PORCH WRITING: My Little Antique Iron


Are you ready to IRON your story? Join me on the porch today as I share some writerly thoughts inspired by the little antique iron that was handed down to me by my grandmother.  

Check out the original post that inspired the video here. Happy Writing!

Note: Over the summer, I will be sharing some of my favorite analogies from years past as I stockpile new ones for the fall and beyond. This oldie but goodie was first published in March 2015.

Happy Book Birthday! LOVE IS KIND (board book edition)

Hoot, Hoot, hooray! 

It’s on its way!  

The LOVE IS KIND board book

Releases today! 

With sturdy pages and a padded cover, the board book version of LOVE IS KIND is terrific for littlest readers who want to turn the pages themselves. It’s a good size too – perfect for showing off all the wonderful details in Lison Chaperon’s illustrations. And this format makes a wonderful baby shower or toddler gift. Order yours today at your favorite book vendor.

Or, if you want a signed copy of this or any of my books, remember you can always call my favorite local indie bookstore, The Town Book Store in Westfield NJ.

When you call be sure to explain that you would like order a book or books to be signed by the author and pass along the names you’d like included. They will take the order and do the transaction. I will then come in and sign the book or books. Readers can either pick them up in-store at no extra charge, or have them mailed. There will be a shipping fee to cover the cost of mailing, but they can give you those details.

I thought this was a nice way to make signed copies available and support a wonderful independent book store.  Their number is: The Town Book Store (908) 233-3535. You can also email the owner, Anne, at anne@townbookstore.com.

VACUUM BAGS: Thoughts on Beating the Inner Editor

lost toy bits

Vroom! Pt! Ptta! Clack!  No, my vacuum cleaner’s not broken. It’s just that when my kids clean up their toys, they inevitably miss a few little pieces, camouflaged in the dense pattern of the oriental carpet. They hate losing pieces, so in addition to increased vigilance at clean-up time, we’ve established a fail-proof method of retrieving lost toy bits.

Whenever the vacuum bag is full, we take it outside, place it in on a disposable plain surface,  and carefully cut open the bag. Then, using tweezers and sticks, we gently and methodically go through the contents. As each lost item is found, my kids rejoice. It’s almost like Christmas morning emerging from a vacuum bag! Over the years, this strategy has saved countless doll accessories, beads, and Lego pieces from being thrown away.

If you think about it, the “delete” button on your computer is a lot like a vacuum cleaner. When I first began writing, I pressed “delete” far too often to vacuum up words or phrases I didn’t like. At the end of the day, I’d find myself staring at one or two flat, stiff paragraphs or verses and all the variations I’d played with and then hastily “vacuumed up” were gone forever!  I quickly learned it was too early in the process to be tossing phrases out.

Here are four strategies I use now to keep my inner editor from throwing away words too soon.

Ditch the eraser. When writing longhand I never, ever cross out or erase anything.   Instead, I put my extra thoughts in parentheses or write two versions – one right after the other – separated by dashes.

Keep a word repository. When typing, I don’t permanently delete anything. Instead I “cut” the phrase or sentence that I think isn’t working and “paste” it in a repository at the end of the document. That way ALL my thoughts are captured and preserved, so when it comes to revising I have lots to work with.

Save and date drafts. Throughout the writing process, I keep a separate file for each piece, saving and dating “in-progress” copies of each round of revision. This helps me see the progress and journey my piece has made so far, which in turn helps me shape and polish the final version.

Be prepared. Wherever I go, I try to keep pen and paper handy so I don’t lose phrases or potential story twists that pop in my head.  Safe on paper, I can transfer them to the appropriate project file to be excavated as the project progresses.

How about you?  How do you keep track of deletions/ additions as you write, revise, and polish your pieces?

Note: Over the summer, I will be sharing some of my favorite analogies from years past as I stockpile new ones for the fall and beyond. This oldie but goodie was first published in December 2012. I was reminded of it recently because as I was vacuuming, I heard the tell-tale clatter of something other than dust being sucked up by the vacuum. Upon retrieval, I discovered it was – money! (Just a quarter, but still.)

SPECIAL VISIT: Little Owl Travels to Lakeside, Ohio!

This week Miss A and I (and Little Owl) made a special trip to Lakeside Chautauqua, an historic Ohio community nestled along scenic Lake Erie which is dedicated to nurturing the mind, body, and spirit. The week was refreshing and wonderful with lots of cousin time. It included daily walks along the lake, swimming, shuffle board, and hunting for fairy gardens, delicious meals, ice cream (at least once a day) and evening entertainment at the Hoover Auditorium.

