Monday, July 31, 2017

Summer Update... with a lot of DOT DOT DOTS


It’s been awhile so I thought I’d give a little update on…

WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING LATELY: 

-Going to the library LOTS! Reading LOTS of picture books with my kids, and sneaking in the occasional MG book for when I have the smallest sliver of “free time” in my day, which has been especially meager latterly because I’ve been ….

-Going to bed super early lately! This is something I’ve been trying to do better for a long time and I know it’s what I NEED to do in order to be a good Mom for my kids, have energy, patience, and the ability to get through another day, etc. It’s also because my husband and I are doing a little friendly compact. We have both agreed to do certain things to be healthier. His end of the bargain is to exercise more, while mine is to go to sleep on time. It’s left me with, like 30 minutes of spare time at night, but somehow, I’ve still managed to keep…

-Writing whenever I can! I’ve been focusing on rhyming and poetry lately. In the last couple weeks, I wrote a humorous rhyming poem about converting to vegetarianism (which is partially/kinda/sorta a true story of my life right now), a rhyming picture book about venturing into the woods after dark, and a non-rhyming serious poem exploring how words/thoughts/actions define who we are.  It’s been so satisfying to get new projects done! Now if only I could figure out what to do with them all. Speaking of which, I have been…

-Querying here and there! Getting lots of rejections back, applying for different writing opportunities I find on twitter, submitting a poem or two to a magazine, waiting for a positive response, you know how it is. I’ve also been…

-Attending writing groups! I’m now a part of three different groups, (actually four or five if you count one-on-one exchanges with random writing friends). Anyway, it’s so nice to have feedback and support with my projects... 

And that’s pretty much it folks. Just trying to do what I can when I can. Here’s one more thing I can share with you  before I go though: Our favorite books we’ve read this summer! So here we go, the books we’ve loved…

Picture Books:
THIS IS NOT MY HAT by Jon Klassen
THE LITTLE HOUSE by Virginia Lee Burton
SEVEN BLIND MICE by Ed Young                                                                     
BLIZZARD and BLACKOUT by Jon Rocco
BUGS GALORE by Peter Stein
GOSSIE by Oliver Dunrea
LUCKY DUCKLINGS by Eva Moore

There’s a lot more we’ve liked, I just can’t think of them off the top of my head, so moving on…

MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS:
THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander
THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON by Kelly Barnhill
ONE CAME HOME (LOVED THIS!) by Amy Timberlake

Have you noticed a lot of these are Newberry/Caldecott winners? That’s because at the Wyoming Writing Conference I attended in June, when I attended Eugene Gagliano’s “Writing for Children” workshop, he handed us a list of all the award winning books from the last few years and challenged us to read as many as we could. So that’s been my goal for the summer. Along the way, I’ve picked up any other award winners I’ve come across. We’ve enjoyed so many of them! I also feel like I’ve learned a lot about what makes picture books successful in general. 

Anyway, I better call it quits since I’m far too late going to bed tonight (my husband’s been sick and since he can’t exercise I guess that means I don’t have to go to bed on time??…It's not very good logic and know what you’re thinking – she doesn’t stick to this going-to-bed-on-time rule very well, does she. But I just want to say that I’ve been SO good for the last month, with tonight being the only exception! :D 

That’s it for now. More soon!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Writing Conference Highlights: Friends, Inspiration, Awards, and More!

These last couple weeks have been so busy. Filled with outdoor adventures (now that summer weather has finally arrived, yay!), family reunion preparations, traveling out of state, and of course…writing any spare moment I can squeeze it in! But tonight I have a few minutes to update you on a big event that took place in my writing universe last weekend:

THE WYOMING WRITERS 2017 WRITING CONFERENCE!

It’s the first writing conference I’ve ever been to, and it was SO GREAT! If you’ve ever read any writing blogs or articles, you know that attending writing conferences is pretty essential to the publishing process. They give writers easy access to agents/publishers, they provide hands-on workshops with professionals who can critique your manuscripts, and they  offer useful, specific classes on how to write better, how to publish your stuff, and a bunch of other writing-related tips/tricks.  Plus, you get to meet amazing fellow-authors who inspire and motivate you!

Conference highlights:



This is a picture of my fellow children’s writers, who quickly became my friends! We did a critique workshop together, and my oh my, they are all super talented!  I loved reading excerpts of the books they are working on and look forward to seeing where their writing takes them.


The man above on the left is Eugene Gagliano, author of over a dozen traditionally published books for kids, which are just wonderful (I got two of them at the conference, signed and everything, yes!)  It was such a pleasure to attend both his picture book critique session as well as his writing for children workshop, where we explored character development-Hence the tiara and captain’s hat ;).

Eugene was so kind and gave me some wonderful advice and encouragement which I have to tell you, made a big impact on me. I want to share one of the things with you: BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. In order to get our stuff published, you have to believe in yourself and your work. He showed our class a huge box-full of rejection letters he’s gotten over the years. He was rejected over and over and over again, but still, he believed in himself, so he didn’t give up. And now he’s an author of about 15 or more published books. ...Oh, and you want to know something else pretty cool? He bought a copy of my book, ITCHY MITCHIE and had me sign it for him. It totally made my day!


