Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Happy New Year Picture Book Critique Special!

new-year-1929847_1280Happy New Year! I hope this post finds you and your families well and off to a great start to 2017. Wow, 2017! Seems odd to see that number in print, but here we are. It’s time for setting both goals and boundaries as we each dive into projects that make our hearts sing! So, in the spirit of this brand-spanking New Year, I want to offer a brand-spanking-new picture book critique special.


For the entire month of January (OK, I’m a little behind since one week has already passed! LOL) I’m offering two PGWRites picture book critiques for the price of one! That’s right…it’s a buy-one-get-one-free opportunity that typically only happens once each year.

So, if you’re ready to start this writing year off with a bang, save those last few changes on that manuscript you’ve been working on and send it in! Then, when you’re ready, you can send in another picture book manuscript for a second critique absolutely free (a $50.00 value)!

Just visit the PGWRites Critiques page and follow the instructions for payment and submitting your manuscript. It’s that easy! Hope to see lots of amazing stories in my inbox very soon!

Here’s to the best writing year ever!


Patti Richards

Sensibility– New years are for new beginnings. Dream big and take that important first step.

Sense– Set goals you can reach in a reasonable amount of time. Biting off too much in the first few weeks of the New Year can set you up for failure!

On deck for next week. . . an interview with newly-minted picture book author, Jodi McCay. She’s stopping by to tell us all about her new book, WHERE ARE THE WORDS. And she’s also offering a MS critique (double bonus!). You won’t want to miss it!

Writing for Children

A Thought for Monday. . .

I found this lovely quote today and wanted to share it with all of you!


“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
—Virginia Woolf


Write large my friends. Write large-  Patti


And don’t forget my Back-to-School Critique special going on now!

Uncategorized, Writing for Children

PGWRites Critiques Back-to-School Picture Book Special!

Happy fall everyone! I took a couple of months off from posting for some much-needed R & R, and enjoyed getting images (1)together with friends and family members over the summer. I hope you and yours spent time soaking up the summer sun and making some great memories! School started in my community the day after Labor Day, but I know many of you got started even earlier. I have a high-school senior this year and a college sophomore, so we’re buckling our seat belts for a great year of surprises and celebrations.

In the spirit of learning and getting back to work, I’m offering a back-to-school picture book critique special. From now through September 30th, participants will receive 25% off the regular price of a PGWRites Critique. That’s a $50 value for only $37.50!

Your personalized PGWRites picture book critique includes: 

  1. Line-by-line markup of your manuscript with edits and suggestions. (Using track changes)
  2. A one-page written critique with a detailed explanation of the manuscript mark-up.
  3. A list of the strengths/weaknesses of the manuscript from my perspective, as well as a list of guided questions to help with the revision process.
  4. Answers to your questions about the critique in one follow-up email.

That’s right! All of this for the low price of $37.50! Now that’s what I call a bargain.

Simply visit the PGWRites Critiques tab here at Sensibility and Sense and follow the instructions for payment/submission and in two to three weeks you’ll receive your completed critique!

So get those stories dusted off and sent in. I can’t wait to read your awesome picture book manuscripts!

Happy Writing!


Uncategorized, Writing for Children

What Happens Next? Life After the Contract (So far. . .)

Woo Hoo!!!

Something pretty amazing happened to me near the end of August! I signed a contract for my picture book, A BLANKET IN THE SNOW: QUATIE ROSS AND THE TRAIL OF TEARS! The book is with 4RV Publishing, and is tentatively scheduled for a fall 2017 release. It’s my first contract for a traditionally published picture book, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.


The contract came in the mail right around my 50th birthday, so that was awesome! It was also right in the middle of sending my daughter off to college and my son getting married. So the fanfare was short but sweet. About two weeks after I’d signed on the dotted line and done some requested edits, my son asked, “So Mom, what happens next?”

I chuckled then answered, “We wait!”

“What do you mean wait?” he replied.

“It’s like I said, we wait. . .”

“But don’t you have something else to do? When’s the book coming out? Aren’t there more steps?” he questioned.

“Yes,” I said, “but the first step is to wait. Wait to be assigned an editor, wait to be paired with an illustrator, wait for more editorial notes, wait for an exact publication date- you know, wait.”

“But haven’t you already waited long enough?” he said.

Haven’t I already waited long enough? I thought.

Sure. Of course. Absolutely. But really? Long enough? Let’s see. . .

