March Madness

There’s some catching up to do! This month’s been a productive time, and I still haven’t shared some fun news from February. Seeing how I labeled this post with the current month’s name, I’ll stick with the newest information this time around.

Last Saturday I crossed Mobile Bay and did a presentation for Baldwin Writers Group titled “Kid Lit 101”, in which I discussed what differentiates children book categories including board books, picture books, early readers, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult novels. It was my second time doing the presentation (the first was in December 2015 with my “home” crew at Mobile Writers Guild) and I enjoyed it just as much. If there’s one thing I can geek out about (other than my favorite musicians) it’s children’s literature. I converted at least one person to the Kid Lit side, so hooray!

Kid Lit 101

The first slide on my KID LIT 101 Power Point.

Then, on Monday four of my fabulously creative friends and I held a panel discussion on writing and illustrating with a local 4-H Arts group in an amazing meeting room in a contemporary art gallery downtown.

 

4-H presentation

Thanks to Candice and Robina for the picture.

After a short introduction we fielded questions ranging from research to plotting. It was energetic and fun, just like the original work created by Steven Moore for the event: The Inscribables. (Can you guess which one is me?)

4H_postcard_front

Original art by Steven Moore. Find him at http://www.grimtrojan.com

The past several days have been a great transition for me in my roll change from writer to author. I can’t imagine more supportive people to start my journey with than these two welcoming groups and my friends.

Bonus: I’ve kept my writing cap on, managing to add well over seven thousand words to my current project, plus completing final line edits on Corroded, out April 12, 2016. March/Spring is definitely going great here—I hope it’s shiny for you as well.

 

Fortitude is Almost Here

A week and a half to go until Fortitude is out in the world. It’s an exciting, frightening, emotional time but being surrounded by encouraging family and supportive friends make it all easier. So does having a gorgeous cover and awesome professional team.

Fortitude cover

If you’re interested in a Kindle copy, Amazon has the pre-order link up. I’ll be sure to share other sources as they become available.

For now, have a blessed Thanksgiving weekend!

Decade in the Making

I’m halfway through the second round of content edits on Corroded (Surge Imprint from Anaiah Press, April 2016), which makes it at least the fiftieth revision. It’s been a learning curve, to be sure! Even though it’s coming out second, this is the oldest “book baby” of my adult life. My first born, but she had to stay in the ICU so that the second child, Fortitude, will be out in the world four months ahead of her.

Corroded has been through two different critique groups, a full manuscript critique by Laurie Halse Anderson, and a handful of beta readers. Not to mention that it went through two rounds of submissions—and rejections—in the past four years (when I thought she was mature enough) before she was accepted this year (on the “first” try.) I’ve swaddled and re-diapered this story more than anything else I’ve ever worked on. Early readers will recognize the story, but Corroded is now so much more than I thought possible when she was formed a decade ago.

In the beginning, I was too close to the main character. By separating myself from her, I was able to dig deeper. How is that? Probably the same way you can find yourself by losing yourself in service. I had to give up my own ideals to find the true complexities of the characters. And in doing that, I maneuvered through the layers of the story to find the heart. I journeyed so far that I ended up with two main characters and dual point-of-view novel.

Foritude-Corroded quote

Thought it all, I couldn’t give up on Corroded. The story needed extra nurturing and that took time off and on throughout my other projects. Even now, there’s work to be done, but I’m confident the book will be the best version of itself when it’s finally released from the nursery. Anaiah Press has given me a stellar editor to make sure that happens. It’s been a longtime coming and I’m grateful for each step of the journey.

Knowledge is Kindness

Over the past few months, I’ve come to an understanding. It’s nothing earth shattering, and I’m sure these things have been said before, but I needed the time to mull things over for myself.

Now I can share: I’m less likely to take offense to things people say if I know the individual.

Why is this? I’m empathetic to where they come from and realize that they have a valid reason for thinking the way they do, even if I don’t agree with it. The better I know the person, the more leeway I give their opinions.

Take the same words, said by someone I don’t know, and my first reaction is to be offended. For example, a friend says something that I disagree with. I’ll usually stay out of the conversation, and maybe even think “bless your heart” (a slight assimilation to southern living). But if one of their other friends steps in to agree or expand on the topic toward their angle, I get defensive about my ideals and think “how can she listen to people like that?” Or “I can’t believe there are people in the world that buy in to that propaganda!” And, well, you know… I’m sure you’ve thought similar things.

But don’t worry, I get over it.

And now, more than ever, it doesn’t bother me beyond that initial gut reaction.

It rolls off—the natural man is conquered, at least on this front.

