FriYAY Status Update

Hi Friends,

I’ve been very engrossed in the two picture books that I’m currently revising. I’ve felt such passion and enthusiasm for these two manuscripts. I entered them both into a Twitter event (#PBpitch). I didn’t get any likes or *hearts* from agents or editors but that’s okay. It was still really fun and writing those pitches really helped me to understand what these two stories are about. I also got to see some really great pitches and ideas.

If you don’t follow me on Twitter at @Rachel__McKee here are the pitches that went out yesterday.

Elsie Goes To Work

Pitch: When Elsie agreed to work at a plant nursery for a rosebush of her own, she didn’t know mud-battles & worm-wrangling were involved.

Mrs. Irish’s Enchanted Cottage

Pitch: When Mrs. Irish’s sneezes throw her magic into chaos, Anna & her brother must find the cure inside her enchanted cottage.

That’s where I’m at with my writing in a nutshell.

In other news I chopped 8 inches off of my hair and donated it.

 

 

Have a great weekend!

-Rachel McKee

Why I Won’t Illustrate My Picture Books

In my last post I shared a new project that I will be working on. I decided to take a break from novel-writing and write a few picture books that have been churning in the back of my brain.

I’ve since written two picture book manuscripts. A few people have asked if I will be illustrating the books myself.

That’s a solid nope!

Here’s why:

cat-drawing

Yep, that was illustrated by yours truly. If I didn’t write “Meow!” you would probably be confused as to whether this is a mouse, bear, rabbit, possibly a bat, or a cat.

Have a lovely day folks, and rest easy knowing that the future generation will not be subjected to my crazy illustrations.

-Rachel McKee

The Difference Between Gaston And Beast

We watched Beauty and the Beast last night in honor of the 25th anniversary and because we bought a new DVD player. This movie is a part of my childhood. Like baking cookies, swimming in the river, and jumping on the trampoline, I watched Beauty and the Beast with a zealous obsession.

The first time I watched Beauty and the Beast I must have been five or six-years-old. I was enchanted by the music, Belle’s passion for books, and I loved Beast. I knew Gaston was the bad guy, he was the villain. I thought that the moral of the story was to love someone based on who they were on the inside vs. what they looked like on the outside. Gaston was ugly on the inside and beautiful on the outside. Beast was ugly on the outside and beautiful on the inside. (I understand that these are objective statements, but I think we can agree that this was the allegory that Disney was going for when they created these characters.)

Watching the movie as an adult, the enchantment was still there, but it was accompanied by a critical eye. I was disturbed by the scene where Gaston proposes to Belle. Gaston stalked Belle across her living room and she made a point to keep furniture between the two of them. He pinned her against the front door and she squirms away to avoid his kiss. She was at his mercy. She was his prisoner.

While watching that scene as an adult, I realized that even my six-year-old self empathized with Belle. This scene made me uncomfortable as a young girl. I felt Belle’s fear and vulnerability in that moment.

gaston

gastonproposed

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I then scrutinized Beast’s behavior and I thought why is he any better? Why did I not fear Beast the same way I feared Gaston? I had every reason to dislike him as much as I did Gaston. Beast imprisons kind, little old Maurice. He then keeps Belle prisoner. He shouts at her and bosses her around.

beauty-and-the-beast-3

Beast and Gaston were both really quite awful. They both wanted Belle for different selfish reasons. Gaston wanted a beautiful breeder wife. Beast wanted to use her to break the spell. Beast was Gaston and Gaston was Beast.

My interpretation and the moral of Beauty and the Beast just went up in flames. The foundation of my childhood just crumbled. Both “men” were ugly.

Well, we all know that Beast softens. He protected her from the wolves, gave her the most envy-inducing library, and he waltzed her around a stunning ballroom, but don’t forget that she was still his prisoner while all of this took place. (Belle may have showed signs of Stockholm syndrome when she didn’t jump on Phillip and ride away after the Beast was down after the wolf fight.)

Beast was Gaston before the spell was cast. He was Gaston when he turned the witch away who was disguised as a poor beggar woman. He was Gaston while he kept Belle prisoner. He thought the world owed him everything.

