It’s the first day of NaNoWriMo2021, so naturally that seems like a good time to procrastinate and write a new blog. Ha. 😉 I’m supposed to be working on my middle-grade project, but here we are.
There’s nothing better than being in the zone and having the words flowing freely. Sometimes my brain moves faster than my fingers can type. And other times, I stare at the screen completely paralyzed, convinced I’ll never write another comprehensible thought again.
We all get it. Inevitably, eventually, everyone hits a wall. I thought I’d put together a (non-comprehensive) list of ideas of things to do when it happens to you.
Read, just for pleasure.
Help others with critiques to get out of your own head.
Study the craft (watch webinars, read books, listen to podcasts).
Give your website a fresh new look.
Write a blog.
Start a new project altogether, submit to a magazine, enter a contest, or participate in a pitch event.
Revise a current project. Just the other day, I wasn’t sure what my middle-grade protagonist should do next, so I went back to chapter one, and now the “sun casts a pink hue across the early-morning sky.” Hey, progress is progress, right?
Send out a query or two on a project that’s complete.
Engage in social media, not only to build a following, but to grow meaningful relationships.
And last, but not least, step away and do something else you enjoy that’s completely unrelated to writing.
Here we go again! If you haven’t figured it out, it’s contest season in the #KidLit #WritingCommunity! 👻🎃🍁
For the Halloweensie contest, our stories have to stay at 100 words or less. That’s tough! My first draft came in at 140 words, so I had to cut, cut, cut. ✂️ The rules for this contest also state that we must incorporate 3 specific words into our story: goosebumps, glow-in-the dark, and goodies.
Thanks to Susanna Leonard Hill for always putting on such fun writing contests! Read more about the Halloweensie contest here.
My entry is below. Happy Halloween! 🎃
By Jessica Hinrichs
Bruce Goose had a problem. He had no goosebumps.
Who ever heard of a goose with no goosebumps? Ridiculous.
Bruce determined this would be the Halloween he got his goosebumps back, so he asked his friends to scare him, and scare him good!
Duck dressed as a vampire and circled overhead.
Sheep dressed as a glow-in-the-dark skeleton and shimmied and shook.
Pig dressed as a witch and cackled a spooky spell. “Honkus Ponkus!”
But still, no goosebumps.
Then, Lucy Goose—Bruce’s crush—held out a treat bag. “Wanna share my Halloween goodies?”
And she planted a kiss smackdab on Bruce’s beak...
Great news to start a Monday! I wasn’t expecting Fall Writing Frenzy winners to be announced until the end of the week, but when I woke up I had a message from one of my lovely critique partners letting me know and cheering me on! Supportive CPs are worth their weight in gold, aren’t they??
Anyway, I was thrilled to see my name among the winners for this year!! Check out the rest of the winners and honorable mentions here.
And, if you want to read my contest entry, you can find it here.
I’ll see y’all again at the end of the week when I post my entry for Halloweensie! Have a great week! 🍁
I tweeted about this earlier in the week, but thought it warranted a blog post too.
On Wednesday, my son and I stopped by the library, as we do nearly every week. After filling our bag with picture books, I wanted to grab a new middle-grade book too. I’ve been reading more middle-grade lately since I’ve become interested in writing one myself. Anyway, my son was getting antsy and ready to leave the library for the playground, so I didn’t have time to leisurely browse. Instead, I just grabbed a book that was on a display shelf and didn’t pay much attention to what I had grabbed.
Until I got home.
When I looked closer, I thought to myself, I know that author’s name. But, I couldn’t place her right away. Then, it hit me!
She was the same author who wrote my very favorite picture book from when I was a girl! The same author who is from my home state of West Virginia. And the same author who had signed the book for me (nearly 4 decades ago!) when she visited a library where my grandmother worked as a librarian. Serendipity.
When I Was Young in the Mountains paints a lovely picture of rural Appalachia. And, even though I grew up in a more modern time than what this book portrays, my Appalachian roots run deep. I always felt like this book was written just for me, as silly as that sounds. I probably love it even more today than I did as a young girl. I still have the same copy from my childhood, and today it sits on my son’s bookshelf. When we’re not actively reading it, that is. Which we do quite often.
This particular contest holds a special place in my heart because this is the contest that brought my critique group together ONE YEAR AGO! Last year, we dubbed ourselves The Frenzy Friends in honor of the Fall Writing Frenzy contest that brought us together, and the name has stuck.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been together for a year already, but on the other hand, these special ladies have become great friends and I feel like I’ve known them forever. 🥰
So, for the Fall Writing Frenzy contest, we were given some fall pics to choose from as our writing prompts. Our stories can’t go over 200 words. But, other than that, there aren’t many rules. We can write funny, spooky, scary, dark—basically, whatever we think about when we look at the picture.
