Thursday, January 10, 2019

Short and Sweet Update for a New Year

I thought it was a good idea to write a quick update on the exciting changes that have taken place the last few months.

First of all, my husband got his job assignment and now here we are in...Germany! We've been here about four months already (wow did that time go fast!) It's been a crazy, hard, amazing, and fun adventure so far.

Second of all, we had our baby #4! She came at the beginning of November and is already two months old (Wow that went by even faster!) We are so happy to have her here safe and sound, and boy is she a cutie!

As far as writing goes....As you can guess, I've had  a lot less free time with all that's been going on, but I'm trying to make time when I can because writing truly fills my happiness cup. Here's a few updates:

  • Out of 237 entries, my story BROKEN-DOWN broom from my previous post got 7th place in Susanna Hill's Halloweensie contest, so that was fun! 
  • I'm participating in Tara Lazar's STORY STORM again this year. It's the best writing inspiration activity I've found yet. If you're struggling to come up with new picture book ideas, you should definitely check it out!
  • With a new year ahead, I've made new writing goals. This year, I plan to query five agents a month, with a total of 60 this year. I also have several specific manuscript drafts that I plan on finishing up and getting ready to submit. I'm going to get it done in 2019!!
  • I'm applying to Tara Luebbe's 2019 Writing with the Stars mentoring program. There are some pretty amazing authors this year. The contest is open until January 13th if you want to check it out!
Stay tuned for more soon! 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

2018 Halloweensie Writing Contest: Broken-down Broom

I can't believe it's already time again for Susanna Leonard Hill's "Halloweensie" Writing Contest! These contests are a ton of fun and I'm so glad I get to participate this year! The guidelines are as follows: Write a 100-word or less Halloween story for kids ages 12 or under, containing the words cauldron, shiver, and howl. The contest closes on Halloween at midnight, so if you want to participate, there's still time! Just go here: https://susannahill.com/blog/


Broken-down Broom
By Debbie Day
100 words

While flying away to the Halloween Ball,
Gwen’s broom went CAPUT! and she started to fall.
She dropped with a crash into Skeleton Wood-
the creepiest place in the WHOLE neighborhood.
A shrill, nearby howl made her shiver in fright.
She thought, “Now I might miss the party tonight!”
She pulled out her cauldron and looked all around.
She grabbed molding mushrooms and worms from the ground.
Then just as another shriek echoed unseen,
Gwen whipped up a potion for broom gasoline.
She poured in the mixture and scrambled aboard.
“I’m bound for the ball!” She declared as she soared.

2018 Halloweensie Writing Contest: The Halloween Shack

I can't believe it's already time again for Susanna Leonard Hill's "Halloweensie" Writing Contest! These contests are a ton of fun and I'm so glad I get to participate this year! The guidelines are as follows: Write a 100-word or less Halloween story for kids ages 12 or under, containing the words cauldron, shiver, and howl. The contest closes on Halloween at midnight, so if you want to participate, there's still time! Just go here: https://susannahill.com/blog/



The Halloween Shack
By Debbie Day
100 Words

10.1.18
Today,
beyond the woods,
a shack appeared.
“Halloween Goods,” read the sign.

10.5.18
Howling sounds from the shack today.
Gave me shivers!
Should I visit?

10.10.18
Peeked through the window.
Mist spewed from a cauldron.
Almost SURE I saw eyes…

10.18.18
Stepped inside today.
CREEPIEST PLACE EVER.
Skulls, spiderwebs, eerie pictures...
Something whispered, “Welcome,”
and I ran!

10.22.18
Walked past the shack today.
Something watched me from the window.

10.31.18
Trick-or-treated at the shack tonight.
Don’t ask why.
A veiled figure
handed me candy
through the door.

I saw its eyes.

