Fiction and Non-Fiction Creative Writer

children's book author, writer, social media coachWelcome!

I’m Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan. I’m best known as a fiction and non-fiction writer for children. I’ve written for magazines like Highlights for Children, Appleseeds and Family Fun.

Recent awards:

I love working with children and I am available for school visits, classroom and community workshops.

 

In addition to my children’s writing, I also provide freelance services including:

  • Editing and e-book production
  • Creative consultation and promotion
  • Business writing and blogging
  • Social media coaching

Creative writers get ideas from many places. As a runner and triathlete, I find that a tough physical challenge is a great way to spark incredible ideas.

As a mom, I know the value of humor and patience. My own children keep me on my creative writer toes and offer endless inspiration. Need help with grumpy kids? Picky kids? Want to dance with a dinosaur? Grab a book below!

Contact me at 412.837.9499 or onesweetwriter[at]gmail.com if you need:

I’ve written for magazines for adults including Family Fun, PTOToday, and Thrive. I’ve also written for websites like SchoolFamily.com, PopCity, Kidsburgh and mom.me. I also write for and e-newsletters like Writer’s Weekly and Children’s Writer. My poetry has appeared in Leading Edge Literary Magazine.

I have my MA in American History and have been a science educator, stage performer and worked with non-profits for over 10 years. When I’m not training for an upcoming road race or triathlon, I’m exploring the world with my husband and three children. I’ve been to 31 out of 50 states and 3 continents and counting!

I tackle each writing assignment with enthusiasm and would love to apply my skills to your project.

I encourage you to review my extensive writing samplesview my testimonials, visit my Amazon.com Author Page, and visit my LinkedIn profile.

Emoji Tales

I love writing stories, and today I’m going to write an emoji tale.

Emojis are so fun. Yes, they irritate some people, but not me.

Sometimes I have trouble deciphering them because I rely so heavily on non-verbal communication to really understand what someone is trying to say.

My most popular post on this blog has to do with delivering bad news. That bums me out because I prefer to focus on the positive. I think the real reason the post is so popular because I alt-tagged the image with the word “emoji.”

I’ve been using Upwork to find new clients lately and came across a really fun job listing to create emoji stories. The listing said “if you don’t think it’s possible, you’re not right for the job.”

Oh it’s possible.

Emoji Flash Fiction

Here’s a quick emoji tale about my first triathlon of 2017.

emoji tales

Once upon a time…

Not too hard to decode, right?

What if it were a little longer?

emoji tale three bears

Can you read the story?

If you couldn’t figure it out, it’s an emoji re-telling of the beginning of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Here’s one way of reading it:

“Once there were three bears. They were a family. They lived in the woods, in a house. They went for a walk. A girl with golden hair came to their house. She saw a bowl of food. It was too hot. The next bowl of food was too cold. The third bowl of food was just right.”

I could add some better detail in there, like numbers to indicate first, second and third. I could probably also format my ‘manuscript’ better and start new paragraphs or pieces of action on new lines. Right now, this tale might be considered an emoji run-on sentence.

It’s just a first draft. But it’s really fun.

Tell Your Emoji Tale

Now it’s your turn. Tell me a story in emojis and I’ll see if I can “read” and it. I’ll share the emoji stories I get here on my blog and see if others can read it, too!

Submissions Rates for 2016

I keep track of my submission, acceptances and rejections monthly and annually. I like to see what parts of the year I am slow and prepare for that. I also like to see if I’m getting better at sending the right submissions to the right publications or if I’m still sending stuff wildly into the unknown.

I love to color code my charts using the Pantone colors of the year. 

2016 Submissions

Here’s a look at my 2016 activity in terms of submissions.

submissions

2016 Chart 

 

I had the most submissions in February and March, but it’s clear my best months for acceptances were May and October. What isn’t highlighted by this simple numerical record is my selection as Pen Parentis Fellow in August. If I could put a big star by that one acceptance, I would!

Another highlight this chart doesn’t show is that all four acceptances in October were actually assignments, not responses to queries. That’s a great sign that editors look to me for work, instead of me constantly pitching them.

Another big improvement is my overall acceptance rate. In previous years, I had 6.3, 8.8 and 10.8 percent acceptance rates. A 14.6 percent acceptance rate is a definite improvement. I think that indicates a greater knowledge of what certain publications want.

