A Writer’s Life- Querying

Here’s an update for those who like to keep up with my writing. I am currently querying three manuscripts. If you’re not a writer, you probably have no clue what  that means. Querying is the process of trying to find a literary agent. It involves a lot of emailing a lot of rejection.

Querying works like this: an author gets a short email to pitch their book, and then, depending on the agent’s guidelines, 5-50 pages of the manuscript are also included. Hopefully, the agent likes the pitch well enough to read those pages. If they really like the pages, the agent will ask for more. Finally, if the agent loves the rest of the manuscript, they will offer to represent you and try to sell your book to publishers.

It sounds simpler than it is. Agents get hundreds of emails a month. Most only take on a few new clients per year. The vast majority of the time, the answer from the agent is no-if they even reply to the query at all. Because they get so many emails, a lot of agents no longer reply to rejections. The author is left to wait and assume that they’ve been rejected.

There are some agents out there who choose to take time out their busy schedules to explain why a particular project isn’t for them, however an author can’t expect this kind of feedback. The agents are just too busy.

I’ve met authors who sent more than 200 queries before they found an agent. I’ve met authors who only queried a few agents and they all said yes. It’s a crazy process, but hopefully, in the end, a rewarding one.

These are the projects I am querying right now:

Grace’s Ghosts is a middle grade fantasy novel. It’s a little bit creepy and full of magic adventure, humor, family, and friendship.

Toby: The (Mostly) True Story of a Former Bad Dog is a humorous chapter book. It’s a fictionalized story inspired by dogs I’ve known and loved.

 

Bigfoot in Space follows the Bigfoot Family as they leave Earth behind and search for a planet with more privacy. It’s a picture book.

 


I know some of you are thinking, Didn’t you self-publish your other books? Wouldn’t that be easier than going through all of this?

I did self-publish my other books. Unfortunately, I have regretted that from day one. It’s hard to break into the children’s market as a self-published author. While the Nellie Nova series has done well for an Indie project, I feel like I’d rather have an agent and a publisher on my side for future projects.

I’ll keep at the querying process and hopefully, with time, I’ll find the right agent. I can’t wait to see my manuscripts become published books!

Are you an author? Have you been in the querying trenches? Tell me about it in the comments!

Halloween Science Roundup

 

My kids love Halloween. The only thing they love more than Halloween is science. Combining the two always makes for great fun. I’ve collected an assortment of fun, Halloween-themed science experiments from around  the web. Check them out!

 

Halloween Science Experiments and Activities from Little Bins for Little Hands

19 Spooky STEM Projects For Kiddos This Halloween from BuzzFeed

Ghost Rockets for Kids from Growing a Jeweled Rose

Dancing Frankenworms from Playdough  to Plato

Boo Bubbles from Steve Spangler Science

Halloween Science Experiments from Creekside Learning

31 Days of Halloween STEM Activities and Projects from STEAM Powered Family

20 Halloween STEM Activities from The Homeschool Resource Room

I had fun finding all of these fun Halloween science activities. I can’t wait to do some of them with my kids! I hope you and the kids in your life enjoy them!

 

 

Home Again

Okay. I know I said we were done homeschooling.

We bought 12 green folders, 76 glue sticks, 2 blue binders, one purple, and one white. We bought special headphones, name-brand pencils, rain ponchos, new backpacks, and one really expensive calculator. My daughter planned her first day of school outfit for a month.

The first day finally came. They looked pretty cute. They went to that first day and came home fairly happy. There were of course, a few issues, but none of us expected it to be perfect.

As time went on, however, the little issues became bigger.

My oldest has a lot of medical issues. Right after the school year began, he had what I could best describe as a medical crisis. He missed a lot of school.  As many days as he attended, he missed all or part of the day for illness or medical testing. It was a scary time. And it reminded me of why we homeschooled to start with. When you homeschool, you can change the time of your math lesson to work around a neurologist appointment. With homeschooling, you can have science lessons while you have an at-home EEG. At home, he wouldn’t have missed so much.

We figured out what was causing his health issues and he was doing so much better. But I just wanted to be with my son. I didn’t want to send him away again after having to worry about him. And I wanted to know that if he faced another medical crisis, we could ensure that his academics would not suffer.

I considered having the other two continue to attend school, but we had worries about younger son’s allergies were being handled at school. Protocols weren’t being followed. We could have fought the school on it, but we didn’t really want to.

My daughter is a free spirit. She marches to the beat of her own drum. While she made school work, I could see that spending all day conforming was squashing her spirit and I didn’t want that.

We pulled them out three weeks into the school year.

Thankfully, we were able to get them back into their homeschool classes and co-op and it’s been an easy transition.