11.1.18
Today,
beyond the woods,
the shack…was gone.  
 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

It’s Been Awhile! *Breaking out of writer’s block, major life changes, updates, and more*


…Yes it has, and I feel like I need to explain why I’ve been on a blogging hiatus the last 6 months.
It’s a funny thing, writing inspiration. One period of time, you can be bursting with so many ideas and motivation that you can’t put your laptop down. That was my entire January/February. After Storystorm, I was full of inspiration and excitement. Looking at my “STORYSTORM 2018” folder right now, there are FORTY new documents of stories and drafts, most of which were written during that time.
But then- it’s kind of amazing really- how the next day, all that enthusiasm and productivity can get sucked away into some mysterious black hole, leaving you with nothing…that was my entire March, April, and May.
I realized pretty quickly that there was a justified reason for this massive muse swing (see what I did there?) And it was an interesting discovery: A new onset of pregnancy, with its accompanying morning sickness (or in my case evening sickness), lethargy, and weird food cravings, can not only cause “Pregnancy Brain” but it can also cause writer’s block as well.
I’ll never forget the relief I felt around the first of June when my nausea and general feeling of icky-ness died down and Voila! Just like magic, my inspiration returned. I wrote the first decent picture book manuscript in months.
While I haven’t felt quite the same as my pre-pregnancy self, slowly but surely, I’ve been pounding out some new projects ever since. And I have to say, it feels SO good to be back. I’ve been reminded that writing really does make me happy. It was incredibly discouraging to feel empty of ideas for so long. There’s a huge feeling of excitement and fulfillment that comes with writing something new and submitting to agents, publishers, or contests.
So, I guess in the last few months, what I’ve learned is that inspiration can leave for a while, and it’s okay. It feels super discouraging, but it’s important to keep in mind that it WILL come back. It’s alright to take a little break from time to time. Especially when major life events are taking place.
Which brings me to the other big distraction from my writing recently, which is the fact that my husband got a new job out of state. Once we accepted, we had less than a month to get everything squared away – our house, our vehicles (two of which we had to sell), our Jack Russell Terrier Jojo (we couldn’t take her with us ☹) and a whole lot of other things, before moving across the country.
(We are currently in Washington DC but will receive a new assignment shortly that will take us to a new, unknown destination. We are excited to see where we end up!)
Suffice it to say, it’s been a crazy year so far, and now you know my excuses for not blogging in a while. But we are expecting baby #4 this Fall (It’s a girl, hooray!), looking forward to a new adventure with my husband’s job, and planning to keep plugging along with the writing game…in between park adventures, play dates, snack times, temper tantrums, and so forth.
Despite the ups and downs, here’s a few updates/stats for the year thus far: 
  • In the last six months, I’ve submitted eight writing projects to agents/publishers/contests. I’ve received three rejections and am waiting to hear news about two more projects by the end of August. Crossing my fingers!
  • My goal is to send out a query at least every 1-2 weeks for the remaining of the year... This week is covered - I sent one yesterday! 
  • Last week, I departed from the picture book sphere and worked on a creepy short story that’s been on my mind ever since my husband and I made a random pit stop in rural Tennessee two years ago in which we made a TRULY unexpected discovery past a locked gate and down a dirt road (I hope that makes you want to read it 😃) ..Sometimes spooky stories are the most fun for me to write. I'd like to submit it to a magazine (I’m thinking THE SUN. Do you have any suggestions?) once it runs through the peer-editing mill in the coming weeks. 
  • In the self-publishing realm, my TWO ANGELS: A STORY ABOUT TWINS book has been selling online surprisingly well. After 8 months of being released, I was pretty proud of my Amazon rankings last month. ⇇ 👀 I’m so grateful that people are finding my book on their own and are buying it each month. I believe the key to these sales has been the search phrase I assigned to my book: “A picture book about twins” since there just aren’t that many books about twins (really makes you think about the need/benefit for niche books in the market). By the way, if anyone reading this has been one of those buyers, I truly appreciate your support and hope the book brings a smile to you or those that you love! Also, thank you to those who have left Amazon reviews. They are always welcome and very helpful to making my book more visible! 😊
  • My last update is a plan I’ve been formulating through trial and error for years now. It will probably continue to evolve, but I want to share it because it has worked for me every time I’ve used it. The trick is, using it consistently! (That whole self-discipline thing is kind of hard to stick to). Nonetheless, as I've tried my best to implement it more and more, it has brought me not only writing success, but overall life happiness/productivity as well. I also believe it has played a key role in getting me out of my recent writer's block. It probably wouldn’t work for everyone and I’m in no way giving out advice. All I’m saying is it’s been my own personal solution to juggling kids, home and other duties, getting writing projects done, and not going crazy in the process. So here it is:
    1. Every night, making a list of realistic to-do’s for the next day. 
    2.  Cutting out the social media I’m most attached to for the entire week (weekends are okay). In my case, it’s Facebook. 
    3. Spending one-on-one time with my kids each day (I shoot for 20 minutes).
    4. Being completely present with my kids when I’m with them, with no unnecessary distractions. 
    5. Going to a gym with childcare (as many days a week as possible). This is a key element of success for me because it serves many purposes. A. To get exercise which always reduces my stress and gives me more energy/confidence/happiness. B. To allow myself a short break from the kids, even if it’s for 20 minutes (It’s amazing how a little breather can help me to be a better mom). And C. While I exercise I can read or listen to Audible – Any books, emails, news, or scriptures I need/would like to read that day, can be done while I run on the treadmill. Two birds with one stone = I feel really happy and productive. 
    6. Making the very most of down time (kids’ naps/scheduled TV time), which is when I pull out my to-do list and start crossing stuff off.  
    7. Getting the kids to bed early every night. Our kids’ bedtime has always been 7pm and it’s been the best thing ever. I mean, EVER (For me AND the kids). I owe this step to the book HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS, HAPPY CHILD by Marc Weissbluth – one of the most helpful parenting books I've read. 
    8. Getting to bed myself before 10pm.  
      •  What these steps do for me: After my kids go to sleep, I’ve spent quality time with them without distractions so I feel good and not guilty. I’ve already read what I wanted to read that day. I’ve already exercised. I’ve already finished everything on my to-do list (because it was realistic). I still have energy because I’ve been going to bed on time. I feel satisfied about my day instead of discouraged/depressed. I don’t need to worry about being distracted with time-wasting social media because I’m still off it until the weekend. I’m completely ready to write or work on whatever else I’m excited about…which may be watching a good movie with my husband too. I’m not perfect at following this plan, but it’s taken me awhile to realize the necessity of each step and I KNOW that for me, it’s what I need to do to balance my life, get things done, and feel at peace. 
 So anyway, that’s what I’ve been working on and thinking about lately. How about you?
 More soon - Hopefully much sooner than last time!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

