluid. Dig into the things that excite you. Maybe it’s reading and writing in an entirely new genre. When I’m working on projects that pique my interest, I’m having fun!
Can it really be almost the end of January? As I look at today’s date and wonder where the month has gone, I can’t help but think that with each day that passes I’m one day closer to the release of my first fiction picture book, MRS. NOAH. I’m so excited! MRS. NOAH is the story of Noah’s Ark from Noah’s wife’s perspective. It’s a rocking, rolling, rhyming romp about all the work Mrs. Noah does to get the ark ready to receive all of the furry and feathery guests for their 40-day cruise. Mrs. Noah knows there’s more to creating a happy, floating home than just hammers, nails and gopher wood, but can she help Noah understand and lend a helping hand?
You’re probably wondering where the idea from this story came from. Well, it just so happened that I was packing and preparing my family of 5 for a big trip…we were celebrating my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary with a cruise for 11…grandparents, kids, cousins…you get the idea. Anyway, it was our first cruise experience and I was running around like a crazy woman trying to plan for the two-day drive to Florida (we thought that would be fun?). So along with planning for the actual cruise, I had to book hotel rooms and make sure everyone had enough clean clothes and toiletries for the two days before and the two days after. Not to mention buying up enough pet supplies and snacks for our house sitter, stopping the mail, making sure everyone had a swimsuit and shoes that fit, plus paying all the bills and getting the house cleaned before we could leave. My husband, who is always very helpful, had to work extra hours getting clients taken care of so we could have this week away, so he was at the office until late every night leading up to the trip and wasn’t able to help me. And just 6 weeks earlier, my son had undergone a big surgery to remove a benign tumor from his skull base, so there were follow up appointments to get the all-clear just a few days before we left. Needless to say, I was a wreck.
Somewhere in all of the craziness, a thought ran through my mind… “If I’m this stressed out trying to get everything done that needs doing before we leave for our cruise, how in the world did Mrs. Noah get everything ready for an ark full of animals and the rest of her family? Lord have mercy!!” That thought made me laugh out loud. Here I was fretting and worrying and being frustrated because I had so much to do and no help, that I couldn’t enjoy the process. God started using Mrs. Noah even then to help me see that He is always in the details, even if I can’t see it at the time. Of course, the idea of Mrs. Noah settled in and stayed and by the time I got home from that wonderful trip, I already had the first lines of the story playing over and over in my head. God whispers seem to work like that.
Fast forward almost 9 years and many, many versions later, and MRS. NOAH is one step closer to being born. The target is fall of 2021, so I’m looking forward with expectation and joy. I’m so glad you’re here to join me on my journey! Watch this page for an official “countdown to MRS. NOAH” in the coming weeks!
Sensibility- The journey is almost always more important than the destination. Take time to stop and enjoy whatever road you’re currently on.
Sense-Story ideas can come from the strangest places. Part of being a writer is being aware so you can see, hear and recognize a story seed when it appears.
A few weeks ago I announced I was beginning a long-overdue middle-grade novel revision. Every journey begins with a first step, so I’m checking in today to talk about my first steps and why they are important to my overall process.
First, I read the beginning chapters of Novel Metamorphosis by Darcy Pattison. In her novel revision guide, Darcy recommends reading two other books before starting the exercises in her workbook. These two books are:
SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS, by Renni Browne and Dave King, Harper Collins, 2004.
THE FIRST FIVE PAGES, by Noah Lukeman, Fireside Books, 2000.
I’ve started the first book and am re-learning and being reminded of many things. It’s always good to refresh your editing skills, especially if you are timid with the delete button and tend to hang on to words that need to be let go. Thankfully, I’ve become pretty ruthless when it comes to self-editing over the years. That means I’m rarely married to any sentence, paragraph or section; my chopping block is no respecter of words. So rather than digest the entire book before diving in, I decided to read the rest of it as I go and use it primarily as a reference tool. I have not yet started reading the second book.
The main reason for putting off reading the second book was because one of my long-time critique partners and friends asked if anyone in our critique group would be interested in swapping middle-grade manuscripts. We are a picture book group, but a few of us also dabble in middle grade, so I decided it was perfect timing for me and said, “Yes!”
I was so nervous. It’s been years since anyone that I’m close to has read my novel. Years! I had an agent interested last year, which is part of the motivation for this revision. So showing it to someone I trust as both a writer and a friend, was a huge step for me. We swapped, and within a few days she sent me her critique, and her comments have boosted my confidence in a huge way as well as helped me see the areas that need the most work. Whew! I could finally exhale, knowing I wasn’t wasting my time and that the story still had merit and was worth working on. I didn’t realize it at the time I sent it to her, but this was probably the best way I could have started this revision.