But the highlight for Little Owl (and for me too!) was a special LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz) reading at God Squad, Lakeside’s amazing kids’ ministry program for 4 – 9 year olds. Hosted by God Squad’s Chip Richter with a follow-up evening book signing hosted by Bev and Joan, the lovely booksellers at the Fine Print Book Store, the event was a big hit. I hope the pictures below capture the fun we had. Thanks to all for a great time!

And God Squad is live-streamed daily so if you want to see our visit, you can! Thank you for having us, Mr. Chip and the whole God Squad team. A special thanks also to the Fine Print Book Store for providing such a nice assortment of books.

PORCH PONDERINGS: What’s YOUR Beeswax?

I’m trying something new on Facebook today. What do you think? (And what’s YOUR beeswax?)  

Check out the original post that inspired the video here. Happy Writing!

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Five Fun Facts about NO BEARS ALLOWED with Author Lydia Lukidis

Today I am delighted to be hosting children’s author Lydia Lukidis as we celebrate the release of her darling new picture book NO BEARS ALLOWED illustrated by Tara J. Hannon and published by Blue Whale Press. Congratulations, Lydia! Now, without further fuss, here are FIVE FUN FACTS about the books from the author herself. Take it away, Lydia! 

Five Fun Facts about NO BEARS ALLOWED

By Lydia Lukidis

FACT #1: This book took….years to become a reality.

This is likely no surprise for all the authors out there! We all know the industry, and even the writing process, can operate at a snail’s pace. Let’s break it down: 

The concept of the book first came to me in 2015. 

But I had to flesh out my ideas for another year before I even attempted to write the story.

In 2016, I felt ready and wrote the first draft.

I continued to workshop and edit drafts for another year.

Then I got some critiques from my critique partners, and I was back to the drawing table.

In 2017, the ms was out with (then) first agent. Things didn’t work out.

Then my second agent looked at it, but passed because she deemed it “too quiet.”

So, I decided to be brave and submit it to publishers myself. 

In 2018, Blue Whale Press acquired it!

The take-away: always believe in yourself even when others don’t.

FACT #2: I confess: Rabbit and I are similar!

I deeply empathize with Rabbit. He’s afraid, he’s anxious, and worries about pretty much everything. But I find these qualities to be endearing because we all have our weaknesses. What I love about Rabbit is that he learns to face his fears and develops a new point of view.

I do admit: Rabbit and I may have a few things in common. I do tend to over-worry and over-think, and I’ve been held back by fear at certain moments in my life. Through the years, I have learned to be bold, and really challenge myself. 

I don’t like heights! Hey, let’s go ziplining!

I’m afraid of the ocean! Let’s go paddle boarding!

And so on.

There’s nothing like facing your fears head on and pushing through your limits; it will change the very fabric of your soul.

FACT #3: A picture book is more than just words.

Sure, the story and characters are important. But they’re brought to life by the illustrator. I was fortunate to work with the talented illustrator Tara J. Hannon and she brought the book to the next level. Tara did beautiful illustrations and exceeded my expectations. But she did more than that. The editor (Alayne Christian) and I were careful to give her artistic space, and let her create. She came up with her own ideas that complimented the book quite nicely. But most importantly, she helped me re-assess who Rabbit was. I had initially seen him as an older creature, with spectacles. She helped me create a version of Rabbit more accessible to kids. A hilarious, younger version emerged, holding his binoculars tightly. I could not be more grateful.

FACT #4: This is the first fiction book I’ve published in a while.

These days, I’ve been very drawn to nonfiction. My last 3 picture books were all STEM books published by Kane Press (A REAL LIVE PET!, THE SPACE ROCK MYSTERY, THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST). Years ago, I studied science and it’s been fun to incorporate all that knowledge into my books for children. But it’s also nice to get back into the world of fiction and make-believe. NO BEARS ALLOWED helped me re-connect to that magic. This journey reminds me that I still love fiction, and will be forever writing it!

FACT #5: The world would be a brighter place if we listened to Rabbit and Bear!