2017 Submissions

submissions

2017 Chart

Things are starting off just a touch higher than last year. I feel very satisfied with this rate, especially when I look back at my submissions rate from past years.

Do I have a monthly submissions goal?

Yes, but I won’t freak out if I don’t meet it. I’d love to send out 10 pieces a month. I think that shows I’m an active writer. Yes, a writer is someone who writes everyday, but I’m also a business owner and I want paychecks and clips. I know it’s not always going to be possible to submit more than 10 pieces a month, but I need a goal.

This tracker also doesn’t include contracts that involve writing but aren’t exactly submissions with acceptance or rejections. I have some assignments coming through Upwork that are based on contract proposals, not story ideas, so I’m not tracking them here. I also have contracts that involve editing but not a lot of writing and I’m not counting them here, either.

In some ways, these charts are just ways to prove “I’m busy.” But they are always ways to boost my confidence and encourage me to keep working.

Do you track your submissions and rate of acceptance?

Have you noticed an improvement?

 

Graphic Novels About Growing Up

Graphic novels are so hot right now. When I was growing up, I only remember reading Maus, a story about mice in World War 2. But now graphic novels about growing up are all the rage.

Graphic Novels We Have Loved

My oldest first read a graphic novel version of The Red Pyramid, then dove into a graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time. Then we both loved Roller Girl and El Deafo. After that, both boys plowed through all four Reina Telgmeier books: Smile, Sisters, Drama, and Ghosts. For Christmas, my oldest got the first book in the Amulet series. He said it was scary, but wants to read the rest of the seven book series. We also read American Born Chinese, but I think a lot of the elements of that book were over the head of my middle son.

Reading Reina’s books helped my fourth grade identify which kids in his class thought it was ok to make fun of gay people. I love that the majority of the graphic novels they have read have female protagonists. And in some cases, the books don’t tell incredibly grand stories. Instead they highlight the everyday challenges of growing up.

Now I am no illustrator, but for fun I’ve decided to create an graphic novel of my sixth grade year.

I’m aiming for six pages that highlight six things from sixth grade. I know many of my memories aren’t going to be positive, because sixth grade was a tough year.

I don’t have a catchy title yet, so for now I’m calling it 6th. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s honest.

6th

A graphic novel about sixth grade.

(Remember, illustration is NOT my forte.)

graphic novels

Friendships are hard in sixth grade.

 

graphic novels

So is fashion.

 

If you had to pick one year to make a graphic novel about from your life, what would it be?

Pennsylvania Books

pennsylvania books

Three rivers, hundreds of stories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ready for a reading list of Pennsylvania books?

Last summer, I came up with a “Reading Road Trip” article that described the real places in the U.S. featured in some of my favorite books. As a kid, I dreamed of visiting the places I read about, everything from Prince Edward Island to Manzanar and Helen Keller’s Alabama home.

I’ve been shopping the article around and looking for a publication or magazine to buy it, but in the meantime I thought I’d work on a list of books that were based closer to home, right here in Pennsylvania.

I have my own Pittsburgh, PA based stories in mind, but my first two middle grade novels are based in Maryland.

Pennsylvania Books

  1. Maniac MageeJerry Spinelli. Not based in Pittsburgh, but includes a visit to Valley Forge. It also tackles the tough topics of race and class.
  2. Criss CrossLynn Rae Perkins. I picked this up because it was a Newbery winner, and fell in love. It’s so lyrical and really captures a feeling and moments rather than a strict storyline. I loved that style. And it’s based in the steel town suburbs up the Allegheny river, some of my favorite parts of Pittsburgh. I plan to read her first novel, also based in PA, called All Alone in the Universe.
  3. EchoPamela Munoz Ryan. This novel follows three characters and one is based in eastern PA.
  4. Hitty: Her First Hundred YearsVirginia Ann Heyerdahl. Not the best book I’ve ever read. It’s a Newbery but fits into the Gay-Neck category, unfortunately. It’s about a doll who travels the world on random adventures and at one point lives in Philadelphia.

In the comments, my friend and fellow writer Amy suggested two more Pennsylvania books.

