Ramblings · Writing Appearances

2019 Goals Update and Behind-the-Scenes Peek at Current Project

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you if you click on a link and make a purchase. Thank you!)

I can’t believe we are already in May! How are you doing on your goals so far for this year?

2019 Goals Update

2019 Writing Goals Update

I have been making some progress on my writing goals for this year. I am still writing for Hands On As We Grow, writing at least two posts each month for my website’s blog, attending writer’s meetings, and serving as a Network Chair for SCBWI Iowa.

I have also researched, written a proposal, and submitted a children’s nonfiction project. I did write a rough draft to one children’s book manuscript that will probably not go anywhere beyond my kitchen table and started revising a different children’s book manuscript.

I also submitted an additional children’s book manuscript I had written last year to some literary agents and publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts. For those of you who don’t know, unsolicited manuscripts are simply manuscripts that have not been requested by the publisher or represented by a literary agent. I haven’t been able to get either of the children’s books I submitted this year accepted by a publisher or literary agent (hopefully yet).

Although I have received quite a few rejection letters this year, I still have been able to have some of my works accepted. My proposals for course ideas were approved, and I have created two courses for Schoolhouse Teachers (only the one called Foods and Food Production has been published so far).

Foods and Food Production

I also wrote an article for The Old Schoolhouse, which should be published some time this year in a resource they are putting together for homeschool parents.

In addition to that, I received an email saying that a short true humorous writing I submitted to Reader’s Digest in September of 2017 should be published in an upcoming issue. I had forgotten about that writing and was surprised to hear something about it 20 months later, but I am excited to have it published!

So, the goals I have not completed yet include attending an SCBWI conference (which I hope to do in September), being accepted by a literary agent, working on a nonfiction project for adults (not sure if I am still wanting to pursue this idea), possibly joining Twitter, and doing at least one school visit or story time.

I recently came up with a new idea that was not written as one of my goals for this year, which I have just started working on. I thought it would be fun to share a behind-the-scenes peek of this project with you.

Behind-The-Scenes Peek

Both of my daughters enjoy writing, and they have recently been reading quite a few books about writing and writing prompts.

Two of the books they have really enjoyed include:

The Creativity Project edited by Colby Sharp


Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink by Gail Carson Levine.

As they have been doing their own writing research and writing projects, I thought it would be fun to create a journal filled with 52 adventurous writing prompts for kids. I chose the number 52 so there is one writing prompt for each week of the year.

After deciding I wanted to create adventurous writing prompts, I did some research on Amazon looking at styles of other writing prompt journals for kids. The “look inside” feature has been so helpful!

Some questions I asked myself as I was looking at the other writing prompt journals for kids included:

  1. How many other writing prompt journals are there?
  2. How many reviews are there for each?
  3. What do the reviews say (both positive and negative)?
  4. How is the interior laid out?
  5. What is the size of the book?
  6. Who published the book?
  7. How can mine be different/better?
  8. What did the book description say?
  9. What is the cost?
  10. What are the recommended ages?

It appeared there were many positive reviews for the writing prompt journals that were available, so there seems to be a desire (possibly even a need) for them. I decided what I am wanting to create will be different in style and technique, so it wouldn’t appear I was merely copying someone else’s journal. I also noticed many of them were self-published, and they still had quite a few reviews.

I decided I would move forward with the idea of an adventurous writing prompt journal for kids. I had used Createspace (owned by Amazon) when I self-published Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles and Jobs of a Preschooler, which I thought worked out quite well. Createspace; however, no longer publishes books, and my previously published books have been moved over to KDP Print (also owned by Amazon).

When books are traditionally published, authors don’t have to worry about all of the formatting, illustrations, and layout designs. Since this will be self-published, I will need to make sure I understand how to properly format it. So, I have been doing some research on how to use KDP Print and properly format books.

Here are two pages I printed from KDP Print’s instructions about formatting books.

I looked at other books and notebooks I have at home (along with the journals found on Amazon) and decided I would like the journal to be 9.25″x7.5″. Using a template found on KDP, I determined the paper size and the margins I need.

I want to include pictures within my journal, so I searched Pixabay for photos available for commercial use. I found quite a few that I am interested in and signed up for an account with Pixabay (which isn’t required).

Signing up for the account actually took longer than I was expecting because I had to create a username and password and click on pictures shown on one of those Captcha pages to make sure I wasn’t a robot (which I always seem to have issues with) only to be told the username had already been taken. I finally (after about twenty minutes) was able to use the sixth user name I chose.

