Sonia Gensler – Author Interview

sonia-gensler-225I first met Sonia Gensler at a SCBWI LA Summer Conference dinner for all the people attending from our state. It was a banner year for Oklahoma with more than ten people crowded around the table. I had the good fortune of sitting near Sonia and her husband. I remember having a delightful time getting to know the two of them. At one point, there may or may not have been a discussion about the extreme hotness of Edward Norton in The Illusionist and a few other notable sexy nerd-types. Thus, a writer friendship nicely cemented, we saw each other over the years at local conferences. Soon Sonia was a guest speaker at our own SCBWI Oklahoma Fall conference with the exciting announcement of her first two-book deal. We were all so excited for her.

Sonia is a lovely writer who embraces things on the eerie end of the literary spectrum. Gothic architecture, haunted pasts, dead bodies, and restless spirits. You’ll find it all in her first dark mystery, The Revenant, set in a Cherokee Female Seminary in Indian Territory. The rich setting and fully developed, fabulously flawed characters were easy to fall in love with. As for the spooky elements, I did indeed get goosebumps. It reminded me of reading Agatha Christie novels as a young girl, under the covers, way past lights out because I had to know how the mystery ended.

Sonia’s latest book, The Dark Between, set in Cambridge, England, shows just as much promise for a delightfully spine-tingling read. And I just love the cover.

dark-between-200

Kate is a schemer,
Asher is a skeptic,
Elsie is a dreamer . . . who can speak with the dead.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Spiritualism and séances are all the rage—even in the scholarly town of Cambridge, England. While mediums dupe the grief-stricken, a group of local fringe scientists seeks to bridge the gap to the spirit world by investigating the dark corners of the human mind.

Each running from a shadowed past, Kate, Asher, and Elsie take refuge within the walls of Summerfield College. But their peace is soon shattered by the discovery of a dead body nearby. Is this the work of a flesh-and-blood villain, or is something otherworldly at play? This unlikely trio must illuminate what the scientists have not, and open a window to secrets taken to the grave—or risk joining the spirit world themselves.

The Dark Between, a supernatural romance about the powers that lie in the shadows of the mind, is perfect for fans of Sarah Rees Brennan, Alyxandra Harvey, and Libba Bray. (Plot summary from Sonia’s website.)

Following the success of her first book and on the eve of her second book’s release, I asked Sonia if she’d spare some time away from her hectic schedule (and from summering overseas in England – so jealous!) for an interview. Gracious as always, she agreed.

Valerie Lawson: Tell us about your latest book, The Dark Between, what inspired this story?

Sonia Gensler: The Dark Between is a paranormal murder mystery set in 1901 Cambridge, England. I was first inspired to write the story when I was researching The Revenant and happened across Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life after Death, an engaging look at a group of 19th century scholars and scientists who investigated paranormal phenomena. I found these men and women fascinating, but couldn’t help wondering what their teenaged children might have thought of it all. So I wrote a story about that!

VL: That does sound right up your alley. And I can only assume your delightful summer surroundings inspired the setting. England always seems a bit spookier to me. Great choice.

You just filmed the book trailer for The Dark Between right there in Cambridge, how was that experience?

SG: Stressful! Time-consuming. The actual trailer for the book is a 1 minute intro with text and images — that’s pretty much finished and I’m quite happy with it. What we filmed was a “behind the scenes” look at the town and university, and we were fortunate to have a Cambridge student helping us with historical context and the local perspective. At this point, it’s a matter of cutting all the material down. So difficult.

VL: Excellent! I can’t wait to see the finished trailer.

We have to talk about your affinity for watching television, how are you handling the withdrawal while across the pond?

SG: Strangely enough, we don’t have time to watch much TV, though we do see plays and concerts while we’re here. We’ve watched a few BBC shows on my computer. (The White Queen is entertaining — it comes to the US on STARZ soon.)

VL: Ahh! Plays, concerts! Don’t forget the circus. That does sound better than television.