3rd Annual Valentiny Writing Contest

Time for another one of Susanna Leonard Hill's writing contests, hooray! These are so much fun. This time, I'm submitting to the 3rd Annual Valentiny Contest. The rules are as follows:


1. It must be a Valentine's story. 2. It must be appropriate for children (ages 12 and under). 3. It must be under 214 words. 4. It must include someone who is hopeful.


Good luck to all the contestants and thank you Susanna for the opportunity!




A Heartfelt Valentine
By Debbie Day
201 words

 
All the hearts gathered on Valentine’s Day

to hear what their president, Cupid, would say:

“The people are hoping for Valentine cheer.

What message of love can we send them this year?”

Every heart shouted the answers they thought:

“Love is like Nachos – it’s cheesy and hot!”

“You are my nut bar. You’re crunchy and sweet.”

“Hey there, I’m single…so please rub my feet!”

 
Then a small heart stepped in front of the crowd.

Boldly she stated her message out loud.

“Perfect,” said Cupid, “That’s what we’ll all say!

Just the right message for Valentine’s Day.”

Everyone cheered (well, the nacho guy frowned).

Then all the hearts rained on each city and town.

 
Some people scoffed at their heart-note surprise.

Others ignored it, while some rolled their eyes.

But all those who hoped for more love on that day,

smiled at the message and went on their way…

They said “hi” to strangers and held open doors.

They donated money and food at the stores.

They talked with their neighbors and friends far away,

to share the heart-message they’d read on that day:


“NO ONE’S THE SAME AND WE ALL DISAGREE,

BUT I CAN TREAT YOU LIKE I HOPE YOU’D TREAT ME.”  

