Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018 in Review



2018 was a rough year at our house, but it had a lot of bright spots. While you're on the roller coaster, the heights can be as scary as the depths. But looking back, it's easier to see the good.

In January, we dropped Robyn off in another state to attend her first semester of college.



Near the end of the month, I helped with out regional SCBWI conference in Las Vegas. That was both more rewarding and more exhausting than I expected it to be. Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary critiqued one of my picture book manuscripts through that conference, although she wasn't able to attend. Karen asked if she could send the manuscript to some editors without signing me as a client, and I agreed. She doesn't represent fantasy, which I write a lot of, so we agreed that we weren't a great long-term fit. I have really enjoyed working with her, though. She doesn't seem to procrastinate anything. I never felt neglected or ignored.

In February, the Poets' Garage accepted my application for membership. This lovely group of people definitely created some bright spots. I'd never had a poetry critique partner before, and suddenly I had a whole group of published children's poets offering advice and encouragement. I wrote A LOT more poetry in 2018. Through the Poet's Garage, I learned about the Madness! Poetry Tournament that happens annually in March, and I applied.

I also developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in February. Not so fun. I was two or three weeks into a drawing class that I'd really been excited about. On the bright side, it's an online class through Storyteller Academy, and I can retake it anytime. On the dark side, I now have a history of fear and suffering associated with drawing.

In March, I made it to the Sweet Sixteen round of the Madness! Poetry Tournament. If anyone reading this voted for my poems, THANK YOU!

The first weekend in April, we spent a weekend up at Ben's parents. Robyn caught a ride to Salt Lake, so we all hung out for a couple of days before she had to go back. And then she came down for Spring Break between her two semesters. This is probably the first year that we've missed the Clark County Fair since we've lived in Nevada.

By the end of May, my carpal tunnel had healed and I'd been released as primary president (heavy burden lifted). I visited Nellis Airforce Base with a bunch of fifth graders.



We attended Gwenyth's last May Day Dance.



In June, we visited the elephant seals and zebras in San Simeon, CA. Hearst Castle is incredible. I highly recommend the area as a vacation spot. That trip made me realize that I need to visit the ocean more often.







Robyn finished her second semester in July, so the kids and I went on a grand road trip through six states. We picked up Robyn, visited Yellowstone, and spent some time with their grandparents. I also recommend Yellowstone.







I started off August by quitting the part-time job I've had with Clark County Parks and Recreation for the last eight years.

I attended a SCBWI picture book critique group in Las Vegas for the first time. Our Illustrator Coordinator, Ken Lamug, runs the group, and he always invites me. It was a great experience. They gave me excellent feedback, and it was really fun to see everyone. I edit/coordinate the newsletter for SCBWI Nevada, so I already knew most of the group from email interaction.

I also read some of my children's poems (by invitation) in a big community event, and I started taking a 12-week in-person business class. Both were outside my comfort zone. Both proved rewarding.



I started reading self-help books in September, which led to using affirmations and ended up being more helpful than I expected. The friend (Annie Leavitt) who recommended the books started a local self-help book club, which I joined. I'm hoping to figure out meditation in 2019.

Also in September, I started moderating workshops and taking on various other jobs for Arree Chung at Storyteller Academy. He gave me the green light to start posting on the blog again. Working for Arree and immersing myself in Storyteller Academy again turned out to be just what I needed.

At the beginning of October, my friend Annie challenged me to set a date to query agents with my YA fantasy, so I wrapped up that revision by the end of the month and started personalizing queries.

November brought the completion of my business class, Arree's Black Friday Bootcamp, and his launch of Makers. If you want to (or already do) write and/or illustrate picture books, and you haven't checked out Makers, you absolutely should. And no, I don't get paid any kind of commission. I have a high opinion of the instructors and curriculum.

Aside from giving me a double dose of the flu, December had some encouraging moments. If any of them lead to something I can tangibly call success, I'll let you know in 2019.

How was your 2018?




Monday, October 2, 2017

Keep a Morning Journal as Self-Care

I wrote a post for Storyteller Academy today about keeping a morning journal as self-care. I also talked a bit about the shooting in Las Vegas. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Revising Myself

The 12-week class that I mentioned in my last post finished last night with an interactive discussion with Editor Kate Farrell. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say the class has been life-changing. The instructor, Arree Chung, spent more time focusing on our creative process than anyone I've ever taken a class from.

