Thursday, January 29, 2015


It's funny I decided to begin this during the commercials of The Simpsons.  Why?  The episode is about Elon Musk coming to Springfield in search of inspiration.  I'm not sure how the episode will turn out, or how Musk will find inspiration, but I'm going to write about my inspirations.

Where do I find my inspiration?

I don't know...stuff just kind of comes to me.  Really.  What?  You don't buy that?  neither do I.

I find it wherever I can.

The coffee shop.

A book.

In my classroom.

On-line illustrator site (Storybird).

My family.

My critique group.

My brain.

When the inspiration strikes for an idea, you have to make sure you write it down.  I usually have a journal handy, but if not, I use the notes ap on my phone, or I'll talk into a video.  Talking into a video can help with brainstorming, too.  If I start talking about one thing, other ideas may pop up and I can keep rambling form one idea to the next, or to expand on an idea.

If I'm at my computer and I have the time, I'll write out the story from start to finish without editing along the way.  When that inspiration strikes, you have to just write and get all your thoughts down.  If you stop too long or too much, you may ruin your momentum and end up stopping.  That'd just stink.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

2015 Journal Challenge Week 4

Sometimes when I'm in a blah mood, I find it hard to think of things I'm grateful for.  I usually get out of a funk with humor (or coffee).  But I decided to write a list of things I'm grateful for instead:

  • My wife and her selflessness: she's currently in Haiti on a mission trip
  • My son and his helpfulness: he came out and helped shovel without being asked.
  • My daughter and her courage to try new things.  She borrowed a friend's snowboard and rocked it!   She was even able to land some jumps.
  • Her laugh is a killer, too
  • I'm grateful for the cat on my lap, snoozing away.
  • I'm grateful for the birds picking at the little trees outside our window.  I can see their silhouettes flitting in and out of view against the sunset, through the sheer white curtains.
They were dancing back and forth for quite a while!
  • Finding that I love journaling.  I created this challenge for myself to make myself branch out into different styles of writing, but I'm really enjoying it.
  • Firefly Bookstore in Kutztown: I love this little bookstore- they take trade-ins and have a huge selection of new and used fantasy books.
  • Town Bookcenter and Cafe- I love this little bookstore in Collegeville, PA.  Both Town and Firefly sell my self-published children's book, too!
  • This journal I'm writing in, well, the cover really.  Though, I love all my journals!
  • The 12x12 Picture Book Challenge community I belong to!  They are amazingly supportive and inspiring.
  • My wife for pushing me and my family for helping come up with ideas when I feel stuck.
  • Our house- though we realize we will eventually move to something smaller, this old stone house and its woodwork are gorgeous.  Plus, we have an amazing view of the sunrise and sunsets!
  • Coffee- just cuz!  I've found I don't need its caffeine kick, but its just freaking good!
The smile has returned.  I will make a note of gratitude in my entries as I go, wether it's my entry for my on-line journal or one that doesn't get added here.
  • Oh!  Sledding!  It was so much fun today!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Agent searching

My goal over the weekend was to compile an agent list for my picture book manuscripts.  I surfed through the SCWBI 2014 catalogue and gathered together a few dozen.  Then, I narrowed them down to about 25 or so from their based on some parameters I had.  After looking them up on-line to research some more, it was then narrowed down to a final 10.  I then sent in 8 e-mail queries, and 2 snail mail queries.
Here's what my list looks like
Now for the hardest part.

The waiting.

I've sent PB MSs out before, but never like this.  I think I've sent about 15-20 out total since last February, with all reporting back as negatives or getting "timed out" (my term for it being 4+ months with hearing nothing), except for two that I'm still waiting on.  This time, I picked through several dozen and narrowed it down to a final 10.  Each of the 10 I e-mailed the same manuscript, noting in the query that it is a multiple submission.

Along with the waiting comes the fear of rejection.  I am very close to this PB MS that I sent out.  I'd only sent it to two other agents, one said they regretfully passed on it because it is a funny story and made them laugh.  He said he knew it'd probably get picked up quickly, it just wasn't a good match for them.  I have yet to hear from the other.  Of the 10 that went out between yesterday and today.

I already heard back from one...

And that was a rejection.  But, there was a positive comment along with it; it was not a generic form rejection that I've seen before.  "...which I read with interest.  It's a clever concept but I'm afraid I didn't connect with the text enough to see a place for it on our list."  So, I got some nice feedback, and an exact reason why.

