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!
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
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.
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!
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!
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?
“. . .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.