So what is the difference between Gaston and Beast? What is the actual moral of the story? REDEMPTION.

The major shift towards Beast’s redemption happened when he set Belle free and  sacrificed the chance to break the spell and regain his former life.

The second major act that showed his character change was the fight scene between Gaston and Beast. The fight was really an allegory to Beast’s inner struggle. By showing mercy to Gaston, he proved his redemption again. When Gaston falls to his death that same selfish part of Beast died with him. That was when Belle realized her love and the spell was broken.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on Beauty and the Beast and what the movie meant to you.

-Rachel McKee

Thankful

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I am so incredibly thankful for you, dear readers. For encouraging me, challenging me, and helping me grow. As you all know, blogging can be a scary thing. Blogging is like attending an international dinner party filled with millions of people. It can be intimidating. You never know how you will be received.

But here, on this blog, I’ve met some of the most incredible people. You passion, talent, and kindness inspires me. I feel so fortunate that you share this piece of your life with me.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, just know that I am very grateful for you.

Have a wonderful day.

-Rachel McKee

Cover image found at The Shabby Chic Art Boutique.

 

How To Help Syria

I’m sobbing while staring at my computer screen as I read another article about the children’s hospital that was bombed in Aleppo, Syria on 11/17/2016. Babies had to be removed from incubators and moved to shelters not equipped for their care.

Children were killed. Is there a more devastating sentence?

According to Time, “There are no functioning hospitals in Aleppo.”

Can you imagine having a sick child and being robbed of the one place that could treat them? I can’t think of a more harsh or cruel reality.

I understand how it feels to have a baby that isn’t medically perfect. My son has a congenital heart defect. When I received the news that he had aortic stenosis due to his heart condition, my world stopped. It was the worst day of my life and I was terrified. My son had three echocardiograms his first year, and was seen by one of the top pediatric cardiology teams in the nation. His specialists were less-than an hour away. I was still terrified. We were blessed that he didn’t need any surgical intervention, but I was truly grateful that he had a team of top specialists that were watching him. His condition will be monitored for the rest of his life. I don’t take for granted the privilege of having Seattle Children’s Hospital close by.

I can’t even fathom what these parents must be going through. Not only do they have children with medical needs, but they can’t obtain the help they require.

All the while I keep asking, “What can I do?

Today I made a small step in answering that question. I researched how to help and donate to Aleppo, Syria. I read a great article by The World Post that gave a few examples of organizations where people can donate to help Syria. I chose International Rescue Committee. More than .90 cents of every dollar go toward helping refugees and others in need. You can read how the IRC is helping Aleppo here.

Please consider donating today.

-Rachel McKee

Cover Image found here.

Five Famous Writers Who Were (Harshly) Rejected

Here is a list of five famous authors who felt the harsh smack of the “Rejected” stamp.

As I’m getting closer to my spring/summer deadline, I keep praying for thicker skin for when those rejection emails come pouring in. I have a lot of fellow writers who follow my blog, but I think everyone could use a little reminder that all great people have faced rejection at some point.

James Baldwin: Author of Go Tell It On The Mountain, Giovanni’s Room, The Fire Next Time.

rejection-letter

Source: Click Hole

J.K. Rowling: Author of the Harry Potter Series.

Rowling was rejected from 12 publishing houses before she landed at Bloomsbury In June 1997.

J K Rowling

Source: Wikipedia

Louisa May Alcott: Author of Little Women, Little Men

Alcott was rejected by publisher James T. Fields who said, ““Stick to your teaching, Miss Alcott. You can’t write.”

Image result for louisa may alcott

Source: Boston Women’s Heritage Trail.

Sylvia Plath: Author of The Bell Jar

A harsh comment on the rejection letter Plath received in regards to The Bell Jar:

“I’m not sure what Heinemann’s sees in this first novel unless it is a kind of youthful American female brashnaess. But there certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.”