We all know that behind the excitement of a book deal is a lot of hard work and waiting. But the question, “Haven’t you waited long enough?” just isn’t part of the equation. It can’t be for any serious writer.

There’s no way to measure how long is “long enough.” Writing is such a personal journey, and every person’s story and path to publication is different. I live my life believing that things come to us when it’s time. But that doesn’t trump all the hard work it takes to realize a dream. There’s a balance of responsibility to your calling, trust in the process, open doors and a sprinkling of talent for good measure. No one part can be rushed or missing. It’s only when the time is right and the story is the best you can make it that the contract will follow or it won’t.

So what do I do next? I wait. But while I’m waiting, I’m working like crazy on other manuscripts as well as submitting, so that the next opportunity is there at just the right time with just the right house. And when the next contract comes (see how I said “WHEN”;)  I’ll sign it, send it back and, you guessed it, WAIT! It’s what we writers do best. . .well, at least you get better at it the longer you do it.

Here’s to working and waiting. You can’t have one without the other!

Sensibility- There’s no greater joy for a writer than opening your email and seeing, “We’re happy to inform you. . .” When it comes, savor it!

Sense- Once you hit “send” and submit your manuscript, it’s time to get going on something else. Make the most of your “waiting” time by writing and polishing your next story.

What’s the first thing you do after submitting a manuscript? Get started on something new? Revise a work-in-progress? Eat ice cream and chocolate? Do tell. . .

Uncategorized, Writing for Children

April is National Poetry Month!


Ah poetry! I love reading it and writing it.

Poetry brings a different kind of music to the world, and it helps us see that same world through the eyes of some of the most sensitive and emotionally well connected artists who ever lived. Now, you’re probably thinking, “It’s a little late in the month to finally be talking about poetry Patti!” But really, is it ever too late to talk about something that is both beautiful and powerful? I think not!

For the writer, there are lots of ways to celebrate National Poetry Month! And if you haven’t done so already, here are some of my best suggestions:

  • Post some of your favorite poems on your social media sites. I love sharing works by Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson and James Whitcomb Riley on my Facebook page.
  • Get to know a new poet! It’s easy to fall back on your favorites when you want to spend time enjoying poetry. But we writers are to be students of other writers. This is one of the best ways to make your words stronger and more meaningful. So choose two poets that are new to you and study them for the rest of the month.
  • Rediscover some of your favorite children’s poems. I still have my Mother Goose book on my book shelf. I loved this book as a child, and I like to take it out occasionally. But as an adult and a writer, I look at it differently. Study some of your old favorites this month and focus on good examples of alliteration, rhythm, rhyming patterns and word play.
  • Participate in “Poem in Your Pocket Day!” This year the day is April 30th. On that day, choose one of your favorite poems, carry it around in your pocket, and take the opportunity to share it with friends, students and others at libraries, coffee shops and anywhere there is a spontaneous poetry slam!

And if you’re looking for great poetry resources to help you celebrate, here are some of my favorites:



So, even though there are just two weeks left in April, there’s still time to enjoy some poetry and share it with those you love. And if you’ve never written your own poetry, just throw those excuses out the window and do it! You never know where your words will take you.

  “In Just Spring,” by e.e. cummings

Sensibility- Poetry brings beauty, gentleness, wisdom and controversy to the world. The words of great poets ask us to think deeply and challenge us to be and do more than we thought we could.

Sense- Read your favorite poets, then as an exercise, mimic their writing. Use your own words, but model the pattern set for you and see how they fit into the poets mold.

Who is your favorite poet? Why?


“To all the little children:- The happy ones; and sad ones; the boisterous ones and glad ones; The good ones- Yes, the good ones, too; and all the lovely bad ones.”
James Whitcomb Riley, Little Orphant Annie and Other Poems

Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Inspiration Point!

I know what you’re thinking…inspiration point sounds like a place where Fonzie and Richie used to take their girlfriends! Well trust me, that’s not what today’s post is all about, so keep reading. (This is longer than usual, but indulge me just this once, OK?)

I call an inspiration point a place or moment in time where a writer’s muse seems to jump into overdrive. Ideas for new stories flow like water, and we can’t seem to get the words down fast enough. I’ve had many “inspiration points” on this journey. Some are obvious, and others more subtle. But learning to recognize and remember them is important.

The old tobacco barn.