I noticed many of the journals on Amazon were plain on top, and I want something that stands out a little more. I experimented with a few different designs using a compass (found on Pixabay) on the top, so that I can number the writing prompts.

I tried a plain compass with a number in the middle, a compass on a map with a number in the middle, and the plain compass with a number in the middle with a border around the entire page. Trying to get the number in the middle of the compass proved to be a little challenging for me, but I got it!

I personally like the border around the entire page, but I decided to ask my daughters what they thought individually.

They both agreed the border around the entire page with the simple compass looked the best, so that is what I am going to attempt to do. Hopefully, I can figure out how to format the border properly taking into account the margins, trim size, and gutter. I’m not very computer savvy, so it will be interesting.

Even though I will be numbering the writing prompts at the top of the page, I would really like to have a page number at the bottom of each of the pages. So, I experimented with that for a little bit, too.

I like the numbers that look like “-1-” better than just “1”, so I hope to do that on the pages that have the lines. Unfortunately, I am having difficulty figuring out how to put the page numbers on the bottoms of the pages when they have a border. I guess I will have to do some research to see if it is even possible with the program I have.

I then printed off a few variations of lines on pages to determine how far apart I wanted them. I noticed some of the negative reviews on journals were due to the fact that the lines were too close together making it a challenge to write.

I felt like Goldilocks: The first lines were too close together, the next lines were too far apart, but the third lines seemed just right until…my daughter looked at them and said the lines were too dark.

Hmmm. Something I hadn’t considered.

So, I played around with different fonts to make the lines less bold while still keeping them the same distance apart as the third set of lines (since we had all agreed that was the right distance).

My one daughter liked the less bold lines, but my other daughter disapproved. I guess that’s something else I will have to play around with a little more.

I had noticed some of the negative reviews on other writing journals stated there were not enough lines to write a full response to the writing prompt, so I want to make sure I have plenty of space for the writing prompts. I also really want to include pictures that correspond with the writing prompts since many positive reviews reflected on how much the pictures were appreciated.

The pictures are going to have to be printed grayscale within the journal because having color pictures throughout raises the cost of them considerably. I personally like the look of the grayscale pictures, and the other journals I saw that included pictures did use grayscale pictures, too.

I printed a page with a picture taking up only half a page with lines on top and another page with the same picture taking up the entire page. I definitely like the whole page picture better because it stands out so much more and because that allows me even more space for lines.

Next, I tried to determine whether the full page picture would be better right before the writing prompt or right after the page of lines for the writing prompt.

Both of my daughters and I ended up agreeing it would probably be better to have the full page picture immediately before the writing prompt.

Then, I had to choose which font looked best for the actual writing prompt portion. I was trying to find something that would fit with the adventurous theme yet still be easily legible.

It took some time, but my daughters and I finally all agreed on one font. For now at least. We’ll see if the final journal still has the same font.

I played around with single spacing and double spacing with the writing prompts and decided the single spacing looked much better.

I took quite a few notes on the pages I had printed so I can refer back to them later. This also reaffirmed that the line spacing we chose seems to be the best fit.

While previewing the other writing prompt journals, I noticed some of them start immediately with the writing prompts while others have a page for the owner to write his or her name.

I really liked the ones that had the additional name page, so I played around with a picture and created a name page.

This Journal Belongs to...

I put together a list of other possible additional pages such as title page, copyright page, a note to the writer (introduction), Table of Contents, and credits for pictures page. I’m not sure if I will include all of these pages, but it is something for me to consider.

Now that I have some of the nitty-gritty details figured out (which may end up being changed as I progress on this project), I should probably actually write the writing prompts using the list of 55 adventurous topics to include within the journal I created. I included a few extras in case some can’t be used for some reason.

Once I have all of the writing prompts completed, I will attempt to format all of the pages properly, decide on a title,  create a cover, choose a selling price, and upload the manuscript and cover to KDP Print. Hopefully, I will actually complete this journal within the next few months- my newest goal!

Do you have any suggestions for this adventurous writing prompt journal for kids?



14 Children’s Books About Flowers

Even though we still got snow at the end of April, spring is officially here!

Buds are appearing. Flowers are starting to grow. Colors are emerging all around.

Check out 14 Children’s Books About Seeds, Plants, and Gardening.

Last year, I had suggested going on nature walks with little ones to explore different aspects of the world around us. It’s about time to start enjoying some beautiful flowers!

