Update on my 2019 children’s writing projects

ideas for stories, organizing ideas for writing

Tools of the Trade

It’s been a good year for 2019 writing projects. Most of my writing is for children and young readers and right now, most is non-fiction. I thought it would be good to do a review of what I’ve completed.

When I think back to where I started, well, it feels pretty good.

Editing

But at the start of the year, I completed two editing projects for adult readers. One book was about a non-profit. The other book was for a Human Resources professional.

Writing Club

Then I jumped into hosting my first ever after school writing club for kids in grades 3-6. We met once a week, worked on stories, and at the end of the club we produced a printed book with the collected stories. We even had a book launch!

I’m excited because writing club gave me a chance to develop some wonderful writing activities for kids who love to tell stories.

Educational Non-Fiction

Next, I received my first textbook chapter writing project with SocialStudies.com. The original email from the editor went into my junk folder, so I was very nervous all the available chapters were assigned. Luckily I was able to get the last chapter of an American history textbook. The audience was fifth graders.

After the textbook chapter, I was able to secure two non-fiction book projects with Captsone. One was about gadgets and inventions, the other was about medical history. The target audience here was third and fourth graders.

Magazine Articles

I heard back from an editor at Muse. My pitch about the Great Backyard Bird Count was accepted. I submitted my article to that magazine.

Two of my fiction stories were also published in the spring. They were published in magazines that were new for me.

In addition to these publications, I also sold a fiction story that I’ve been pitching for years to a new magazine!

School Workshops

Also in May, I had a chance to host two workshops on the Rainbow Plate for first graders.

Writing Summer Camp

When we returned from vacation, I hosted my first ever writing summer camp. I had to make some major modifications to my lesson plan once I spent the first two hours with the kids. But I think I now have a nice collection of creative writing and storytelling activities for pre-literate kids.

Writing Coaching

Throughout the first six months of 2019, I continued to do writing coaching with a young writer in Pittsburgh. I was so proud to see him complete his first official story submissions ever. It did feel like a big rush of projects arrived in the spring. I wanted to get them all done before school ended and we left on vacation. It felt great to work hard and complete these tasks.

In addition to the work for hire projects, I’ve also been bringing my novel to critique group and preparing to tackle a big revision. And add on the work I’ve done as Regional Advisor of SCBWI for PA West. It’s been a busy year! And it’s only halfway done.

How has your 2019 been?

New Publication: Why You Need a Questing Stone

Are you ready for an incredible journey?

It’s time for a Questing Stone.

I’m excited to share that my new creative kids’ activity is now published in Highlights for ChildrenCheck out the July 2019 issue and look in the crafts section. There you will find the instructions to make your very own Questing Stone!

(Read to the end to find out why this isn’t just for kids.)

kids writing creativity

Get Questing!

The Questing Stone activity is a perfect summer activity for kids. It’s something I would have made as a kid.

It’s a combination of some of my favorite things. I love going on imaginary adventures. I love anything with a hint of magic. As a writer, I love traveling and going on journeys. Stories – whether I am writing them or reading them –  combine all of those things.

I really enjoy all of the non-fiction writing I do, but it’s so fun to let go and jump into a fiction tale with both feet.

Here’s the part about why this stone isn’t just for kids.

You Need a Questing Stone

Grown-ups, it’s time to be brave.

We get so caught up in managing our days, getting our tasks done, doing what we have to do, instead of what we want to do. Wouldn’t it be nice just once to let fate decide? To discover your destiny instead of following the same old path?

Go somewhere new.

Writers, illustrators, artists, dreamers, this is your chance. Make your Questing Stone. Start your journey. When you come to a fork in the road, a moment of choice, let the stone guide you. Let the possibilities awake. Don’t limit yourself to what should be. It’s time to find what could be.

See what unexpected adventures await.

When you stop trying to be in charge then a different part of your brain emerges. Stories bloom in new ways. Images shift their orientation. Perhaps a shy character from the background shows you their heart. Maybe a hero turns to a villain. And a new twist makes you catch your breath.

Discover the unexpected, the surprising, the wonder waiting inside you.