The second thing I did was take time to actually read my book again. I didn’t read all of it, because that’s what I’m doing as I go through and make changes, but I read enough. I needed reminding that what I started 10 years ago during that dark time wasn’t just therapy or a way to deal with emotions. I needed to see it with the fresh eyes of today’s me rather than the me of that time in my life. And you know what I discovered? I really like it. I’m excited to spend time with the characters and help them grow stronger and change where change is needed.
Without pausing for these few weeks of reading and reflection, I would have come to this project as just another task in my writing life. I would have opened my workbook with a sigh rather than a spark, and that would not have worked over the long haul. Revision takes time, and if you’re not motivated by a love of the work, it will quickly turn into drudgery and you’ll never finish.
So here’s to finding the path into the process that works for you. I’m glad I was able to see my way clear to doing these things before I ever added or deleted one word from my WIP. I hope today’s thoughts encourage you to find the just-right way to begin your next big project!
Sensibility-Take time to fall in love with your WIP again. You must be willing to spend time with the characters you’ve created, no matter where they are on their journey.
Sense- Not every path to revision looks the same for every writer. If you find yourself stuck in someone else’s process, stop, think, breathe and reflect on what you need to do to move forward.
“If we are not willing to fail we will never accomplish anything. All creative acts involve the risk of failure.” -Madeleine L’Engle
One of my favorite things about writing for children is welcoming other amazing authors to my blog to celebrate book releases. Today I’m happy to host my friend and fellow author, Janet L. Christensen and her new book, CAIRO’s CHRISTMAS JOURNEY (Little Lamb Books, October 2020)! Janet is an award-winning writer, speaker and encourager that loves to captivate audiences with inspiring stories. She is a pastor’s wife, a children’s and women’s ministry leader, and the proud mother of two teenage sons and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Sully.
Welcome, Janet and Cairo!
Janet: Patti, thanks so much for letting me join you today to tell you a little bit more about my new Christian children’s book, Cairo’s Christmas Journey. I hope you don’t mind, but I have brought the main character of the story along to help tell you about his story. Everybody, I would like to introduce you to my friend, Cairo the Cricket.
Cairo: Why, hello everybody!
Janet: So, Cairo, your story is about the night that Jesus was born. Can you tell us about it?
Cairo: Oh, my. I will never forget it. You see, my job is to play soothing music to calm down the sheep at night. Have you ever been around sheep?
Janet: You know, I can’t say as I have.
Cairo: Well, sometimes they just don’t like to go to sleep at night.
Janet: Oh, well, I do know a bit about that. When my boys were little, sometimes they didn’t like to go to sleep.
Cairo: So, you know all about it. That is where I come in. The shepherds say that my lullabies are the best they have heard. I can put the sheep to sleep in no time. Anyway, on that night, we got quite the surprise.
Janet: You did?
Cairo: Yes. I had just finished the sheep’s favorite lullaby and they were all settled down for the night. All of a sudden, we were visited by a bunch of angels. They told the shepherds all about the Messiah being born. And then one of the angels came to talk to me.
Janet: And what did the angel say to you?
Cairo: The angel told me that God wanted me to go to Bethlehem to play my sweet lullabies for the newborn King. I was shocked.
Janet: I can imagine. That sounds like a big job.
Cairo: It was a very important job. But it seemed impossible. You see, I am just a regular cricket with regular sized cricket legs. I didn’t think I would ever make all the way to Bethlehem that night.
Janet: Oh, wow. So what did you do?
Cairo: The angel told me that God would help me on my journey, so I only had one thing I could do. I got to hoppin’.
Janet: Well, that sounds pretty easy.
Cairo: Oh, no! It was anything but easy. You wouldn’t believe the tight spots I ended up in. It was quite the wild night.
Janet: How did you ever make it?
Cairo: Well, Janet. The angel was right. God sent me the help I needed right when I needed it. And I got to meet some excellent helpers along the way.
Janet: So, you finally made it to Bethlehem. How did the Messiah like your songs?
Cairo: Well, it is hard to tell. He fell asleep before I was done.
Janet: It sounds like he liked your music very well. Good job of listening to God, even when things got hard.
Cairo: I will never forget that night. I learned a very important lesson.
Janet: And what was that?
Cairo: That God is there to help us on our toughest journeys. I have remembered that ever since that night.
Janet: That is indeed an important lesson. Thank you, Cairo, for sharing your story with everyone and I bet everyone is excited to read your story when it releases on October 27 from Little Lamb Books. You can find Cairo’s Christmas Journey at many of your favorite booksellers. You can check out all of the latest on this book on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/janetlchristensen or at janetlchristensen.com.
Thanks for joining me today, Janet! CAIRO’S CHRISTMAS JOURNEY releases tomorrow (Oct. 27) and is available through Little Lamb Books or anywhere books are sold.
Sensibility- Seeing well-loved stories in new ways helps keep those stories fresh for future generations.
Sense- Think about an old story you love. As an exercise, reimagine the story from the perspective of a different character or object and write a short scene from your new point of view.