My daughters and I have enjoyed taking pictures of flowers as we go for walks. Below are a few of the pictures my daughters have taken.

My daughter took this picture in Wisconsin at a summer camp.

Here is another picture one of my daughters took in Wisconsin at the same summer camp. These are Spiderworts.


Here is a picture one of my daughters took when we were in Kentucky on vacation.

In anticipation of all of the beautiful flowers that will soon be emerging and budding, I have put together a list of 14 children’s books about flowers.

Children’s Books About Flowers

An ABC of Flowers by Jutta Hilpuesch 

Bees Like Flowers by Rebecca Bielawski 

Flowers by Gail Gibbons 

Flowers by Vijaya Khisty Bodach

Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate by Sara C. Levine 

I Can Grow a Flower

Learn To Draw…Flower Garden 

Look! Flowers! by Stephanie Calmenson 

Mini Meadows: Grow a Little Patch of Colorful Flowers Anywhere Around Your Yard by Mike Lizotte 

Mrs. Peanuckle’s Flower Alphabet by Mrs. Peanuckle

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert

Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith 

State Guides: Flowers by Linden McNeilly 

Zinnia’s Flower Garden by Monica Wellington 

Will you find any flowers today?

For more nature walk fun, check out these posts:






Why I Like Rejection Letters

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you if you click on a link and make a purchase. Thank you!)

You may think I’m crazy (or being sarcastic) if I were to tell you I like rejection letters, but let me explain.

I would love to have all of my manuscripts accepted. Really, I would. At this point, I would love for at least one children’s book manuscript to be accepted this year! However, I know all of my manuscripts will not be accepted, so I greatly appreciate the responses I get even when they are rejections.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Some publishers are too busy to respond due to the large number of submissions they receive. These publishers often state on their submission’s page that you can assume they have passed on your manuscript if you haven’t heard from them within a set amount of time (such as 6 months).

I understand why they do that, but I tend to start second guessing myself when I don’t hear anything. Did I send the manuscript to the correct address? Did they actually receive it? Did I write my address in the correct spot on the SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope)? Was I suppose to include a SASE? You get the idea.

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

So, rejection letters at least acknowledge the fact my manuscript was actually received. That is why I like receiving rejection letters – even if they are the generic letters sent to everyone that has been rejected by that publisher.

My favorite rejection letters, though, are the ones that tell me they like my manuscript, but it doesn’t fit in the publisher’s current list. This tells me my manuscript was good enough to actually warrant a personal response.

Late last year, I received a rejection letter of a manuscript eleven months after I had submitted the manuscript. Sure, I was disappointed. But I was also super excited I had received a response.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Whenever I receive a rejection letter, I feel like I should write a thank you note in return. But then I worry I will be wasting their time even more by sending them a thank you.

I tend to over think things.

One thing anyone who wants to be a writer should know is that rejections are part of the process. J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 publishers. Theodor Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) received 27 rejections for his first book before it was published.

As George Sheldon says in Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business and More,  “Your ideas or work can be rejected for any number of reasons. It is not always that you have created something terrible (although that could be the reason). Your idea could be rejected because the editor just bought a similar piece…The editor is in a bad mood. These are all things you can not control. Expect rejections.”

Sure, this quote was specifically dealing with nonfiction writings for freelance writing work and not children’s book manuscripts, but the concept is the same.

At my most recent writer meeting, we talked about rejections and why children’s book manuscripts may be rejected. Some reasons can not be controlled but others can.

Here are some possible reasons for rejections we discussed:

  1. length of the manuscript/word count (either too long or too short)
  2. too lesson-driven
  3. too much competition for subject in current market
  4. age of character doesn’t fit age of audience
  5. lacks conflict
  6. character not developed enough
  7. inappropriate topic for audience age
  8. topic is too overdone and manuscript isn’t unique enough to stand out
  9. not enough of a story arc
  10. sent manuscript to someone who isn’t interested in style presented

So far, I have had nine official rejection letters this year…one literally came in as I was writing this paragraph! The fact I am receiving rejections means that I am actually submitting my work and attempting to put it out there to the world.

True, I could self-publish books to bypass the rejection letters. I did self-publish Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles and Jobs of a Preschooler, and I have other ideas I have not submitted that I am considering self-publishing in the future. But, there are some manuscripts I have that I would prefer to have traditionally published. There are pros and cons to self-publishing and traditional publishing, and I hope to continue pursuing both options.

