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by Maria Gianferrari

Cat got your tongue? I hope not! It’s time to stick out your tongue and celebrate all things tongue with a TERRIFIC TONGUES book giveaway, and a trip off the tongue thanks to Tara for helping feature it here!

Tongues rule!! So does Jia Liu’s fun and vibrant art!

How cool are tongues? Take this quiz and find out!

Whose tongue is like a washcloth?
A) Giraffe
B) Okapi
C) Tiger

If you had a tongue like a whip, you might be a …..

A) Snake
B) Dog
C) Anteater

Your tongue cleans your eyes like a windshield wiper. Who are you?

A) A gecko
B) A snail
C) A sea turtle

Answer in the comments and you’ll be eligible to win a copy of the book (for US residents only—sorry!).

To check your answers, read TERRIFIC TONGUES!

Thanks again, Tara & hearty thanks to publisher Boyds Mills Press for generously donating copies!

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by Lydia Lukidis

I fell in love with writing at the age of six. I scribbled poems and stories everywhere I could. But when it came time to choose a field to pursue my studies in, I opted for practicality and studied Pure and Applied Science.

It was hard work and I earned my degree. YAY!

But then, OH NO! The sinking feeling in my heart was undeniable. I realized I didn’t want a career in science.

So it was back to the drawing board. Since writing was always my first love, I decided to study English Literature at McGill University. Cut to a few decades later, I’m a published children’s author and found a way to incorporate my science background into my writing. I finally had the opportunity to use my science degree in a fun way.

It came about unexpectedly, when I began to write for the educational market several years ago. I didn’t know I would love it until I tried it. Now I have over 40 educational books and eBooks under my belt, including two really exciting contracts I landed with Kane Publishing for their Science Solves It! series. I’m happy to announce both books are now officially released: A REAL LIVE PET! and THE SPACE ROCK MYSTERY.

  

You may be wondering if the educational market is right for you. Here’s a list of common questions:

  • Can I submit my own work to educational publishers?
    There may be exceptions, but most educational publishers offer work-for-hire (WFH) contracts. They develop their concepts and specific guidelines in-house. Then they hire freelance authors who will create an outline and write the book under the guidance of an editor.
  • Will I get an advance and royalties?
    In general, most educational publishers don’t offer an advance or royalties. Rather, they pay a one-time flat fee and retain all rights to the work. In some cases, you may not even get credit. On the plus side, WFH contracts typically pay fast, and the turn-around is quicker.
  • Can WFH contracts help open doors to trade publishing?
    Landing WFH contracts can help you break into the market and gain experience working with editors and publishers. It’s also an opportunity to develop your writing skills and gain writing credits. This may help you on your path to traditional publishing, but there’s no guarantee as the two markets are separate.
  • Do I need an agent for the educational market?
    Nope! You can apply and negotiate your contracts on your own. The contracts are typically fairly straight forward. Another bonus is that it’s slightly easier to break into this market in comparison to commercial publishing.
  • How can I get started?
    Start compiling a list of educational publishers that work with the age brackets you’re interested in. In the SCBWI book, there are many great listings. Check the guidelines for each publisher and send them a cover letter detailing your experience and qualifications, along with your CV and some writing samples.

But as all writers know, you’ll need plenty of patience and perseverance. I remember my first attempt several years ago. I painstakingly crafted my cover letter and beefed up my CV as much as I could. I sent off 100 cover letters but didn’t get a single reply. Not even one! I experienced a moment of despair but decided to keep going. A year later, my body of work had grown and my writing samples improved. I sent off another batch of cover letters to the same publishers and lo and behold, I got my first break! From there, it snowballed.

While the educational market is not for everyone, it works well for authors who have a passion for writing nonfiction and want to supplement their income. For those interested in giving it a shot, I wish you luck on your journey! If you have any other specific questions, feel free to post them in the comments below.

Plus, leave a comment to enter to win a copy of A REAL LIVE PET!

A winner will be selected in a few weeks.

Good luck! 

Lydia Lukidis is a children’s author with over forty books and eBooks published, along with numerous short stories, poems and plays. Her background is multi-disciplinary and spans the fields of literature, science and puppetry. Lydia writes fiction and nonfiction for children from K-6, and enjoys working with educational publishers such as Kane Publishing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Red Line Editorial. She is also passionate about spreading the love of literacy and has been facilitating writing workshops for children since 1999. Visit Lydia at lydialukidis.com or connect with her on Twitter @LydiaLukidis.