Macaroni Boy, Katherine Ayers This book is based in the Strip District of Pittsburgh and is also a period piece and a mystery. My kids read it for school and enjoyed the classic banana explosion story.

I’ve read Macaroni Boy but not her other book Voices at Whisper Bend. 

Any more suggestions?

What real live place from a book would you love to visit?

Pig Out for Reading

I remember falling in love with reading.

I’ve been reading a lot of middle grade books the past year, because that’s what I want to write. I want to write books like the kind I read from fifth to eighth grade, the kind I re-read and re-re-read. They were the books that really stuck with me as I grew older and looked for new books to read. I loved the books, I loved the writers, I loved reading.

I have trouble remembering authors and titles sometimes, but I can remember how my books looked in my room. I didn’t have a traditional bookshelf in my room, but I had shelves in my closet and I can still picture the books stacked in there. I even remember keeping some books in the open shelf on my night stand.

Remembered Reading

I remember reading Dreams of VictoryA Dog Called KittySasha, My Friend, and Six Months to Live. And of course all of the Little House books. And a book series from the grocery store called Grandma’s Attic.

But I have forgotten the titles of other books I loved reading. I could only remember snippets.  I remembered I read about a woman who gets a young puppy as a companion for her older dog and the older dog dies on an adventure. Or something like that. And I remembered reading a book about a girl who’s mother went vegan in an attempt to be happier.The mom had recently gotten divorced. The daughter hated the new diet and tried to sabotage her mom. The two big scenes I remember reading involved the daughter drinking mustard and milk and finding mice eating the junk food she had hidden in her drawer. The mom and daughter finally come to a truce and a healthy balance of good food.

(I think that book may have influenced my current eating habits more than I realized.)

I wanted to find these books. I searched all over the internet using as many descriptive words as I could. I searched websites like BookFinder for out of print and old books, I searched Amazon for keywords. I searched Goodreads.

Buried Treasure

Goodreads was useful because users create lists like “kids books that were popular in the 80s” and that’s just what I was looking for.

On Goodreads, I was delighted to find some covers of one of my favorites!

reading

Six Months to Live was my first exposure to childhood disease. The main character has leukemia. Funny, maybe this book influenced me more than I realized, too, because I worked for the American Cancer Society for eight years before I moved to writing full time.

On a Goodreads list I also found a book that I know I read, but had forgotten. This was like discovering buried treasure.

But I still couldn’t find the book about the mom going on a health food kick, or the young puppy and old dog. I let my search fade while the rest of life took over, but I didn’t forget about it. Every once in awhile when I visited the library or an old bookstore, I’d poke around and see if a title or cover jogged my memory.

Then I got involved in cleaning out our basement. I wanted to get rid of our excess belongings for several reasons. I abhor hoarding. The thought of it gives me anxiety. Also, I wanted to move our workout equipment into our larger storage room so I could get more done. My cleanup was ruthless. If I had kept something in the basement so long I didn’t go looking for it, I didn’t need it. As a means of farewell, I did do a sweep through all the papers before I recycled them, and that’s when I found my real buried treasure. My Pig Out award.

Pig Out on Reading

reading award

I love to read.

In fifth grade, I wrote 86 book reports to help my class win a reading prize. While it was wonderful to win the prize thirty years ago, it was even better finding these book reports today. I was so, so grateful to my mom (and then me) for saving them until just this moment. (This is not a reason to horde things. Only keep stuff related to your passionate dream.)

I found the titles of those missing, beloved books. Here are some of my favorites:

Behind the Attic Wall

A Wrinkle in Time

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Helen Keller

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great

I wrote reports on tons of Nancy Drew books and way too many Sweet Valley High books. Remember, I was going for quantity.

The Bunnicula series is in here, lots of Beverly Cleary books, some Choose Your Own Adventure and a book that gives me an unsettled feeling called The Twits, by Roald Dahl.

But the one about the mom and daughter and health food? It’s called Fifth Grade Secrets. Did you ever read it? I’ve got to find it.

I didn’t find the new dog/old dog book, but that might have been a story in my classroom SRA box. Did you have one of those?

 

Books to Read on a Visit to the Southwest

At the end of 2016, we took a family vacation to Arizona. Like all good vacations, I prepared a little reading list for the trip.