One of my first inspiration points was my grandparent’s farm outside of Nashville. They had 200 acres and raised cattle. They also grew corn and hay to feed their livestock. My grandmother had a large kitchen garden, and my grandfather had a tiny orchard. Some of my earliest memories are of playing in the creek, taking salt blocks and hay to the cows, riding high on the tractor wheel well and catching my first fish! And it was a big one let me tell you. I’ve tucked those memories away in safe places in my mind, and when I need inspiration for a story, I often dust them off. The smell of hay, the taste of homemade molasses on hot biscuits slathered with butter and the sound of tree frogs are as near now as they were when I was a braid-wearing tomboy of seven or eight. But sometimes our inspiration points need a refresher, especially when new memories make things a little crowded in the safe places in our minds.

So my husband and I took a short trip over Easter weekend while my girls were away on a school trip to NYC. We drove down to Nashville to spend Easter with his family, and on our way back home, we took a drive down that long, familiar, dippy-windy road…

Gracie loves the water!

We stopped at the church cemetery first and walked among the headstones. I paused to read the names of my grandparent’s, uncles, great-grandparents, and the names of those I belonged to but had never met. Then we drove past my great grandmother’s house, and I looked for the small cabin where my dad was born. I was glad I had taken a picture of it many years ago because it had finally fallen down. Then we drove up the hill and down the narrow driveway. My grandmother’s house looked so different. The pristine fruit trees were gone, and the garage that was my grandfather’s pride and joy was nearly hidden by trailers, RV’s and other big toys. But tucked right behind it was the smokehouse. I could almost see Granddaddy coming out the little door with a big chunk of country ham ready for breakfast. Can you smell it?

We drove up to the pasture and got out. Our little Gracie dog thought she had died and gone to heaven. We walked down the steep hill towards the old tobacco barn. I stood still when I thought I was in just the right spot and listened. The gurgle of the creek branch sang the same song as always. And after stepping in the barn to see if the sweet tobacco smell was still there, I walked to the water’s edge, took off my shoes, dipped my feet in the coolness

Me in the creek!
Me in the creek!

and closed my eyes…

I saw Dad picking up the rocks Mom chose. I heard my sister’s voice as she splashed in the icy water. I heard Granddaddy in the pasture above, calling the cows home for supper. And it was good to remember…

Before we left, my husband broke off a piece of the old barn door and it’s waiting on our garage floor. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it yet, but it will eventually be somewhere close to my desk. It’s nice to have inspiration points nearby because sometimes you need to run your hand over aged barn wood to find your center again. I’m sure I’ll do this many times in the years to come, and it will be good to remember.

So, that’s one of my inspiration points. There are many others of all shapes and sizes. They are beautiful and good and confusing and difficult and joyful and grace-filled. They are the stuff of life. And as a writer, it is good to remember.

Sensibility- Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. Good writers are always looking.

Sense- Write descriptions of some of your favorite inspiration points and tuck them away for future use.

What are some of your favorite inspiration points?


Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Expect Miracles

I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready to see green grass and tulips popping out their pretty little heads to say, “Hello!” We’re in the middle-of-the-road time in the Mitten, where everything needs a good spring shower to wash away the last signs of winter. I love spring. Next to fall, it’s my favorite season. Spring is a miracle that comes each year, and we just get to sit back and watch God’s handiwork as He brings everything back to life.

I’ve been feeling a little low about my writing these days- like my muse needs to run barefoot in the rain to get the cobwebs out. It’s one of those times when it seems like I’m walking uphill wearing waders full of water. That sounds a little dramatic, but hey, endless spring sniffles, an Internet that’s spent more time down than up in the last month, and no responses from editors and agents can get even the most courageous writer down. But last night I got a gentle reminder that I need an attitude adjustment.


About five years ago, my family began a journey that would be a significant challenge to our faith. In the course of one year, I was diagnosed with RA and my son was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that caused very large tumors to develop in his abdomen and skull. I was bedridden for many weeks as the doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me. Once I was on medication and doing better, we learned my son would need a big surgery and he’d have to miss his second semester of college. Less than one year later, doctors found a second tumor in his skull that would require another big surgery. We hung on to our faith like people hanging on to a cliff with bare and bloody fingers. But with God’s help, we made it and can look back and see miracles all along the way.

And that’s what I found last night. A miracle marker.

I was looking in my nightstand drawer for some throat spray when I felt a small bracelet. I pulled it out, and right there in big, bold letters it said, “EXPECT MIRACLES.” And then I remembered. The nurses at the cancer center had given this bracelet to my son before a treatment that was supposed to prevent the need for surgery on his head. We weren’t able to complete the treatment because his tumor had grown, so he ended up having surgery anyway. But the message on that bracelet kept us going when all we wanted to do was give up.