Read more about the Fall Writing Frenzy contest here.
I usually write picture books. But, for my contest entry this year, I went for a darker mood piece that definitely has a more middle-grade vibe. And then I decided, what the heck, I’ll make it interesting and write it in haiku.🤓
Here is the pic I chose, and my story is below. Enjoy! 🍁
By Jessica Hinrichs
I was ten years old
the day Miss Annabelle died.
She was my neighbor.
My very best friend.
Closest thing I’d ever had
to a grandparent.
She made the best tea
this side of Mississippi.
Tea and biscuits, both.
When Mama told me,
my heart felt like it shattered.
Grief-stricken, I cried.
A deluge of tears.
I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak.
A few days later,
we walked to the funeral,
somber and solemn.
Leaves crunched beneath us.
An earthy scent lingered, like
ashes to ashes.
The white church stood out
against the vibrant backdrop
of orange, gold, yellow.
How beautiful, and
how odd to notice beauty
in the midst of grief.
And those bells. Those bells.
The ethereal chiming.
Still now, it haunts me.
A sorrowful song,
bidding eternal peace, and
a final goodbye.
I’ve tried to forget.
But, when I hear church bells, or
see the autumn leaves,
I can’t help but think
of that fateful day she left.
I miss my sweet friend.
But, Miss Annabelle
has been gone for two years now.
Two heartbreaking years.
So, why? I ask, why?
Why is she sitting on my
front porch swing right now?
Fall has been here for two whole days! 🍁 Who’s wearing sweaters, cooking chili, pulling out pumpkin decorations, and getting ready to watch football this weekend?? 🎃 🏈
Here in Florida, it pretty much still feels like summer, but the temps have been hovering in the mid-80s instead of the mid-90s, so I’ll take it!
I haven’t written a blog in awhile. Life has been a little crazy this summer. Sicknesses being passed around our household, travel, potty-training, preparing for my son to start preschool. There’s just always something to keep us busy around here!
But I thought I’d share a few fun writing/reading related things that have been going on. This summer, I received TWO full requests of my work from literary agents!! If you’ve ever been in the query trenches, you know a thing or two about rejection. And, believe me, I’ve received my share of rejections over the last year! So, to finally hear agents say, “Hey, I like this! Send me more of your work!”, is just an incredible feeling. One of these agents passed after about 6 weeks, which I know is common, but I’m still holding out hope for the other agent. She would be a dream to work with! 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻
I’m also anxiously waiting to hear about two stories I submitted to Highlights Magazine. Two of my submissions have been in an In-Progress status on their submission site for around 6 months now! I’ve submitted a few things to them in the past and gotten rejections quicker than this, so my fingers are crossed that maybe they will accept something I wrote this time around. I read Highlights as a kid and it would be so special to have something published with them!🤞🏻🤞🏻🤞🏻
As far as current writing, I’ve been a participant in Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge this year, which pushes particpants to write 12 new picture book manuscripts in 12 months. So far, astoundingly, I’m on track! Just 3 more months/3 more manuscripts to go to hit this goal. We’ll see if I can pull it out!
And…I’ve recently started dipping my toes into middle-grade writing territory. I’ve written a prologue and two chapters so far, so I’m excited to see where this story might go. 🤓
I’m also preparing to participate in this year’s Fall Writing Frenzy contest again. I’ll be posting my entry here on my blog in about a week or so for that.
My son and I have taken lots of trips to the library, and Storytime has started back up, so we enjoy going to that a couple times a month. Here are some of the library books we’ve read recently:
And a few of the most recent books I’ve read for myself too:
Stay tuned for my Fall Writing Frenzy entry soon! Now go enjoy some fall activities for me! 🍁 I’m living vicariously through all y’all who live up north (even though I truly love the south! ☀️). 😉
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s now personal for me. I’d like to share my experience in an effort to help raise awareness around this issue.
Earlier this month, I was diagnosed with melanoma.
CANCER. It’s true what they say—this word rattles you. I’m fortunate in the sense that melanoma has a high cure rate when caught early. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still CANCER. Cancer cells have been circulating in my body, entirely unbeknownst to me. If undetected, melanoma can spread and metastasize rapidly. It’s the most aggressive and deadly skin cancer. It’s frightening.
In my case, I’d had a small dark mole on the back of my arm for years. As long as I can remember actually. Maybe my whole life. I’d had dermatologists look at it in the past and no one seemed concerned. It didn’t look like a typical melanoma. Just a flat dark mole, about the color of black coffee. It stood out to me because most of my other freckles and moles are a tan color.