He's the sort of person you can't say "can't" around without being told not to limit yourself. 

Isn't that the coolest book trailer? 
Arree worked for Pixar before he started creating picture books.

I bought into his class with the expectation that I'd complete my first picture book dummy by the end of it. I'm coming out of the class with so much more than that. 

Yes, I completed (and revised) my first picture book dummy, and I learned facts about design that will forever change the way I approach my picture book manuscripts.

I also gained an amazing critique group that will continue to meet, good friends whose work I believe in.

But my most important takeaway has been a change in the way I approach my work, both writing and illustrating. The morning pages Arree had us write clear away my anxiety, making it easier to work, and I'm finding solutions to story problems through taking walks and through drawing. Meeting regularly with a group of people who are working toward the same goals has been incredibly motivating. It's a healthier approach to creating stories. 

I feel like I'm revising myself as much as I'm revising my stories. It's a great feeling.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Crafting Outside My Comfort Zone

So, I did something kind of crazy today. I signed up for a 12-week picture book author/illustrator class where (if I understood correctly) I'll share picture book dummies with my instructor and a critique group every other Thursday. The class starts this Saturday. 



I am not an illustrator. 

BUT, I've been doodling and sketching for as long as I can remember, and I've wanted to learn how to make picture book dummies for years. I've attended workshops on it. I've purchased how-to books. Last year, I even joined a picture book critique group composed of mostly author/illustrators to push myself in that direction. 

But I only shared manuscripts.

I'm totally a chicken about sharing any sort of art with people. I can share my writing. But I have this block about art. My older sister is the artist in our family, and she's amazing. My style, if you can call it a style, will never be anything like hers. 

Maybe that's okay. Maybe that's even a good thing. I'm excited (and apprehensive) about where this class might take me. 

Are you trying anything this year that's outside your comfort zone?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Remodeling

About a month ago, Dax discovered a damp, moldy patch of carpet under his little sister's bed. We had a sneaky leak in the bathroom that ran under the vinyl tiles and through the wall. Gross.

The wall and the floor in the girls' room was visibly in a lot worse shape than the bathroom, but the bed had hidden the damage. So, the girls slept on couches for a few weeks. We replaced the moldy bits. Their room doesn't look any different than it did before the damage.

The bathroom, on the other hand, needed more of an overhaul. Ben took out the toilet (that just kept finding new ways to leak) and the shower (that had mold growing underneath it). Dax pried up the vinyl floor tiles. A large section of the wooden floor had to come out, as did some of the sheetrock. They've been replaced. When we've painted and put in a new toilet and shower, it will look and function SO much better than the bathroom we've had for the last 13 years, but it's going to take a lot more time and money than the bedroom did.

I've been thinking about how, as a writer, I've found that different stories need different kinds of remodeling at different stages.

Last year, I added two point-of-view characters to my YA fantasy. It was a rip-out-the-tub-and-toilet remodel, and it took a couple of drafts to nail down the characters. I'm getting notes back from readers on my latest draft that indicate my next draft will be more of a mud-and-tape-the-uglies job. Then I can finish it with a shiny coat of new paint. At least, that's the plan. I'm currently 15 drafts into this story.

A little over a week ago, Shelley Moore Thomas (AKA The Storyqueen) announced her intent to write seven picture book drafts in seven days, asking if anyone wanted to join her. I didn't need seven new drafts. Thanks for Julie Hedlund's 12x12, I already have a bunch of drafts that need revising. So I told Shelley that as long as the drafts could be revisions, I was in.

We both cranked out seven drafts. Yay! Some of my revisions were more drastic than others. I killed some darlings, especially in the manuscript I thought had the most potential, and my picture book critique group agreed that it was submission ready when I shared it a few days later.

Currently, I'm expanding a picture book into a chapter book series. It may even end of turning into a middle grade series, but at this point I think it makes more sense as a chapter book series. The picture book was written in first person, present tense. I'm rewriting it in close third, past tense. The main character has a different name, and now the story is rooted in the real world. I like it. I think it will be well worth the effort when I've finished.

And so will our bathroom. :o)

Are you tackling any projects this summer?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday Writing Fun

Did you catch the ALA awards this morning? I hope you saw some of your favorites listed. :o)

It's been a good morning so far at my house: One picture book revision down. One MG chapter revision to go. I'm going to squeeze this blog post, some laundry, and an upper body workout in between.