The Books

While we were traveling, I read Land of Little Rain  by Mary Austin and Turtle Dream by Gerald Hausman. There were little pearls of word wonder in both books. Both books were also collections of short writings, one non-fiction and one fiction. Perfect for vacation reading where you don’t always have large gaps of time. When we vacation, we are usually always on the go, there isn’t a lot of sitting around.

Earlier this year, I also read Waterless Mountain, a Newbery Award book, that was “transportational” in its writing. I felt I was in the Navajo land when I read this book. Code Talkers was also about Navajos, but the geography was the South Pacific, not the Southwest.

Death Comes for the Archbishop  by Willa Cather is a book I read on a twenty-state road trip twenty years ago. I highly recommend this book if you ever head there, but I did not read it on this trip.

I also selected Cuentos: Tales from the Hispanic Southwest: Based on Stories Originally Collected by Juan B. Rael (English and Spanish Edition) to read, but I didn’t have the time. It’s still on my bedside table, ready for me to pick up when I’m searching for stories.

You can find some of these books on my Goodreads account.

Do you put together a vacation reading list based on where you’re going? 

 

New Publication: Highlights for Children!


I’m so excited to share that my first piece for Highlights for Children appears in their January 2017 issue.

Check out the crafts section for some spinning science fun and you’ll see instructions on how to make a Super Spinner. If your child makes a Super Spinner, send me a photo on Facebook or Twitter or by email and I’ll share it on my blog.

New Publication! Aunty Greenleaf and my Encyclopedia Entry

I love encyclopedias.
encyclopedia screenshot

Last year, ABC-CLO accepted my application to write an entry in their encyclopedia on American Myths. The book is now published.

It is pretty exciting to see my name in the list of contributors in an encyclopedia. I remember as a kid sitting down and turning pages in our encyclopedias learning about topic after alphabetized topic.

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-3-05-08-pm

Through this experience, I got to do something I love doing. I got to research and learn new things! I learned a lot of new American myths and legends I had never heard before. The story of Kate Shelly saving a train really excited me.

The Legend

The legend I eventually wrote was about Aunty Greenleaf. There isn’t a lot written about her, but her story isn’t really unknown or unusual. Here’s a snippet of the end to whet your curiosity.

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-3-11-28-pm

You can read more about ABC-CLIO here.

Chapters – December 2016

Follow along as I attempt to reach my writing goals in December.

Read about my writing goals here.

December 1

1:32pm. I’ve completed a first draft of “I Really Love You and I Mean It,” a dummy of “Digit” and a dummy of “Scientific ABCs.” This checks the boxes for two of my picture book goals – plus an extra picture book. BONUS.

I still need to read and edit my two chapters of “Dare Club” and then revise those chapters in the manuscript. Hopefully I can get that done and still have time to do my run workout.

December 2

Read three chapters to get back on track. Revised manuscript. Considered additional work that needed to be done while running.

December 3

Barely managed to read a chapter, spent the day with kids at a research study.

December 4

7:28pm. Chapter 14 is read and edited. I am behind on revising but will get to work tomorrow morning, possibly tonight if I have time. I did revise the short story “Will Call” and I submitted it and “The Hunter Case” to a ghost story competition hosted by The Fiction Desk. I also submitted “The Spark and Blade” to Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. It feels good to submit and check those off the to-do list. I’m at soccer right now and have an hour drive home and chores waiting for me, but hopefully I’ll get some time tonight to tackle “Dare Club.”

December 5

5:29pm. This afternoon I revised chapters 11-14. Then the kids came home at 4pm and needed an hour for homework and snacks. To stay on track I needed to read, edit and revise two more chapters. But I also need to make dinner. It took me 30 minutes to read and edit chapters 15 and 16, but they are done. Can I revise them in another 30 minutes and then cook dinner? Let’s see.

6:03pm. Two chapters revised. Ready to start chapter 17 tomorrow, on schedule. 8 chapters to go, at 2 a day I should finish Friday afternoon.

December 12

8:14pm.  Good news, I finished revising Dare Club last week on Thursday, Dec 8. Ahead of schedule. That one is ready to send out.