After all, I don’t want to give other people’s words power to corrode my mood for the day.
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With all the contention in the world right now—even in our own communities—I think the best way to peace is to get to know each other. That’s the easiest way to combat judgmental behavior. After all, the majority of people want the same thing (peace, helping those less fortunate, etc.), we just have different ideas on what we think is the best route to get there.

Knowledge can equal kindness. Who do you need to understand more?

Expand Your Horizons

Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month is past the halfway mark. Have you seen an increase of understanding around you? My blue hair has provided more opportunities to discuss autism with others, so I’m glad I was brave enough to try it this time.

Me, on World Autism Day.

Me, on World Autism Day.

I scrolled through some old posts and came across this one from two years ago—the then nameless Fernando has been making an appearance on the blog for that long. This is a timely find, because it talks about my two manuscripts that are now under contract for publishing in 2016, and it explains where I got my line, “Don’t let your fortitude get corroded.” It doesn’t seem like Fernando has grown much, but it’s more than doubled in size.

Fernando, before it was Fernando, April 2013.

Fernando, before it was Fernando, April 2013.

Fernando today, April 2015.

Fernando today, April 2015.


Seeing these photos today reminded me of my teen on the spectrum. Just like my son, Fernando is always responding to his environment. Outside stresses, like weather, can cause disturbances to growth and adaptability, while appropriate nutrients and habitat can promote expansion. Sometimes, the rate of my son’s maturing seems laboriously slow, but if I think back to how he was two (or more) years ago, I can see how far he’s come.

Fernando can be used as a personification of my writing, as well as a symbol of human needs and growth. What can your fern do?

If you don’t have a Fernando of your own, go find one and nurture your creativity.

Corroded

Last week, on April Fool’s Day (no joke), I signed my second book contract with Anaiah Press. Fortunately, there is no video footage of my happy dance. That would be awkward, almost as uncomfortable as admitting it happened in the first place.

The “new book” is Corroded, a young adult, contemporary novel. Corroded has been a labor of love for nearly a decade (and will continue to be worked upon this year, as I go through professional edits with the publishing company). The story has seen numerous critiques, several dozen drafts, and much support from friends and family through the years. It’s fitting that it will be released during Autism Awareness Month because the dual point-of-view is shared between main characters Mary and Ben, who has high functioning autism.
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For those paying attention, that’s Fortitude on January 12 and Corroded on April 12, 2016. Both novels will be available in e-book and paper formats on their respected days.
In other words, “Don’t let your fortitude get corroded.” Everything happens in the proper time, in the right season (sometimes after years of labor).

P.S. Ever in tune with my literary life, Fernando is flourishing.
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Nurturing Talent

Last Saturday, I participated in the Metro Mobile Reading Council’s Young Authors’ Conference and Teen Writing Fair. Besides it giving me a chance to hang out in the library for seven hours, I had the pleasure of working alongside some fabulous book lovers as we inspired the next generation of creative talent. Teachers, librarians, as well as local authors and illustrators pulled their resources together to present an informative and motivational day.

Photo by Candice Conner

Photo by Candice Conner

The morning began with the Young Authors’ Conference for third through sixth grade students. After a keynote speech from guest illustrator R. Gregory Christie (all the way from Georgia), the students split into groups for one of thirteen mini-workshops.
I was blessed to be able to run a “Visual Inspiration” workshop with fellow author and friend, Joyce Scarbrough. After sharing my own collection of maps, locations, and characters for my soon-to-be published novel and work-in-progress, I showed examples of visuals that make it into middle grade novels—using a few books as examples. 100_7046
Then, our plucky group of students set to work scouring magazines and catalogs for their own story prompts. They clipped and glued gardens, building, pets, and people. 100_7053Some even started character worksheets complete with backstories. It was awesome to be a part of, and better still, to see their excitement when they shared their work with other nearby workshop groups. (Yes, one lucky group had a crime scene as a story prompt. So cool!) 100_7055

After a brief lunch break and room reset, we went back to work with the Teen Writing Fair. I acted as MC for the event, and started the meeting by announcing the winners of the Fourth Annual Tracy Hurley Memorial Writing Contest, which was hosted by Mobile Writers’ Guild. As the Young Author Committee Chair for MWG, I worked alongside Joyce Scarbrough and Candice Marley Conner to read and score the middle and high school entries. The finalists received cash prizes, journals/pens, and a hand written critique of their short stories.

Joyce TWF 2015

Photo by Candice Conner

The seventh through twelve graders were then graced with fun and inspiring keynote addresses by Ms. Scarbrough and Mr. Christie. Following that, they students were free to meet and mingle among all ten guests at their tables, including authors, illustrators, poets, and biographers. The activity concluded with an open mic for the teens to share their stories and poems—a great way to close the event.

Whatever you do, be sure to take time to give of your talents to others. The experience has the ability to enrich all aspects of your life.