This makes me happy.  Two rejections in 6 weeks with this MS, and I got positive feedback from both on this MS!

Getting these PB MSs out, or any manuscript for that matter, if you want to become a traditionally published writer, is a must and a fear you need to overcome.  For self-publishing, you need to get over the fear of "What will others say?"

Once you have your work submission ready, make sure you research your agents.  Check out their query procedures very carefully.  If you do not do as they state, your story will not get read.  And, getting read is what you want!  You also want to make sure the agent is the right match for you and your work.  I was quite shocked to find out that Highlights gets erotica manuscripts sent to them!  Seriously?  What kind of idiots send erotica to a children's book publisher?

Yeah, I'm ending with that thought :)

Have you sent any queries out?  How's it been going?  You know how it's going for far...0-20 or something like that :)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

2015 Journal Challenge Week 3

Written January 17th, 2015, Saturday. Week 3, 2015 Journal Challenge.

Every time I write in here, I feel like I'm knocking down barriers into my unconscious self.  I feel  like my head is going to explode and my heart is going to pour out as ink on paper.

It makes me think back to the poetry I used to write, how easy it was to open up and let my heart write.

But I stopped.

The muse was plugged up and stored away.  One and a half years ago, I started writing again.  Fiction first, then to picture books to chapter books.  Now to journaling as well.

Blogging about running came in between.  It helped to rekindle that passion, which led back to writing once I couldn't run much at all.  It'll be two years this coming June since I started The Incidental Hero, two years this July since I wrote The Rabbit Who Wished He Could Fly.

It's been one year since, well, basically, this month that I've been writing picture book manuscripts.  And? Six months since I joined a critique group and my writing started to grow.  It's been amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it and pour your heart into it.

Who knows where I'll be in six months?  A year?  Where ever I'll be, the journey will be amazing.

I let fear of the unknown stop me about twenty years ago.  When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to go back to school for, I went back and forth between my M. Ed in Elementary School Guidance Counseling and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing.  I opted for the M. Ed program, and ended up switching that to Elementary Education.  It was a short time after that that I stopped writing.

I don't regret the path I've taken- I never would have met Jane, had our son, adopted our daughter, etc...

Sometimes I think about going back for an MFA, but dealing with the hoops is not something that appeals to me.

But, getting back on track, we can not let fear of the unknown rule our decisions.  By posting these journal entries, I'm pushing that fear aside.  By joining 12x12, a critique group- even taking up the role of running a critique group-, sharing my work, sending manuscripts out to agents and publishers, I am taking huge steps- have taken huge steps- to overcome fear.

Your assignment, should anyone be reading this, is to write about a fear that soppped you from doing something.  What was it?

What was a fear you defeated?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


This word has so many different meanings.

First, I was granted permission from an author to use a line from their book in my picture book manuscript.  I was so excited to get this e-mail!  I really love this PB MS- yeah, I know, it's my own, but I do have some of mine that I don't like, or am kinda blah about.  But this one, I think will be one to help me get an agent.

Another form is one we need to give ourself.  We need to give ourselves permission to be creative, to take that time for ourselves, for what makes us happy.  I have given myself permission to take time to write after work, to revise my work, and to take time to critique others work as well.

We need to give ourselves permission to suck, permission to excel, permission to take the chance and put our work out there for others to see and love, or hate, and be ok with that.

Giving myself permission to put myself out there despite my fears was one of the best things I did in 2013 with self publishing my first children's early reader, then with joining the 12x12 Picture Book Challenge.  From there, I gave myself permission to post work on the site to get critiqued (well, the first 250 words at least) and then to join a critique group- that one was huge.  Joining a critique group was one of the best things I've done for my writing, and I'm thrilled I gave myself that permission.  I even thought about leaving the group after the first round- I felt that I could not give to others as they were giving to me, but I stuck with it and learned a lot.  I have since joined another critique group, and run and on-line critique group through Eastern PA SCBWI.

This year, I give myself permission to keep sending out PB MSs to multiple agents at a time!  I thought I had sent a lot out last year, but when I looked back at my list, I really hadn't.  This is the biggest one for me :)

I am also giving myself permission to journal, and to post one of my journal entries each Sunday for the whole year (check out my 2015 Journal Challenge page!).

