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:
Can it really be almost the end of January? As I look at today’s date and wonder where the month has gone, I can’t help but think that with each day that passes I’m one day closer to the release of my first fiction picture book, MRS. NOAH. I’m so excited! MRS. NOAH is the story of Noah’s Ark from Noah’s wife’s perspective. It’s a rocking, rolling, rhyming romp about all the work Mrs. Noah does to get the ark ready to receive all of the furry and feathery guests for their 40-day cruise. Mrs. Noah knows there’s more to creating a happy, floating home than just hammers, nails and gopher wood, but can she help Noah understand and lend a helping hand?
You’re probably wondering where the idea from this story came from. Well, it just so happened that I was packing and preparing my family of 5 for a big trip…we were celebrating my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary with a cruise for 11…grandparents, kids, cousins…you get the idea. Anyway, it was our first cruise experience and I was running around like a crazy woman trying to plan for the two-day drive to Florida (we thought that would be fun?). So along with planning for the actual cruise, I had to book hotel rooms and make sure everyone had enough clean clothes and toiletries for the two days before and the two days after. Not to mention buying up enough pet supplies and snacks for our house sitter, stopping the mail, making sure everyone had a swimsuit and shoes that fit, plus paying all the bills and getting the house cleaned before we could leave. My husband, who is always very helpful, had to work extra hours getting clients taken care of so we could have this week away, so he was at the office until late every night leading up to the trip and wasn’t able to help me. And just 6 weeks earlier, my son had undergone a big surgery to remove a benign tumor from his skull base, so there were follow up appointments to get the all-clear just a few days before we left. Needless to say, I was a wreck.
Somewhere in all of the craziness, a thought ran through my mind… “If I’m this stressed out trying to get everything done that needs doing before we leave for our cruise, how in the world did Mrs. Noah get everything ready for an ark full of animals and the rest of her family? Lord have mercy!!” That thought made me laugh out loud. Here I was fretting and worrying and being frustrated because I had so much to do and no help, that I couldn’t enjoy the process. God started using Mrs. Noah even then to help me see that He is always in the details, even if I can’t see it at the time. Of course, the idea of Mrs. Noah settled in and stayed and by the time I got home from that wonderful trip, I already had the first lines of the story playing over and over in my head. God whispers seem to work like that.
Fast forward almost 9 years and many, many versions later, and MRS. NOAH is one step closer to being born. The target is fall of 2021, so I’m looking forward with expectation and joy. I’m so glad you’re here to join me on my journey! Watch this page for an official “countdown to MRS. NOAH” in the coming weeks!
Sensibility- The journey is almost always more important than the destination. Take time to stop and enjoy whatever road you’re currently on.
Sense-Story ideas can come from the strangest places. Part of being a writer is being aware so you can see, hear and recognize a story seed when it appears.
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
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:
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.
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 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…
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.