This woman above is named Patricia Frolander. I sat next to her by accident when I decided to drop into a Wyopoet’s board meeting during a break in the conference. She was so warm and kind as she introduced herself after the meeting. Eugene was sitting in front of us and told me, pointing to her, “She has a book in the bookstore filled with her poetry that is just fantastic, you should go check it out.”

After the meeting, I went straight to the bookstore, found her book entitled MARRIED INTO IT  and began to read. I absolutely loved the first poem I read and bought the book. Just afterward, all writers congregated to the main hall for an award’s ceremony. 1st place traditional poetry winner was none other than Patricia Frolander. She read her winning poem.  It was like 5 minutes of reading, and I was BAWLING by the end. Our entire table was. I was officially in awe of this woman and her beautiful, touching, magical writing. If I could but affect people in such powerful ways by my writing, then that’s all I could hope for as an author. Just…wow.  I was so excited to have her sign my copy of her book and agree to take a picture with me.  This woman is what true God-given talent looks like. I feel so honored to have met her and to have been inspired by her!



Above is me receiving the Western Horizon Award! Wait, what? So, let me tell you….this was an award for writers who published their first major work in the previous year.  As you probably already know, my short story was published in THE BOOK OF HOPE, an anthology that came out earlier this year by Silver Owl Publications, and my poem MOVING WEST will be published later this year by Western Press Books. So I applied for this award, and what do you know? I got it! It was kind of surprising since they didn’t tell me beforehand, and then all the sudden my name was being called, and then there was this plaque with my name on it, and I’m like, “WHUH??! Um, holy cow, thank you so much!” The lesson in all of this? If there are calls to submit to an award that you could qualify for, SUBMIT! You don’t win anything unless you try. Ps. the bottom picture is of me and my friend Gayle Irwin, who won the Milestone Award. She writes wonderful stories for dog-lovers, go check her out! 


I had the opportunity to read one of my stories at open mic during the conference. It was a little intimidating and I totally got “dinged” for taking up my 5 minutes before I was able to read the very last lines (sooo close!) But it was just a great experience, not only to read my story out loud and see people’s reactions, but especially to hear other people’s writings. It’s a beautiful thing to listen to everyone’s diverse, unique, heart-breaking, hilarious, and adventurous stories. It’s just inspiring.

Ok, now for an info dump to any fellow authors reading. Here are just a few of the notes I made at the conference of things I found particularly helpful. Warning: they are random tidbits of information put in no particular order, (kind of like the story ideas floating around in my head). Maybe they will be helpful to you too. I hope!
  1.  Keys to successfully publish: Practice, patience, persistence, and even prayer! J
  2.  For Children’s writers, subscribe online to Children’s Book Insider – super helpful!
  3.   Treat yourself seriously. Say “I AM A WRITER.”
  4.   Before writing your children’s book, complete the following: My story is about __________ who more than anything, wants to _____________, but can’t because ______________.
  5.   Always let your work rest awhile. Then come back to it with a fresh perspective.
  6.   Finished your book? Okay, now go back and highlight all the passive words (was, is, am, were, has been, will be, etc.) and replace them with active words.  (There are a lot of writing websites that explain this more detailed, I like this one: https://www.joshfunkbooks.com/lesson-5).
  7.   Using your life experiences can make your writing awesome: Don’t stick to the story – real life is boring, use your experiences to get you started, then ask “what if?” and allow it to go wild to make your story interesting and exciting.
  8. When titling either a poem or story: Titles are more of a big deal than we talk about –they can/should actually be a part of the story, can even change the story’s meaning. They can be long, even a whole sentence. They can give context, perspective, be the opposite of the poem’s actual meaning – this especially works in humorous poems.
  9. Social media presence is a huge factor that agents/publishers look at when considering publishing an author’s works. They want to see that an author is gaining a “fan base” and have put themselves out there so there is something to build  a marketing plan on. In other words, get a Facebook page going, join twitter, create a website, start a blog!
  10. When searching for an agent, keep in mind that you don’t want Stephen King’s agent. Because if you do get them, you’ll be the lowly little newbie at the bottom of their priority list. Shoot for an agent that’s in the same career stage as you – a newbie, and you will have greater success.
 There’s more but I’ll stop right there, mostly because it’s 9:30 at night and I’m so ready to go to hit that pillow and zzzzzzzzzzz…

…But before I do, there’s just one more thing I want to say about the conference. I just have to give a shout-out to my other half. There was no way I could have even dreamed of attending if it weren’t for my sweet husband. He took the kids all Friday afternoon and Saturday, and brought them by the conference center every few hours so I could feed my baby during break times…what a guy! How grateful I am that my husband is supportive of my passion for writing. 


Stay tuned for more soon!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Poem on Motherhood

With Mother's Day this month, I've been thinking a lot about the amazing journey of motherhood -the ups and downs and all it entails. I felt inspired to write a little poem about it and wanted to share it here on my blog, along with some "Mom moment" pictures from the last few years. Hope you enjoy!