Ask the Questing Stone.

What Are You Thinking?

One thing I need to work on is adding in my character’s inner thoughts. How do you like to do that when you write?

New Publication: Treasure in the Woods

I was excited to see “Treasure in the Woods” published. I hope readers love joining Claude the Bear and his Grandma on their treasure hunt!

What Would Your Character Do? The Creek

Scenario: Your character arrives at a creek. The water is fast but not deep.

How well do you know your character? What would they do?

Stay high and dry on the bank?

Explore the muddy shores?

Venture out onto the rocky peninsula?

Fall in accidentally? On purpose?

Would they not even know what a creek was?

Would they hunt for food?

Writing Weekend

This is a big writing weekend!

On Saturday, I’m heading to an SCBWI workshop exploring diversity in children’s writing. I’m really looking forward to learning from the two exciting speakers at the event. They are Lorian Tu, an illustrator, and Brittany Thurman, an author.

There’s still time to register for this event and add it to your writing weekend.

I love learning about cultures, perspectives, experiences, and ideas through reading and art. I expect these two presenters to offer some challenging questions for the workshop participants to consider. But they will also take questions from the audience.

I have questions for them about how to write with sensitivity and honesty, but I also want to learn how to improve my storytelling in general. I am looking forward to this event very much.

On Sunday, I will join members of the Ross Writing Club for their book launch celebration at Riverstone Books. After six weeks of hard work, the young writers will get to see their finished stories in a book. I can’t wait to hear their thoughts about the whole process. I’m also excited to see them share their stories with family and friends.

If you’re in Pittsburgh this weekend, join us!

 


What is on the agenda for your writing weekend?

Write Anywhere

I will write anywhere. You never know when inspiration will strike.I usually carry a little notebook with me and I always have my phone and my laptop. I used to have a small bluetooth keyboard by Zagg that made it easy for me to type on my phone fast. It was wonderful for when I was somewhere with small surfaces. I could also type without pulling out my giant laptop, so it didn’t attract as much attention. It died, so I got a new one. My middle and my youngest are in writing club this winter and they want to work on their stories at random times. My middle likes to type right before bed. The youngest recently worked on his story using my mini-keyboard while we were waiting for our food at Chili’s.

When you’re a writer, you write anywhere, any way you can.

 

Rejections and Acceptances in Writing 2018

I like to keep track of my writing rejections and acceptances by year. Sometimes when I’m feeling frustrated, just knowing I have submitted ideas, stories, and projects gives me a boost.

I use Numbers to track my submissions, but I also use an old-fashioned paper notebook. The paper notebook might be my good luck charm, like an athlete who won’t change socks after a winning game.

My submissions are usually a mix of old ideas and new ones. I like to have a big fat pipeline of stories in production and swirling around in the publishing universe. I really believe you can’t sell if you’re not submitting.

Submissions

Let’s take a look at my submissions for 2018.

A grand total of 126 submissions is pretty good! I had the chance to work on a project for teachers that totaled 11 different submissions, so that boosted the number. Also, I pitched a bunch of greeting card ideas this year, I think about a dozen. But I only counted each email as one pitch. So the number could go even higher.

If you add the rejections and acceptances, you might notice it doesn’t equal 126. That’s because most of the time, I just don’t hear back from places. I could assume those are rejections, but one time I received an acceptance over a year after I had submitted something! So I usually just leave it blank until I hear back.

I also completed one ghostwriting project in 2018 and will complete another in 2019. I could count those as “acceptances.”

In total last year, I had a 20% acceptance rate. That feels very good. I feel very confident when I send some stories out to my favorite magazines. But I also signed a deal for my first non-fiction book that will come out in fall 2019. That felt amazing.

A Busy Year

Here’s how my work looked month to month.


My busiest month in 2018 was November, and I didn’t submit anything in February or June.

I’d like to change that this year and try to submit something every month, even if it’s only one thing. So far, so good on that goal in 2019. I already have 21 submissions. I’m bummed to report I also already have six rejections. But that also means I have six stories that could work somewhere else! Revise! Repurpose! Resubmit!