I was outside playing with my son in April and just happened to look at the back of my arm. Does this look different? I wondered to myself. I thought it might’ve looked slightly darker, with maybe a tinge of red around the edges, and I thought I saw a speck of white in the center. It was such a subtle change that I thought I might just be paranoid.
But I called the dermatologist and scheduled an appointment, just to be safe. The dermatologist herself wasn’t even entirely convinced that we should do a biopsy, but we did anyway, just to be safe.
I got a call a few days later, letting me know that the pathology had come back and I had melanoma. I was shocked. Unfortunately, the biopsy didn’t remove the entire melanoma, so about 2.5 weeks later, a surgeon performed a procedure called a wide excision on my arm. My stats:
Small 3mm mole removed for biopsy
Even smaller 0.7mm melanoma Dx
The result was a huge 10cm wide excision (an inch deep) in order to remove the entire melanoma and all surrounding tissue.
I’m thankful that my pathology after surgery showed clear margins. I can handle a large scar, if it means I’m cancer free.
But skin cancer is serious, friends. I’m sharing openly about my experience in an effort to raise awareness. Please be vigilant. Wear sunscreen. Do self-exams. See your dermatologist.
This experience has messed with my mind more than anything. It has caused me a lot of anxiety and fear. Fear about recurrences in the future. Fear about being more susceptible to other cancers down the road. Fear about leaving my toddler without a mother.
But, my trust is in a loving God who invites us to cast our cares on Him.
“Cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you.”-1 Peter 5:7
Isn’t it a comforting thought that none of this surprised or rattled God? He intended for me to walk this journey for some reason. And feeling such fear and panic leaves me no choice but to surrender my entire life to His control.
“Who of you by worrying, can add a single hour to your life?”-Matthew 6:27
He is holding me in the palm of His hand. And I’m so very thankful for that.
As a member of the writing community, I sure do from time to time. I want to do it ALL and be involved in ALL the things. All the organizations, all the conferences, all the webinars, all the pitch events, all the contests. Think Veruca from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. “I want the whole world! Give it to me now!” 😉
But the reality is, it’s just not possible. Many of us are parents and/or work other jobs, have households to maintain, groceries to shop for, appointments to keep, and the list goes on. And ya know, we occasionally need to sleep or think about things unrelated to our writing.
There’s just not time for everything.
Cost is another factor. If you really wanted to, you could go broke pursuing this dream of being published. It costs (sometimes lots of) money to maintain membership in all the organizations, take courses, etc.
There are many legitimate reasons why someone can’t realistically do it all. I say this to console myself as much as anyone else, because I’m feeling FOMO at the moment. While I entered the last 4 writing contests (Fall Writing Frenzy, Holiday Helpers, Valentiny, and 50 Precious Words), I am reluctantly choosing not to enter the Spring Fling contest that starts tomorrow.
After 4 contests and lots of manuscript drafts over the last 8 months or so, my brain is tired, I’m preparing for Easter, and I just couldn’t think of a story idea for Spring Fling. Simple as that.
Instead, I’ll be cheering on my critique partners from the sidelines this time around! 🎉
I feel FOMO, but guess what? It’s OKAY and it’s NORMAL to go through slumps or periods of time when you’re feeling uninspired.
I love this writing life so much that I could work on it from the time I open my eyes in the morning until the time I lay my head on my pillow at night. But I’m a mama and I have other responsibilities to consider. And we all need breaks from time to time to avoid burnout.
So what do we do to feel inspired again? 🤔
Take time off. Let your manuscripts sit for awhile and do something else you enjoy. Read. Bake. Play outside in the sun. Anything that brings you joy. Don’t put yourself on an arbitrary timeline. Your stories will still be here when you’re ready to get back to them. Contests and pitch events will roll around again. And I don’t think there will ever be a shortage of webinars, courses, or organizations to join.
Inevitably, you will feel inspired again at some point. When that happens, roll with it! Write what you LOVE, cast your net widely when you query (yes, this is a game of chance in many ways, but you control how many times you roll the dice), and enjoy the process. And when you need a break again or you’re stressing over a contest because you’re just flat out of ideas, give yourself grace.
Your worth isn’t determined by your success. Live, laugh, love…and if that includes writing or other ventures, great! If not, that’s okay. You are enough. And I am too.
Lindsey has a knack for story-telling. She has recently delved into narrative non-fiction and informational fiction, and I’m so excited to see where her newest stories take her! I love everything she writes and I’m so proud of what she has accomplished. Lindsey is a talented writer, an insightful critique partner, and has become a close and trusted friend. I feel so fortunate to have her in my life! Find Lindsey on Twitter @LindseyBHobson or on her website.
Check out her first picture book too! Who doesn’t love a friendly dragon?! What a perfect spring story to add to a kid’s Easter basket! There’s still time!