Image result for the bell jar

Source: FlavorWire  Image found here:We Love It

Charles Dickens: Author of Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol

Dickens didn’t tell his friends that he was mailing off his manuscript to publishers because he was afraid that they would make fun of him. Here is part of the rejection letter he received from one publisher for A Christmas Carol:

“Our primary issue is its preposterous main premise. We will grant that readers may indeed be willing to accept the idea of four omnipotent ghosts returning to Earth to do good for the betterment of mankind. However, it stretches the boundaries of credibility to their very limits to expect anyone to believe a CEO would repent his ways via voluntary monetary penance. Pay his secretary’s mortgage? Double his salary? Are you certain, Mr. Dickens, that you did not intend to submit this manuscript to our humor publishing subsidiary?”

Ouch.

Image result for charles dickens a christmas carol

Sources: Writer’s Digest and USA Today.

-Rachel McKee

Autumnal Quote

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I found this interpretation by Harold Stewart of Buson’s “Two Autumns” and couldn’t get it out of my head. Stewart attributes the version above to Buson’s much earlier Haiku.

Two Autumns

for me going
for you staying—
two autumns

-Buson

I took this photo when I was staging some Instagram shots and it drew me in. Maybe it was the green path, or the two trees growing away from each other, or the fallen leaves collecting like tear drops in a puddle below. The photo spoke gently of loss. Stewart/Buson’s poem fit perfectly.

-Rachel McKee

Ghostly Whisper

I grew up in a home surrounded by trees and a river in the backyard. My father split apart a 100-year-old *coke oven to make our driveway. I remember walking the property and finding old bottles and rusty tins inside the decrepit remains of a farm-house. Remnants from another life and another time.

I was a nature child. I despised shoes, and would play in the glacier water that ran through our backyard like other children splashed at the beach. My parents gave me a lot of freedom. I didn’t stray from the yard or too far from the river bed. When I was thirteen or fourteen, I began nightly excursions down to the river. My weather-roughened feet splashed through the icy water. The moon lit my path like a 20 carat diamond on black velvet. I had one companion that always joined me for my nightly adventures, our 150 pound Rottweiler named Buddy. He was my furry guardian.

Around this time I had experienced a lot of death. I lost both of my grandmothers, my great-grandmother, and my grandfather. Also a second cousin. I didn’t know my cousin well, but the one summer I spent with him he taught me and my brother how to play pool. He paid a lot of attention to us both, even though he was much older and much cooler. Through the whisper of “adult conversation” I learned that he overdosed. Anyway, I digress.

I was fascinated with death and the afterlife. I buried everything that died in our yard. Between the cat and the dog, I had a high residency in my animal cemetery: moles, mice, birds, baby deer still in the placenta. I figured every creature deserved a prayer when they died, so each animal was blessed by a scrawny little wood nymph.

I pondered where our souls went as I filled each tiny grave. I wanted to encounter a ghost, but was also terrified of being caught off-guard. I wanted to see a ghost on my own terms, and I was always looking. I wanted to believe that every strange thump or snap was a phantom in the night, but I debunked these odd occurrences with logical explanationsBeing a dreamer and a realist is exhausting and rather frustrating.

One chilly, late autumnal night, I slipped out of bed and found Buddy on the front porch. I ran my hand down his shiny black coat and he followed me to the river. The water was swift this night due to recent rain, but Buddy and I plunged ahead. I hiked my flannel pajama pants until they were short shorts and crossed the river to the island that separated both channels.

I sat down on a frosty log and watched the massive black shape of my dog as he wandered from bush to bush. Every exhale was visible, my legs were numb. Tucking my face into the neck hole of my jacket, and pulling my legs inside the warm cocoon of my over-sized coat, I ignored the cold and lost myself in thoughts of school, boys, God, and ghosts.

I started to get sleepy and decided to go home. As I was crossing the river I thought about how good it would feel to huddle underneath my comforter. I reached the other side and stood upon the dike that separated the water from our house. I waited for Buddy to catch up. He always followed right behind me. I started to worry that the current may have been too swift, or maybe this night he wandered too far. I started to call out but he still didn’t come. I began to pace on the dike, looking out into the dark, willing his black, hulking shape to appear.

“Buddy!” I screamed. I strained to hear his movements.

Then a woman whispered against my ear, “Don’t worry he is coming.”.