 

Do you keep track of your submissions? Rejections? Acceptances?

You can see my other yearly recap here.

 

Children’s Illustration Class

I’m taking a children’s illustration class and it’s scary.

It’s class hosted by our local arts center, the North Hills Center for the Arts.

The teacher isn’t scary.

Our instructor is Jeanine Murch and she does some lovely work! I’m especially excited to learn about lettering from her.

The other people in the class aren’t scary. In fact, my friends Beth and Jessica are in the class.

What’s scary is that I don’t have any confidence in myself as an illustrator. I love to doodle and draw and feel I’ve painted and sketched a few nice things lately. But I haven’t achieved something that feels like an illustration to me. I want to create something COOL.

What if I can’t do it?

Do It Anyway

Our homework for next week is to bring in a two page spread that illustrates either a story from a list Jeanine provided, or illustrates something of our own. I have an idea of a story of my own that I might tackle, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it looks better in my mind than it will on the page.

A lot the art I create feels very static, like a photograph capturing an image. But for illustration, I want there to be action and emotion. I want an illustration that tells a story.

I’m pretty confident about my writing. When I go into workshops, I feel connected with words and my ability to craft a sentence that evokes emotions and tells a story. But can I do this with art? I’m just not sure.

It’s ok to be scared, though. Taking this class will be good for me, because if you don’t ask questions, you can’t learn new things.

I’m glad that in addition to this class, I’m also doing #kidlitart28 because having the daily task to create some art is keeping me honest.

In addition to me learning about illustration for myself, I do hope that this class will help me as RA for our SCBWI region. I want to do my best to support all of our members, not just writers.

It’s scary trying something new like this, but I’m going through with it because I know it won’t hurt me. I know I will learn a ton. I may even find that I can create something I’m proud of in the end!

 

 

Creative Boost: Visiting a Haunted Library

I like trying new things, they give me a creative boost. I think it’s essential to get out of my comfort zone so I can think about the world differently, learn about new perspectives, and be more creative in general.

One small way I learn about new things is to visit new places. Sometimes I travel big, like going to new countries. Sometimes it’s small, like going to a new library in my larger community.

That’s why in January I grabbed some writing friends and visited a new-to-me but old library, the Andrew Bayne Memorial Library in Bellevue, PA for a creative boost.

It’s technically called the Andrew Bayne Memorial library, and is named after a sheriff of Allegheny County, Andrew Bayne. His daughters donated the building. I read an article online that it was haunted, and I wanted to give it a visit. I’m not really a ghost story lover, and I do but don’t believe in ghosts. I’ve done some reading about the ghosts at Jean Bonnet tavern on the turnpike, and started – but couldn’t finish – the ghost tour at the Omni Bedford Springs.

But I wanted to check this place out. One of my friends apparently worked as a ghost hunter for a short time and was convincingly skeptical, so I wasn’t really nervous while I was there.

It really felt like a library in someone’s house. It reminded me so much of the house we lived in while we were in Brighton Heights. The tall ceilings, the wonky-aligned doors. The gorgeous stairs and stained glass windows. It really is beautiful.

The librarian greeted us the moment we stepped in, and that made it beautiful, too. I had a wonderful time visiting the building but I’ll be honest, I didn’t get much writing done. My friends and I spent a lot of time chatting, but to be fair, we chatted about writing.

I did not see the ghost of Amanda Bayne Balph, who is supposedly haunting the building since a massive elm tree nicknamed “The Lone Sentinel” was taken down in 1998. Perhaps all of the talking scared her off.

Bonus Creative Boost

I did discover this poster listing 100 words every ninth grader should know. My eighth grader did not know all of them, so I have to plan to get him, me, and a dictionary together to learn some new words. Learning about new words is a great creative boost, so this was an unexpected bonus!

learn new words

Going to a new library and breaking myself out of my routine was helpful and keeps me from thinking things always have to be the way I’m used to seeing them. Meeting new people, trying new things, visiting new places is a great way to boost creativity.

How do you get out of your routine?

How do you stretch your creativity and imagination?