Thursday, February 1, 2018

High Time for Another Update

It's been awhile, so I thought I'd give a quick update on what's been happening the last couple months...


In December, I had my one-on-one skype critique with the talented Penny Parker Klostermann (see previous post and check out her wonderful books). She gave me a great critique on one of my rhyming stories and also shared some invaluable advice that I wanted to pass on:
  • When writing rhyme...don't sacrifice the story just to get the rhyme. You have limited real estate, so to speak, don't waste it just for that last word of the phrase.
  • Make every word count. Every word must belong and make sense to the story - don't take short cuts.
  • Picture books need to either A) Have a strong goal/purpose, where the main character goes through some sort of transformation, or B) If the story is more of a general journey through and experience, there must be a theme throughout the story to tie it all together, such as a repeating phrase. (Say no to vague stories about feelings or lists, that don't have any purpose or theme!)
  • Check out Storystorm here: https://taralazar.com/storystorm/. It happens once a year in the month of January (So it just finished up), but it's a great, FREE resource for picture book writers.
  • Read THE NUTS AND BOLTS GUIDE TO WRITING PICTURE BOOKS by Linda Ashman.
  • Make sure your in a writing group that consists specifically of picture book writers, who know the market and the ins and outs of picture book writing (which is quite different than other genres).  
Following Penny's advice, I participated in Storystorm this year, and wow. What a great experience that truly was! It's put on by Tara Lazar and it's basically a series of blog posts designed to help you generate ideas for picture books. It's still up on her website so any writer can look through the posts and get inspiration all year long (which I highly recommend). At the end of the month, I was left with more than 60 new ideas, 5 newly written manuscripts, and over a dozen more I started writing. Never has anything helped me so much with my writing.




I'm also in the process of reading Linda Ashman's book: THE NUTS AND BOLTS GUIDE TO WRITING PICTURE BOOKS, and again have found this so incredibly helpful! It contains the best, most straight-forward advice on writing picture books I've ever seen in one place - AWESOME resource.



I also organized a new writing group last month through my SCBWI membership - they have resources on their blackboard where you can find other members who'd like to start a critique group. So we have started meeting once a month and that's been great!



So yeah, Penny's advice has been amazing. I'm feeling super excited about my newly written manuscripts and have even started querying some stories again. It's been a good month!



In other news, my new book THE TWO ANGELS, A STORY ABOUT TWINS has been out for about 2 months now, and I've been so grateful for the success it's had. The first month of sales was better than I hoped, and I'm noticing that even after Christmas, there's been a steady stream of online sales. This wasn't the case with my first self-published book, ITCHY MITCHIE, and here's what I think is the difference. THE TWO ANGELS appeals to a very specific market: Twin families, and also Christians. When I set the book up in Amazon, I made "books for twins" and "a book about twins" two of the key phrases. Because of that, and also since there just aren't that many twin books out there, when people search for those things in Amazon, my book is one of the first to show up. It's also listed under religious fiction and Christianity, which makes it even more specific. So it turns out that writing a book for a niche market can be really beneficial rather than a generic children's book that may appeal to a wider audience but will simply not get seen in the enormous sea of picture books. Good to know, huh! (Now what other book could I write that appeals to a small, but consistent niche? Hmmmmm....)



Anyway, the kids are all emerging from naps and play time, so I better wrap this up, but it's been a great couple months of writing  and I'm excited for what's ahead in 2018!



Oh, oh! Ps. One more thing: Susanna Hill's next writing contest has been announced. It's coming up in a couple weeks, check it out here: https://susannahill.com/2018/01/27/bic-writers-its-time-for-the-2018-valentiny-contest-guildelines/



More soon!

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Two Angels is HERE!

Hey all! My brand new book, THE TWO ANGELS, A STORY ABOUT TWINS, is officially available!!!

Order it right here:



This book makes a perfect Christmas present for the little ones in your life and if you order in November, leave me your email and I'll write you an extra magical Christmas story for you to enjoy this holiday season!

Thanks so much for your support! Please feel free to share - especially with the twin families you know! 🙂