Music runs deep in my family’s veins. I’m not sure how it all got started, but I know my great-grandparents on my mother’s side loved music and fiddle playing and clogging. It didn’t take much of a tune to have my grandmother and her sisters up and dancing that’s for sure. I learned how to clog in Granny Grace’s kitchen (my great aunt), and every now and then, when my Mama Glad was working in the kitchen she’d start to “cut a rug” and we’d all join in. She had a music room in every house she ever lived in, fully decked out with a piano, organ, banjo, several guitars (including a beautiful Gibson), a drum kit (sometimes), harmonica and even an accordion. When my sister and I were old enough, she’d play the organ while one of us played the piano, and we’d sing and laugh and sing some more. What a gift!
So when I saw my youngest on stage for her autumn college orchestra concert this weekend step to the microphone, welcome guests, lead in prayer and take her seat in the cello section, I thought about how all this love for music has trickled down to children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren over many years. I thought, what if my great grandmother, who died when Mama Glad was only 11, hadn’t passed the gift on to her daughters? What if Mama Glad hadn’t sat down at the piano for the first time or picked up a guitar or banjo, what would our lives be like now? My mom and dad both have beautiful voices, my sister sings, plays and the piano and organ and teaches elementary music, I play the piano, a little organ, and my husband and I sing. My son, Wes, played the piano and trumpet and now pours his love of music into sound engineering, and his wife, Katie, loves music and sings! Both of my daughters play the piano, and Julia is also a violinist and Olivia a cellist. Julia graduated with a degree in Music Education last year and is now teaching, and Olivia will graduate in another year with a double major in music and marketing. Her dream is to start a nonprofit where low-income children can come and take lessons and record their musical creations for free in a recording studio so they can share their gifts with the world. I pour my love of music into every story I write for children; in the way the words appear on the page and how they feel in the mouth and sound to the ear. Music is everywhere in our lives.
Children need heritage. It connects them with the past, guides them in the present and offers hope for the future. As they grow, heritage can help children feel part of something so much bigger than themselves. Music for Mama Glad and her sisters looked very different from how it has been woven into my life and the lives of my children. But it’s all the same thread holding us together creating the patchwork quilt that is our story.
During this month of Thanksgiving, I hope you can look at your own family’s history and find the chords, notes or threads that create your unique song. Celebrate those with the ones you love and pass on the gifts to your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I promise you, they’ll be grateful.
Sensibility- There’s more to your stories than what you see on the page. Your history and personal journey find their way into everything you write.
Sense- Make a list of things your family loves to do. If you don’t know where the traditions began, try and find out how those things became part of your lives and share them with your family during this season of gratitude!
What are some of your family traditions? How did they get started?
I’m so thrilled to be part of THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE, Edited by Miranda Paul and Illustrated by Marlena Myles (Millbrook, September 2019). It’s my debut as a children’s poet, and I couldn’t be prouder of the finished product. Part of the proceeds from the sale of this book help fund WeNeedDiverseBooks.org, an organization dedicated to diversity in children’s literature. All children need to see themselves in children’s books, both as characters and in the people who create them, and We Need Diverse Books is committed to making this happen!
I would especially like to thank Miranda Paul for making this work possible and for allowing me the chance to be part of it. Thanks, Miranda!
As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, I hope this book helps you and all the young readers in your home learn more about what being grateful means. Many blessings to you and yours in the coming weeks!
Sensibility-Gratitude is more than just saying, “Thank you!” It is an attitude of the heart!
Sense- Set aside time in the weeks ahead for thankfulness. A gratitude jar, a conversation at the dinner table or during quiet moments before sleeping or bedtime prayers help children grow their gratefulness each day.
What are some ways you and your family focus on gratitude during the holidays?
I attended the SCBWI Wonderful Midwest Conference last weekend in Naperville, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, and after taking last Monday completely off to reflect on all I’d learned, I’m jumping into some revisions with a new sense of purpose.
After you’ve been writing for a while, revising becomes a funny thing. Getting rid of words, scenes and even characters for the greater good of story isn’t nearly as difficult as it used to be, and cutting word counts by 50 percent can produce the same feelings you get after cleaning out a long-neglected closet, cabinet or dresser (think Marie Kondo here). The stuff sitting in bags waiting to bless someone else feels like the right benediction for things you no longer want or need. Writers don’t physically put words into trash bags and give them away, but releasing long-held sentences, ideas, thoughts and dialogue back into the universe to be repurposed can bring lightness in ways nothing else can. And once you let go and free up some mental space something amazing happens…you make room for fireflies.
Fireflies? Huh? Here’s what I mean. . .
I’ve been sitting on a middle-grade novel for a while now. It hasn’t been completely at the back of my writing closet—a few times I’ve pulled it out, reworked a chapter or two and submitted it for feedback, to an agent or contest—but I haven’t been committed to making it all it needs to be. Not sure why, other than I’m probably a little afraid of it. Kind of like that pair of shoes I hang onto, even though they’re uncomfortable and I can’t wear them for more than a few hours at a time, it feels good to say that I write middle-grade novels, even though I know it’s not really what I’m working on. But like I mentioned before, conferences do funny things to writers. Just about the time I’m committed to revising other projects because they are really important to me right now, I wake up in the middle of the night, see the darkness of the forest floor that is the setting for most of my novel and there, darting in and out of the 1000-year-old trees are 100’s of fireflies…something I’ve never seen there before.
It could be that as I’ve been cutting and rearranging words over the past week and organizing which projects to let go of and which ones to tackle, I made room to let in something new and different. My story asked me for something, and maybe, just maybe, I was ready to hear what it was trying to say.
