I just love Halloween. My kids do, too. About this time every year, they start to get fidgety with excitement and all they want to do is talk about Halloween, make Halloween crafts, tell spooky stories, and draw pictures of their costumes. I always try to find a way to work Halloween fun into their school work to keep them happy and focused. I’m guessing my kids are not the only ones out there with this problem, so I thought I would share this list of Halloween writing prompts.
1.It’s October 30th and you don’t have a costume yet. You decide to check out an old costume rental shop with your best friend. When you ask the little old lady who runs the shop for a spooky costume, she brings you an amazingly realistic monster costume. But something does not seem right…
2.Your parents take you and your brother to a pumpkin patch. The drive takes over an hour. When you finally get there, you make a surprising discovery. Instead of pumpkins, something else is growing in the field. What is it? What do you do?
3. You wake up on Halloween and can’t find your family. You check your parents’ room. You check your sister’s room. You rush in and out of every room in the house and then check the front and back yard. The cars are here, but your family is gone. You go back inside and find three black cats sitting on the sofa. You don’t own any cats. What do you do next?
4. You’re trick-or-treating with your sister. For the first time ever, your parents let you go out without them. You’re so excited! After a few houses, you see something strange in the street. A crowd has gathered and in the middle of the huddle you see a ….
5. Your mom brings home the most embarrassing Halloween costume in the world. You hate it, but she loves it. She says it was really expensive. What do you do? Do you wear it? If so, how do people react when you do? If not, what do you tell your mom?
6. Your piano teacher is a very strange, but kind woman. Each week, during your lessons in her home, you notice that she isn’t quite like other people. One day, you take a wrong turn on the way to the bathroom and you find a room full of…
7. On Halloween night, you hear a knock at the door. Expecting trick-or-treaters, you grab a bowl of candy and open the door. But the figure on your porch isn’t a trick-or-treater. Or even a person…
8.At the end of your street is an old house that no one has lived in for a long, long time. Your neighbor, Eric, thinks the house is haunted. You don’t believe him, but one night, you see a light on in the old house. You decide to go investigate. What do you find?
9. You wake up one night to a rustling sound. Something is in your room! You listen and realize it’s under your bed! You peek under the bed and find…
10. It’s 11:00 pm on Halloween night and you’re fast asleep in bed when a noise wakes you. You turn over in bed to see four bats fluttering around your room. What happens next?Read More
Great news! I am now represented by Jessica Reino at Metamorphosis Literary Agency.
If you’re a writer, or know writers, you probably know that the journey find a literary agent can be a long one. It was for me. Querying is a pain in the behind, but all of the hard work and rejection was worth it. I can’t wait to share the action-packed, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking middle-grade contemporary fantasy I wrote with the world. And Jessica is going to help me do that!
If you’re reading this and you are considering querying a book, you might want to know a bit about the process. I thought I’d share my experience with you all. Maybe it will help someone out there. Here are my tips for querying authors.
- Twitter is your friend! Really! I was never a huge fan of Twitter until I discovered the Twitter Writing Community. Authors, aspiring authors, agents, and editors all come together on the platform and really support one another. Agents will post with the tag #MSWL, which stands for manuscript wish list. Say you’ve written a sci-fi romance about mermaids in space. (I mean, hey, maybe it’s a thing!) You’d type “#MSWL mermaids space” into the Twitter search bar. And maybe, if you were lucky, you’d find an agent who posted a tweet that says, “I need mermaid romance set in space in my inbox ASAP!” You might have just found your perfect agent. Someone who is looking for exactly what you’ve written. My own agent posted something on her profile saying she was an invisible illness advocate. The protagonist of my latest book has an invisible illness so Jessica moved to the top of my list of agents to query.
- Personalize your query! Especially if you’ve found an agent begging for space mermaids on Twitter. Tell the agent why you picked them out of the sea of literary agents. It can only help you to do your research. I made sure to let Jessica know exactly why I was querying her.