I think we all forget to expect the miraculous in our lives. It might sound a little sentimental, but just the fact that you are breathing and reading this is its own miracle. Spring and Easter are times of rebirth. The truth I base my life on is all about death, resurrection and a promise of hope and life to come. And that is the greatest miracle of all.

So, are you “expecting miracles” today? Or are you letting the humdrum of everyday life sour your attitude and stall your writing? If so, take time to look around and find the miracles just waiting to be discovered.

Sensibility- Live in expectation that your best work is yet to come and your best days are ahead of you.

Sense- If you’re struggling to stay motivated, get up from your desk and start spring cleaning. Getting rid of clutter makes more room for your muse.

How is your writing journey today?



Writing for Children

It’s March Madness for Poetry!

I’m proud to be participating this year in the March Madness Poetry competition!

Sixty-four authletes submitted their best children’s poem for round 1 around an assigned word, and voting has already started! Click the picture below or any of the links in this post to read the entries and vote for your favorites. My poem will be up this afternoon. My word is “combination.” C’mon over and help vote me into the next round!!! Thanks!


Match Madness Poetry 2015
Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Fat Tuesday…for Writers!

Today is Fat Tuesday! And at our house here in the Mitten, that means pazckis (pronounced poonch-keys).

If you aren’t Polish or don’t live near a Polish bakery, you’ve probably never tried this decadent, once-a-year treat. Pazckis are donuts on steroids…literally. Apparently, the tradition started as a way to prepare for Lent, when Polish women cleaned their kitchens of all fat. That’s why these bad boys are loaded with it, along with a fruit or custard filling and drowned in sugar. You eat one, and you need a nap. Eat two, and you’re done for the night. Don’t ask me how I know this. But I digress. What in the world does Fat Tuesday have to do with writing?

Well, I’ll tell you. We all need to indulge every now and then (and in the case of pazckis, it’s a good thing it’s only once a year). Even writers need to let themselves go and write as many words as they want. It’s cathartic. It’s therapy. It’s liberating to let go of word counts, even for a few minutes, and just write the story that’s inside of you. My first middle grade novel happened this way. I did not set out to write a novel, but I needed to get something off my chest. A memory that haunted me- that made me feel guilty for something that wasn’t my fault. Writing it out until I was done gave me permission to move on to something else. I’ve never submitted that novel. I’ve never even gone back to revise it. But it’s there. I feel proud that I had the courage to get those thoughts, feelings and emotions down on paper.

But remember, tomorrow does come. Lent always follows Fat Tuesday. And for many of us, that means fasting. In writing, that means getting rid of probably more than half of the words you wrote during your fit of unbridled writer passion. But that’s OK too. Getting the words out and flowing means you aren’t done. More words will come. Better ones. Truer ones than you ever thought possible. Cleaning out makes room. Writing it out makes room for your best work. The work that is to come.

I’m reminding myself of that right now as I look at my box of Fat Tuesday revelry. Enjoy them today, I tell myself. And be grateful for a chance to start again tomorrow.

Sensibility- Writing is never just a formula. Part of who you are comes out in every word. Embrace that truth.

Sense- While embracing the writer that is you, remember, not every word you write is vital to the story. Be prepared to cut the fat!

And speaking of writing..don’t forget to check out PGWRites Critiques. If you need a fresh perspective on your picture books, I’m here to help you!



Uncategorized, Writing for Children

PGWRites Critiques- Picture Book Critique Winner!

Happy Friday everyone! As promised, I’m here to annouce the winners of my picture book critique giveaway in honor of the launch of PGWRites Critiques! The first five people who left a comment on Wednesday are eligible for this prize. Winners will receive:

  1. Line-by-line markup of your picture book manuscript (1000 words or less) with edits and suggestions.
  2. A big-picture plot analysis.
  3. A list of the strengths/weaknesses of the manuscript from my perspective, as well as a list of guided questions to help with the revision process.
  4. A one-page written critique with detailed explanation of the manuscript mark-up.
  5. Answers to your questions about the critique in one follow-up email.


So without further delay, the winners are…

Jennifer Rumberger

Danielle Hammelef

AJ Irving


Congratulations everyone and thanks for leaving your comments! Please send your completed MS in the body of an email (no attachments please) to info@pgwrites.com with CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY WINNER in the subject line. I look forward to reading your stories!