Monday, February 1, 2016

Reading, Writing, and Revising

So far it’s been very quiet on my blog in 2016, but that's because I've had lots of exciting things going on. I took the plunge and joined the 2106 12 x 12 Challenge, and am *LOVING* it! If you're unfamiliar with 12 x 12, it is a community of picture book writers who motivate and support each other in our goals of writing 12 picture book drafts in 12 months. 12 x 12 was founded by author Julie Hedlund and 2016 is its 5th year. In January I wrote two new picture book drafts and revised another I’ve been working on for a long time. I’ve attended two great webinars and am looking forward to another fabulous one tomorrow. And yesterday I posted the first 250 words of a PB for critique (this made me very nervous!).

In January I also joined a local SCBWI critique group that, although new to me, is established has some incredibly talented writers and illustrators. And I’m also participating in a “Read 1000 Picture Books in 2016” challenge. (If you are on Goodreads and want to connect, please look me up!) Here is what my dining room table looks like right now:

So far my favorite picture books have been the 2016 Newbery and Caldecott winners, which I bought last week. The Newbery winner this year is a picture book, which is remarkable since most years the award is presented to a middle grade novel. Last Stop on Market Street was written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson. This year's Caldecott winner, Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, was illustrated by Sophie Blackall and written by Lindsay Mattick. Both winners are AMAZING picture books with heartwarming stories and several "layers"—wonderful reads for both kids and adults. I can’t believe I had not read either book until last week. I will do much better in 2016!

I’d love to hear what your favorite picture books are. Please comment below if you’d like to share. Have a wonderful February, and Happy Writing!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy 2016!

Thanks to Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for hosting 
2016's first Poetry Friday Roundup! 

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2015 was an interesting year. I traveled to France and St. Lucia in the winter and spring, negotiated my first book contract over the summer, embarked upon an editing frenzy, ushered in my boys' teen years in October, and then learned that my publisher was closing in November. As the emotional dust settled following this news, I found myself in a strange place—no longer tied to deadlines and pre-publishing tasks, I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands. 

Because the holidays were imminent, this extra time turned out to be a huge blessing, and I enjoyed the most stress-free holiday season that I can remember, proving that—surprisingly—even this particular cloud had a silver lining. I’m not sure what 2016 will bring, but I am excited to see. This publishing journey is one filled with ups and downs, and MANY twists and turns (a lot like a great book, actually).

Because it is Poetry Friday, I'm sharing Robert Burns' Auld Lang Syne today. I hope you enjoy it!

Auld Lang Syne
by Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne...

To read the rest of Auld Lang Syne (and a wonderful history) click here

Happy New Year! May your 2016 be a year filled with JOY. HEALTH, and FUN!

Friday, December 4, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: “Snowball” by Shel Silverstein

Thanks to Buffy at Buffy's Blog for hosting Poetry Friday today!

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As I’ve mentioned before, Shel Silverstein is one of my all-time favorite poets. He had a knack for creating poetry that is smart, engaging, and entertaining—three of the “must haves” for kids’ poetry, in my opinion.

I love all of Silverstein’s poetry, but the poem I am sharing today is extra special because when I taught third grade, one of my students wrote it out on a piece of paper and gave it to me. He loved it and he knew that I would, too. This touched me so much that I’ve held onto it for 15 years. When I came across it a few weeks ago, I knew I needed to share it for a winter Poetry Friday post. I hope it makes you smile today!

by Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)

I made myself a snow ball as perfect as could be.
I thought I'd keep it as a pet and let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas and a pillow for it's head.
Then, last night it ran away.
But first -- it wet the bed.

Thanks, Alex, wherever you are!☺ Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and Happy Writing!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: Words of Hope from Emily Dickinson

Thanks to Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect for hosting Poetry Friday this week!
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This has been a difficult week. A few days ago I received the news that Sunscribe Publishers, the company I signed a 3-book contract with, is closing, which means that my books will not be published anytime soon. My publisher, who has poured so much of her time, talent, and energy into creating Sunscribe, is facing an unexpected and devastating medical diagnosis, and in the interest of her health is closing her fledgling company. I appreciate all of the time she has spent helping me edit and polish my manuscripts, and it is my hope and prayer that she will beat this disease and come through the battle stronger than ever. (You can read the company's announcement here.)

Looking forward, I know what I need to do—start submitting my books again. It feels strange and a bit scary to be back at square one, but I have been here before and know the drill. My favorite part of the submission process was always having “tiny pieces of hope” floating around out there in the world. So I’m holding tightly to hope right now, for my former publisher and for my books.   

