Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Novel Revision: First Steps

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

 

 

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Celebrating CAIRO’S CHRISTMAS JOURNEY, by Janet L. Christensen

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.

Janet L. Christensen

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.


 

Writing for Children

Happy Publishing News!

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.


 

 

Writing for Children

Happy News in Challenging Times!

Good afternoon to all my Sensibility and Sense followers! It’s been several weeks since I’ve posted an update; I’ve been hesitating because of these uncertain days and times we find ourselves in. But because I firmly believe that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind,” I know that any happy news when everything pulls us in other ways can be a balm to the soul. So today I wanted to share with you. . .

I have a book deal!

After years of waiting, working, hoping and praying, Little Lamb Books has connected with 2 of my picture books and offered me a contract. If things go as planned, you’ll be holding MRS. NOAH and MILLIE’S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE in your hands in the fall of 2021 and 2022, respectively.  You can read about how it all happened here:

Welcome Our New Children’s Author – Patti Richards!

I want to thank each and every one of you that has commented here throughout the years, followed me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and anywhere else I hang out, offered encouragement and a shoulder and listening ear when I was discouraged. You have no idea how much each thing means to a writer with a dream and a passion for creating uplifting content for young readers.

And so now, as we all continue to hunker down, stay at home, wash our hands, reach out to those in need and generally take care of each other, please know that all of you are in my thoughts and prayers. May God’s peace and hope fill your homes and your hearts as we all wait this out together.

With Love and Appreciation,

Patti

Uncategorized

Happy New Year from Sensibility and Sense!

Image courtesy of Pixabay/jeffjacobs1990

Dear Friend,

I want to wish you and your family and friends a blessed and Happy New Year! I’m so grateful you’re part of my journey and appreciate so much when you stop by and read my musings about writing or celebrate with me when I have good news. You truly are one of my best gifts. . .

And guess what?! In just a few weeks I’m going to have some big news to share, and I cannot wait! So please keep visiting and reading so you can be part of the celebration!

Happy New Year!

Patti Richards


Sensibility- The writer journey, full of its twists and turn, highs and lows, is one I’m grateful to be on! 

Sense- When it comes time for New Year’s resolutions and goal setting, be kind to yourself. Set measurable, reachable benchmarks so you can look back on 2020 and be happy with what you’ve accomplished. Remember, life is a one-day-at-a-time journey. Look for the joy! 


 

Coming in 2020. . .

A brand-spanking-new Sensibility and Sense!

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“THANKU” Makes the Chicago Public Library’s list for “Best Informational Books for Young Readers of 2019”

I’m so excited to share that “ThankU, Poems of Gratitude,” has made the Chicago Public Library’s list for “Best Informational Books for Younger Readers of 2019.”

Congratulations to editor, Miranda Paul, illustrator, Marlena Myles and all the amazing poets that make up this anthology: Joseph Bruchac, Naomi Shihab Nye, Kimberly M. BlaeserSun Yung Shin, Ed DeCaria, Becky Bookout ShillingtonPadma VenkatramanGwendolyn HooksJane Yolen, Janice Scully, Charles WatersCarole LindstromSylvia LiuCarolyn Dee FloresSarvinder Bal NaberhausLupe Ruiz-FloresBaptiste PaulCynthia Leitich Smith, Chrystal D. Giles, Margarita Engle, Kenn Nesbitt, JaNay Brown-WoodDiana MurrayMegan Elizabeth Hoyt, Jamie McGillen, Renee LaTulippeVanessa NewtonTraci McClellan-SorellCharles Ghigna, and Liz Garton Scanlon. I am beyond humbled to be part of this project!

 

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving:)

Thank you all for being part of the journey!

Patti Richards

 

Writing for Children

A Season of Gratitude!

 

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?

 

 

Writing for Children

This Needs Fireflies!

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?

Uncategorized, Writing for Children

Cover Reveal and Pre-order Link for THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE!

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…

 

 

 

You can pre-order the book here:

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Thanku-Poems-Gratitude-Miranda-Paul/dp/1541523636/

 

 

 

It’s moments like these that make the writer journey so sweet. Thank you all for your continued support!

 


Sensibility- Never pass up an opportunity, no matter how impossible it may seem. Every effort along the way helps grow you as a writer.

Sense- Keep an eye out for contests and calls for submissions. These can often open doors in unexpected and amazing ways!


 

Watch for a THANKU: POEMS OF GRATITUDE giveaway in the comings months:)

 

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Oh, Guilty Heart! – Susanna Hill’s 4th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and that means it’s time for Susanna Hill’s Annual Valentiny Writing Contest! I love holidays and writing contests, so this one was a perfect fit for me. Here are the rules:

“. . .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.