“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

 

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Play On, Children! Play On!

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?

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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?

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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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Susanna Hill’s 8th Annual Holiday Writing Contest! MAZY’S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE

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.


 

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Of Contests and Such…

Back in October, I received the news that my picture book manuscript, CUPINE’S PERFECT DANCE PARTNER, had been awarded an Honorable Mention in the 86th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. There were over 5100 entries across several categories, and I was over-the-moon excited that my porcupine story had been selected! Today, they sent me a little swag as a reminder:

I post this today as an encouragement to each of you to keep on keeping on. You never know when that next submission is going to bring you some happy publishing news!

Happy New Year, and Happy Writing!


Sensibility- Persistence always pays off, even if it seems like it’s taking forever!

Sense- Find new places to submit your writing this month. Contests, magazines, newsletters and publishing journals provide important credits and the motivation you need to keep going!


What are some contests or places outside of publishing houses or agents where you’ve submitted your work? 

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Happy Holidays from Sensibility and Sense!

It’s smack in the middle between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and I’m looking out my office window at a winter blue sky and fresh snowfall. It’s a white and wonderful around here, and I’m enjoying having my daughters home from college for a few more days and looking forward to our family New Year’s Eve celebration. I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of you Happy Holidays and especially a Happy New Year! Thank you for making this writer’s journey so pleasant by visiting here and sharing your comments along the way. I appreciate each of you!

In the New Year, look for more installments on Writing for Today’s Child, author interviews, great giveaways and new services from PGWRites Critiques as I approach my 100th Sensibility and Sense post! I hope you’ll visit often and let me know your thoughts as we learn and grow together!

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2018!


Sensibility- Find a quiet moment between holiday activities to just think, breathe and be. Turn your heart to thankfulness for all the blessings in your life.

Sense- Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, consider making a list of reachable goals for each month of 2018. As long as you’re moving forward, even baby steps are steps in the right direction!


 

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Who is Today’s Child?

My big kids humored me a few years ago with one last photo with Santa!

Every time I write a new story, I think about the child that might read it. I think some about the current children’s book market, what’s new and what’s coming down the pike in a few years, but I think more about the child that might one day pick up a book that bears my name.

I think about her a lot. 

Is she tall? Short? Plump? Thin? How does she see herself when she looks in the mirror? Are her jeans too tight or not the right style? Does she have a favorite doll? Stuffed animal? Game? Is she so smart it scares her sometimes and is she afraid to raise her hand in class and give the answer. . . again? Does she believe in magic and fairies and Santa Claus even though everyone else stopped believing long ago? Does she feel like she could fly if only she could just find a way to grow a pair of wings?

And what about him?

Is he skinny? Short? Fast? Slow? Does he hate baseball? Does he love football? Does he love hunting? Does he want to learn to cook or plant flowers or sing? Is he afraid of spiders just like his sister even though he isn’t supposed to be? And what if he never likes reading? So what? Will he ever be able to sit still in class, even for a minute? And what if he can’t? Will he still feel OK in his own skin? What if he likes wandering in the woods better than just about anything else? What if he feels he could fly if only he could just find a way to grow a pair of wings?

We hear an awful lot these days about what we should be writing about. What teachers want for their students, what parents want for their kids and what society says we should be giving them instead of something else. And all of those are very good things. But I didn’t start this very long journey for any other reason than to write for that girl or that boy. I truly believed, and still do, that simple stories with universal truths that meet kids where they are and take them where they need to be are the best kind for growing amazing little people into amazing big adults. Stories of compassion, kindness, goodness and love, woven with adventure, courage and fantasy about heroes kids can trust, believe in and identify with. Those are the kinds of stories I gave my own children, and all three of them have turned into amazing big adults ready to take on the world.

Having the big empty nest I mentioned in a previous post has given me time to think about the why of things. . . why we make the choices we make, why this world is the way it is; why children seem to be busier than ever, have more access to programs and experiences and opportunities than ever and are still killing themselves at an alarming rate with prescription opioids and heroin. Why? Why aren’t they satisfied and happy? I have a few theories, but that would take its own blog post.

So I’m going on a little journey to discover as much as I can about the children for whom I write, and I’m starting by reading C.S Lewis’s Letters to Children and Other Worlds: Essays and Stories. I’ll be sharing what I learn in a series of blog posts over the next few months, not every week, but as often as I can. I think it will be a fascinating journey. I hope you’ll join me.

 


Sensibility- For writers, not knowing your audience could find you producing stories something akin to a broccoli birthday cake or a Thanksgiving turkey made entirely of cheese.

Sense- Get to know your audience by reading both timeless books and what is trending now.


What are some of your favorite books on writing or writing for children?

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Getting Back Into the Writing Groove!

My friend, Kristin Bartley Lenz, shares some sage writing advice in this week’s Mitten blog post:

The Grown-Up Version of What I Did This Summer, or How I Rediscovered My Writing Mojo

Kristin is the author of YA novel, THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO (Elephant Rock Productions, September 2016). The book was a Junior Library Guild Fall 2016 Selection and chosen for the 2017-2018 Great Lakes Great Books statewide literature program. Kristin’s success led to lots of speaking engagements and a flurry of activity as the book gained popularity. But what’s a newly-minted author to do when the process of promoting a book zaps your energy and leaves you feeling unable to write anything new? Kristin answers this important questions and more in this fabulous post that provides an honest perspective. Hope you enjoy it!

You can Learn more about Kristin at www.kristinbartleylenz.com.

 

Coming Soon on Sensibility and Sense. . . a fall picture book critique special and giveaway! Stay tuned!

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Excited to Announce Some Poetry MADNESS and My New Nonfiction Picture Book!

Happy March to one and all! It’s been way more lion than lamb around here today that’s for sure. So to help brighten up an otherwise gloomy day, I have two exciting announcements to share:

First, the MADNESS is on again! I’m not talking basketball, I’m talking POETRY. Ed DeCaria’s March Madness Poetry competition returns this year, and yours truly is once again an “authlete.” I’m excited to be part of the fun! The competition begins Sunday, March 5 when the first words are revealed. I’m hoping for tons of support from my blog and Twitter followers as well as my Facebook friends! Learn how you and/or your class can get involved by clicking below:

MADNESS! Poetry

 

 

 

Second, (which really happened first) my first nonfiction picture book for kids, ALL ABOUT SOCIAL NETWORKING (Red Line Editorial/North Star Editions) was released in late January! It’s part of a series on Cutting Edge Technology and is available for purchase from Amazon.com (just click on the picture for more information).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to all of you for your continued support of my writing journey. It means so much to have you along for the ride!


Sensibility- Renewing commitments on a regular basis helps maintain focus and keep dreams alive!

Sense- March is a great time to recommit to those writing goals you set in January. Check your list and take stock of where you are and where you want to go.


Have you met any personal writing goals since January? Share them here!

 

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