If you write picture books, today is the last day you can sign up for Meg Miller's Revise More Picture Books Challenge. It's free. If you're participating and want to swap revisions for critique, let me know in the comments. I'm shooting for five PB revisions this week.


Tomorrow, Julie Hedlund opens registration for new members of 12x12. This one isn't free, but the price includes monthly webinars with awesome writers, editors, and agents. Last year, Jane Yolen's webinar was by far my favorite. This year, I'm most looking forward to the webinars by Tara Lazar, Miranda Paul, and Peter Reynolds.

Speaking of Miranda Paul, have you seen Emily Arrow's take on WATER IS WATER?


And if you aren't already subscribed to KidLit411, they're giving away prizes all week for their annual Birthday Bash.

What are your favorite writing challenges or support groups?

Happy Monday!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Happy Ending

I made real changes in 2015. 

I gave my notice at work in January, telling them that I'd finish out the school year and that I'd be willing to sub for whomever they hired. I loved my teaching job, but it was time to quit. 

I also signed up for a membership with Julie Hedlund's 12x12 in January. 


I have this driving need to write picture books, so I thought I'd better do something with it.  Writing a couple of new picture book stories a year just wasn't helping me master the craft. Julie's challenge to write 12 new picture books in 12 months was exactly what I needed. I wrote them. I revised over and over and over again. I went from getting no response or a form response to my queries to getting compliments from agents. The last half of the year, I stopped querying to just focus on my craft because I could see my writing improving. I even wrote a few rhyming manuscripts, something I haven't managed in over five years. Poems and rhyming picture books are different art forms.

In February, I used Scrivener to revise my MG space opera. I'm still not an expert at using the new software, but after many years of using MS Word, I wouldn't say I know everything about Word, either. I'm like the software, and I'll use it again. I might even be good at it someday. :o)

In March, I had an unexpected conversation with an agent at Writing for Charity. She'd written out a page and a half of fantastic notes for my picture book manuscript, and I went into our session thinking that we'd be discussing picture books. She steered the conversation around to my novels, specifically the YA fantasy that I hadn't touched in almost a year. By the end of our conversation, I knew how to revise it, and she asked me to please send it to her when I finished. Then she sat by me at dinner, and we discussed picture books. I actually met with two agents at Writing for Charity. I wasn't impressed with the second one. It was a valuable experience for me because now I know what I'm looking for in an agent. 

I didn't finish that beastly revision of my YA fantasy until November, but I DID finish it. It isn't ready for agent eyes yet. I did the heavy lifting, and I'll fine tune it in 2016.

Meanwhile, I'm revising the space opera again. Going back to a story after months away makes it so much easier to see what it needs.

Looking back over the year, quitting my job was exactly what I needed. I'm still helping out at the preschool. Next week, I'm subbing for the teacher all week. But quitting that job allowed me to change my focus. I made a lot more progress the second half of the year than I did the first six months.

By the middle of the year, I'd started joking with my husband that I was having a mid-life crisis. Quietly. I'm a quiet sort of person. I told him that I'd rather come out of it with a weight set than a new car, and he played along. He even bought some of the weights and started lifting them with me. Exercising regularly and eating better has done more to combat my insomnia, anxiety, and depression than anything else I've tried. Sleep is my new friend.


If you're interested, I'm following the program outlined in BODY FOR LIFE, by Bill Phillips. The workouts aren't very long. I'm alternating an intense 20 minute aerobic workout with weight lifting for six days a week. You don't have to count calories or starve to follow the diet. It's about eating the right fuel to get the most out of your body. I'm not into before and after photos or anything that makes people feel shame about their bodies. But I do love feeling better. I don't use the author's products because I found better ones. 


If you're looking for great vitamins and protein shakes, Plexus has the best ones I've tried. No added sugar of any kind and they actually taste good. They have free shipping today. They're also running a great deal on membership if you're interested in buying their products wholesale. There's a huge price difference for customers versus members/ambassadors, so that's what I do. If you want to check it out, you can follow this link: http://shopmyplexus.com/myrnafoster/
Full disclosure: If you buy or sign up through this page, it will benefit me. 

I will probably never mention this on the blog again because it feels too much like selling, and that's not what my blog is for. However, BODY FOR LIFE and Plexus have contributed to changing the quality of my life (physically, mentally, and emotionally) this year. I work better when I'm healthy. 

Wishing you all the best in 2016! xoxo