My cuties on a field trip we took with our homeschooling group to the State Crime Lab

 

 

If nothing else, we can say we tried it. Maybe it was a failed experiment, but you don’t know until you try, right?

Currently, my kids are learning about Edgar Allan Poe, writing Halloween stories at home, and taking classes in mythology, archaeology, chemistry, and current events with their homeschool group. They’re also taking classes with co-op and obviously learning math, language arts, and history at home.

Life is good. My babies are home and we’re ready for new adventures.

The End of an Era

For the past eleven years, I have spent nearly every day with my kids. They’ve never gone to school. I’ve not held a 9-5 job that required daycare. They’ve of course attended classes, camps, and spent time with family members or babysitters, but the majority of their time has been with me.

That all changes August 15th when they go to school for the first time.

My daughter asked to go to school several months ago. I applied for some charter schools in my area and all three kids got into a school with an amazing reputation. It’s everything I could ask for in a school- small class size, hands on learning, lots of field trips etc. All of the kids are excited.

In less than a month, my time as a homeschooling mom will end. We’ve known for a few months and I am still wrapping my brain around it. I have loved being there for my sweet kids as they learned how to read. I have loved watching them develop interests in academic areas. I have truly enjoyed field trips and messy projects with them. There have been tough moments, but homeschooling has been such a sweet part of our lives and I will miss it- and my kids.

This change will allow for me to focus more on my writing and my health. It will allow them to form new friendships. I would be lying if I tried to say I was not nervous. And sad. Back-to-school sales have left me misty eyed as I realized we did not need to get ready for another homeschool year.

But I am trying to look forward to what comes next. I can’t even imagine how much more writing I will be able to get done when I am not solely responsible for their education. My house will be cleaner. I can actually rest when my autoimmune disease flares up.  I am sure that that they will enjoy their school days.

And I will always be here if  they want to come home. Because that’s what moms are for.

Summer Reading List for Strong Girls

 

Most parents and teachers want to be sure that kids keep reading all summer long. Experts say that kids should read every day to maintain their reading skills learned in the previous school year. The summer is a great time to explore books that kids would not get the chance to read during the school year. For moms of girls, it’s a great time to introduce some strong female protagonists. It’s so important for girls to have great role models in media.

Check out this summer reading list to inspire strong girls. This list is aimed at independent elementary-aged readers, but many of these books make wonderful read-alouds for younger readers as well.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda was one of my favorite books as child. I was so excited when I first got to share it with my own daughter. Matilda is smart, strong, and loves to read. This fun story appeals to both girls and boys alike and has captured children’s hearts for decades.

Nellie Nova series by Stephenie Peterson

I wrote Nellie Nova Takes Flight and Nellie Nova’s Summer on the Run because I wanted to inspire girls.

Nellie appears to be a normal nine year old girl. But Nellie is not normal. Nellie is an amazingly gifted scientist who lives in a family of amazingly gifted scientists. One day, her brother, Niles, who is eleven, teases her, as all respectable big brothers do. This time, however, Niles goes too far when he tells Nellie that girls are silly and no woman has ever changed the world. This sets off a spark of an idea in Nellie’s most amazing mind and sends her down the path to create a time machine and meet wonderful women who made a mark on the world. First stop, Amelia Earhart! With a few bumps along the way and a government agency out to steal her technology, Nellie and Niles are in for an incredible adventure!

In the second book, Nellie and her brother go on to meet Sacagawea and reporter Nellie Bly, but not without more trouble from those pesky government agents.

 

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

 

I love Pippi! A little bit wild and always full of adventure, Pippi Longstocking is fiercely independent, brave, and owns a monkey. Pippi Longstocking is a great summer read for girls of all ages. I might just re-read it myself this summer.

 

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

My nine year old wants nothing more than to be a spy right now. Harriet the Spy was a favorite of mine as a child and I can’t wait for my daughter to read it this summer. Harriet is an aspiring writer who meticulously writes about everything going on around her. When her classmates find her notebook, she’s faced with questions about honesty and friendship.

 

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 

I read this book over and over again as a child. Anne was my favorite literary character for a long time. Her ever-optimistic character always inspired me to look on the bright side, and her rebellious streak reminded me never to settle. It’s the perfect summer read!

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

This is the kind of book that sticks with you! My kids and I listened to the audiobook version of it and we all felt like we’d lost a friend when it ended. All of the characters are lovable, but Luna is such a fine example of a strong girl. Full of magic, mystery, and a tiny dragon, it’s just the kind of a book your daughter will love on her summer reading list.

I hope you enjoy this summer reading list for strong girls. Did I miss any books that you love?

