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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.


 

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The Journey Begins. . .

Happy October, and welcome to all my new subscribers!

A beautiful scene from our recent trip to Beaver Island, Michigan!

I hope everyone is well and staying safe during these challenging times. Finding ways to encourage you in writing and in life is what this blog is all about, and I hope you come away from each post with joy and hope.

I’m beginning a personal and professional journey this week by turning my attention to a long-overdue middle-grade novel revision. I wrote this particular novel almost 10 years ago from an idea I had while sitting in my son’s hospital room after he’d had a lengthy and dangerous surgery to remove a large tumor from his abdomen. He was home from his first year of college for Thanksgiving break, and what was a routine physical turned into something none of us were expecting. If you’ve ever had something like that happen to you, you know the feeling of all the oxygen being sucked from the room and the sheer effort it takes to remain standing while you learn your next steps. It’s a journey I hope I never have to take again with one of my children. But God works in mysterious ways for sure. In the middle of all of that unknown, I got the clearest story idea I had ever had to that point. So, what does a writer do when something like that happens and you just don’t have the time or the strength to even think about starting a new project? You get the idea down in your notebook and start the new project anyway😊.

Right now, we’re all living our days in a situation none of us ever expected. There’s a heaviness that surrounds us we can’t explain as we work to keep life moving forward and feeling as normal as possible. But it isn’t normal, and we have no idea when things might be again. That’s how we felt 10 years ago, and it may be why I feel compelled to blow the cobwebs off a book I haven’t touched in a few years and do the work it takes to breathe life into it and make it shine. Maybe God is using that moment in time, that story idea, to remind me of his presence and not be afraid; to help me walk through these days of social distancing and quarantine with grace and peace.

So, I’m inviting you along for the journey. I’m using Darcy Pattison’s, NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS, as my primary guide. I love Darcy’s work and look forward to diving into the exercises she’s provided in the workbook as well as the other resources. I’m also doing a manuscript exchange with one of my long-time critique partners and friends so I can have fresh eyes on my work and provide fresh eyes and perspective to her work as we go. I’m using this blog as a way to keep myself accountable by sharing what I’ve learned on a bi-weekly basis, and as a space to flesh out ideas and have conversations with all of you about this process.

Now the only thing left to do is take the first step…here goes!


Sensibility- Even in the darkest times, we can hear God whisper peace to our hearts if we are listening.

Sense- If you’re feeling extra stressed or worried as the days grow shorter find a new project to energize your mind and improve your focus. Use this time to be as creative as you can possibly be.


 

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

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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

 

Uncategorized, Writing for Children

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?

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:)