Laura Purdie Salas states “I’m aiming for 200 rejections this year!” in her book entitled Making a Living Writing Books for Kids.

Although I am not aiming that high (this year at least), I do intend to continue sending out queries and manuscripts. After all, if I don’t send them out, I won’t have any chance of getting my books accepted by a traditional publisher or literary agent.

goals picture

What obstacle are you not going to let stand in your way this year to achieve your goals?


Themed Books · Writing Appearances

14 Children’s Books About Seeds, Plants, and Gardening

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you if you click on a link and make a purchase. Thank you!)

One of my writing goals for 2019  was to research some information about creating a course and possibly actually create a course.

In my 2019 goals update I mentioned something I was excited about concerning this goal. I had researched some information about creating a course for Schoolhouse Teachers, which is an online website my daughters and I have found informative, useful, and advantageous for our homeschooling journey.

Schoolhouse Teachers

Schoolhouse Teachers is also a division of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, where I had two articles (“Hands On Math: The Hungry Jar” and “Meal Planning: How to Save Time and Money”) published last year.

I wrote a little extra about each of those articles on A Craft to Teach Kids Budgeting and Giving and Personal Pizzas Kids Can Create.

After doing my research and exploring a few of the many courses Schoolhouse Teachers has to offer (they have over 400 different courses in a variety of subjects for preschoolers through high schoolers along with many other additional resources!), I came up with three course ideas I was interested in creating and submitted a proposal.

You can find more information about Schoolhouse Teachers here if interested.

My proposal was accepted for all three courses, so I have actually exceeded this goal! I have completed two of the courses so far and one of them is now available to Schoolhouse Teachers members.

It is called Foods and Food Production.

Foods and Food Production

This course includes information about 26 different foods and how they are grown, harvested, processed, and used. Each of the 26 foods included within this course has introduction questions, links to videos about them, children’s books to read (if available), links to additional resources, a geography section with worksheets to label flags of the top ten producing countries, information about products made, recipes to try, and closing questions.

My daughters and I previewed all of the videos (plus more) that are included within the course together. Even though the course is listed on Schoolhouse Teachers for grades 1-3, my daughters (who are quite a bit older) did enjoy watching how the foods grew and were harvested and processed. I thought it was all quite fascinating!

The recommended books in the course are only books that I was able to check out from my library and preview on my own. And there were a lot of books!

I am very thankful for the library and those who help at the library! I had to reserve multiple books that were available at other libraries and have them sent to my library through interlibrary loan.

My daughters and I went on scavenger hunts at our local library searching for all of the other books I didn’t have reserved using a list I created at home from our library’s online catalog.

These are some of the books we brought home from one trip to the library for Foods and Food Production.

Books about Foods

We checked out over 50 books on at least one of the visits to the library.

It’s funny watching the glances from other people while trying to check so many books out at one time, but it’s not so much fun when one of the cloth bags breaks open on the way out of the library door.

Yeah, that happened…books are heavy! I am so glad my daughters were with me to help carry them all out.

When I was working on Foods and Food Production, it was really cold and snowy, but now it is officially spring! I’m looking forward to having fresh produce again this year from our garden.

So, in anticipation of gardening and watching our own foods grow (and in celebration of Earth Day today), I figured I would share with you fourteen books about seeds, plants, and gardening.

Thirteen of these fourteen books are included as suggested books to read at the beginning of the Foods and Food Production course.

I was able to check all of these books out from my library, but I have provided links to them for your convenience.

Children’s Books About Seeds

A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston

This book talks about many different kinds of seeds in a poetic format with additional information available to read and learn about the seeds.

Let’s Go Nuts!: Seeds We Eat by April Pulley Sayre

This rhyming book with limited text shows a variety of seeds with different shapes, sizes, and colors.

How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan 

This Let’s Read and Find Out book discusses what seeds are, different types of seeds, and where you can plant seeds. It then talks about conducting an experiment with seeds and eggshells to discover how seeds grow day by day.

Nature’s Miracles: Once There Was a Seed by Judith Anderson and Mike Gordon 

A young girl and her grandpa who both have green thumbs (which the book explains) plant seeds. The girl learns how deep the seeds should go, what three things the seeds need to grow, and how the seeds grow into plants. She also learns what pollen is, why it is important, and how seeds can grow into new plants from the ones grown. The end offers a note for parents and teachers with suggestions for follow-up activities.