My Newest Project- Grace’s Ghosts

 I haven’t been as active on my blog lately. I  tend to have seasons when I am more or less active with my blog. My newest book, Grace’s Ghosts, has kept me so busy that I have neglected this blog.  After many months of hard work, I am finally at a point where I feel ready to share a bit about this project with you all. It’s been a labor of love and I am so excited to tell you all about it.

About Grace’s Ghosts

 Grace lived a quiet life in the tiny town of Tansy. She spent her days at Tansy School, where she was bullied relentlessly. At home, her best friend and cat, Midnight was always by her side. Did I mention that her cat wasn’t exactly alive? None of her friends were.

 While not many people lived in Tansy, thousands of spirits spent their afterlife there, and Grace was the only person who could see them.

 Until the morning of her thirteenth birthday, Grace was content to live her quiet, geeky life with no living friends. As she woke that day, she became aware that every inch of her bedroom was bursting with ghosts.The spirits told her that they were cursed and that any person who ever so much as set foot in the town of Tansy would be doomed to spend their afterlife there. The ghosts suspected that a witch named Lavina had cursed the town three-hundred years before. They begged Grace to find a way to break the witch’s spell.

 Grace couldn’t let down her dead friends, so she agreed to help.This decision led her to make discoveries, not only about the curse and the witch who cast it, but also about her own family, and ultimately, herself. There was a reason Grace alone could see the spirits of her village. She was a powerful mage.

 The journey to break Lavina’s curse is far from easy. Thankfully, Grace befriends other mages to help along the way. Can she break the curse and save her town? If she succeeds,can she endure the pain of saying goodbye to Midnight and all of her paranormal friends? If she fails, will she be doomed to spend her afterlife trapped in Tansy?

 Grace’s Ghosts is a great read for tweens. I am currently seeking representation for this project, so publication could still be a while off, but I wanted to tell all of you what I have been so busy with the past several months.  Let me know what you think. Would you or your child be excited to read my newest book?

The Last Time

My oldest son is going to turn eleven in two and a half weeks. It’s hard to comprehend. I swear, he was a baby fifteen minutes ago.

 

His journey has not been an easy one. From pre-term labor scares to a brain injury at birth, from motor skills delays to an eventual diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy, from ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder, to Asperger’s, from epilepsy which has followed him around like a dark cloud from the day of his birth to memory struggles relating to the seizures, from years where he wasn’t growing and I had to beg doctors to pay attention to the eventual diagnosis of Growth Hormone Disorder, this boy has had to be a fighter since he came out of the womb.

 

We named him Keagan in the womb. It’s Irish, like my Grandma, and it means “little and fierce.” He’s had to live up to his name every single day of his life.  He’s seen more doctors and specialists in his short life than most elderly folks have in a life time. Currently, he averages 14 appointments a month.

 

And now, here he is, almost eleven. He’s smart, sweet, funny, and a fighter.  That child could out-read most adults, and began reading before he turned two. He’s obsessed with science and frequently educates the adults around him about a wide variety of scientific topics. But sometimes, he shuts down. Prone to selective mutism, sometimes language is just too much for his overstimulated brain, so he turns it off to protect himself. Sometimes, when there is too much sensory input for his brain to process, he melts down. He can get violent, especially with me. I don’t say this to insult my son. He’s the light of my life. I say this to give an honest picture of what our day to day lives look like in my home. I understand that my son isn’t mean or bad. When the meltdown passes, he is apologetic and back to his sweet self.

 

Though there are clear differences from my son and other boys his age, he’s also very much an almost-eleven-year-old boy. He loves Star Wars, Mine Craft, and Lego.  He’s also getting too cool for his mama, which brings me to the story I set out to tell with this blog post.

 

This morning, he climbed into my lap, wrapped his arms around me in a a tight hug, and held me in silence for several minutes. I held him back, running my fingers through his hair like I did when he was a baby. I breathed in his scent. I squeezed back. I gave him every bit of my attention for those minutes.

 

Eventually, his brother popped out of his bedroom and called him away to go play and he scampered off happily. I never got an explanation for why he wanted to climb into my lap, but I am glad that he did.

 

The thing is, these cuddling sessions are less and less frequent. One day, probably not too far into the future, my little fighter will climb into my lap for the last time. I won’t know it is the last time, nor will he, but it will be the end of an era. He’s a hugger, an I know I will always get affection from my son, however his days of climbing into Mama’s lap are numbered.

 

I can’t help but think back to the day after his birth. He’d just started seizing and the doctors had discovered a brain bleed. They had to transfer him to another hospital fifty miles away and I was not allowed into the ambulance. Before they swept him away from me, I got a moment to be with him. Panic stricken, I worried it could be the last time I held him. Thank God, it wasn’t. But that moment came back to me this morning. He lived for many more years on his mama’s lap.

