Check Out the Trailer for Grace’s Ghosts
I’m so happy with the trailer for my upcoming middle-grade fantasy novel, Grace’s Ghosts! It releases three weeks from today, but you can already preorder it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indie Bound!
Let me know what you think of the video in the comments.
How I got a Literary Agent
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!
52 Family Adventures Halfway-ish Point Update
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
#3- Fishing at the KOA in Harriosnburg, VA
#5- Meeting a hungry groundhog while exploring Gatlinburg, TN
#6 Playing with goats and alpacas in Durham, NC
#7 Ripley’s Believe it or Not in Gatlinburg, TN
#8 Learning about history in Shenandoah National Park, VA
#9 Hiking Dark Hollow Falls in Shenandoah National Park, Va
#10 Exploring the wilderness near Harrisonburg, VA
#11 Embracing nature at The State Arboretum of Virginia
#12- Taking in the Great Smoky Mountains (and dancing, of course)
#13 Hiking to High Knob Tower in WV
#14 Climbing Stony Man in Shenandoah National Park
#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.”
#17 Finding our own private waterfall in Shenandoah National Park, VA.
#18 Hiking Mary’s Rock in Shenandoah National Park
#19 Exploring Durant Nature Preserve in Raleigh, NC
#20 Mountain Coaster in Pigeon Forge, TN
#21 Exploring Yate’s Mill Park in Raleigh, NC
#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
#25 Trying out a drama class in Raleigh, NC
#27 Nature journaling in Wendell, NC
#28 Exploring Luray Caverns in Luray, VA
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?
Grace’s Ghosts Has a Release Date!
After sending my first round of edits to my editor over at Immortal Works, I was given a release date for Grace’s Ghosts!
My book will be published on April 28, 2020! In thirteen months! I am so excited!
Be sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date on book news.
I Have a Publishing Contract!
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!
Needles and X-rays and Poo. Oh My.
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.
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!
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?
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Expose them to lots of great books. Good readers make good writers!
- Buy them cute notebooks and fun pencils or pens. For some kids, a unicorn notebook or a rocket pencil can make all the difference.
- 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.
- Play storytelling games like Story Cubes or Create a Story. Telling stories aloud gets kids in the right mindset to write.
- 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!