What did you want to be when you were in grade school? What influenced this choice?

SG: I’m pretty sure I wanted to work with animals. I was fascinated by Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, who worked with chimpanzees and gorillas respectively. In grade school I probably would have said I wanted to go into primatology or zoology. My, how things change!

VL:  That is surprising. I wouldn’t have guessed chimps. Maybe a cat wrangler.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer/or to pursue the career you chose? When did you start pursuing that seriously?

SG: My high school students truly were the ones who inspired me to pursue a career in writing. Some of them were so committed and fearless that they challenged me to up my game. I finished my first novel (the one that will forever hide in a drawer) while I was teaching. Soon after that my husband encouraged me to take a year or two off to see if I could actually get something published. From the time I finished that first story to the publication of my first novel was probably about 5 years.

VL: That is so great! I love that your students inspired you. I can only imagine how inspiring you must be to them now.

Were you ever afraid of the dark, of anything under your bed or in your closet?

SG: I was ALWAYS afraid of the dark, and I was quite certain that scary things lurked under the bed or in the closet. I lost a lot of sleep over this and at times got so scared that I curled up under the covers at the foot of the bed in hopes that any monsters would think the bed was unmade and empty. The next morning my mom would lift the covers and find me drenched in sweat and gasping for air. She thought I was weird, but I preferred to smother under the covers rather than be eaten by a monster.

VL: I can definitely see where a seed may have been planted for stories to grow.

What are you currently working on?

SG: Right now I’m working on a middle grade contemporary story in which a group of kids are filming a ghost movie. It’s been a pleasure to take a break from historicals and to write for younger readers.

VL: A new writing challenge. Nice. Way to keep upping the game for yourself.

What has been your favorite book to read/book you’ve been most excited about over the past year?

SG: Splendours and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz was the perfect book for me — I loved the Victorian Gothic setting, the magic and mystery of the plot, and most of all, the unique and sympathetic characters. It was such a joy to read!

VL: Thank you so much, Sonia, for sharing your time with us here, today. Enjoy the rest of your English summer and good luck with your book release! I, for one, can’t wait.

The Dark Between, arrives on August 27th. Preorder your copy, today!

Indiebound Amazon Barnes & Noble Books-A-Million

Learn more about Sonia Gensler here.

Follow Sonia on Twitter here.

Follow Sonia on Tumblr here.

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Things You Should Never Catch with Your Head…and a belated #writemotivation check in

Consider this a cautionary tale.

Be wary of testing the law of gravity; it exists for your own protection. For what goes up does indeed come down. And sometimes it does so with a vengeance.

Back when I was in first grade, my brother decided to test Newton’s big theory. For some reason, I decided to witness this event. So when he threw this up into the air…

Photo credit: Roger H Goun via Flickr
Photo credit: Roger H Goun via Flickr

…I caught it with my forehead.

Good old laws of physics passed the test. Still have a small scar above my right eye to prove it.

My younger brother was playing in the the outfield on a hot summer day when a pop fly came right overhead. Glove ready, he reached out to catch it, but the sun blinded him and the ball slipped over the top of his glove…

Photo Credit: Jason Empey via Flickr
Photo Credit: Jason Empey via Flickr

…BAM!!! He caught the ball with his mouth.

Gravity was a cruel mistress on that day. His lips were swollen like two bruised plums bursting off his face for weeks. He now plays soccer.

On a related sports note, back in Little League, my husband forgot that when you’re playing catcher, you should probably kneel behind the plate so you don’t catch one of these…

Photo Credit: Photographer Unknown, Untitled (Four Baseball Bats) 1992, Sold at Christie's Auction in 2007
Photo Credit: Photographer Unknown, Untitled (Four Baseball Bats) 1992, Sold at Christie’s Auction in 2007

…with your noggin.