 

I am so grateful for my son’s life. And I am not going to take his cuddles for granted. I am going to hold on tight when he crawls into my lap. I will savor the moment when he climbs into my lap because that last time is eminent. How blessed I am to get to have this era come to an end naturally instead of through tragedy.

 

Hold on to your kids. So many “lasts” sneak up on you and you miss them. Try to be present for the ones that count.

14 LOVE-ly Writing Prompts for Valentine’s Day

  1. On Valentine’s Day, you wake up and find a large box of chocolates with a note signed by “Your Secret Admirer.” Who might have sent it? How do you solve the mystery?

  2. What does love mean to you?

  3. Write an acrostic poem for the word “Love,” “Valentine,” or “Candy.” In an acrostic poem, the first letter of every line spells out a word. IE: If you were writing about dogs, your first line would begin with the letter D, the second line O and so on.

  4. Think about a time when you felt very loved. Write about it. Explain why you felt loved.

  5. Do you know a couple in love? Who are they? Tell how you know that they love one another.

  6. You’re at a Valentine’s Day party when suddenly, Cupid arrives! He’s got his arrow of love pointed right at you! What do you do?

  7. Who are three people you love? Explain why you love them.

  8. Write about a book you love. Give at least three reasons you love it.

  9. If you were to create your own conversation hearts candies to give your friends, what would they say?

  10. Do you like Valentine’s Day? Give at least three reasons why or why not.

  11. The week before Valentine’s Day, you find an old stack of love letters at the park. There are fourteen in all. Do you read them? If so, what do they say? Do you try to track down the owner of the letters? Who wrote them?

  12. On Valentine’s Day, you go to the zoo with your family. When you get there, something unusual happens. Explain what happened and how you respond.

  13. When you wake up on Valentine’s Day, everything is pink and red. The walls of your bedroom. Your breakfast. Your dad. Everything! What do you do? Does the world ever go back to normal?

  14. One Valentine’s card changes everything. What does it say?

 

Nellie Nova Giveaway!

Just Add Coffee- The Homeschool Coupon Mom is hosting a giveaway of either Nellie Nova book on her blog! Check it out and you might win your own copy of Nellie Nova! While you’re at it, check out the site! It’s fun and informative!  There’s also a review of both Nellie Nova books, so you can learn more about the series and just how much kids love Nellie!

Who doesn’t love a giveaway? I know I do! Click the image below to see the details! Find out more about Alison and her great blog on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

7 Tips to Encourage Kids to Write in the New Year

The New Year is a great time to look at what we’re doing as parents, teachers, or homeschoolers. I am all about goal setting in my homeschool. One of my main areas of focus in 2018 is writing.

I frequently hear from parents who have a hard time getting their kids to write.  Actually, if I am being honest, I have one child who I have to beg to write.  Even though he loves books and has a mother who is an author, he still isn’t a huge fan of writing. A lot of this stems from motor skills delays. I will get into that later in the article, but motor skills delays cause frustration when writing for a lot of kids.

Parents worry so much about writing, but there are so many ways to encourage your kids to write. Here’s a few that I hope help you!

  1. Use Writing Prompts. I’ve linked to some that I created on this site, but you can find more all over the web. Sometimes, the hardest part about writing is just getting started.
  2. Use voice typing software. Google Docs has free, built-in voice typing software as long as you use it with Chrome. All three of my kids enjoy writing this way. Their vocabularies are bigger when speaking than when writing and their hands don’t tire when voice typing. This is especially true for my eldest, who has a variety of motor skills delays. His brain and his hands don’t work on the same level. If he’s asked to hand write something, it’s like pulling teeth to get a few sentences out of him. With voice typing, he can write a five paragraph essay.
  3. Expose them to lots of great books. Good readers make good writers!
  4. Buy them cute notebooks and fun pencils or pens. For some kids, a unicorn notebook or a rocket pencil can make all the difference.
  5. Cut pictures out of magazines and ask your kids to create a story about the picture. It would be easy to fill a notebook with several pages like this to make this an easy to repeat activity. I did this activity with my Creative Writing students at co-op and they loved it. Just make sure to choose pictures that lead to story telling. A head shot of a man in a business suit is harder to tell a story about than a photo of a dog wearing a tutu.
  6. Play storytelling games like Story Cubes or Create a Story. Telling stories aloud gets kids in the right mindset to write.
  7. Allow them to write about their interests.  If you have a child who is obsessed with dinosaurs or ballet, it’s okay if a lot of their writing includes this interest. It might be boring for you to read 23 dinosaur stories in week, but a lot of authors have made careers out of such things.

How do you encourage your kids or students to write? Let me know in the comments!