It’s been almost two months since MRS. NOAH set sail, and as we turn our hearts and minds towards family time, gift-giving, and saying “Goodbye” to 2021, my thoughts turn again to thankfulness.
Here are just a few of the things I’m thankful for this year:
I became a grandmother for the very first time a little over two weeks ago, and he’s just the most precious thing! Baby Benny came quite early, so he’s spent the last two weeks in the NICU sleeping, eating, and growing! I can’t wait to meet him and hold him and tell him just how much Grammar loves him!
My youngest graduated from college back in May, and she’s working at a nonprofit job she loves helping teen moms through support, community, and love. I’m so proud of her!
My older daughter received a full scholarship to Wayne State University Graduate School of musical composition. She’s teaching full time too, and we just couldn’t be prouder.
My son and daughter-in-love are just the most amazing new parents! Their courage and faith as they’ve spent a month in the hospital while waiting for Benny to be born as well as the last 2 weeks with him in the NICU has been such an incredible thing to witness.
My family, in spite of some health challenges over the past few months, are strong and happy!
My first book launch has gone well and I’ve learned so much about marketing…something I was pretty nervous about…and I’m just so grateful!
I encourage each of you to find some quiet moments this holiday season to think about all you have and be grateful. A thankful heart is a happy heart! And in our house, the Joy of the Lord is always our strength.
I can’t believe it’s almost time for the release of MRS. NOAH (Little Lamb Books)! In just a little over one month, this book that began nine years ago with just a seed of an idea is about to be born! I can’t tell you how fun it’s been to watch it all take shape, and I so appreciate you begin with me on the journey. So, without further fanfare, here’s your first taste of MRS. NOAH:
I’m just in love with this cover created by Alice Pieroni, and I know you’re going to love each page of this beautiful book that is so dear to my heart. MRS. NOAH will be available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Little Lamb Books on October 5 and releases on October 19. So, mark your calendars!
Thanks for being on this journey with me!
Sensibility- Watching a book come to life is one of the greatest joys of any writer.
Sense- Being present in each part of the book creation process, from idea to drafts to done, is important. Take time, wherever you are on your journey to be still and recognize that this step, right now, is necessary and good.
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
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!
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?
I just signed up for STORYSTORM 2018, and I’m looking forward to 30 brand-spanking-new story ideas by the end of January! Thanks for hosting again this year, Tara Lazar, and happy 10th Storystorm Anniversary!