- Don’t let the
mugglesrejections get you down! Your book isn’t for everyone. It’s not for every reader and it’s not for every agent. That’s okay. Even when it makes you feel like the world’s worst writer. Even when it makes you want to quit. You’ll get through it. I got so many rejections with my last book. I had to rewrite that thing a half-dozen times before I found a publisher. All of that hard work taught me to be a better writer. And when I queried my latest book, I only had a handful of rejections before finding the right agent. I truly believe that is because I learned from my mistakes. Every step of the process is teaching you something in the long run, even when it stings.
- QueryTracker is amazing! I’m not being paid to say this. I’m telling you this because it’s one of the best tools out there. If you’re planning to query a manuscript any time soon, do yourself a favor and head over to querytracker.net. This website lets you see statistics on agents. For example, you could look up an agent and find out that they only request a full manuscript about once every sixth months and haven’t made any offers in the past two years. Or that another agent doesn’t send rejection emails. Or that another is super fast and provides personalized feedback. You get the idea. You can also look at the current log of queries each agent has, and see where your query sits in line. So maybe you queried on September 5th. You can look and see that the agent has responded to everyone who queried before September 3rd, so you will probably hear back soon. Or that they’ve skipped you and responded a bunch of people who queried after you. It’s also great for just keeping track of all of those queries. You don’t want to forget and query the same agent twice!
- Be sure your book and query letter are ready before you begin. Find another writer to swap queries with. Get beta readers and critique partners to read your book before you query it. Maybe hire an editor if you’re struggling to find honest beta readers. Don’t send a first draft. And probably not a second draft, either. You don’t want to blow your shot because your manuscript just isn’t ready yet.
- Query a handful of agents at a time. This goes hand in hand with number five. You don’t want to send your query to all of your dream agents only to realize that you sent it out full of errors. Or that the manuscript needs a lot of work. Send your queries out in batches. That way, you can use any feedback you may receive to your advantage in your future queries.
I hope this helps! If you have any query tips of your own, please leave them in the comments below! Happy querying!Read More
So, um. I am bad at timely blogging. But my family and I have had some amazing adventures this year! At my count, we’ve had 28 adventures together so far. We’re 28 weeks into the year, so we’re right on track to have 52 amazing experiences before 2020. Life has been a bit insane. Some of has it good, like my publishing contract. Some of it has been stressful, like multiple hospital says for my kiddos. But through it all, we’ve stayed positive and we’ve had a lot of fun.
I love that homeschooling has allowed us the freedom to do this. Our hands-0n approach t0 life and learning not only makes education fun, it makes it impactful as well. And the time we spend together is precious! We’ve seen and done so much. I am so happy we decided to make adventure a priority in 2019.
Here’s a fast rundown of our adventures so far this year. These are in no particular order.
#1- A bear program in a National Park (Shenandoah in VA)
#2- The Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC
#6 Playing with goats and alpacas in Durham, NC
#8 Learning about history in Shenandoah National Park, VA
#12- Taking in the Great Smoky Mountains (and dancing, of course)
#15 – Dance nationals in Pigeon Forge, TN. And coming home a National Champion!
#16 Hiking the Appalachian Trail. Or as my six-year-old called it, the “Application Trail.”
#22 Loving Science at The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
#23 Meeting author Adam Rubin at Page 158 books in Wake Forest, NC
#24 Hiking in Raleigh, NC
Thanks for reading! I plan on giving a more detailed account of our time in Shenandoah National Park soon.
How is your year going? Has it been full of adventure?
My book will be published on April 28, 2020! In thirteen months! I am so excited!Read More
Back in December, I participated in #PitMad, a pitching contest on Twitter for authors. For those who aren’t familiar, authors tweet out pitches for their books. Agents and editors then favorite the pitches that they are interested in reading, and authors email them part of their manuscript. Then they wait, hoping that they hear back soon.
I pitched Grace’s Ghosts and got several requests. I sent off my query letter and partial manuscript to most of the people who requested it. And then, I waited. There’s a lot of waiting in publishing. After reading my initial query, a handful wanted to read the whole manuscript.
One of these was an editor at a small press called Immortal Works. After reading my entire manuscript, the editor emailed me with some feedback. She liked my story, but thought it needed a few tweaks. In publishing, this is called a “revise and resubmit.” It’s not a guarantee that a publisher will offer a contract if you make the changes, but it is a great sign. I made the requested edits, and soon thereafter, the editor told me she was going to take it to her board to recommend publication! Again, the book could be shot down at this stage, but I was pretty excited!