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Poor, sad, neglected blog!

I’ve been whisking off to school visits and conferences, but I’ve not been too busy to blog. Too lazy, perhaps. And I have an avalanche of awesome authors and illustrators waiting for me to post about their books. I need a swift kick in the pantaloons.

Remember when Twitter was introduced, “they” dubbed it a micro-blogging platform? (“They” are always busy, have you noticed?)

Well, I’ve been micro-blogging. Here are some recent tidbits of #pubtips…

Don’t follow me on Twitter?

Let’s fix that, shall we? (Does that make us a “they”?)

And now, here are “they” who won recent giveaways here:

Cate Berry’s PENGUIN & SHRIMP DON’T DO BEDTIME
Amada Sincavage

Tracy Marchini’s CHICKEN WANTS A NAP
Carole Calladine

Troy Cummings’ CAN I BE YOUR DOG?
Kara Newhouse

Congratulations, winners! I will email you shortly…

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by Tracy Marchini

I’ve worn a number of hats in my career—and for the most part I have always had at least two hats on at once.

Now, I’m a children’s author who is celebrating her picture book debut, CHICKEN WANTS NAP, and a Literary Agent at BookEnds Literary representing fiction, non-fiction and illustration for children and teens.

But I’ve also been a newspaper correspondent, a children’s book reviewer, a freelance copywriter, a literary agents assistant, a freelance editor and a communications manager. (Well, and a pharmacy tech—which has nothing to do with this post—and very, very briefly an assistant at a wedding dress preservationist’s—which is the only job I’ve ever been let go from. I was relieved.)

Anyway, so many of these hats forced me to learn to write in a different way. Feature pieces vs. event wrap ups, editorial letters vs. pitch letters, book reviews vs. press releases—everything had a different format or tone, but there was also a lot of overlap. Ultimately, I think all of the above experience helped me with my writing and agenting career, and I hope that some of the below helps you too!

Character
I would get my newspaper assignments on Friday, do interviews and write the story over the weekend, and submit on Sunday so it’d be in my editor’s inbox by the Monday deadline. (Monday I’d be commuting to work as a literary assistant.)

My favorite pieces to write were feature pieces that honored another person’s life. People were generally so happy to talk about this person that they loved or admired, even though we’re all flawed, and I usually left the interviews feeling pretty inspired. I also felt like there was a little more room for creativity in a feature piece. A good features makes the reader feel like they’ve met the person, too.

Looking back on feature writing makes me think about a character exercise that I was once assigned in undergrad. The exercise says to pick a person you know and write about them as they would write about themselves. Then write about them through the eyes of someone that hated them. Then again through the eyes of someone that loved them. You have three different people on the page—or four, right? Because the primary subject is actually probably closer to a culmination of those three pieces than any one particular view—and I think that’s why the exercise can be so helpful when you’re struggling with rounding out your characters. Remember, even antagonists think they’re the hero of the story.

Hook
Book reviews, newspaper pieces, pitch letters, press releases, copywriting—all of it relied on being able to find a hook that was going to grab a reader and make them want to read more, attend the event, buy the book, click a link, etc.

As an author, particularly as a picture book author, you have to be thinking about what is going to make your story stand out on the shelves or in the submissions pile.

That said, your hook is not the plot summary. For example, I’ve pitched CHICKEN WANTS A NAP as “Remy Charlip’s Fortunately set in the barnyard,” but that’s not the summary.

One exercise I’ve done with friends when they’re having trouble with finding a strong concept for their own WIPs is to go through the bookstore or their own shelves, pull out and read a picture book, then find a hook. For example, DUCKS’S VACATION is THERE’S A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK set on the beach. NUT JOB is “Ocean’s 11” with squirrels. Or, if I were to pitch a book without a comparison, I might say something like HOORAY FOR FISH is a fun and heartwarming celebration of a fish’s love for their mom.

Once you’ve had practice with some books on the shelves, tell your friend the hook for your WIP. If it’s a plot summary, your friend should make you try again. And if you can’t find the hook for your WIP—that thing that’s going to make it stand out from all the other queries/manuscripts in an agent or editor’s inbox—then perhaps it’s time to take another look at your WIP’s concept.