Rabbit goes through a transformative process on his journey and learns some life changing lessons. He finally understands that he should not pre-judge anyone and make rash assumptions. He has a certain concept of bears, and then finds out how wrong his assumption is. The other takeaway is that we all have more in common than we think. Imagine how different the world would be if we all adopted this perspective! Friendship is magical. And you never know where it will pop up. Lastly, I love how Rabbit faces his fears head on, despite his trepidation. That’s great advice for us all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lydia Lukidis is a children’s author with a multi-disciplinary background that spans the fields of literature, science and theater. So far, she has over 40 books and eBooks published, as well as a dozen educational books. Her latest STEM books include The Broken Bees’ Nest and The Space Rock Mystery

Lydia is also passionate about spreading the love of literacy. She regularly gives writing workshops in elementary schools across Quebec through the Culture in the Schools Program. Her aim is to help children cultivate their imagination, sharpen their writing skills and develop self-confidence.  

Social Media links

Website: http://www.lydialukidis.com/

Blog: https://lydialukidis.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LydiaLukidis/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LydiaLukid


And the winner is…

I’m delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway, a brand new copy of Shari Barr’s newest book with Barbour, “Camp Club Girls: McKenzie” is…

Sara M.!!!!!

Congratulations!  I will be in touch with you so we can get the book to you.

Thanks again, Shari, for stopping by to share your inspiring experiences with writing in assignment and for providing the winning copy.  Happy reading, all!

TEAPOT or PERCOLATOR: What Kind of Writer Are You?

It doesn’t matter if you prefer coffee or tea. That’s really beside the point. I’m guessing, though, that as a writer you are either a percolator, a tea pot or – like me – a bit of both.

Most of the time, I am a percolator. That is, I like to reflect on new stories and poems before writing a first draft. When “percolating” I always keep a pen and notebook handy so I can jot down ideas. I make lists, play with possible plot twists, settings, points-of view etc.  For example, with both Goodnight, Ark and Goodnight, Manger, I filled almost two notebooks with ponderings and word play before I actually sat down and wrote the stories.  Once I was ready to write, I wrote the first drafts of each in one sitting.

I guess you could say at that point, I turned into a teapot!  When I’m in teapot mode, poems and stories just flow, sometimes even overflow out of me. This outpouring often occurs at the most inconvenient times -when I’m cooking, or in the middle of the night. But when it does, I just let my mind shift into story/poem mode and I go with it. Writing in earnest becomes my priority – because once that tea is pouring out of me, it’s impossible to stop. I don’t worry about getting words down perfectly. I just write down the story that’s pouring out as fast as I can. (Occasionally, dinner gets a little overcooked, but don’t worry everyone gets fed.)

But teapot stories are not ready to drink yet. Far from it. Instead, after completing each teapot burst, I turn back into a percolator again, with intermittent bursts of teapot. I repeat this percolator/teapot process again and again until every word and moment pushes the story or poem forward in a fun meaningful way.

Finally it’s time for the finishing touches. At this point, I think rather than teapot or percolator, I become like a fine wine taster- sniffing and swishing – to make sure each sentence, phrase, and plot turn has just the right – je ne sais quoi – so that the story is magnifique – or at least as magnifique as I can make it-before I send it off to my agent to review.

So, dear writing friends, which are you – percolator or teapot?   Happy writing all!

Note: Over the summer, I will be sharing some of my favorite analogies from years past as I stockpile new ones for the fall and beyond. This oldie but goodie was first published in January 2017. I was reminded of it one morning this past week because my husband was percolating coffee while I was steeping tea! I’ve updated the picture with LOVE IS KIND since I love the teapot Miss A made me to celebrate the release of the hardcover and I’m looking forward to the release of the board book in just a few weeks – August 6th!

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Writing on Assignment with Children’s Author Shari Barr (and a GIVEAWAY!)

There are many paths to publication. And today, I’m delighted to have children’s author Shari Barr as my guest, sharing her experience writing on assignment. I found her post so encouraging and I hope you will too. Thank you, Shari, for sharing your experience! (And thank you, also, the giveaway opportunity!) Take it away!

My First Big Break—Writing on Assignment

by Shari Barr

Breaking into traditional publishing isn’t always easy, but there are lesser-known ways to get your foot in the door. Many major publishers develop series in-house and then hire authors to write it. I landed my first fiction deal in a work-for-hire agreement.  

Not only was it great fun, I also learned tons about the publishing world and walked away with four books to my credit.

Several years ago I learned about Barbour Publishing’s new Camp Club Girls mystery series through a Christian newsletter I received. After contacting the editor and expressing interest in possibly writing for them, I was invited to submit a sample chapter and subsequently contracted, along with five other authors, to write the 24-book series.