Two weeks ago today, I was getting ready to take my daughter to dance. On the way out the door, I checked my email on my phone. There was an email from the editor. I could tell from the preview line that it was good news. They were offering to publish my book! I let out a happy scream, jumped up and down, and hugged my confused kids. When I was able to verbally express what was going on, they screamed and hopped around the room with me.
The release date is not set as of now, but I will keep you updated. I can’t wait to share more news about my book with you all!Read More
To say the past week has been insane is an understatement.
It was about 9:30 am. I was talking to my mom on the phone. My kids were supposed to me watching a documentary about Africa for their homeschool geography lesson. About five minutes into the call, I heard my boys stomp up the stairs, but I decided to let it go. We could watch the documentary later. Moms, we’ve all been there, right? Sometimes you just need a few minutes of peace.
Shortly after they came upstairs, a scream rang through the house. “Hold on,” I told my mom, thinking that my youngest son was being dramatic. He’s prone to scream at the drop of a hat, and I was sure it was nothing major.
He pounded his little fists into my door, screaming again. I flung it open and asked, “What’s up, buddy?”
Tears streamed down his round cheeks as he sobbed, “I don’t want to die! My brother shoved a needle down my throat.”
“I gotta go,” I told my mom, and hung up without waiting for a reply.
“He shoved a needle down my throat!”
“And you swallowed it?”
“Yes!” he wailed.
“Get your shoes on,” I shout so all three kids can hear. “We’re going to the hospital!”
The kids scrambled to find their shoes, and I called the pediatrician to confirm that the ER was the place to go. She urged us to get there ASAP. I sent a quick text to my husband before pulling out of the driveway letting him know what was going on and asking him to meet us at the ER.
I spent the 30 minute drive filled with a stomach-roiling combination of fear and anger. What in the world were the boys doing? Why would my oldest put a needle in his brother’s mouth? Would my attempt to talk on the phone in peace cost my six year old his life? Shouldn’t my eleven year old have known better? I attempted to keep these thoughts to my self. Some of them stayed inside. Some of them I shouted at my eleven year old. “What were you THINKING??!!”
We were whisked back to a room faster than I ever had been in an ER. About 15 minutes later, my husband arrived. The staff took my son to get an X-ray, which I hoped would prove that he only thought he’d swallowed it. He bravely held still for his “picture”as the tech called it. I stood behind a small wall next to a computer monitor, which lit up with the image almost instantly.
I have zero medical training, unless you count watching every episode of Scrubs (which you shouldn’t). But I knew the second that screen lit up that there was a needle in my six year old’s abdomen.
“Oh dang,” I said looking at the screen.
“What did he eat?” the tech asked, a hint of shock in her voice.
“A sewing needle.”
“Oh, wow.” The responses stayed like this the entire time we were at the hospital. Lots of shock from the people who’ve seen it all. Another tech later seemed excited to get a chance to meet “The boy who ate the needle.”
Gathered back in the small ER patient room, my husband sternly asked the boys to explain how on Earth a needle ended up in my youngest’s abdomen. What they told us defies explanation.
Do y’all know what a stomp rocket is? I posted a picture below in case you’ve never seen one. Basically, it’s a tube with a pedal on one end. You put a foam rocket ship on the other end and when you stomp on the pedal, it shoots the rocket like 30 feet into the air. See those shocked little boys in the picture? They’re not amazed because their rocket went so high. No, no. They are flabbergasted that my boys removed the rocket from the end, shoved what turned out to be a sewing pin and not a needle (so one side is pointy, the other side has a plastic ball on the end) inside the tubing for the rocket. Then, they PUT THE TUBE IN MY SIX YEAR OLD’S MOUTH and my eleven year old stomped on it, launching it down his brother’s throat.
There just aren’t words for this. Why in the world did they do that? I’ll never know. To make it worse, they did it multiple times. The first few times, my six year old caught it in his mouth, spit it out, and handed it back to his brother to shoot in his mouth again. It was the third or fourth time that they misjudged and it flew down my son’s esophagus.
