"Everything in the world exists in order to end up as a book." - Stéphane Mallarmé
It's time for Susanna Leonard Hill's 4th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest! The challenge: write a 214-word Valentine story appropriate for children in which someone is guilty. Check out my entry below, then visit Susanna's blog to read more!
by Amanda Sincavage
The kids in room 18 worked hard on their valentine mailboxes. They were especially excited for the valentines that would be slipped inside the thin slot on top.
Ricardo wrapped his box in ribbon.
Fei’s had fabric.
Jessica drew jewels on hers.
Spencer added sparkles.
Greta … gobbled them all up. Every last sparkle, ribbon, and jewel. Not a single heart remained.
The students were devastated, but also determined. They distributed their valentines to empty desks.
As Greta’s pile of cards grew, so did her guilt.
When the students finished, they ran outside for recess.
Ricardo raced Fei.
Jessica jumped rope.
Spencer did swings and the slide.
Greta could not be found.
When the students lined up at the door for their Valentine’s Day party, Spencer asked, “Where’s Greta?”
When the students rushed inside, they found Greta.
Just Greta. Not a single valentine could be seen.
The students were shocked.
“We don’t eat our classmates’ valentines,” the teacher said, “which is why Greta used your valentines to make a surprise collage for the class!”
Greta stepped aside to reveal her valentine surprise.
“Meh-eh-be you can forgive me,” Greta bleated.
The kids in room 18 loved their valentine collage … and Greta!
“Of course we forgive you, Greta Goat! Will you be our valentine?”
Writing time as been limited this year, though I can’t really complain. My time has been spent being fully present with my family—savoring sweet baby laughs, navigating tumultuous preschooler emotions paired with tremendous growth (hers and mine), finding stolen moments with the hubby between increasing work commitments, and taking our first vacation with kids.
Instead of beating myself up for not writing, I have adapted my mindset. Jess Keating tweeted it perfectly:
One thing that has changed my creative practice? Learning to love the gap.
The gap between where you are and where you want to be.
The gap between writing and written.
The gap between current status and future success.
All of it. Be happy in the gap and keep working.
I am learning to love the gap between where I want to be and where I am, between what I want to write and what hasn’t been written. Loving the gap means I am able to be present with my family rather than stress over what I have not written and my unmet goals.
In addition to inspirational author tweets, I have stayed connected to the KidLit community through challenges and blogs. And at just the right times, when I needed them most, I got three reminders that I am on the right path.
In March, I completed ReFoReMo and won Jen Betton’s TWILIGHT CHANT. Her beautiful illustrations are the perfect complement to Holly Thompson’s lyrical text—and the perfect reminder of being present! The book follows a family’s walk as they take in their natural surroundings and the animals that stir at twilight. An author’s note provides additional information about twilight and crepuscular animals.
In April, after a week of bedtime battles, I commented on Tara Lazar’s blog post featuring Cate Berry’s debut picture book PENGUIN AND TINY SHRIMP DON’T DO BEDTIME. I won, and this lighthearted look at the bedtime struggle reminded me I am not alone. Hilarious text and illustrations made bedtime a hit at our house (along with dropping naptime)!
In May, I was reminded to embrace the gap “before” success. I won SOMETIMES YOU FLY and a gorgeous art print from illustrator Jennifer Black Reinhardt at PictureBookBuilders. Beautiful illustrations and text reveal the importance of hard work and the failed attempts necessary to learn, grow, and succeed at various milestones of adolescence. Don’t forget to peek under the dust jacket!
Winning these books was a sign I am right where I need to be, even if I am taking another lap around the gap! A big thank you to Jess, Carrie & Kirsti, Jen, Tara, Cate, and Jennifer for the inspiration and support you each provide to the KidLit community and the encouragement your gifts have given me!
Applications are due next month for the 2018 Writing With The Stars (WWTS) Mentorships. In February 2017, I had the great honor of being selected for a mentorship with Penny Parker Klostermann, author of There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight and A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale.
I applied to Penny specifically because of her participation as a critique ninja for Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 writing challenge in 2016. She gave me a critique with the most thoughtful and thorough feedback I had ever received. With her critique and additional feedback from an editor at a retreat, I overhauled the manuscript multiple times before arriving at the version I submitted with my WWTS application. Penny recognized the manuscript and the hard work that went into improving it. I expected that same level of constructive feedback from her as a mentor, and she did not disappoint!
Our 3-month mentorship turned into 8 productive months in which we focused heavily on 4 manuscripts, though Penny provided feedback on 6 additional manuscripts! We covered industry best practices, writing resources, formatting tips, career strategy, decoding agent/editor feedback, and much more…in addition to the back-and-forth (and back-and-forth) revision work. Penny was meticulous, honest, supportive, and so generous with her time! She even shared her own work with me, including a sneak peek of A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale before its release earlier this year. Most importantly, Penny believed in my work (and still does) and provided ongoing encouragement that continues to motivate and inspire me today!
My key takeaways from this experience include:
I cannot thank Penny enough for all the time and energy she put into our mentorship. The experience was invaluable and I heartily recommend applying. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain - even the application process itself is beneficial to your growth! Applications for the 2018 WWTS mentorships are accepted January 8-13. Good luck!
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