Aah! Blown Away

Sneak Peek Illustration of Aah! Blown Away, Crash!

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We are already almost two weeks in to 2020. It’s time for a sneak peek of one of my most recent projects – Aah! Blown Away, Crash!

Aah! Blown Away, Crash! actually started a few years ago after a meeting I had with my writer’s group about nontraditional children’s books. One of the book styles we discussed was alphabet books that tell a story in alphabetical order with only one to two words per page. Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run by Mike Twohy and D is for Duck by David Melling are two examples of books that follow this pattern.

My alphabetical story follows a Bird who Crashes on a Deserted island and the comical drama that ensues. I obviously don’t want to give all of the letters away just yet, so stay tuned for more information.

My daughters and I had a lot of fun creating a book dummy when I first came up with the story. My daughters thought it would be funny if the bird crashed in the sand head first, so that’s what they drew. Here is the page from the book dummy for the letter C – Crash!

Aah! Blown Away, Crash!- Crash

I have since decided to work with one of my daughters on illustrating the book, which we hope to publish some time this year. My daughter may be young, but she has recently shown an interest in drawing and graphic design. Here are a couple of pictures she drew of a hummingbird and a feather last summer.

humminbird and feather drawing

I can barely draw a stick figure and don’t necessarily enjoy drawing, so I would not be a great illustrator.

We decided the illustrations for Aah! Blown Away, Crash! should look cartoonish, and we chose to not have them hand drawn. Instead, my daughter has been learning how to use a program called Affinity Designer, which we just purchased last month.

Here is what she came up with for “Crash!”

A page from Aah! Blown Away, Crash!

It’s been fun working with her on this project- watching her learn how to use the program, researching palm trees, birds, and beaches as references, etc. It’s definitely still a work-in-progress, but I’m excited to see it all done and put together!

Do you have any projects you hope to finish this year?





2019 End of Year Writing Update and 2020 Goals

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I can’t believe it is already the end of the year! I know, I say that at the end of every year. But it’s always true. Seriously, where does all the time go?

With it being the end of the year, it’s time to evaluate the 2019 goals I had set for myself and consider some goals for the upcoming year.

goals picture

Last year I had stated, “Although I don’t know what will happen in the upcoming year, my current writing goals for 2019 include…” Then, I listed multiple goals I had.

Well, I think the word current was well-placed in that statement. As the year progressed, my ideas and goals changed. I ended up finding a new system for goals I implemented throughout the year that seemed to work well for me, and I hope to continue with it in the upcoming year. More on that later.

My 2019 Goals and Progress

In the meantime, here are the goals I had stated last year and the progress I had made on each of them.

  • continue writing monthly for Hands On As We Grow
    • I did continue writing monthly for Hands On As We Grow, which I have really enjoyed doing. All of my writings that have been published on Hands On As We Grow can be found on Writings/Mentions. Even though I submit a post to them on a monthly basis, sometimes multiple posts may be published in one month and none are published in other months. I hope to continue writing on a monthly basis for Hands On As We Grow in the upcoming year.
  • continue writing at least two posts each month for my website
    • I have written at least two posts each month for my website, and I even did five to six posts for a few of the months. This month is actually the only month all year long that only has had two posts published (this one and an introduction to a project I am working on called Aah! Blown Away, Crash!). I hope to continue writing a minimum of two posts each month for my website throughout the year.
  • attend one SCBWI conference
    • I did attend an SCBWI conference in September called Adventures in Nonfiction: Part II. I even had the pleasure of attending dinner the night before and introducing two of the speakers during the conference. I am very thankful I was able to attend! I’m trying to decide if I should attend a conference (or two) in the upcoming year.
  • be accepted by a literary agent to represent my works
    • I did quite a bit of research on literary agents and submitted a total of four different manuscripts and a proposal with samples to a number of literary agents throughout the year. I did receive some positive feedback from a few of them, but none of them offered me representation. With that being said, any response at all is a bonus for me even if it is a rejection! I admire all the work a literary agent must do- weed through the numerous manuscripts they receive each year (many of which may not be even close to ready for publication), contact authors/illustrators for offers of representation, continue to be in contact with those they do represent, submit manuscripts to publishing houses, negotiate contracts, keep up with current trends in publishing, and more. Maybe someday I’ll have a literary agent.
  • research, write a proposal, and submit needed information for a children’s nonfiction project I have recently started
    • In addition to research I needed for the nonfiction project itself, I did do quite a bit of research on what to include in a proposal. I did finish the proposal along with some samples, and that was one of the things I had submitted to literary agents over this past year. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been accepted. I’m not sure if I will continue to work on this in the upcoming year or if I will shelve it for now. I’ve had very positive responses from others concerning this project, but I know it will require a lot of time if it does get accepted.
  • research, write a proposal, and submit needed information for an adult nonfiction project I have an idea for
    • This is one of those goals that I decided to not continue.
  • write at least one children’s book manuscript
    • I did write a new children’s book manuscript, but I haven’t looked at it in quite a while.
  • revise at least one of my current incomplete children’s book manuscripts
    • I did revise a few of my children’s book manuscripts. I also learned how to write graphic novel scripts and turned one of my picture book manuscripts into a children’s graphic novel format. I have other manuscripts I would like to look at again and see if they are worth editing and submitting.
  • do at least one school visit or story time (I didn’t do any this year, but I had so much fun doing them last year!)