I asked my oldest what he was thinking. He responded, “He should know better than to trust me.” Ever the big brother.
The GI team tried to get the pin via endoscopy, but it moved out of their range before they could get it. Up to this point, I had stayed strong. We have medically complicated kids, so doctors and hospitals are not uncommon in our lives. When the surgeon walked way, I started to sob.
In the post-op room, my son woke up happy, thinking we were going to go home. The nurse sweetly explained that they couldn’t get the needle out of him. He looked at her and asked seriously, “Don’t you think it could damage my immune system to leave it in me?”
How can he be so smart and do something so dumb? I thought.
Then, for a horrifying 30-ish hours, it was stuck in the ileocecal valve, a valve between the small and large intestines that can be reached by neither endoscopy nor colonoscopy. We were told if it didn’t move, he would have to have invasive bowel surgery. Also, if/when it did move, it could perforate the bowels, in which case he would need to have surgery.
So we waited. And waited. And waited. My son was given a feeding tube that pumped massive amounts of something called “Go Lightly” into his stomach. And it made him go. Lightly would not describe how he went. I’ll leave that there. And we had to search though his poo. You know the expression, “looking for a needle in a haystack?” Yeah, I’ll take the haystack over the poostack any day.
He was unable to have anything but clear liquids, much to his chagrin. This boy loves to eat. I skipped as many meals as I could, not wanting to leave him alone to eat in the cafeteria and feeling too guilty to eat in front of him.
Eventually, the needle left the ileocecal valve and moved into the colon. Debate went back and forth for a day and a half about if he should pass it naturally or if the GI team should go back and get it via colonoscopy. I wanted them to take it out that moment, but they decided that it was best to keep him there, observe, and hope it came out. He had many, many x-rays tracking the pin’s movement. Finally, after four days, an x-ray showed that the pin had “evacuated,” and my son was allowed to go home.
In the middle of all of this chaos, something very major happened in my writing career. Stress and situation prevented me from being able to celebrate it, but I will share that news with you all soon.
I am beyond relieved that my son is okay. You would never know anything bad happened to him. I tried to make some jokes in this post, but in reality, it was terrifying. I am so thankful that my sweet son is safe.
But I took his stomp rocket away from him.
Our First Week of 2019
If I am going to be completely honest, our first family adventure of 2019 almost didn’t happen.
I had plans to visit a specific nature center Thursday or Friday. But it was raining Thursday and the forecast for the weekend was great. I decided to rearrange our plans to go on our adventure on Sunday. But then, on Friday I woke up with a cold. I spend Friday and Saturday feeling pretty awful. My throat felt like someone shoved a wire brush down it. My nose was clogged, and my head throbbed with every movement. But Sunday morning, I woke up and felt better.
But my six year old didn’t. My poor youngest son started feeling sick on Saturday and was not doing well Sunday. I thought about skipping this week. Or going on two adventures next week to make up for it. But here’s the thing. There will always be obstacles in the way of my goals. Skipping the first week was no way to start my challenge. Even if the whole family could not go, I knew I needed to start this challenge off right.
So I made the choice to visit a nature preserve closer to home with the older two kids. It’s been on my to-do list forever. And I am so glad we did!
Turnipseed Nature Preserve is beautiful! The 265 acre preserve is located in Wendell, NC, about 25 minutes from Raleigh. There are a few different trail options, but we took the Boulder Trail.
A sign at the beginning of the trail showed us how to spot signs of the wildlife that lives nearby. While we saw a few birds and squirrels, that was it for spotting wildlife. But we did see lots of beaver lodges and dams! The kids were so excited! Once, years ago, a friend of mine who works at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, WA gave us a private viewing of some animals, including a beaver. The kids loved the beaver and have continued to think that beavers are pretty cool animals ever since.
After observing the lodges and dams, we decided that we’d dedicate some time learning about beavers this week.
Even though our adventure was not what we planned, we had a great time. The kids are so excited to learn more about beavers, and they can’t wait to come back with their dad and little brother. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring!
I am already working on more free printables for hiking and learning about animals! If you’re interested in getting your hands on these free printables, be sure to follow my blog!
Have you started your own adventuring for 2019? Tell me about it in the comments!