In truth, you might not use this hook in your query letter at all, but if you find that a common theme in your rejection letters is “not sure it can compete in the marketplace,” this is an excellent exercise to help punch up your concept!

Word Choice
Almost everything I wrote had a standard structure and/or expected word count, be it a press release, feature story, book review, pitch letter or pieces for a social media campaign. Just like in a picture book text, EVERY WORD COUNTED. I had to be concise—looking for that one perfect word instead of two to four less precise words.

So take out your picture book WIP. Are you in the sweet spot (300 – 500 words for fiction*)? Does every word convey the exact meaning you intend? If you’re using repetition, is it done in a way that builds tension, humor or otherwise adds to the story? If you’re not sure about a word or line, delete it and then read the story aloud (or bring it to somebody else). Does the story lose anything? If not, then permanently delete that line, phrase or word.

*CHICKEN WANTS A NAP is 165 words, and my current WIP is 600. CHICKEN is a read-aloud for younger picture book readers and the story just did not need another 140 words. My WIP is for older picture book readers who are starting to read by themselves. So I guess I’m saying to use the words you need and not one word more!

Speaking of one word more, I had started a different draft of this post where I went through each job individually and it quickly became a novel. And as I’m hitting that point again, I think it’s best to close here. I hope that these tricks help you in your own writing, and if you have the time or opportunity to do some freelance writing in another format—I say, why not! You’ll exercise a different writing muscle, and I’ll bet it’ll improve your current children’s writing as well!

Tracy Marchini is a Literary Agent at BookEnds Literary, where she represents fiction, non-fiction and illustration for children and teens. She’s thrilled to represent a list of debut and award-winning authors and illustrators, and is currently open to submissions. To get a sense of what she’s looking for, you can follow her Twitter #MSWL, see her announced client books, and read her submission guidelines.

As an author, her debut picture book, CHICKEN WANTS A NAP, was called “A surprising gem” in a starred review from Kirkus. She’s been accepted for publication in Highlights Magazine and has won grants from the Highlights Foundation, the Puffin Foundation and La Muse Writer’s Retreat in Southern France. She holds an M.F.A. in Writing for Children and a B.A. in English, concentration in Rhetoric.

Tracey is giving away a signed copy of CHICKEN WANTS A NAP.

Leave one comment below to enter and a winner will be chosen next week.

Good luck!

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by Troy Cummings

Designing a picture book cover is like housetraining a puppy: it requires lots of patience, there are papers spread all over the house, and it’ll inevitably lead to fits of howling in the middle of the night.

But if you can sniff out the good ideas and clean up your happy accidents, you’ll hopefully wind up with something you’re proud to cuddle up with on the couch.

When I wrangle my picture book covers, I try to explore as many different ideas as possible. I start by sketching a few pages crazy loose brainstormy concepts, and then distill those into half a dozen thumbnail sketches.

I draw my thumbnail sketches at about 1.5″ tall. It forces me to work quickly, make big, bold shapes, and to _not_ get fussy with details. I think it’s best to work in b/w at this point; we can save the color decisions for later.

Here are the cover sketches I submitted to my editor/art director for CAN I BE YOUR DOG? It’s a story about a dog who writes letters to every house on Butternut street, in search of a home–so I knew I’d want the cover to involve DOG + MAIL.

DVD COMMENTARY TRACK ON THE ABOVE IMAGES:

1. Big letter: This would have been a pretty static/boring cover; the puppy is too small! But I kept it here in case it gave us more ideas for another direction to follow.

2. Arfy mailing: I like how this one shows us the dog actually sending a letter. It’s sort of already getting the story started—like a bonus page zero of the book!

3. Zoomed-in stamp: I was trying to show the title in a cancellation stamp, but it’s too hard to read. (I ended up stealing this idea for my ABOUT THE AUTHOR photo on the flap. (With my portrait on a 3RD CLASS STAMP.)

4. Special delivery: I liked this one, especially Arfy’s floppy ears.

5. Big puppy: We ended up using this one as flap art, too.

6. Peek: I liked the timidness of the puppy peeking around the corner; we ended up using a variant of this on the back cover.