I realized I couldn’t dive into revising “DNF” yet, because I didn’t know the chapters. And I didn’t know the characters completely yet. And I don’t have the ending written. So I have to revise my schedule, but I’ve read through the whole manuscript and I love a lot of it. Loving it means I’m excited to work on it.

To submit it in February, I need to work steadily for the next month. We’ll be traveling the week after Christmas, though, so I’d love to have a draft with chapters in order and a climax and ending written by Dec 23. That’s only 11 days away. And we’re traveling next weekend, so I don’t get all 11 days, I get about 9. I think I need to write the climax and ending and then work through some of the larger edits like removing junk chapters. Then when the story exists from start to finish I can work on the polishing in January. 11 days. Two chapters a day. Runners know about putting in the work daily. Let’s get started.

Dec 23

6:44pm

I’ve printed out the newly organized draft of DNF. I’ve thought through my climax. I haven’t started reading and revising two chapters a day, but I still think I can do it and be ready to send it out in February. The question is, do I carry it with me on our winter vacation? 

Also, new book idea inspired by Hamilton. When do I find time to write THAT? 

Manuscript Goals

manuscript

Read. Edit. Revise.

Hello, manuscript. Get ready to work. I have some serious December writing goals. Tomorrow, I will start a new post and update it daily, with notes to myself, in order to be accountable and to reach these goals.

It’s not like I haven’t been writing. I did write in November, I just didn’t do NaNoWriMo. But that’s fine. Honestly, it’s about whether I am writing, not about what or how much. I did NaNo for a few years for confidence and practice and quantity, but I think I need to focus on quality now.

I have three completed novel manuscripts. I’ve submitted one for agent feedback several times, but I’d like to have two others ready to submit. I feel like these two others have good legs when it comes to having strong premises (not just ideas) and interesting, unique characters. They are all middle grade and I feel that’s my sweet spot.

Manuscript #1

So, let’s start with Dare Club.

It has 24 chapters. If I can read, edit and revise 2 chapters a day, that would take me 12 days. I’m already done 5 chapters, so that leaves 19 and I believe I could complete this in 10 days.

Manuscript #2

I don’t have a good title for this manuscript. But the premise is: what happens if a boy who always says the wrong thing finds an iPod that lets him read people’s thoughts?

My pitch is weak. But it’s a start.

“Jace is really good at always saying the wrong thing. When he finds a magical iPod at a flea market, he thinks he has the key to his dreams, starting on the soccer team and getting his first girlfriend. But his life turns into a nightmare when the iPod – and knowing people’s secrets – causes more problems than it solves. Will Jace figure out the real power of the iPod before it’s too late?”

I’d like to 1. write the outline and synopsis. 2. Read, edit and revise. 3. Submit in January.

Also, I need a title. Maybe “iSecrets.” No, that’s dumb. Maybe “Open Mouth, Insert Foot.” That’s my working title. Maybe “Shuffle.” Ha.

Outline should take a day, reading and revising 2 chapters a day means at least 2 weeks. And so just this manuscript plus Dare Club takes up all of December.

Manuscript #3

This manuscript also lacks a title. But the premise here is: What happens if the girl who never finishes anything decides she’s going to run a marathon?

The pitch goes something like: “Nobody ever takes twelve-year-old Whitney seriously, mostly because Whitney doesn’t take life seriously. But when Whitney decides to run a marathon, no one believes her. Will Whitney change who she is in the eyes of others or learn who she really is?”

I’d like to 1. write the outline and synopsis. 2. Read, edit and revise. 3. Submit in February.

Also I need a title. I’m thinking “Finisher.” Or “DNF” (that stands for Did Not Finish).

Probably the same timeline as Manuscript 2. Can I do three manuscripts in two months? Maybe if I give myself a clear accomplishment goal like “two chapters a day.” That feels defined and manageable.

Short Story Manuscripts

I also need to finish revising “Will Call” and “The Hunter Case” and send them in to the ghost story competition before January 2017.

Picture Book Manuscripts

I want to draft the text for “I Really Love You, Mom, and I Mean It” and bring that to critique group. I also want to craft the dummy for “Digit” and send that on to my selected publisher.

Can I get those short stories and picture books done by February?

Only if I don’t do anything else.