Writing Update: Pick Your Favorite

Hi friends,

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged anything about my writing endeavors.

I have four picture book manuscripts that I am going to start querying to agents.

For fun, could you please pick the project/pitch that is the most interesting to you? The book you would most likely pick up for yourself and the children in your life. Please answer in the comment section below.

A) Elsie Goes to Work

During summer break, Elsie goes to work with her mother at a greenhouse. One day, she sees the most beautiful rosebush and wants it for her own. One problem, she may have neglected the last plant her mother bought for her, and now her mother won’t buy her another. She strikes a deal with the owner of the greenhouse: if she helps for the day, she can have the rosebush. How hard can work be? The reward of a job-well-done smells sweet, and Elsie learns that hard work pays off in more ways than one.

B) Mrs. Irish

When Anna’s friend, Mrs. Irish falls ill, Anna must take charge by making the cure for her friend. Anna learns that her mysterious older friend is a witch, and her magic goes wacky when she is sick. Finding the ingredients proves difficult when Anna must deal with a cantankerous cat and rogue fairies that see an opportunity to wreak havoc. Mrs. Irish’s enchanted cottage has been turned upside-down and Anna must cure Mrs. Irish before her house crumbles around them.

C) Cinnamon’s Foal

Hayden and her friends await the arrival of a new baby foal at the stable where they ride. Everyone is surprised and saddened when the foals mother dies during the birth. The girls work together to make sure the new foal has excellent care. By helping the foal, the girls realize that they are healing themselves by caring for the baby who needs them.

D) Animal Diner

Miles learns at school that he can be anything. He knows that he is destined to be a great chef. Nothing can stand in his way. Miles realizes that it’s going to be hard to cook when he isn’t allowed to use the stove or that he can’t reach the mixing bowls. He isn’t even allowed to be in the kitchen without adult supervision. Miles reverts to making food in his backyard. Mud pies and worm spaghetti are fun to make, but Miles yearns for someone to appreciate his skill. Just when Miles’ dreams of becoming a chef begin to fry, a surprise dinner party gathers to enjoy the feast that Miles has carefully arranged.

(Yes, its a bit odd I used my husband’s name for a protagonist but it just fit!)

Have a great day everyone!

-Rachel McKee

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Ever Optimistic

I participated in another Twitter Pitch party. I haven’t received and “hearts” on my pitch.

THE LITTLE PRINCESS + THE SECRET GARDEN

An independent girl takes a job at a whimsical greenhouse in hopes of a beautiful reward. She will have to rely on her determination and pluck to get through the mud, worms, and other messy challenges. #PitMad #PB

The road to publishing is long for most. I have a degree in literature, and I quit a career in technical editing and writing to stay at home with my children. That is when I started this blog.

I’ve been writing intensely for almost 10 years. To some that’s a lot, to others just a warm up to the publishing marathon. For me it’s joy and frustration, maddening and elation.

The bottom line is that I believe this is my path. I am suppose to write. Whatever that means.

I may not receive any likes on my pitch, but I did pitch. I had a screaming seven-month-old and a two-year-old vying for my phone and attention, but I pitched! I’m proud of that.

-Rachel

Essay or Children’s Book?

Every children’s book is a short story, but not every short story is a children’s book.

I’ve been writing children’s literature for about a year, and I still have so much to learn. Where can I improve most? Stop over thinking, and over complicating the story.

Even though my goal is to reach children, I’m still writing for adults. My strongest writing is short non-fiction. Therefore, my children book manuscripts are based on my own childhood. That’s my comfort zone.

The problem though, is that I’m reflecting on these experiences with the eyes of an adult – and that is how they are written.

Children understand big concepts, and depending on the age, they are starting to grasp big emotions. However, when I start focusing on the moral, and lessons-learned from my experiences, the fun and adventure can fade out of focus.

I’ve edited a lot of children’s book manuscripts that are “in-work” and I’ve noticed this trend. We need to write to keep a child’s attention and it’s hard, we want to put our big adult ideas all over it. Kids are smart, they have keen ears, and when we start hammering morals and lessons into stories all they hear is, “preach, preach, preach” and let’s be honest, nobody wants to hear that (especially a seven-year-old). Yet children’s book authors are quick to make that mistake.

So, if you’re wondering where my focus is when I’m editing its to take the “preach” out of my text. Carefully weaving the moral or lesson into the story.

