As published on https://readingismyremedy.wordpress.com January 28, 2023 for the WOW! Women on Writing blog tour.
Life consists mostly of waiting, punctuated with moments of excitement. It’s in the waiting that we prepare, learn, and change so we’re ready when opportunities emerge. Those times we do not see evidence of growth on the outside are the times we are growing on the inside! Dormant spells are inevitable, for gardens and authors. We cannot expect ourselves to bloom creativity 100% of the time. We must learn to use those dormant times to rest and rejuvenate, so we’re ready to bloom when the time comes!
I like to write about the moments that exist in the between, because that’s where the really good stuff happens; that’s when the growth occurs. We meet people in all stages of waiting: waiting for a birthday, a graduation, the arrival of a baby, for a vacation, better job, a diagnosis, or a new horizon. What makes people fascinating is how they handle the anticipation.
Both of my 2023 releases find characters waiting.
In the YA novel Whispering Through Water, characters wait for their futures to begin and for the truth to be discovered. As the protagonist, Gwyn, finds herself in the between of high school and adulthood, she unearths fundamental truths to understanding herself and her relationships. (released January 4, 2023)
In the picture book When Mama Grows with Me, the parent and child move through all the steps of gardening from seed to flower, and in doing so, learn together to be more patient and grateful. (summer 2023 release)
My childhood was filled with gardening. When I think of my Grandma Helen, I picture large bushes of parsley and rows of crocuses. My mom reminds me of lilies and irises. Now as an adult, it’s truly a joy to build a garden with my own children. In particular, I love creating pollinator gardens, and the kids love it too! Even if you are new to gardening, these steps can help you create your own pollinator garden.
2. Learn about your soil.
Talk to your local nursery staff to determine what type of soil you have and what plants work best for those conditions. For instance, if you have clay, it’s helpful to add conditioners. If you know your soil isn’t the best, you might choose to use a raised bed, that way you can add healthier soil. Link to understanding soil.
3. Understand your garden’s light.
Does your garden space offer full sun, partial sun, afternoon sun, morning sun? Different areas of your yard might receive different levels of sunlight. When you buy plants, check the tag for recommended sun levels, that will help you get optimum growth! Link to understanding a garden's light.
4. Discover what critters live in your yard.
Have you ever spent money on beautiful dahlias or impatiens only to have them plowed down by bunnies or deer? Save yourself the heartache (and money)! I have so many bunnies in my yard that I only buy plants that bunnies won’t eat, like zinnias, beardtongue, and coneflower. And you’re in luck! Many of the plants pollinators love bunnies stay away from. Link to bunny proof plants.
And one other tip when you are purchasing flowers, perennials come back year after year. Buy perennials and build your pollinator garden over time.
Happy gardening! Follow me on Instagram @rebeccawwheeler_author to watch my yard bloom this spring!
Keep looking up.
As published on https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/January 24, 2023 for the WOW! Women on Writing blog tour.
I write how I read, in multiples. I typically have several writing projects going on at once, usually a picture book, middle grade, and a YA (and then the occasional non-fiction piece for work). Switching between genres helps keep my brain fresh. If I have been working on one piece for a while, and writer’s block looms, I switch to another project for a while to maintain momentum.
The variance in my approach to writing picture books versus novels isn’t necessarily intentional, but rather the formats of the genres lend themselves to different paths. Of course, every author must discover their own writing groove, and the following is what works for me.
Picture books are recommended to be 1000 words or less, with the emphasis on or less. To keep focused, I have to be methodical. The limited word count requires every word to have purpose. After the idea hits me, I list all the page spread numbers first. I favor writing picture books in short bursts, mirroring the brevity of the picture book’s page length.
First, I determine the climax and hook and which page spread the climax will fall. Of course, this spread is moveable, but I like to have a target to build toward. My current books all contain back matter, as they are addressing facts about the natural world and yoga. I calculate in the back matter to my page count, as to not go over the recommended page length. All of the back matter is referenced or connected to the book content, so I ensure to use consistent terminology through the book.
Also as illustrations are involved, I think about which pages lend themselves to full page spreads and which are single-page illustrations. Having a vision for the overall book concept helps me to balance the text. Of course the editor might suggest moving things around, but my picture book editor likes for me to have some vision for the illustrations before we start.
Picture books consist of many moving parts!
With picture books, I tend to write more than required and then cut back on the unnecessary details; however, with novels I do the opposite. For the first draft, I focus on assembling the skeleton, which for me means dialogue and the major plot points. I add descriptive details and the “color” in subsequent drafts.
For novels, I have the exposition, climax, and resolution determined first, and then figure out how to get there. After writing the exposition, I formulate a timeline of major plotline events. I never know how many chapters a book will have until it’s finished.
I prefer to write novels in longer strides, so if I don’t have at least time to knock out a chapter I wait and work on something else. When I get stuck, I take a break (notice I said when and not if, blocks happen to every writer). Often my breakthrough ideas come when I’m doing something else, like driving, gardening, and particularly after teaching a yoga class!
Understanding your typical patterns will help you to be a more efficient and productive writer; however, most importantly, know how to take a quality break.
Keep looking up.
For the better part of my adult life, I have edited other people’s work, first as a high school English & Creative Writing teacher, and then as an adjunct college instructor. I tend to provide a lot of feedback, namely because I want my students to reach their capabilities as a writer and researcher. If I didn’t believe the students had the potential to improve, I wouldn’t spend so much time writing feedback.
When my first picture book, When Daddy Shows Me the Sky, was accepted for publication in 2020, it had been a long time since I was on the receiving end of the editing pen. Even though I would have loved to have been published earlier in my life, I am thankful that by the time I worked with an editor on my first book, I had developed a confidence in my own voice that didn’t exist in my twenties. That confidence allowed me to enter this new editor-author relationship as two professionals collaborating rather than a writer with an inferiority complex.
Book editing happens in a variety of ways. For my two picture books, a single editor went through four revision rounds with me, and my editor served as the intermediary with the illustrator and designer. She was truly my partner through the entire process. My second picture book, When Mama Grows with Me, will be released in Spring 2023. Both picture books are published by Belle Isle Books, an imprint of Brandylane Publishing.
The editing process with my YA novel, Whispering Through Water, was very different. Instead of one editor I had three. Each editor served a different purpose. The first was a developmental editor, then copy and line editors. In terms of the design process, I communicated directly with my publisher at Monarch Educational Services, LLC.
For me, switching editors through the publishing process was more stressful, because the communication style changes with each editor. I learned that I prefer for the editor to ask me clarifying questions, so I have a chance to extrapolate the intended meaning, rather than the editor making content changes without asking questions. Also, I am turned off by sarcasm in comments, as I personally don’t find that professional. An editor isn’t an author's boss or teacher, rather the editor serves more as a coach guiding the plays to improve the writer’s game. If something isn’t working in the relationship, it’s okay to communicate with the editor about the concern. Or if a particular question or piece of feedback was helpful, tell your editor that as well, which also helps her know how to best communicate with you.
With each editor change, comes a new relationship to navigate. Though fundamentally, whether I have one editor or three, I just want to know she is as invested in my work as I am. For the relationship to work, the writer and editor must respect each other’s expertise and passion. Respect is reciprocal.
For those new to the writer-editor relationship, keep this in mind: the editor chose your work, which means she believes your work deserves to have an audience. You both have the same goals: for your unique author’s voice to shine, the book to be loved by readers, and hopefully make a little money in the process.
Keep looking up.