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.








It’s a BOGO Picture Book Critique Special!

Hey, all you picture book writers out there!


Looking for a way to jump-start a summer writing project or take your current work-in-progress to the next level? Then I have a deal for you!

Starting Monday, June 13 through Friday, June 24, purchase one PGWRites Critique and you’ll receive a second critique of a different manuscript absolutely free! Yep, you heard it. Absolutely free!

How to Submit 

Simply click on the PGWRites Critiques tab above between June 13-24, follow the submission and payment instructions, and you’ll receive a second PB critique at no additional charge (a $50 value- good for up to one year).


But wait, there’s more! Anyone who shares this post via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Linked In by Noon on Friday (June 10) and sends me the link in an email with their PB submission gets a free “second look” on their paid picture book critique submission (a $25 value). So with the BOGO and the SHARE,  you’ll receive two picture book critiques plus one “second look” all for the low price of $50! Wow!

What’s so Special about a PGWRites Critique?

A PGWRites Critique goes above and beyond many picture book critiques by providing line edits, in-MS notes, a one-page explanation of those notes as well as a list of guiding questions for revision, all for the low price of $50. I’m so sure you’ll love my services that I’m throwing in an extra critique for free and a second look just for sharing this information with a friend.

So what are you waiting for? (Besides Monday, of course:) You’ve got just a few days to dust off that manuscript and get it ready for a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective! I’m looking forward to reading some great stories and helping make them even better!

Happy Writing!



To Paris With Love. . .

Photo courtesy of Edisonblus, Wikimedia Commons

I’ve never been to Paris. It’s been on my list of “Places to Visit,” for as long as I can remember. In the past few days, we’ve all seen Paris and her people in a way we’ll never forget- as victims in the seemingly never-ending war on terror. So today, in honor of those who’ve fallen and those who are left to mourn, here are a few quotes about this city that fascinates the world. . .



“Paris is always a good idea” –Audrey Hepburn

Taken from the film Sabrina, 1954


“America is my country and Paris is my hometown.” – Gertrude Stein


“The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay,

I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café

The last time I saw Paris, her trees were dressed for spring,

And lovers walked beneath those trees and birds found songs to sing.”

— Oscar Hammerstein II, 1940


“They say that when good Americans die they go to Paris.” — Oscar Wilde From the novel  A Picture of Dorian Gray.


“I love Paris when it sizzles” –Cole Porter


“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

—Earnest Hemingway


Ilsa: But what about us? Rick: We’ll always have Paris — Casablanca


“To err is human. To loaf is Parisian.” – Victor Hugo


“The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American.”

— F Scott Fitzgerald


“…the whole of Paris is a vast university of Art, Literature and Music…it is worth anyone’s while to dally here for years. Paris is a seminar, a post-graduate course in Everything.”—James Thurber


“What an immense impression Paris made upon me. It is the most extraordinary place in the world!”                            –Charles Dickens


“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.”– Thomas Jefferson


“Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall

My buried life, and Paris in the spring,

I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world

To be wonderful and youthful after all”

From Collected Poems 1909-1962 –T.S. Eliot


My prayers are with you Paris, France and with all those who’ve suffered so much at the hands of those who place so little value on life. God bless you as you heal.

Photo courtesy of Olaf Just, Wikimedia Commons

Sensibility- Pausing to remember beauty and gentleness eases pain and reduces fear during times of great loss.

Sense- Use your writing today in some tangible way that shows love. Write a letter to a friend or loved one, a poem to your significant other or a note to your children. It will be a treasure they cherish always.




Late Frost

When you live in the Mitten, late frost is more the norm than the exception. We never, EVER plant annuals until after Mother’s Day, and sometimes even then I find myself covering up my blooming beauties, “just in case.” But cooler temperatures in late spring mean strong roots and beautiful blooms all summer and even into the fall. I promise you, it’s worth the wait.

We get examples of what late frost can do to fragile flowers every year. Case in point: the current state of my magnolia.

My tulip magnolia a few years ago.