I typically let my writing lead and I follow. Sometimes I’m disappointed when I set out to write a children’s book and end up with a personal essay, but I firmly believe that we write how and when we need to write. Through writing we dig into our sub-conscious and unravel a truth we’ve been searching inward to find.

If we end with a different genre than we intended, well then, so be it.

-Rachel McKee

Looking Back

When you look back,
may the sun illuminate every raindrop, shadow, and angry cloud.

Find the golden line of clarity around every moment you asked,
“Why me?!”.

May you see the beauty of the sunlight and rain that make up your life
and realize you needed both to grow.

May you draw strength and wisdom from every storm,
and let peace fill your soul.

 

-Rachel McKee

Take Me Home River

Take me home river.

Ride your current,

go with the flow.

By childhood dreams

and brother streams,

Take me home river,

take me home.

Stars guide the way,

to the family that stayed.

The light burns inside,

for the kin who strayed.

Take me home river,

take me home.

– Rachel McKee

Micro Fiction: Nowhere

There are places in my head that I’ve created. I’d like to go to one in particular.

The walls, the floor, and the ceiling are wet, glossy stones. The air is heavy with the smell of Earth and water.

There is one large window with a view of a deep green field. Wild lavender bushes burst through the green and shake in the breeze.

I perch inside this residential cave upon the bench that surrounds a circular Koi pond. Lily pads float on top of the water and the bright orange fish slither about.

The tinkling fountain vibrates around the room and fills my ears.

I am there and yet I’m not. Just as this room exists but does not.

-Rachel McKee

Finding The Magic

I’ve been rewriting and editing, and then rewriting and editing some more. I’ve had my picture book (PB) reviewed by three people and it’s been incredibly helpful. Elsie Goes To Work is so close, but I feel it’s still missing something. I think I’m leaving some magic out.

I wanted to keep you guys posted, but I don’t have much to report. I’m just looking for that fairy dust to sprinkle on my PB.

So, you know if you have any to spare (fairy dust that is), please help a writer out.

-Rachel

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

A New Project

I’m at a point in my novel where I am stuck. That means my writing is stuck. I hate that.

So I decided to dig up a children’s book that I wrote last May. The story is (loosely) based off of my experience working at a flower nursery. I posted the story last week to get some feedback. It’s been removed and revised many times since I posted it.

The writing for this story came easily. I was able to draw on my own experience and reflect. Now I want to write an entire series based off of Elsie’s (my MC) adventures. These stories will be written from my childhood memories. I’m very excited about this project. I’m also learning that it’s good to keep writing, even if you have to put one project aside.

Drawing from my own experience while writing these picture books has been easier than writing my novel (Not that any writing is easy.) Creating fictional characters and a fictional story is hard, sometimes I feel like I’m reaching into a black hole to find what works.

I must stop and quote two authors:

“Write what you know.” -Mark Twain

“You speak of Lord Byron and me – There is this great difference between us.
He describes what he sees – I describe what I imagine – Mine is the hardest task.”
-John Keats in a letter to his brother George, September 1819

In my case, both of these quotes are true. There are certain plot points, emotions, and scenes that I have been struggling with because I have no reference. I’m not giving up on my novel, but I need to follow this new motivation.

I’m pitching the first book in the series, Elsie Goes To Work next Thursday at a Twitter pitch event. If you have a picture book you would like to pitch, the hashtag is #PBBooks and it’s happening on the 2/23/2017.

Wish me luck, hopefully an agent or editor will “like” my pitch.

-Rachel McKee

Writing Discussions: Beyond This Blog

I don’t know about you, but I have the hardest time talking about my writing projects outside of my blog.

When friends and family ask about my writing endeavors I clam up, and then to compensate, I ramble for 20 minutes about my novel or this blog. I make a mess of explaining my projects.

People are always nice and they nod their heads, looking somewhat confused. Even with my husband, the one person I am the most comfortable with, I fumble to convey what my projects mean. Luckily he reads my blog so he knows I can form a coherent thought, but when I say my ideas out loud they sound flat and pointless.

I avoid discussing my writing with people, which makes it a lonely craft. (Reason 1,2234 I am grateful for this blog.)

Do you struggle with explaining your art or big projects?

-Rachel McKee

Photo by Miles McKee Photography