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.

Fall Writing Frenzy 2021

It’s contest time again!

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! 🍁


A Haiku

By Jessica Hinrichs

196 words

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.
Pain unparalleled.

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?

Happy Fall, y’all!

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! ☀️). 😉

I’m Feeling…

Spring Fling FOMO

Fear Of Missing Out. 😬

Do you ever feel like this?

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.

STOP! by Lindsey Hobson

The little stop sign is proud to do his job. But, as years pass and he sees how lonely his stretch of the road is, he can’t help but wish he was doing something more important. When a duckling’s life is in danger, the little stop sign sees that he is right where he was meant to be.

My critique partner, Lindsey Hobson, just published her second picture book! Woo Hoo!! How adorable are those little ducklings?!

Find STOP! on Amazon HERE.

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!

Find Blossom’s Wish on Amazon HERE.

Blossom is a flower-loving dragon who just wants a friend. Will her wish come true?

50 Precious Words

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on

It’s an exciting time to be a picture book writer! There are so many fun events and contests throughout the year. This week is the #50PreciousWords contest, run by author Vivian Kirkfield.

As you may have guessed, stories entered in this contest cannot exceed 50 words. It’s more challenging than it sounds to write a story with a true story arc in such a limited word count. But picture book writers know to make every word count, so this contest is great practice at cutting out all the unnecessary fluff.

Read more about the #50PreciousWords contest here.

My story is a simple mono-rhyme, inspired by my son’s love of kites. You can read my entry below:

Goodnight, Kite

By Jessica Hinrichs

(50 words)

Colors bright,

Noon sunlight,

Wind just right,

Let’s fly, kite!

Holding tight,

Bumpy flight,

Losing height,

Down comes kite!

Hard fought fight,

Try despite

One failed flight.

Bounce back, kite!

Up goes kite!

Soaring height,

Pure delight,

Great flight, kite!

Fading light

Turns to night.

Tucked in tight,

Goodnight, kite.


4th Place Valentiny Winner!

I’m blown away and so excited to say that I won 4th place (out of 252 entries) in this year’s Valentiny Writing Contest! ❤️

Two of my lovely and talented critique partners won Honorable Mentions too, which just makes this win even sweeter! 💗

You can find the list of all of the winners here.

Speaking of my critique partners, I’m constantly amazed by their creativity and writing skills. They come up with ideas and stories much faster than I do! In fact, their stories were complete and ready to go before I even had any clue what to write for Valentiny! I considered not even entering this contest because I had so much trouble coming up with an idea. And then, one day, the idea just hit me…and I ran with it! I’m so glad I did!

See my previous post to read my story.

Valentiny Contest

Photo by Kaboompics .com on

It’s contest time again! The first writing contest for 2021. Author and blogger extraordinaire Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting her 6th annual Valentiny Writing Contest, and I’m so excited to be entering for the first time this year! Read more about the contest here:

Basically, this contest has 3 rules:

  1. Your story must be about Valentine’s Day.
  2. Your story must include someone being brave in some way.
  3. Your story must be 214 words or less (because 2/14…get it?).

I hope you enjoy my short and sweet story! My entry is below:

Valentine’s Gotcha Day

By Jessica Hinrichs

(213 words)

Valentine sat in her kennel, nervously thumping her tail against the floor.

Was today the day? She’d gotten her hopes up before, but everyone always said her fur was too scruffy, her nose was a funny shape, and her size was just too much to love.

Day after day, she remained at the shelter, watching families adopt her friends and hoping one day it would be her turn too.

Just then, Valentine’s ears perked up. She heard a girl’s voice. Her heart beat faster as the girl approached.

“Look, Mommy!” The little girl squealed. “Her fur is red! Her nose is shaped like a heart! And there’s a lot of her to love! She’s perfect.”

The little girl knelt down and smiled—the prettiest smile Valentine had ever seen. 

Valentine’s eyes pleaded with her. Could this be my Gotcha Day? I’m too scared to even hope. Be brave! She trembled, but she held the little girl’s gaze.

As if the little girl understood, she reached out her hand and gently whispered, “Sweet Valentine, will you be mine?”

Will I ever! Valentine’s fears faded in a split-second and she lunged into the little girl’s arms, peppering her face with wet kisses.

The little girl giggled. “You’re the best Valentine ever!”

No, thought Valentine, you are.


Rate Your Story

I joined Rate Your Story ( as a 2021 member.

Rate Your Story is a panel of agented, published authors who act as Judges. Members can submit manuscripts and queries and the Judges will award a rating from 1-10, showing how ready they feel your work is to submit to agents or publishers.

At the start of the year, I submitted a manuscript and my query letter that goes along with it. I’ve been anxiously waiting to hear back.

Last night, I finally did.

Y’all…I was blown away to see that I had received a rating of 1 on both my query and my manuscript! 🤩🙏🏻💃🙌🏻

1 is the highest rating!!!

That means, they feel that I should start querying this manuscript!!!

I was literally jumping for joy in my kitchen last night when I saw the email! 🥰

To be clear, I’m still unagented and unpublished. But this feels like a big step in the right direction.

Let the 2021 querying begin!!