7. Arfy’s head: This was everyone’s favorite. The scruffy mutt is prominently featured, and it was nice to work the title into the illustration.

Once we’d agreed on a direction, my art director Liz (who rocks!) was able to take my sketch and improve it like crazy. Liz zoomed in on the image, made the title bolder, suggested to bend the letter, and moved my byline out to the background space. I loved all of her suggestions, and we ended up with a jacket that reads pretty well across the room or as a tiny thumbnail image on the web.

The best part about sketching multiple ideas is that none of that work was wasted. I was able to reuse some of my sketches on the flaps/interiors of the book, or for promotional materials.

Troy Cummings is the author/illustrator of more than 30 books, including CAN I BE YOUR DOG?, THE NOTEBOOK OF DOOM, and LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (written by the indefatigable Tara Lazar!) You can follow him on Twitter @troycummings, follow him on Instagram @troxcummings, or follow him to the new ice cream shop that opened next door to his studio. (Shrewd move on their part!)

Troy is giving away a signed copy of CAN I BE YOUR DOG?

Leave one comment below to enter. A winner will be selected next week.

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by Tracy Marchini

I’ve worn a number of hats in my career—and for the most part I have always had at least two hats on at once.

Now, I’m a children’s author who is celebrating her picture book debut, CHICKEN WANTS NAP, and a Literary Agent at BookEnds Literary representing fiction, non-fiction and illustration for children and teens.

But I’ve also been a newspaper correspondent, a children’s book reviewer, a freelance copywriter, a literary agents assistant, a freelance editor and a communications manager. (Well, and a pharmacy tech—which has nothing to do with this post—and very, very briefly an assistant at a wedding dress preservationist’s—which is the only job I’ve ever been let go from. I was relieved.)

Anyway, so many of these hats forced me to learn to write in a different way. Feature pieces vs. event wrap ups, editorial letters vs. pitch letters, book reviews vs. press releases—everything had a different format or tone, but there was also a lot of overlap. Ultimately, I think all of the above experience helped me with my writing and agenting career, and I hope that some of the below helps you too!

Character
I would get my newspaper assignments on Friday, do interviews and write the story over the weekend, and submit on Sunday so it’d be in my editor’s inbox by the Monday deadline. (Monday I’d be commuting to work as a literary assistant.)

My favorite pieces to write were feature pieces that honored another person’s life. People were generally so happy to talk about this person that they loved or admired, even though we’re all flawed, and I usually left the interviews feeling pretty inspired. I also felt like there was a little more room for creativity in a feature piece. A good features makes the reader feel like they’ve met the person, too.

Looking back on feature writing makes me think about a character exercise that I was once assigned in undergrad. The exercise says to pick a person you know and write about them as they would write about themselves. Then write about them through the eyes of someone that hated them. Then again through the eyes of someone that loved them. You have three different people on the page—or four, right? Because the primary subject is actually probably closer to a culmination of those three pieces than any one particular view—and I think that’s why the exercise can be so helpful when you’re struggling with rounding out your characters. Remember, even antagonists think they’re the hero of the story.

Hook
Book reviews, newspaper pieces, pitch letters, press releases, copywriting—all of it relied on being able to find a hook that was going to grab a reader and make them want to read more, attend the event, buy the book, click a link, etc.

As an author, particularly as a picture book author, you have to be thinking about what is going to make your story stand out on the shelves or in the submissions pile.

That said, your hook is not the plot summary. For example, I’ve pitched CHICKEN WANTS A NAP as “Remy Charlip’s Fortunately set in the barnyard,” but that’s not the summary.

One exercise I’ve done with friends when they’re having trouble with finding a strong concept for their own WIPs is to go through the bookstore or their own shelves, pull out and read a picture book, then find a hook. For example, DUCKS’S VACATION is THERE’S A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK set on the beach. NUT JOB is “Ocean’s 11” with squirrels. Or, if I were to pitch a book without a comparison, I might say something like HOORAY FOR FISH is a fun and heartwarming celebration of a fish’s love for their mom.

Once you’ve had practice with some books on the shelves, tell your friend the hook for your WIP. If it’s a plot summary, your friend should make you try again. And if you can’t find the hook for your WIP—that thing that’s going to make it stand out from all the other queries/manuscripts in an agent or editor’s inbox—then perhaps it’s time to take another look at your WIP’s concept.