She stuck some of her petals out a wee bit early this year and now they are brown and burned from a zap of cold weather. I still have hope that she’ll put on an incredible spring show like the one in this picture from a few years ago, but the many dark, unopened buds make me doubtful. It’s important for writers to beware of “late frost” in the writing life as well. Even though it may feel like your manuscript is ready to submit, if you don’t have many revisions, some honest critiques from critique partners and even a professional conference critique or two, chances are your manuscript is in danger of catching a “late frost” from editors and agents.

It’s not that there’s some kind of hidden secret agenda in publishing- a type of literary hazing if you will- but these proven steps work. Here’s a personal example that I’m excited to share…

Last week, I received a contract for a story from Highlights Magazine! This was a dream come true for me since I’ve wanted to have something published in Highlights since I was like 8 years old. I wrote the story, “The Christmas Candles,” about 15 years ago. The first version was over 2000 words (now that’s funny:), and that was the first version I submitted to Highlights (I’m so embarrassed). Of course I received a rejection straight away. In the meantime, I joined a critique group and worked on a revision based on my group’s suggestions. I then submitted the story to their yearly fiction contest and got no response. Fast forward a few years and many, many revisions later, and I submitted the story to the fiction contest again (their contest subjects are often cyclical). And I didn’t win…again! But this time, I got a letter saying they loved the piece, and if I’d be willing to do a few revisions, they’d like to consider it for regular purchase.

I was overjoyed! Of course I had already sent them what I thought was my best work, so I knew I needed the help of a professional editor to get things just right. I hired a friend of mine that I trust and admire, and she gave me wonderful suggestions that made the story even stronger (thanks Lorri Cardwell-Casey)! About six months later, I received an email from the editor telling me they had loved the revisions but needed one more thing. Because my story was historical fiction, they asked me to find a university professor to do a quick fact check and write a short review of the piece. If I was willing to do that, then they would offer me a contract. It took a few weeks, but I found just the right person for the job and the editor loved the review. The entire process from entering the contest to signing the contract took a year and a half. But the entire process from writing the first draft to signing the contract took almost 15 years! Wow!

Through this process, I learned first hand how sending out a story too early is never a good idea. You’re more likely to get burned by a late frost than land a contract if your story isn’t ready. Would I change this journey if I could? No, not at all. I’ve learned so much and am a better writer because of it. And I can’t even describe to you the joy of delayed gratification. It makes the victory all the sweeter.

So watch out for “late frost” in your writing life. Take your time and make your stories the best they can be! It’s more than worth it!

Sensibility- Delicate new blossoms need lots of TLC to grow into mature flowers. Think of your stories in this way and take proper care of them in the early days of inspiration.

Sense- Drafting, revising, re-writing, critiquing and rewriting again may seem like a waste of time, but it’s the only way to make your story the best it can be.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

What are some examples of “late frost” experiences in your writing life?

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

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

Introducing PGWrites Critiques and Picture Book Critique Giveaway!

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

Image courtesy of William Arthur Fine Stationary- Jane Mount
Image courtesy of William Arthur Fine Stationary- Jane Mount

I’m a day late with my post this week here on Sensibility and Sense because I’ve been working on an exciting announcement! Starting next Tuesday (2/17/2015) I’ll be offering professional manuscript critiques for picture book writers. I’ve been working towards this goal for a while now, and I’m excited it’s finally happening. So be sure and come back next week for instructions on how to take advantage of this easy and affordable way to get your picture book manuscript one step closer to being submission-ready.

And in honor of this new program, I’m offering a free picture book critique to the first five people who leave a comment after this post. You have 24 hours to participate, so get those comments in. I’ll announce the winners with instructions for submitting here on Friday (2/13/2015).

Thanks so much for your support and for helping make Sensibility and Sense a perfect blog for imperfect writers!

Sensibility- No writer should be an island. Getting input from other writers at all different levels makes your work stronger.

Sense- Take advantage of multiple resources to improve your writing. Critique groups, writing partners, conferences, online classes and professional critique services are all valuable feedback sources.

Leave a comment and win a free picture book critique!



Writing for Children

Seeing Your Shadow: Letting Go During Revision

Yesterday was Groundhog Day!