I jerked my head to the see who had spoken, but no one was there. My left ear tingled from her ghostly whisper.

After the initial shock, I realized I wasn’t scared. The voice was so calm and reassuring that I realized there was no threat. I soon heard my dog splashing through the river and crashing through the brush as he ran up the embankment.

I never heard from the ghostly woman again, but I felt her with me until I left home to go to college. Throughout the day when I played outside and on my nightly excursions, I knew she watched me. I wrote a poem about her that is buried somewhere in my old room. In the poem I described how the woman was actually me and that what I heard was a collision of my past, present, and future.

When I visit my childhood home, I like to think she walks with me as I stroll past the foundation of that old farm-house and the animal cemetery where Buddy rests now. Rotting wooden crosses and an old sign nailed to a tree that reads, “Pet Cemetary” are the remains that I leave for future generations. For the next young, naive heart that innocently thinks she can discover the mystery of death.

Will she hear me whisper?

-Rachel McKee

***coke oven – A coke oven is a brick oven that is used to produce coal. The coke ovens on my parent’s property were used to produce coal for the nearby railroad.

Cover image found here.

 

A Trip To The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site: Buffalo, New York

Hi everyone.

I greet you sleep-deprived and five pounds fluffier, but I’m so happy to be back! Me, Miles, and our son returned from Buffalo, New York yesterday.

Miles is packing the good photos on his camera, but I wanted to share some photos from my tour of the TR Inaugural Site. (Please excuse the crummy photos taken from my old phone.)

The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site.

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This is the private residence where Theodore Roosevelt was inaugurated into presidency in Buffalo, New York 1901.

Theodore Roosevelt Inagural Site Buffalo New York

President William McKinley was shot at Buffalo’s Pan-American Exposition on September 6th, 1901. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took the “oath of office” in this exact spot September 14th, 1901the same day McKinley died from his wounds. The private residence belonged to Roosevelt’s good friend Ansley Wilcox.

Theodore Roosevelt Inagural Site Buffalo New York

Another photo of the same library from the Roosevelt inaugural site.

Theodore Roosevelt Inagural Site Buffalo New York

Books from the Wilcox library.

Theodore Roosevelt Inagural Site Buffalo New York

Mr. Roosevelt kindly took a selfie with myself and my sister-in-law Jen (on the left).

Theodore Roosevelt Inagural Site Buffalo New York

It’s hard being President…

 

Love & Cheers,

Rachel McKee

Note: The cover image and the picture of the outside of the Wilcox home were found on the TR Inaugural Site.

 

 

 

 

Illuminated Literation Is On Instagram

After seven years of being with a photographer, I’m finally learning photography. I’ve been hesitant because my husbands camera is so much more complex than a point and shoot, not to mention the post production process and using Lightroom (an editing program). I don’t think I give enough kudos to Miles and the other photographers that I follow. (You guys rock!)

My Illuminated Literation Instagram account is  what the hip kids call a #bookstagram account. All of my pictures so far are focused on books. If you would like to learn more about #bookstagram visit the blog Paper Fury and read How To Fabulously Get Started on #Bookstagram.

If you would like to follow me, and watch me hone my photography skills, my Instagram account is called Illuminted_Literation. (If you click the hyperlink it will take you to the account.)

If you do follow, and you also have a public account for your blog or any other interest, please comment on one of my pictures and let me know so I can follow you back.

I (hesitantly) would like share a few of my photos that I have posted thus far. No laughing. I realize you are used to seeing Miles’ pictures on Illuminated Literation and in full disclosure he took the cover image for this post. (I’m not that good with a selfie stick. Although, I guess a real photographer would use a tripod.)

Aesop's Fables

Grimm Maurice Sendak

Grimm Maurice Sendak

When I began my #bookstagram account I thought it would be filled with pictures from my YA collection, but so far most of my photographs are illustrated children’s books. I use the term “children’s” books very generically here because Mama doesn’t share these books with Little Destructo.

Again, if you would like to follow Illuminated Literation the #bookstagram account is Illuminated_Literation.

Cheers to new hobbies.

Rachel McKee