Motherhood
By Debbie Day

Motherhood is sweaty.
It’s flustered, frenzied, and exasperated.
It’s socks on the table and crumbs in the carpet.
It’s headaches, backaches, and stomachaches.
It’s cleaning up and washing off.
It’s a never-ending mess cycle.

It’s worn-out.
It’s waking up.
It’s dog-tired.

It’s fighting off loneliness, because motherhood is isolating.
It’s fighting off anxiety, because motherhood is worry.  
It’s fighting off an angry rampage, because motherhood pushes you to the edge.
It’s feeling like you’re failing.
Motherhood is your weaknesses magnified.   
It’s guilt. Diaper-loads of guilt, because motherhood is mistakes.
It’s too many treats and too much TV.
It’s yelling and frustration and outbursts.
It’s beating yourself up and crying over chocolate.
It’s comparing yourself and not measuring up.
It’s trying again and again and again and again.
Motherhood is prayer.
Prayers for advice, prayers for patience, prayers for forgiveness, prayers for just one itty bitty nap.   
Motherhood is love.
It’s deep, aching, painful, powerful love.
It’s watching home movies after bedtime because you can’t get enough.
It’s holding hands on the sidewalk, waiting at the bottom of the slide, and spraying on three coats of sunscreen.  

It’s teaching and hoping and wanting what’s best.
It’s indescribable joy.
It’s pride and praise and clapping.
It’s popsicles and bicycles.
It’s collecting rocks and trips to the river.
It’s digging in the dirt and catching grasshoppers.


  

It’s forest adventures, river adventures, mountain adventures, and pillow adventures.
It’s blanket tunnels and table tents.
It’s giggles and kissing owies better.
It’s goofiness, silliness, and ridiculously hilarious.

It’s obsessing over squishiness, and chubby profiles.
It’s cuddling and books and telling stories.
It’s singing and dancing and laughing.
It’s grabbing your chest and uttering, “Awwwwww!”
It’s your heart bursting.
It’s literally heaven.


Motherhood is the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
It’s stretching and growing and learning.
It’s stripping away selfishness.
It’s unparalleled motivation to change.
It’s sacrifice and tears.
It’s not easy.
But motherhood is worth it.
It’s inexpressibly fulfilling.  
It’s all you ever hoped for.
It’s God’s holiest calling.   
It’s the best thing that ever happened to you.

Motherhood is the greatest treasure on earth.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wrapping up my WWTS Mentorship

This month, I ended my "Writing with the Stars" mentorship with author Paul Czajak. It's been an awesome opportunity that I'm super grateful for. Check out the blog post I wrote on my experience by going right here: http://beckytarabooks.com/wwts-update-debbie-day/. 

Also, here's a shout out for you all to buy Paul's "Monster and Me" Books! They are funny, sweet,  well-written, and beautifully illustrated. Be sure to check out his website right here!: http://paulczajak.com/?page_id=69

Monday, May 8, 2017

Author Readings with Babies, Camp Nanowrimo, and More!



Last weekend, I was able to participate in a couple author readings. (More like tag along with more experienced and established authors like Gayle Irwin  and Shauna Murray, who are very talented and oh so sweet!). The first event was at the local library with these cute little people.


I always gain a lot from these experiences, and I'm really grateful when I can participate. You learn a lot by watching other authors and just seeing how kids react to the books and presentations. This is one of the many reasons I'm glad I self-published on my quest to becoming traditionally published - getting practice reading my book aloud and interacting with kids and fellow authors is an invaluable experience!

The second event was at a book shop in a neighboring town. Because it was a bit of a drive to get there, I got to bring this little sweetheart along.  I have to admit, I was slightly nervous about how it would go,but she was a happy little snuggle bug while I read... and I kind of love this picture! Hehe :D




In other writing news, I recently discovered CAMP NANOWRIMO, which is this awesome, FREE program where you sign up with other authors in a "camp" and create a writing goal to complete by the end of a set deadline. I found out about it late in the game, so my goal was to write two short stories totaling 1400 words within a few days. When I reached my goal, I was declared a "winner" and was awarded the right to post this picture. Wooohooo!



It was GREAT motivation to have an official goal and other "campers" as a support group. I highly recommend other authors signing up for the next round, which I believe happens in July.
 
That's it for now, but stay tuned for more soon! :) 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Library Event this Saturday

This week I have the opportunity to participate in an author visit at a local library along with the talented Gayle Irwin. Looking forward to it!




Tuesday, April 18, 2017

CLAMS ALL YEAR, Hurray!

Look what came in the mail today! My prize for being one of Vivian Kirfield's #50PreciousWords winner in February...CLAMS ALL YEAR by Maryann Cocca-Leffler! Yay!


I love reading new books to the kids and this fun beach story along with its beautiful illustrations was just wonderful! We all enjoyed it and look forward to reading it many more days to come...Plus it was signed by the author, how awesome!!