So, give yourself permission to take chances, to put your work out there, to take time for yourself to do what you love.

What have you given yourself permission for?  What are you going to give yourself permission for?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2015 Journal Challenge Week 2

Written January 10th, 2015, Saturday.  Week 2, 2015 Journal Challenge.

I don't remember seeing this quote before, until about twenty seconds before I started writing.  There is a lot of truth in Helen Keller's words.  When we see a beautiful photograph, an amazing vista, hear an awesome piece of music, it resonates deep within our hearts.  It may move us, it may inspire us, but it is more than just a visual, auditory or tactile feeling.

This quote goes deeper than that for me.


Love, to me, fits that quote.  Love is the best and most beautiful thing in the world.

Love can be inspiring.  We desire to express it in some creative fashion- a song, a painting, a poem, story, sculpture, sketch, or photograph.

Love can be humbling.  We find ourselves giving unconditionally to the person to whom our heart has been given.

For me, that is my wife, Jane.  She is the best and most beautiful thing in the world.  Though I can see and touch her, my love for her cannot; it can only be felt in my heart.

The challenge for you, in week two, is to write your favorite quote and what it means to you.  You may also look for a new one, like I did.

I have a feeling I'll be journaling more on this topic.  This was my third entry this week :)

Happy journaling!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2015 Journal Challenge Week 1

Week 1 January 4, 2015

I'm not sure what I want to start with: about me or goals for 2015 (and writing or life or what?)?  So, I guess, a bit of both.  Goals first.  I don't make New Year's Resolutions, but I do have some goals:

To find representation (an agent) for my children's book manuscripts, to edit my early chapter book to the point of "ready to submit", to find more vegan recipes, to cook even more often for/ with my family, to get back on my bike regularly, run a bit (deal with the knee pain), to an intense core workout 2x a month, plus regular planks and push-ups.

I guess that leads to the 'About Me'.  As I write I've decided not to.  This challenge is truly for me.  Why would I journal to myself about myself?  I have an 'About Me' page anyway, if you're interested, so back to my goals.

Making goals is not always good enough.  You need a plan, and to take action.

I'll go with one, writing related.

I want to find representation with an agent that is a good fit for me and my style of writing.

What do I need to do?

Well, I have a few PB MSs that are ready to go as I've gone over them countless times, as have two critique groups.

I need to find agents that are looking for PB MSs!  I've already done this to a point, but I will look for more to add to the list.  I'm also planning to join 12x12 again this year, so that'll give me ten more chances to submit to agents.

I need to type my query letters and have others look at them.  I've done this for two, but not the third.

Lastly, I need to send out the query letters and manuscripts!

Well, second lastly, I need to wait patiently as agents read through my stuff (and everyone else's)...and pick me this year!!

If you're following along, your challenge is to write your goals, pick one (or all!) and write your plan of action! And? Take action!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Journal From In Blue Handmade!

I got my new journal yesterday from In Blue Handmade  on for the 2015 journal challenge I've set up for myself.  I have to say, this journal is worth every penny!

I got the basic large journal, which consists of the reusable leather, handmade cover and a journal, either lined or unlined (I chose lined).  I did a custom order for the cover.  I went with the old style typewriter and a quote from Neil Gaiman.  The first ten words are free, then it's $1 per word after.  I had some money saved up, so I went for it with the quote I wanted, even though it added $14 more to the was totally worth it:

Front cover with Neil Gaiman quote
The journal is amazingly soft, very well cut and stitched.  The lettering is outstanding and the typewriter image is perfect!  Now if I could only find a working one of those cheap...

Close up of the cut and stitching: all excellent!

Inside front view
Best of all, our cat, Kona, loves the leather strap used to wrap the journal closed.  The strap is attached in the back and seems very sturdy.

Kona approved :)

Overall, I'd highly recommend them if you're in the market for a new journal cover and you'd like to have some freedom of what you'd like on the cover.  There's nothing like buying a high quality handmade product, from a small business, and being able to design some of it your way :)

Edit: I forgot to mention!  The journal was, unexpectedly, hard covered and 250 pages!  So much bigger than I expected (In a good way!!!).  It measures 8x5, too!

Now onto the challenge :)  First post coming up this Sunday night!!

P.S. Sorry about the lousy phone images...I'm sure you'll see more of this journal in better images as the year goes on!