Tuesday, July 4, 2017

PitchWars 2017

I am entering PitchWars for the second year.  Hopefully, I'm going to change the old adage "third time's a charm" to "second time's a charm".  That's my goal!

I write middle grade mostly.  However, I do have a picture book coming out this fall by an Indie publisher about the Oklahoma City Survivor Tree.

But, as I said, I write mostly middle grade...because I spend my days with middle graders.  I will soon be starting my....drumroll...36th year of teaching!  I taught 2nd and 3rd, and was happy.  But, when I landed in 4th, I found my sweet spot.  I love those little buggers.

I am entering a contemporary fiction set in coastal Mississippi.

Image result for coastal mississippi

Here's a link to my Pinterest aesthetic board:


Making a list of my favorite books is pretty hard, because I read incessantly, and my favorite book is often the one I just finished.  But, here is a good sampling of what I like:

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
My Diary From the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson
Harry Potter - all of them!  But, especially Order of the Phoenix
Anne of Green Gables

Okay, I could go on and on, but I'll make myself stop!

Random facts about me:
I love to travel.  Anywhere.
Mexican food any day of the week is fine with me.
Coffee, yes!
I'm an eclectic person.  Meaning, I love books and more books.  I love the solitary world of writing and reading.  But, I love my sports, too!  Give me a noisy, boisterous crowd cheering for OKC Thunder or OSU Cowboys, and I'm totally happy.  Then I go home to my book and I am happy there too!
My very favorite sporting event is watching my kiddo coach youth soccer.  Nothing better.
I love live theater.  Musicals, dramas, comedy, you name it!

Favorite binging on TV:
Gilmore Girls, Friends, Parenthood, Allie McBeal, Friday Night Lights, Downton Abbey, Parks and Recreation, The Office, and Mary Tyler Moore.

So, to all of my fellow PitchWars hopefuls, good luck!  No matter what, we've got each other.  And, just remember,
You're Gonna Make it After All!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sometimes the Stories Choose Us

     When you are a writer, you rotate between writing, editing, and revising.  But you are also, at all times, thinking about what your next story will be.

     Many times, we choose the story we are writing.  We may get a spark of an idea, and work to develop it into a full story.

     But sometimes, in those rare moments, a story finds us.

     Almost four years ago, on a visit to New York City, my sister and I got to experience the 9-11 Memorial.  During our visit to the gift shop, I discovered a book about the 9-11 Survivor Tree.  Until that moment, I had not realized they had a survivor tree.

     Their tree has a much different story than ours.  It was recovered from some of the rubble and replanted, nursed back to health and transplanted to the grounds when the memorial was finished.

     I decided to buy that book, and then find the book about our Survivor Tree.  I came home and began to look for one, and that was when I discovered there wasn't one.

     There needed to be.

     That idea sat on my heart for a couple of years.  The seed of the idea planted itself there, and wouldn't go away.  And  I knew that a story had found me.  A story that needed to be told.

     I wrote the story from a third-person narrative.  It was ok.  It might be picked up and looked at in the terms of a narrative account of the bombing on a children's level.  But it didn't strike a chord in my heart.

     Then I knew I needed the tree to tell the story.  So I wrote it from the tree's point of view.  And cried. 

     The publishing industry is highly competitive, and many great books are not published because they don't find their way to the right literary agent, or the right-fit publishing house.   I began to submit my manuscript to agents in New York City.  But they didn't understand how significant this tree is.

     Then, I found out about Roadrunner Publishing.  It is an award-winning Indie press here in Oklahoma.  The editor, Jeanne Devlin, was on the staff of Oklahoma Today when the bombing occurred, and was on the team that published the Oklahoma Today that was released soon after.  She knows the heart of this tree. 

     The wheels began rolling, and after a couple of illustrator changes, things were on track.  Then, a friend of mine and fellow writer and SCBWI member, Amy Stephens, contacted me about her interviewing me for the Oklahoma Outlook/Edmond Outlook magazine.  They were interested in the story about the book.  We did an interview, and some pictures at the Memorial.  I am so grateful to Amy for seeing the significance in this story.

     Abigail Ogle, anchor and reporter with KOCO-TV saw the article and contacted me to do an interview.  Abigail did an incredible job of catching the spirit of this tree, and the journey to tell its story.  And that's how this all began.

     I can't even begin to thank all of you enough for your support and heartfelt interest in this book.  More than anything, I am grateful that this story, this tree, this horrible tragedy, and the people whose lives were changed forever, will not be forgotten.

     I am humbled and honored, for I know I was chosen to write this book.  I know the story chose me.

     Many of you have asked me when and where you can buy it.  And more than one person has said, "I want it in my hands right now!"

     But, we want the story, the illustrations, and the book quality to do it justice.  To pay honor and respect to the tree, the victims, and the survivors.  So, it will take some more time.