Each writer was assigned one of the six main characters in the series. My books were all written from the viewpoint of McKenzie Phillips, a witty, thirteen-year-old from Montana. Each writer was given a brief synopsis of our assigned books, but we were able to make each one our own. Since I’m a farm girl and saw the need for more farm related stories in children’s literature, I created McKenzie’s character to fit the mold of a modern farm girl. Of course, a few plot elements were inspired by some of my most memorable childhood stunts, except I made her a lot more fun. 

The characters in the series meet while sharing a cabin at church camp. In book one the roomies use their individual skills to solve a mystery they’ve encountered at camp. In each of the following books, two girls meet at various locations around the country to solve a mystery. The remaining four girls help sleuth by using cell phones and computers. Oh, and I must give credit to Biscuit, the wonder dog, who uses his canine detective skills to provide clues.

My first three books of the Camp Club Girls series, McKenzie’s Montana Mystery, McKenzie’s Oregon Operation, and McKenzie’s Branson Brainteaser released in 2010 and 2011. McKenzie’s Montana Mystery was reprinted in Get a Clue! Camp Club Girls, a special 3 stories in one volume, and released in 2012. Camp Club Girls: McKenzie released April 1, 2019, a four-in-one volume containing all McKenzie titles, including my fourth book, McKenzie’s Iowa History Mystery.

I may not be a household name, but when fan mail comes in from little girls, it’s all worthwhile.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Shari Barr always dreamed of being a writer. She was raised on a farm spending many summer days hiding in her treehouse, reading her stack of library books. When her pile dwindled (usually the same day she checked them out,) she made her own adventures, unknowingly creating plot elements for future middle-grade novels. She has published numerous articles and devotions and wrote Sunday school and Vacation Bible School curriculum for David C. Cook. In addition to the Camp Club Girls series, she wrote Memory Maker Bible Crafts for 2nd and 3rd Grades, published by David C. Cook in 2008.

She and her husband live on a farm in in southwest Iowa not far from where she grew up. Since their son and daughter are grown, she spends her free time taking photographs of farm life and spoiling their stupendously handsome and intelligent mutt, Hank.

To view her photography, feel free to follow her Facebook page “Mama Barr’s Farm” at https://www.facebook.com/ShariHarnessBarrAuthor/

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!

Shari has kindly offered one copy of her newest book with Barbour, “Camp Club Girls: McKenzie” to one lucky winner. If you’d like a chance to win her book, let me know by leaving a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Wednesday, 7/17/19 at 12:01 am EST. The giveaway is now over.

SPIDER WEBS: Thoughts on Weaving Stories

Lately, I’ve been noticing an abundance of spider webs dazzling in the early morning light as the first rays catch their dewy threads. Their strength and structure amaze me. Each spider web I notice follows the same basic pattern. First the spider established her outermost framework and then worked her way inward in concentric spirals until she reached the heart of the web.

There’s no doubt that there is a universality to spider webs.  But look closely and you will see that even though they share many common characteristics, each web is also a unique creation.  Each web’s shape and size varies depending on where it was woven and on the delicate dance the spinning spider performed as she leapt from anchor point to anchor point. One web I saw was spun snuggly between two slender stems of Queen Anne’s lace, stretched oblong by early fall breezes.  Another was hung high among prickly pine boughs, round and tight, so as not to get prickled, yet big enough to capture a passing fly.

As writers, it sometimes seems that every story has already been spun and that there couldn’t possibly be a new way to tell anything. Yes, it’s true, like spider webs, most stories fit into plot types and there are common structures.  There are also universal themes.  And like spiders, who all use liquid silk to build their webs, our stories too, are created using the same building blocks – words.

But does this mean originality is impossible? Not at all. Like webs, the best stories do have a universal quality about them.  But, if we listen to our inner creative spirit, something unique will unfold within that universal framework.  A spider web’s uniqueness emerges as she weaves in response to the specific setting and conditions surrounding that creation.  She also leaps and dances in a way that only she can.  Another spider spinning her web in the same spot would create a different web altogether.

So take heart as you write and listen to your deepest inner voice, the one that expresses itself in a way only you can. If you do, then I am convinced that, like a spider weaving uniquely concentric circles, you’ll weave the story as only you can.

Happy spinning all!

Note: Over the summer, I will be sharing some of my favorite analogies from years past as I stockpile new ones for the fall and beyond. This oldie but goodie was first published in October 2013. I was reminded of it this past week while visiting my dad in Lexington, VA. Each morning my husband and I took a lovely stroll through a long grass meadow on our way into town and what did we see? Hundreds and hundreds of spider webs catching the first morning rays as they shimmered in the tall grass.