Happy Halloweensie!

Susanna Leonard Hill, a true kidlit treasure, hosts these amazing holiday contests that challenge writers to think creatively and efficiently. With a limit of 100 words, I wanted to try some free verse this year. But then I wanted to see it rhyme. Rhyming is SO HARD!! I won’t even tell you how many “practice” stanzas I wrote but it was definitely fun.

The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under), using the words potion, cobweb, and trick.  Your story can be scary, funny, sweet, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people. You can read more about the contest here!

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THE ITSY BITSY WITCH
By Nicole Loos Miller (93 words)

Bitsy frowned on her web,
Eight eyes and a scowl.
The bugs flew right by,
And her stomach did growl.

“A potion,” she thought
“Should do just the trick!”
She gathered ingredients,
Her cauldron, her stick.

“A special new spell
To make escape tricky.
My cobweb will glow.
It’ll be extra sticky!”

Dawn started to creep
As the brew came to a bubble.
She hoped it’d be ready
And worth all the trouble.

“I did it,” she yelled
As the silk threads did twitch.
Not hungry, but happy,
Was the eight-legged witch. 

Read what you write

I have read over 350 picture books so far this year. I think it’s one of the most important exercises I can undertake as a picture book writer for so many reasons but here are a few of my favorite:

  • I keep track of every book I read which means I have a database – organized by my brain – of over 350 books. If I need a mentor text or comp title for myself or a critique partner, I search through the themes and genres I’ve listed for each book. It means I’ve gotten a feel for what themes and genres different publishers and imprints are interested in. And I have learned that the market seems to have a home for almost every type of book!
  • Soaking up all the different voices, characters, unique story-telling approaches and perspectives makes me a better writer but also a better human. Plus, I usually read the books with my kids and that makes everything better.
  • I practice writing pitches for every book I read and this has come in very useful!
  • I highlight my favorite books and when I’m in a slump, I go back to those books and read them again. And again.
  • I don’t like all of the books I read WHICH IS REALLY IMPORTANT. Because it doesn’t matter that if I don’t like a book – enough people liked the story that it was published. Which helps me appreciate how subjective this field is. My dislike to a book is not a dislike of the author – it’s not personal. Rejection will always sting but this knowledge helps take some of the deep, personal hurt out of it.

There are so many other reasons that reading what you write can be beneficial. What are your favorite reasons?

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Official Kidlit Fall Writing Frenzy Contest 2019

Do you know Kaitlyn Sanchez? If you’re in the world of kidlit, she’s a good person to know. She’s passionate, helpful, creative, and extremely hard working. And, lucky for all of us, she and Lydia Lukidis have put on a contest full of amazing prizes! You can check it out for yourself here!

With a photo prompt and a 200 word limit, here is my entry for this year’s contest:

THE AWAKENING by Nicole Loos Miller

Nessa couldn’t sleep.

Grandmother had told her to rest. But how could she sleep on the Eve of her Awakening?

It had to be close to midnight.

She pulled on the simple, black dress that had been worn by her mother and grandmother. She laced up her black, studded ankle boots. Tradition and personality. 

Mew? A calico kitten wrapped around her ankle.

“Ready for our big debut, Orion?” asked Nessa, scooping him into her arms.

They crept down the stairs, expertly avoiding each creak.

“There you are.” Her grandmother stood at the bottom of the stairs. “Ready?” 

Fireflies lined the worn stone path which wound through the fragrant garden and down to the edge of the stream. 

Nessa closed her eyes. Her grandmother and aunt formed a small circle around her, humming deeply. Orion’s purr rose to a roar.

The vibration started at her toes. Like waves lapping up higher and higher until the magic crashed powerfully around her temples. Her eyes burst open and laughter escaped her lips. 

Everything was different.

A reason to dance

Hey picture book writers,

Need a reason to throw a dance party? Oh, I see you are already dancing. Good for you. That’s why you write for kids.

Well, if you need ANOTHER reason for a dance party, please turn your attention to the #PBCritiqueFest!!

35 critiques are being given away! THIRTY-FIVE! By authors! Illustrators! Agents! Oh my!

Critiques are crucial to the writing process. I like to think that stories start as raw ingredients. I add some eggs, flour, baking powder. Some vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate. A little more chocolate. Mm, the batter tastes great.

But is it ready to go into the oven?

Enter critique groups and partner to make sure that story rises to the occasion! But even the very best critique partners can get a bit tired after their 8th slice of carrot cake . That’s why it can be so nice to get fresh eyes on your story. Especially PROFESSIONAL FRESH EYES like these!

So enter the fest, cross those fingers, and get dancing.

And if you don’t win, that’s okay! Maybe give the carrot cake a rest and try some cookies or a nice pie for a change. That carrot cake will still be there in a month.

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Why I write

I applied to the #PBChat Mentorship hosted by Justin Colon and my favorite question was about what kind of stories I want to write. For my first blog post, I thought I’d share my answer.

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I’d love to write stories that readers want to read over and over again (and that grown ups don’t want to hurl out a window). I want to create stories that resonate with my reader’s heart. I would love to make readers laugh and convey respect about the depth of their emotions at the same time. Even little readers can have deep hearts. Most of all, I want my readers to know they matter and can make a difference – even a tiny difference can be a big deal.