In truth, you might not use this hook in your query letter at all, but if you find that a common theme in your rejection letters is “not sure it can compete in the marketplace,” this is an excellent exercise to help punch up your concept!

Word Choice
Almost everything I wrote had a standard structure and/or expected word count, be it a press release, feature story, book review, pitch letter or pieces for a social media campaign. Just like in a picture book text, EVERY WORD COUNTED. I had to be concise—looking for that one perfect word instead of two to four less precise words.

So take out your picture book WIP. Are you in the sweet spot (300 – 500 words for fiction*)? Does every word convey the exact meaning you intend? If you’re using repetition, is it done in a way that builds tension, humor or otherwise adds to the story? If you’re not sure about a word or line, delete it and then read the story aloud (or bring it to somebody else). Does the story lose anything? If not, then permanently delete that line, phrase or word.

*CHICKEN WANTS A NAP is 165 words, and my current WIP is 600. CHICKEN is a read-aloud for younger picture book readers and the story just did not need another 140 words. My WIP is for older picture book readers who are starting to read by themselves. So I guess I’m saying to use the words you need and not one word more!

Speaking of one word more, I had started a different draft of this post where I went through each job individually and it quickly became a novel. And as I’m hitting that point again, I think it’s best to close here. I hope that these tricks help you in your own writing, and if you have the time or opportunity to do some freelance writing in another format—I say, why not! You’ll exercise a different writing muscle, and I’ll bet it’ll improve your current children’s writing as well!

Tracy Marchini is a Literary Agent at BookEnds Literary, where she represents fiction, non-fiction and illustration for children and teens. She’s thrilled to represent a list of debut and award-winning authors and illustrators, and is currently open to submissions. To get a sense of what she’s looking for, you can follow her Twitter #MSWL, see her announced client books, and read her submission guidelines.

As an author, her debut picture book, CHICKEN WANTS A NAP, was called “A surprising gem” in a starred review from Kirkus. She’s been accepted for publication in Highlights Magazine and has won grants from the Highlights Foundation, the Puffin Foundation and La Muse Writer’s Retreat in Southern France. She holds an M.F.A. in Writing for Children and a B.A. in English, concentration in Rhetoric.

Tracey is giving away a signed copy of CHICKEN WANTS A NAP.

Leave one comment below to enter and a winner will be chosen next week.

Good luck!

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by Troy Cummings

Designing a picture book cover is like housetraining a puppy: it requires lots of patience, there are papers spread all over the house, and it’ll inevitably lead to fits of howling in the middle of the night.

But if you can sniff out the good ideas and clean up your happy accidents, you’ll hopefully wind up with something you’re proud to cuddle up with on the couch.

When I wrangle my picture book covers, I try to explore as many different ideas as possible. I start by sketching a few pages crazy loose brainstormy concepts, and then distill those into half a dozen thumbnail sketches.

I draw my thumbnail sketches at about 1.5″ tall. It forces me to work quickly, make big, bold shapes, and to _not_ get fussy with details. I think it’s best to work in b/w at this point; we can save the color decisions for later.

Here are the cover sketches I submitted to my editor/art director for CAN I BE YOUR DOG? It’s a story about a dog who writes letters to every house on Butternut street, in search of a home–so I knew I’d want the cover to involve DOG + MAIL.

DVD COMMENTARY TRACK ON THE ABOVE IMAGES:

1. Big letter: This would have been a pretty static/boring cover; the puppy is too small! But I kept it here in case it gave us more ideas for another direction to follow.

2. Arfy mailing: I like how this one shows us the dog actually sending a letter. It’s sort of already getting the story started—like a bonus page zero of the book!

3. Zoomed-in stamp: I was trying to show the title in a cancellation stamp, but it’s too hard to read. (I ended up stealing this idea for my ABOUT THE AUTHOR photo on the flap. (With my portrait on a 3RD CLASS STAMP.)

4. Special delivery: I liked this one, especially Arfy’s floppy ears.

5. Big puppy: We ended up using this one as flap art, too.

6. Peek: I liked the timidness of the puppy peeking around the corner; we ended up using a variant of this on the back cover.

7. Arfy’s head: This was everyone’s favorite. The scruffy mutt is prominently featured, and it was nice to work the title into the illustration.