Happy October, and welcome to all my new subscribers!
I hope everyone is well and staying safe during these challenging times. Finding ways to encourage you in writing and in life is what this blog is all about, and I hope you come away from each post with joy and hope.
I’m beginning a personal and professional journey this week by turning my attention to a long-overdue middle-grade novel revision. I wrote this particular novel almost 10 years ago from an idea I had while sitting in my son’s hospital room after he’d had a lengthy and dangerous surgery to remove a large tumor from his abdomen. He was home from his first year of college for Thanksgiving break, and what was a routine physical turned into something none of us were expecting. If you’ve ever had something like that happen to you, you know the feeling of all the oxygen being sucked from the room and the sheer effort it takes to remain standing while you learn your next steps. It’s a journey I hope I never have to take again with one of my children. But God works in mysterious ways for sure. In the middle of all of that unknown, I got the clearest story idea I had ever had to that point. So, what does a writer do when something like that happens and you just don’t have the time or the strength to even think about starting a new project? You get the idea down in your notebook and start the new project anyway😊.
Right now, we’re all living our days in a situation none of us ever expected. There’s a heaviness that surrounds us we can’t explain as we work to keep life moving forward and feeling as normal as possible. But it isn’t normal, and we have no idea when things might be again. That’s how we felt 10 years ago, and it may be why I feel compelled to blow the cobwebs off a book I haven’t touched in a few years and do the work it takes to breathe life into it and make it shine. Maybe God is using that moment in time, that story idea, to remind me of his presence and not be afraid; to help me walk through these days of social distancing and quarantine with grace and peace.
So, I’m inviting you along for the journey. I’m using Darcy Pattison’s, NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS, as my primary guide. I love Darcy’s work and look forward to diving into the exercises she’s provided in the workbook as well as the other resources. I’m also doing a manuscript exchange with one of my long-time critique partners and friends so I can have fresh eyes on my work and provide fresh eyes and perspective to her work as we go. I’m using this blog as a way to keep myself accountable by sharing what I’ve learned on a bi-weekly basis, and as a space to flesh out ideas and have conversations with all of you about this process.
Now the only thing left to do is take the first step…here goes!
Sensibility- Even in the darkest times, we can hear God whisper peace to our hearts if we are listening.
Sense- If you’re feeling extra stressed or worried as the days grow shorter find a new project to energize your mind and improve your focus. Use this time to be as creative as you can possibly be.
Happy September to one and all! My thoughts and prayers are with you as we conitinue to walk through these challenging days. Whether you’re homeschooling for the first time, sending a child back to class in a mask or working from home, I hope you can find joy in blessings big and small!
To celebrate one of my biggest blessings of the summer. . . a new picture book contract with Blue Whale Press. . . I’m offering a picture book critique special for the month of September. Now through September 30th, purchase one complete picture book critique and receive a second-look critique absolutely free (a $25 value)!
I’m so excited to announce that I have signed a contract with Blue Whale Press an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing for my picture book, O POSSUM’S PREDICAMENT! I want to thank Alayne Kay Christian and Callie Metler-Smith for believing in this possum’s tail and for believing in me, and to my amazing critique partners for all of your help!
During these challenging times, good news seems extra good! It makes my heart happy to know that stories are still going out to brighten and inform the lives of children no matter where they are learning, whether virtually or in person.
I can’t wait to see O POSSUM out in the world. Bless you all for your continued support! Happy dancing!
Sensibility- Often the most creative moments come during the most challenging times.
Sense- During this time of quarantine, where days seem to melt into each other, it’s still important to carve out time for creativity. Whether it’s writing in a journal, knitting, baking bread, or writing for children, stretching your mind with new projects is good for your emotional well-being.
So, how are you today? Just remember, whatever you are feeling, it’s all ok. Fear? Sadness? Grief? Loneliness? Anxiety? All of these emotions, and the exhaustion that comes with them, are normal human reactions to challenging times. About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with RA and spent most days in bed, unable to walk, comb my own hair, get up and down out of a chair, until the meds began to work. A few months after that, Wesley was diagnosed with his first of two tumors in two years, which meant two very big surgeries. All the feelings you’re feeling we felt…because that’s what humans do. The thing that kept me going was knowing that God was in control…that I had a kind and faithful Father who was carrying us in his strong hands. I would lie in my bed and look out the window, and these words, from one of my favorite Getty/Townend hymns would play over and over in my head:
“There is a hope that lifts my weary head,
A consolation strong against despair,
That when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit,
I find the Savior there!
Through present sufferings, future’s fear,
He whispers ‘courage’ in my ear.
For I am safe in everlasting arms,
And they will lead me home.” — Stuart Townend
We’re one solid week into quarantine here and no one knows how many weeks we have to go. But this one thing I do know…there is a Hope! Courage my friends. Courage!