I’m a big believer in God whispers. But I also know that like any other whisper, if you’re not still enough to hear it, the message might get lost on the wind and pass you by. I want to be listening. I long to be an on-purpose writer who is quiet enough to hear what God and my stories are trying to tell me. Last night it was fireflies. Who knows what it might be in the days and weeks ahead?
But I’m ready for more fireflies. . . are you?
Sensibility- Fireflies, new scenes, new characters, new ways of looking at story, all come when we quiet our spirits, clean out what’s getting in the way and listen for God whispers.
Sense- Prioritizing projects, planning your writing day, setting up an editorial calendar and spending time in quiet reflection are all ways to make room for new ideas.
What are some things you do to quiet yourself as you get ready to write?
I’m so happy to be able to share the beautiful cover and pre-order link for the upcoming poetry collection, THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE, that I’m over-the-moon happy to be part of. Sometimes, a project speaks to your heart so profoundly that you’re at a loss for words as to how happy you are to see it come to life. That’s this project for me. It all started with an email from my writing partner, Lisa Rose, that said, “Did you see this? You should do it!” She was referring to a contest that the amazing and generous Miranda Paul was hosting on her blog to find two new poets to complete her collection of children’s poems about being thankful. So I thought, “Why not?” and wrote a poem about a child getting her first pair of glasses (that was me) and trying to be grateful for the huge change in her life. Of course, a kid might not get excited about a poem about just any girl getting her first pair of glasses, so I thought a special, well-known character might get the job done! And it did. Not long after submitting, I got the email from Miranda saying that she loved the poem and it was definitely in the running for one of the available slots. Then, a few weeks later, I got the email that said, “YES!” and I’ve been enjoying this journey…which included lots of edits and a few rewrites, ever since!
And even though I’m a little behind schedule, here it is…
“. . .write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels guilty! Your someone can feel guilty themselves or make someone else feel guilty. They may feel guilty for good reason, or just because they think they should! Your story can be poetry or prose, sweet, funny, surprising or anything in between, but it will only count for the contest if it includes someone guilty (can be the main character but doesn’t have to be) and is 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day).”
Hope you enjoy what I came up with. . .
Woa, Diddle, Diddle!
By Patti Richards
On Valentine’s Day
I wanted to play
A tune for my very best girl.
So, I ran down the hill,
To give her a thrill
And said, “Cat, can I give it a whirl?”
“You want THIS violin?”
The cat said with a grin,
“I know you can’t handle the magic.”
But Jill loved a good tune.
And if I couldn’t croon
The results would be terribly tragic.
So, when I stole that fiddle
To play “Diddle, Diddle,”
The guilt was quite strong, I’ll confess.
‘Cause when I began playing
That cow started swaying
And jumping and making a mess.
She bounced off the moon,
Then clomped on the spoon,
Tripping over the dish on the way.
As she toppled the dog
Her hoof stuck on a log,
Where Miss Muffet was eating her whey.
Now hear these wise words
(While I’m raking up curds),
Be careful when playing a tune.
If a cow is around
Her love for the sound
Could mean more than just jumping the moon!
A dance may ensue
And cause you to rue
The time you and a fiddle cut loose.
‘Cause you’ll spend the day hearing
The thing you’ve been fearing,
A lecture from your Mother Goose!
Sensibility-It’s fun to take familiar stories, nursery rhymes and fables upside down and make them your own.
Sense-When writing fractured folktales, fairy tales, nursery rhymes and fables that have strong main characters for an immediate reader connection.
I just signed up for STORYSTORM 2018, and I’m looking forward to 30 brand-spanking-new story ideas by the end of January! Thanks for hosting again this year, Tara Lazar, and happy 10th Storystorm Anniversary!
I love the holiday season! And what better way for a writer to celebrate than by entering a holiday writing contest! This is children’s author, Susanna Leonard Hill‘s 8th year of sponsoring this fun event, and the rules are as follows:
Theme: Holiday Heroes
Ages: 12 and under
Words: 250 or less
And here’s my submission. . .hope you enjoy!
MAZY’S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE
By Patti Richards
The stable was damp.
There was leftover hay.
No one would help
On that December day.
Snoring sheep snuggled
All warm in their stalls.
Mice dreamed sweet dreams,
In their nests in the walls.
But one mouse woke up
When it heard the soft cry
Of a baby just placed
In a manger close by.
“That little one’s cold,”
Tiny Mazy could see.
She grabbed knitting needles
And called out to Bea,
Her very best friend
Of all the barn beasts.
“We need to act fast,
Give me some of your fleece!”
Mazy carded and spun
As quick as she could.
Her fingers were flying,
While Bea calmly stood
As her wool became yarn.
Then row after row,
Mazy knit swaddling clothes
For the small one below.
Now, when Mary gets
Credit for wrapping her babe,
Mice and sheep the world ‘round
Know it’s what Mazy made.
Sensibility-Use the holiday season to spark new ideas for writing projects in the coming year.
Sense- Pace yourself and your writing based on the demands of the holiday season. Don’t fret if you’re not as productive as usual. Embrace this time and be present in each moment with family and friends.
I just wanted to take a moment and thank you all for being part of my publishing journey this year. It’s had its ups and downs, but I love what I do and am glad I get to keep on doing it! I hope your Thanksgiving is full of every good thing. Life is a gift, and I’m glad for this season where we can pause for a while with family and friends and be grateful! Have a lovely Thanksgiving week:)