  •  submit at least one article to a magazine
    • I did complete this! Sometimes magazine articles are scheduled well in advance, and I actually have a couple of articles that should be published in 2021 and another that is scheduled to be published in the fall of 2020. I was also surprised to receive a response from Reader’s Digest almost two years after submitting a short true story, which ended up being published in their September issue.
  • research some information about creating a course and possibly create a course (which will require even more research)

Schoolhouse Teachers

  • decide what to do with a particular children’s book manuscript I’ve had set aside for a while
    • I was referring to Aah! Blown Away, Crash! in this goal. I ended up bringing this particular manuscript to my writing group to be critiqued and had very positive responses. The members of my writing group were very helpful in offering suggestions and talking through it with me. I now intend to self-publish it in 2020. I’ll try to keep you updated on its progress.
  • continue going to writer meetings
    • I have continued attending meetings each month with my writer’s group. I’m looking forward to planning our topics for 2020.
  • continue as a Network Chair for SCBWI Iowa
    • Yes, I have continued with this. My title will be changed to Regional Social Chair in 2020, but my duties should remain the same. I will continue planning/leading the monthly meetings, write a blog post for the SCBWI Iowa website, and assist writers and illustrators on their publishing journey.
  • continue adding and creating pins (and possibly a few boards) to my Pinterest account
    • I did add and create new pins to my boards, but I didn’t do this on a regular basis.
  • maybe join Twitter
    • Didn’t happen!

So, those were all of my 2019 goals from the beginning of the year with updates. How did you do on your 2019 goals?

Other Updates in 2019

As I had mentioned before, my ideas and goals changed a little as the year progressed. Here are some other things that happened with my writing adventure that were not in my original goals for 2019.

  • Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles was chosen for the 2019 Read Across Connecticut Program
  • I created a teacher’s guide for Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles
  • I created and published Reading Journals (with some insight from my daughters)
  • I created and published an Adventure Writing Prompt Journal (which was a fun project with my daughters)
  • I rented a PO Box and started an email list
  • I started writing a monthly newsletter to those who are signed up for my email list
  • I visited Mount Olive Pickle Company’s gift shop in North Carolina with my family
  • I attended a webinar about writing for the Christian market
  • I read multiple books and learned more about writing (I wrote about one book I really liked here.)
  • I updated my email signature
  • I signed up for Google Alerts
  • I created a class/course, which I should be teaching at a community college in 2020 as long as everything goes as planned
  • I started working on a book that includes information from the class
  • I had two posts published on Money Saving Mom
  • I was quoted in an article on US News
  • My daughter and I (mostly my daughter) have been learning some basics of Affinity Designer to try to create illustrations for Aah! Blown Away, Crash!

My 2020 Goals

Having writing goals helps to keep me focused on actually completing writing projects.

I think it’s beneficial to have some kind of an idea of goals for the upcoming year, but things happen, plans can change, and ideas may lead in a new direction. I don’t know what the future will hold, but I have found it to be more beneficial for me to create monthly (and even daily) goals with a few long-term goals still in mind.

Since my writer’s group meets monthly (except for December), I have been creating a monthly list of goals immediately after getting home from those meetings. I display this list on a wall by my writing area, and I refer to it throughout the month. As I complete items on the list, I check them off. I try to complete as many of the goals as possible before the next meeting. Whatever doesn’t get completed may end up on the next month’s list, or it may be deleted completely.

In addition to this, I write a list of things to do for the day on a dry erase board most mornings. Some days I am able to complete everything on my list. Some days I’m not. This daily to-do list gives me a direction and reminder of tasks to complete. And it gives me something to erase, so I actually feel like I am accomplishing something!

to do list

So, with all of that being said, I have decided to not list a full year worth of writing goals at this time. That doesn’t mean I don’t have any writing goals! I plan to continue working on this writing adventure when I can. This is still something I am only doing part time when I’m able.

As I had stated earlier, I do hope to continue writing a monthly post for Hands On As We Grow and a minimum of two posts for my website, publish Aah! Blown Away, Crash! (I have a publication timeframe in mind that I’m not sharing right now), and to teach a course (which should happen as long as everything goes as planned). I also hope to complete a book that includes information from the class I will be teaching some time in 2020. I’m not sure how realistic all of those goals are, but I can dream, right?