One of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson is about hope, so I decided to share it for Poetry Friday this week. It is a wonderful reminder that, no matter how stormy life gets, HOPE is our faithful friend.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers 
by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and Happy Writing!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: Saluting Our Veterans

Thank you to Bridget at wee words for wee ones for hosting Poetry Friday this week!

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On our way to school Wednesday morning, my boys and I had a great discussion about Veterans Day and the true meaning behind the holiday. When I was growing up, we always had Veterans Day off of school. I remember talking about this at school each year, and recall the teachers emphasizing that Veterans Day is a special day to honor those who fought for our freedoms. It is sad to me that this is no longer a school holiday (at least where I live), but I am somewhat mollified each year when my boys come home and share how they observed the holiday at school.

In honor of Veterans Day, I am sharing a poem by American poet Joyce Kilmer, “Prayer of a Soldier in France.” This poem is especially poignant because Kilmer was killed in France during WWII at age 31. (For more posts about Joyce Kilmer, click here and here.)

Prayer of a Soldier in France
by Joyce Kilmer

My shoulders ache beneath my pack
(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back).

I march with feet that burn and smart
(Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart).

Men shout at me who may not speak
(They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek).

I may not lift a hand to clear
My eyes of salty drops that sear.

(Then shall my fickle soul forget
Thy Agony of Bloody Sweat?)

My rifle hand is stiff and numb
(From Thy pierced palm red rivers come).

Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me
Than all the hosts of land and sea.

So let me render back again
This millionth of Thy gift. Amen.

I hope your Veterans Day week was reflective and meaningful. Enjoy your weekend, and Happy Writing!

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Interesting Veterans Day fact: The correct spelling of this holiday is “Veterans Day” with no apostrophe. Since I am nit-picky about apostrophe usage, I looked this up. Here is the explanation from the website of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs:

Veterans Day does not include an apostrophe but does include an "s" at the end of "veterans" because it is not a day that "belongs" to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

SUNSHINE at last!

I am normally someone who enjoys cool, rainy fall days—it’s the perfect weather for settling in and getting some writing done, and encourages me to stay inside and work. However, after days and DAYS of rain, I am so happy to see the sun shining today!

There's some sunshine, and even some blue sky. We really hit the jackpot today!

I love the leaves in the fall, especially with sunlight filtering through, and with a stretch of several cool, SUNNY days in our upcoming forecast, I am looking forward to getting outside and catching up on my Vitamin D. I have gotten quite a bit of writing-related work accomplished over the last few weeks, though. What is your “perfect weather” for making progress with your writing, completing projects, or just staying focused and on task ? I am interesting in hearing what others have to say, so please share in the comments below!

I have another reason for celebrating today aside from the beautiful weather—I just found out that my poem “Monster Bash” was one of the Best Descriptive/Mood Piece winners in Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloweensie contest, which I posted about on October 30th! Thank you so much, Susanna! For a list of all the winners, including the outstanding top 10 (who won AMAZING PRIZES!!!), please check out Susanna’s post here

Have a wonderful week everyone, and Happy Writing! 

Friday, October 30, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: Monster Bash!

Thank you to Jone at Check it Out for hosting Poetry Friday this week! 
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This has been a fun, CRAZY week, and it all culminates this weekend with my twin boys’ 13th birthday party sleepover tonight, Halloween tomorrow night, and a family party on Sunday. And this afternoon I am sharing some wonderful spooky poetry with some fabulous fifth graders (but more about that next week!).

Earlier this week, I learned about Susanna Leonard Hill's Halloweensie Contest, where she challenged readers to write a short Halloween story of 100 words or less using three words: costume, haunt, and dark. (Thanks to Johnell for bringing this to my attention!☺) I always love a writing challenge, so I have been thinking about this during the last few days. Since my boys have invited seven 12- and 13-year-old boys to their party (translation: a total of NINE boys!!!!), I finally decided to write a little poem about a Monster Bash. I am not sure if it technically counts as a “story,” but I had a ton of fun writing it.

I hope you enjoy reading Monster Bash! Happy Halloween, and Happy Writing!

Monster Bash
By Becky Shillington

Monster Bash tonight—beware!
Come and join us, if you dare.
Grab your costume, shine your shoes,
Spiffy up, then come and schmooze.
Bob for eyeballs, conga line,
Pin the bolts on Frankenstein,
Walk the haunted treasure maze,
Dance the latest boogie craze,
Hear some spooky haunted tales,
Snack on roasted newts and snails.
When darkness falls, the fun begins,
So come and join the party, friends!
 ©2015 Becky Shillington