Punxsutawney Phil, photo courtesy of Allessandro M, Flickr

And of course, Punxsutawney Phil quickly let us know that winter was here to stay. Phil’s an expert at predictions based on one simple thing: seeing his shadow. Apparently, he’s scared of the blackish-gray blob that appears on the snow. When he sees it, he scurries back to his burrow as fast as his short, chubby legs can carry him. But I think Phil is onto something here. Something we writers can learn from.

How often do you see your shadow when revising? The familiar black blob that creeps over your computer screen and won’t let you get rid of all the unnecessary bulk in your manuscript. You know, the one who says, “That’s the best thing you’ve ever written. You can’t change THAT!”

Or how about when you know a character just isn’t pulling her weight and needs to go. Your shadow says, “But I LOVE her! The story can’t live if she dies!”

And there’s the one I really struggle wtih: the shadow of self-doubt. I’m sure you know her. She’s the shadow of the writer you were last year, a month ago, yesterday. Her favorite saying is, “All your best writing days are behind you. Why even BOTHER trying to make this story better. It’s TOTALLY yesterday’s news.”

As in the case of our favorite weather-predicting rodent, shadows can tell us things we need to know. They’re how our ancestors used to tell time. Shadows warn of us danger and bring us comfort as evening turns to night. But shadows can be a real nuisance to the revising process.

So don’t let your shadows scare you! Your best writing days aren’t behind you. If that character is dragging your story down give her a serious facelift or let her go. And if you think you need to slash 1000 words from your MS, you probably need to get rid of even more. Be honest with yourself. Send those shadows packing and bring your story into the light of day where it can really shine!

Sensibility- A shadow can be a friend or a foe. Let yours guide you in the revision process rather than slow you down.

Sense- As an exercise, remove as many words from your current manuscript as possible. When you think you’re done, take out 1000 more. For picture book writers, trim your manuscript to no more than 500 words. Then see if you can eliminate a 100 more.

What is the most difficult shadow you fight when revising?


November Inspiration—NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo

November is a great month for writer inspiration. Both National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) are in full swing!

Image courtesy of Tara Lazar.com

Participating in these two activities is a great way to boost your creativity and help you reach some important writer goals. I’m not officially participating in either activity this year since I’m still putting the finishing touches on my new non-fiction picture book. But I am keeping up with daily PiBoIdMo blogs and cheering on all you November novel writers from the sidelines! I have done both before (although not in the same year) and have been very pleased with the results. NaNoWriMo inspired me to begin work on my second middle grade novel a few years ago. And even though I did not finish it in one month, I was able to get a solid start and complete a rough draft a few months later. My PiBoIdMo list continues to grow, and I’ve written several new picture books in the last year that came directly from the ideas I have listed there.

Image courtesy of NaNoWriMo.org.

So, if you’re in need of some inspiration, it’s not too late to get started.

I encourage you to visit each of these sites to learn more about both activities. Happy November, and as always, Happy Writing!

Sensibility- Writing is a journey, but it has to start somewhere. Set aside time for writing each day to help wake up your muse!

Sense- Use activities like NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo to jump start your creativity and help you set goals.

If you’re participating in these activities, let us know! If you’ve participated before, how have these two things impacted your writing?


It’s a Back-to-School Writer Giveaway! And the Winner is…

Thanks to all of you for your great writer-education ideas and for sharing your experiences! Along with all the amazing educational opportunities out there, learning from other writers is probably the best way to increase your own writer knowledge!

So without further delay (drum roll please)…the winner is Danielle Hammelef! Danielle wrote about her experiences taking the Institute of Children’s Literature writing courses. Thanks so much Danielle for sharing your insight about this great opportunity. Please email me at info@pgwrites.com and let me know where I can send your prize!  And for everyone else, stay tuned to Sensibility and Sense for more great give aways and more advice from one imperfect writer to another!

Sensibility- Adding knowledge to your writer arsenal is like adding fertilizer to your plants.  A few drops at the right intervals can make bigger blossoms and better stories.

Sense- Choose writer education that increases your knowledge of craft and boosts your personal creativity.


Happy First Day of School!