I will continue to write monthly writing goals for myself as I continue my writing adventure in 2020. I hope my writings can encourage others and bring glory to God in some way. As Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” I am excited to see where this writing adventure will lead next.

Do you have any goals for 2020? I have rambled on long enough about my goals, and I’d love to hear from you! May you have a blessed New Year.


Ramblings · Writing Appearances

Ah! Blown Away, Crash!

I attended an author meeting a couple of years ago where we discussed picture books with nontraditional formats. After the meeting, I wrote a post called Author Meeting Inspiration.

Here is a snippet of that post concerning one of the nontraditional formatting styles:

Alphabet books that tell a story in alphabetical order with limited (1-2) words per page. We looked at the book Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run! by Mike Twohy, which is a great example of this idea. Even though he used only 1-2 words in alphabetical order on each page, Mike Twohy was able to tell a story of a mouse and a dog. The illustrations are definitely important in a story like this. I really liked this concept, so I decided to create my own story following this structure. For our own personal enjoyment, my daughters decided to illustrate the story I wrote. Who knows, maybe my story will turn into another book in the future.

I can’t believe that was already over two years ago! I still have the “book” my daughters and I had created after that meeting. It’s called Aah! Blown Away, Crash!

Aah! Blown Away, Crash!

I took it out a few months ago and brought it to be critiqued at my monthly writer’s group. My group’s insight on a couple of the pages was very beneficial!

Even though there are only 1-3 words per page, I have still gone through a few rounds of editing to get the story just the way I want it (and approved by my group). Now, I have it memorized!

So, why am I telling you this? Well, I am hoping to finally turn this story into a book in 2020. I plan to give some updates throughout the process in the New Year.

Aah! Blown Away, Crash!- Crash

Are you curious what all of the other letters stand for? Would you like to see this as a book? I’d love to hear from you!


Simple Thanksgiving Craft for Kids to Show Thanks

Can you believe it is already almost Thanksgiving?

Of course we should be thankful all year round, but this time of the year is a great reminder to talk about and show thanks for what we do have. For the past few years, my daughters and I have enjoyed creating a Thanksgiving chain and a Thanksgiving tree to display some of the things we are thankful for.

thankful chain

This year, I decided to create a thankful wreath with my daughters. It has been hanging on our wall for a little while now and is a great reminder that we have a lot of blessings in our lives.

Thankful Wreath

You can learn more about our kid-made thankful wreath to show gratitude on Hands On As We Grow here if you would like.

Do you have a special activity you do in your family to show thanks?


Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles · Ramblings

Happy National Pickle Day!

Will you be doing anything special to celebrate National Pickle Day today? How about visiting the Mount Olive Pickle Gift Shop in North Carolina?

Although I won’t be in Mount Olive on National Pickle Day, I was really excited to be able to make a stop there earlier this year with family while we were on vacation.

We successfully made it the the corner of Cucumber and Vine and found the gift shop. I was kind of surprised we had to stop at a guard station before entering the parking lot area.

Mt. Olive Pickle Gift Shop Signs

Another surprise for me was the size of the gift shop. I don’t know why, but I had envisioned a large store full of pickle themed items. It was probably a good thing the gift shop itself was smaller than I had anticipated because it still took me (and my daughters) quite a while to decide what pickle themed items we wanted to purchase – there were so many goodies to choose from!

We ended up buying t-shirts, an apron, postcards, cards and envelopes, a keychain, and a stuffed pickle toy (isn’t it cute?).

Mount Olive Ollie the Pickle Toy

We also picked up a bookmark and scratch ‘n sniff pickle stickers. So, yes, the gift shop was definitely big enough to hold plenty of pickle themed souvenirs!

Mount Olive Pickle Company Scratch and Sniff Stickers

It was also neat for me to see my book Pickles, I Like Pickles on a shelf for sale there.

Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles book cover

Did you see these 20 gifts under $25 for pickle lovers?

According to an informational sheet we picked up while at the gift shop, “Mt. Olive is the best-selling brand of pickles, peppers and relishes in the U.S.”

Mount Olive Pickle Company does not offer tours; however, if you stop in the gift shop, you can ask to watch a video about Mount Olive Pickle Company. Asking to watch the video is like a secret code to a backroom filled with jars of pickles and an area to watch the video.

My daughters and I had actually seen the video ahead of time while we were working on the course I created for Schoolhouse Teachers entitled Foods and Food Production.

Foods and Food ProductionYou can also watch the Mount Olive Pickles Tour video from the comfort of your own home here if you are unable to make the trip to Mount Olive.

Those who have the opportunity to watch the video at the gift shop will also get a chance to choose a jar of pickles to take home. My family decided to choose jars of pickles we hadn’t tried before. Thankfully, they all made the trip back home safely.

Mount Olive Pickles

I am so glad we had the opportunity to visit!

How will you celebrate National Pickle Day?