Children’s Books About Plants

Exploring Plants by Claire Llewellyn

This book uses simple sentences to describe where plants grow, different kinds of plants, the parts of plants, leaves, flowers, seeds, how plants grow, what plants need to grow, what we can eat from plants, what animals may eat, and how plants help us. It ends with directions to grow your own beans in a jar.

Plant Cycle by Ray James

This book has only a couple of sentences per page. It talks about plant reproduction, plant seeds and how they can get to different places, how plants grow, and plants breaking down.

Plant Life Cycles by Sally Morgan

This book has quite a bit of text. It talks about shoots, roots, plant life cycles, interesting plant facts, flowering plants, nonflowering plants, germination, photosynthesis, flowers, plant fertilization, flower shapes, flower trickery, seeds, fruits, how seeds are scattered, producers and consumers, annuals, perennials, biennials, decomposers, and compost.

Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch

I really like this book! It uses simple text to show how plants move even though they don’t have feet, fins, or wings. Plants wiggle, grow, squirm, reach, creep, slither, crawl, climb, explode, and more. The back of the book gives a more detailed explanation of the plants shown in the illustrations.

Plants Feed Me by Lizzy Rockwell

This book has only one to two sentences per page and describes what a person could eat such as leaves (like spinach), roots and tubers (like carrots and potatoes), bulbs (onions), stems (asparagus), flowers (broccoli), fruits that grow on trees (apples), fruits that grow on bushes (blueberries), fruits that grow on vines (melons), and seeds (walnuts).

Plants We Eat by Christine Peterson

This book talks about different edible plants we eat and discusses vegetables, wheat, leaves, fruits, tubers, spices, and more. It ends with the suggestion to create a stirfry using a variety of plant parts such as carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, etc.

Children’s Books About Gardening

The Garden Project by Margaret McNamara

This Ready-To-Read Level 1 book is part of the Robin Hill School Series. It talks about how the Robin Hill School students, parents, and teacher convert their old sandbox into a garden for the kids to learn about gardening and enjoy the end results.

The Nitty-Gritty Gardening Book: Fun Projects for All Seasons by Kari Cornell

This book is divided into the four seasons and provide projects to do within each of the seasons. It also talks about why people garden and provides a very detailed explanation of garden basics. Each of the projects listed within this book have step-by-step instructions to follow. Some projects include making newspaper pots, growing a sack of potatoes, planting a strawberry basket, growing an avocado plant, and making a compost bin.

The Usborne Book of Growing Food by Abigail Wheatley

This is a detailed book about what you need to know before you start gardening, the supplies you will need, and step-by-step instructions with more facts about growing carrots, shallots, bush beans, sprouting beans, peas, herbs, edible flowers, and more. It also provides tips and techniques for gardening such as how to fill containers, sow seeds, plant, repot, deal with pests, and compost.

Think Like a Scientist in the Garden by Matt Mullins

This book talks about being a scientist in your own garden. It provides the steps to the scientific procedure and then tells how to collect facts, ask questions, do research (with information about Gregor Mendel), and conduct experiments you can try at home.

Will you be growing a garden this year?


For more fun with garden produce, check out these posts:

Our Grand Pumpkin Experiment

Quick Fresh Salsa

Pickle Making During National Pickle Month



Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles · Ramblings

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Have you done any Easter eggsperiments or projects this year?

Easter Project with Painted Eggs and Paper

A while back I mentioned a birthday pickle card I had found, which I thought was quite entertaining.

Well, today I thought it would be fun to share with you an Easter pickle card I found at Dollar Tree (2/$1).

Easter Pickle Card

And for the inside…

Easter Pickle Card

Of course, I had to buy a few of them to send out to family members.

If you would like to learn why eggs are associated with Easter, where the first chocolate Easter eggs were made, how tall the tallest Easter egg was, and how Easter is celebrated in Sweden you should check out these interesting facts about Easter on Brisbane Kids.

This card is entertaining, and the Easter eggsperiments and projects are a lot of fun; however, Easter isn’t really suppose to be all about bunnies, eggs, chocolate, or pickles. Easter is about much more than that!

Easter is about recognizing Jesus’s resurrection after dying on the cross in place of anyone who chooses to accept Him. I really like the way the Gospel is shown on Life in 6 Words, which you can find here.

Romans 10:9 (NIV) says “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Growing Hands-On Kids offers resources and activities for teaching the true meaning of Easter to children if you are interested.

May you and your family have a wonderful day today!

Do you celebrate Easter?