Once we’d agreed on a direction, my art director Liz (who rocks!) was able to take my sketch and improve it like crazy. Liz zoomed in on the image, made the title bolder, suggested to bend the letter, and moved my byline out to the background space. I loved all of her suggestions, and we ended up with a jacket that reads pretty well across the room or as a tiny thumbnail image on the web.

The best part about sketching multiple ideas is that none of that work was wasted. I was able to reuse some of my sketches on the flaps/interiors of the book, or for promotional materials.

Troy Cummings is the author/illustrator of more than 30 books, including CAN I BE YOUR DOG?, THE NOTEBOOK OF DOOM, and LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD (written by the indefatigable Tara Lazar!) You can follow him on Twitter @troycummings, follow him on Instagram @troxcummings, or follow him to the new ice cream shop that opened next door to his studio. (Shrewd move on their part!)

Troy is giving away a signed copy of CAN I BE YOUR DOG?

Leave one comment below to enter. A winner will be selected next week.

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Another drum roll…

Before I announce the daily prizes from Storystorm, I must thank Urania Smith for doing the random selection for me. Urania is my mentee from We Need Diverse Books, which we will be talking about soon….but let me tell you, she is a talent on the rise. Watch out for her!

And so here we go…

Day 1: Kirsten Ealand
Day 2: Patricia Alcaro
Day 3: Jen Arena
Day 4: Judy VanSlyke
Day 5: Frances Tosdevin
Day 6: Wendy Myersart
Day 7: Pat Miller
Day 8: Ryan Roberts
Day 9: Andrea Mack
Day 10: Maryshorgan (Sherry Peace)
Day 11: Tracey Brown
Day 12: Rhonda Whitaker
Day 13: Deb Smith
Day 14: Jennifer Broedel
Day 15: Writersideup
Day 16: Lynne Marie
Day 17: Anna Levin
Day 18: Natasha Garnett
Day 19: Karen Larson
Day 20: Andrew Lefebvre
Day 21: Beth Stilborn
Day 22: Bgonsar
Day 23: Lu Fiskin-Ross
Day 24: Kassy Kepol
Day 25: Kathy Cornell Berman
Day 26: Vasilia Graboski
Day 27: Mary Worley
Day 28: KASteed
Day 29: Lucy Straugler
Day 31: Stephen S. Martin

Post-Storystorm
Adam Lehrhaupt: Susan Schade
Nancy Churnin: Debbie Meyer

I will be emailing you all in the next few days to arrange your prizes.

And so, that’s it. It’s over????

No, silly, it’s never over! It’s time to WRITE!

Good luck and happy creating!

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Another drum roll…

Before I announce the daily prizes from Storystorm, I must thank Urania Smith for doing the random selection for me. Urania is my mentee from We Need Diverse Books, which we will be talking about soon….but let me tell you, she is a talent on the rise. Watch out for her!

And so here we go…

Day 1: Kirsten Ealand
Day 2: Patricia Alcaro
Day 3: Jen Arena
Day 4: Judy VanSlyke
Day 5: Frances Tosdevin
Day 6: Wendy Myersart
Day 7: Pat Miller
Day 8: Ryan Roberts
Day 9: Andrea Mack
Day 10: Maryshorgan (Sherry Peace)
Day 11: Tracey Brown
Day 12: Rhonda Whitaker
Day 13: Deb Smith
Day 14: Jennifer Broedel
Day 15: Writersideup
Day 16: Lynne Marie
Day 17: Anna Levin
Day 18: Natasha Garnett
Day 19: Karen Larson
Day 20: Andrew Lefebvre
Day 21: Beth Stilborn
Day 22: Bgonsar
Day 23: Lu Fiskin-Ross
Day 24: Kassy Kepol
Day 25: Kathy Cornell Berman
Day 26: Vasilia Graboski
Day 27: Mary Worley
Day 28: KASteed
Day 29: Lucy Straugler
Day 31: Stephen S. Martin

Post-Storystorm
Adam Lehrhaupt: Susan Schade
Nancy Churnin: Debbie Meyer

I will be emailing you all in the next few days to arrange your prizes.

And so, that’s it. It’s over????

No, silly, it’s never over! It’s time to WRITE!

Good luck and happy creating!

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