     The publication date is currently set for October 10.  Hopefully that will stay firm, but sometimes things happen.  However, please know that when it is available for purchase, I will definitely let you all know!  I am sure that it will be in most Oklahoma City bookstores.  I am not sure about nationwide.  However, there's always online ordering.

     It is available to pre-purchase at Amazon.com.  But, if you would like to wait, I feel quite sure there will be at least one, if not several events and book signings.  It's not about me.  It's about this amazing story of heartbreak, survival and hope. 

     So, thank you to each and every one of you who have given me encouragement.  It validates to me the journey I've taken to bring this story to you, and to our children. 




Sunday, March 19, 2017


The thought that I wanted to write for children began seeping into the recesses of my mind about 10 years ago.  And I tried to make a successful go at it by flying by the seat of my pants for several years.

Then I heard about SCBWI.  The Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.  SCBWI is a national organization, with virtually all major children's authors and illustrators as members.

I slowly began to get involved in our Oklahoma Region of SCBWI...I mean, at first, I went like twice a year.

But then I caught the flame that this group of people have for writing.  And not only for being a successful writer for children, but supporting each other.  It truly is a tribe. 

I have learned more than I could ever have learned on my own by being a member of SCBWI.  And I learn continuously...through critique groups, speakers, critique days, and our annual conferences. 

If you have ever had that little thought in the back of your mind that says, "Maybe I should write children's books," or "Maybe I could illustrate children's books," you owe it to yourself to go for it.

There is no quick fix in this world of publishing, but you won't learn if you don't try.  And, to say that the publishing world is highly competitive and totally subjective is a fact.  But keep at it, and it will happen!

So, like I said, if you have ever had interest, the best thing you can do is jump in with both feet.

Here's the link to sign up - and the best thing is, it's never too late!!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Yes, it HAS Been Forever!

I spend so much of my time writing and editing my various works in progress that I have totally neglected this blog.  It's time to catch up, and the end of Spring Break is a good time to do that.

My blog is titled Reading, Writing, and Roaming, and I'm going to hit all three of those areas.  However, I'll probably need to break them up into three posts.  I'll start with Roaming!

If you know me well, you know that I love to roam and travel.  And when circumstances prevent me from going far, I can always find somewhere close to home.  And thanks to my partner-in-crime, Denice, we have been doing this for six years! 

In fact, thanks to Facebook memories, I got a reminder that our first expedition was six years ago this last week.  We went to Medicine Park and Mount Scott.

To say we have seen a lot is an understatement.  But there are always things to see...and experience.

Denice and I have gone to Pawhuska several times, way before it was the cool place to go, and home of the Pioneer Woman's Mercantile.  We've wanted to go to the Merc since it opened, but we also knew that the crowds would be crazy for a while.

They really haven't died down, but we decided to go for it anyway.  And since our district was out for Spring Break a day earlier than most, we took the chance.

We left at 7:00 and got to Pawhuska at 9:30.  (After our obligatory Sonic stop before we left the City.)

The lines weren't bad!  We had already decided that if the line was too long, we'd just go in the shop.  But being the early bird helped.  We only stood in line for 20 minutes!  Thank goodness, because it was a might chilly out there.

If you love home-style food with Ree's own twist, you'll love this place.  Since we were there so early, we ate a yummy breakfast.

If you go, you must try the Spicy Cowgirl Coffee.  So yum.

Spicy Cowgirl!

After we ate, we shopped! 

Then hit up the bakery upstairs.  This is not to be missed, folks. 

We headed out of town after that fun time to find our next place.

Denice had been here previously.  This is Bird Creek School.  Or used to be.  As I'm sure you can tell, it's in major disrepair. 

Yes.  Creepy is a great word for it.

It's said to be haunted, that if you write your name on the chalkboard, and come back, it will be gone but scratched into the board.  Hmmm.....not sure that would require a ghost.  But, the creepiness ensues.

However, we didn't get close.  There were visible signs of "someone" trying to keep people out of the yard of the school.  Like I said, Denice had been there before with her husband, Jody, and they had gone in.  When they came out, there was a creepy guy there, none too happy to see them.

Even from the fence, though, this place definitely sparked some story ideas for me.  And I know 4th graders love a good spooky story.

Pretty sure I wouldn't want to come back at dark.  Or would I?

We headed on from there and wanted to see something else, so we went to Pawnee.

If you're from Oklahoma, you probably have heard of Pawnee Bill.  The town was named for him.

Pawnee Bill was a rancher and also a Wild West Show performer.  
It's visiting places like this that make me think it would be fun to be able to travel back...just for a day...to see what like was like. 
This Wild West Show was quite the ticket, and folks came from miles and miles. 

It was a great day, once again!

Later in the week, I also had to visit my favorite tree. 

Stay tuned for more information about this tree and me...coming very soon!