Write What You Think You Cant

A presenter at my local SCBWI meeting shared this insight from a recent writing conference she attended: Write what you think you cant. This phrase has resonated with me since I attended that meeting about two months ago. Ive been searching for ways to challenge myself with my writing, but have been scared to venture too far outside of my comfort zone.  (For those of you new to my blog, my comfort zone consists of writing horsey picture books!)  I started thinking, what do I wish I could write but think that I cannot? This person, who after all is a professional in the industry, is giving me permission to try it. I mean, its practically an order: WRITE WHAT YOU THINK YOU CANT!

So between you and me, I really want to write a Middle Grade and/or Young Adult novel. Im not sure I can do it. I guess that means Im going to give it a try. Dont worry, Ive been doing my research before diving in on this 40,000 word odyssey. I just finished reading Writing Irresistible Kidlit, by Mary Kole. I highly recommend this book to anyone considering venturing into the world of writing for tweens and teens. It is incredibly comprehensive, covering the kidlit market, foundations of storytelling, character, plot and structure, voice, imagery, and even gives advice on finding an agent and/or publisher. My fellow MG and YA writers have helped me compile a list of several other resources for anyone seeking to write successfully for the middle grade and young adult audience. Here it is, in no particular order:



* Writing Irresistible Kidlit, by Mary Kole

* Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder

* Second Sight, by Cheryl Klein

* Chapter After Chapter, by Heather Sellers

* Page After Page, by Heather Sellers

* The Novelists Notebook, by Laurie Henry


* From the Mixed-Up Files


* Writing and Selling Middle Grade Fiction Writers Digest Shop

My new adventure in writing does not mean that Im going to stop writing picture books (horsey or otherwise).  In fact, Im still going strong with Julie Hedlunds 1212 Challenge.  Ive completed 10 picture book drafts in 8 months.  I also just completed my first week of a five-week eCourse called Picture Book Academy, which I am absolutely gobbling up and loving every bite.  More on that another day . . .  But Im adding to my list of goals because apparently my to do list isnt long enough (ha!).  Really though, I want to continue to grow as a writer and Im generally motivated by challenges of one sort or another.

So, who wants to join me?  What do you think you cant write?  Go ahead, give it a try!

Recharge to Write!

As far as writing goes, the month of July has been a disappointment for me. Between having my two kids home from school, developing my social media platform, marketing my eBook, HORSE FLOWERS, and traveling, my time spent on actual writing has fallen by the wayside. The distractions were piling up and, to be honest, I was feeling a little burned out by mid-July. I needed to recharge. Thankfully, we planned our annual family vacation to Northern Michigan WAY in advance and, boy, did it arrive just in the nick of time!

We dropped our dog with my parents and headed off to beautiful Walloon Lake in Petoskey, MI. (As an interesting aside, the childhood Summer home of Ernest Hemmingway was located on Walloon Lake. Today, it is home to one of Hemmingways nephews.) My family has been vacationing at this family camp, which is only available to alumni of the University of Michigan and their families, since I was 6 months old. Luckily, my husband and I are both Michigan grads so we are able to take advantage of this beautiful spot. It always feels like coming home when I arrive here.

Living in a cabin in the wilderness for a week was just what the doctor ordered. I had no cell phone reception. At first, this caused me major stress. After a couple of days, it was a gift. The outdoor activities were endless: Tennis, hiking, paddle boarding, kayaking, sailing, archery, riflery, swimming and (yes) horseback riding.  After all, this is where I first learned to ride a horse over 30 years ago.  With scenery like this, how could anyone not feel relaxed, rejuvenated, revived and inspired!

The setting is not as rustic as it might sound. We were equipped with a full bathroom with running water and all meals were prepared for us in a state-of-the-art environmentally conscious dining hall. Thats right, no cooking, cleaning dishes or grocery shopping for an entire week! We dropped the kids at their Kids Camp activities every morning and afternoon and did whatever the heck we wanted. HEAVEN!

While camp has always been a magical place for me, this year I viewed it through a different lens that of a childrens author.  I took special note of all the ways the Kids Camp staff fed my childrens imagination through songs, stories and activities.  For example, the children are told on the first day that Puff the Magic Dragon lives in Walloon Lake.  They take the kids out in boats to look for Puff and feed him peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  My son told me excitedly how he saw Puffs shadow in the water, as my daughter explained to me that Puff controls the wind on the lake.  You wont see him, Mom, she told me, because hes a little shy.  When you see bubbles in the water, youll know its him.  Priceless!

Friday is always unicorn day.  This is when the kids and adults alike gather to watch for the unicorn sighting.  Just to be clear, the unicorn is actually a horse dressed up like a unicorn, but my 4 year-old daughter bought it hook, line and sinker.  It didnt hurt that the wizard who rode the unicorn tossed a bag of candy at the kids!  It was a great reminder of the power of a childs imagination and the precious childhood memories that are formed from these experiences.My son, going for a swim at dusk
Leading my daughter around on horseback So, now I am back to reality. Im trying to catch up on 10 days worth of email, Twitter and Facebook. But I now have renewed energy and a backlog of story ideas. I cant wait to start writing again. My kids start back school exactly one month from today not that Im counting or anything. I have a feeling that on September 3rd, my productivity will increase by 98%.  Of course, Ill always treasure the time I spent with my kids this Summer.  I have my week in Northern Michigan to thank for this positive boost in outlook and motivation.  The following quote pretty much sums it up for me:

Vacations are seen as an antidote to work. They are medicine, a remedy for counteracting the effects of labor. Vacations allow us to be away from the job, to change the patterns of our day, to alter our routine, to reconfigure our actions and habits, to rediscover ourselves. AL GINI, The Importance of Being Lazy

Whats your favorite vacation spot?