And maybe you should wear a catcher’s mask. The bat hit him so hard, he didn’t register the pain. He stood there, trying to figure out how his white jersey had turned red and what was dripping into his eye. Uh, yeah that would be the blood from the big gash in your skull. He has a pretty cool scar, too.

You’d think now that we’re older,  we’d all have a better understanding about the dangers of testing gravity, of catching objects hurtling through the air and exhibit a little more caution in our daily lives. Sadly, this rarely turns out to be the case. This past weekend, while swimming with the family at the neighborhood pool, my husband forgot the lessons of the past and did something incredibly stupid. He caught this…

Sophie Smile

…with his face.

My daughter jumped in, all carefree and impulsive – like you do – intent on making a big splash. Instead, she misjudged her aim. Her knee landed somewhere around my husband’s eyebrow, giving him a black eye and her shin bone smacked across his mouth hard enough to knock out one of his front teeth.

Just in time for him to start his new job the following Monday. (With a brief detour to some serious dental surgery. ) Yippee.

So how was your week?

Learn anything cool about science?

Catch anything dangerous with your head?

writemotivation_header1Let’s review some #writemotivation goals to liven things up a bit more.

1. Submit Institutionalized (YA contemporary) to five more literary agents. I’ve submitted to two more agents this month. Still no rejections, so this makes seven submissions out. Will have to send out three more before the end of the month to make this goal. Should be doable.

2. While participating in Camp NanoWriMo, write at least 50K towards first draft of Pretty Vacant (YA contemporary). Uhh…I kind of forgot all about Camp Nano in the midst of the Christmas in July Pitch contest hoopla, the hubs changing jobs which totally threw our harmonious family schedule into chaos (read stressed everyone completely out), him then getting injured and going through major dental surgery the same week he started the new job (although my husband on nitrous oxide was entertaining at times, this injury still added more chaos and stress to the week). This goal is a total fail for the month. I’ll keep working on the story, but there’s no way I’ll make my word limit goal.

3. Read at least five more books – review one on the blog. I need to write a review up this week, but the reading is going well. I may be the cnv paperback USlast person on the planet to start reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. A Michael L Printz Honor book, among other awards – actually I should tell you what awards it hasn’t won, it’s a much shorter list. I’m bouncing between this gripping tale and last week’s book of note, Sara Zaar’s How to Save a Life.

4. Finish critique of friend’s manuscript. (Hopefully by her birthday midway through the month!) I have started this, but still extreme sad face. Will not make this goal, either.

5. Exercise 4 times each week. I did make this goal. Yay! Didn’t overdo it. This week the work outs were a little more relaxed, but still accomplished.

6. Participate in all Crit Camp activities, which include critiquing 10K samples from manuscripts from the other participants and preparing crit letters. This. Was. So. HARD! Writing up critique letters with an overview of plot, character, voice, structure, etc., was such a different way of thinking about critique. I really struggled with my final crit letters. Natalie was so helpful in pointing out when I was holding back and not saying what I meant and making me reach deeper. It was such a great learning experience, and in the end, I was able to give more specific examples when giving critiques and discuss the overall picture in ways I’ve never been able to before. I also really enjoyed getting so much helpful, insightful feedback on my own work. If this is something you could use help with, you may want to check out Natalie C Parker’s Crit Camp yourself.

That’s a wrap on the past week. I’ve got some great posts coming up to finish out the month so stay tuned. Next month week I’m headed out to the fabulous SCBWI LA Summer Conference! I’m sure to bring back valuable knowledge to share.

Christmas in July Pitch Contest Entries are Up Today! (That Means Mine, Too!)

Xmas in July post headerA quick post today to encourage everyone to stop by the two blogs hosting the Christmas in July Pitch contest, Ruth Lauren Stevens and Michelle Krys. If you’d like to read my entry, here’s the link directly to it here. Please save your comments on the contest site until the 20th. Only agents are allowed to comment for the next two days. Instead, show your support by posting comments here or by following the Twitter hashtag #XmasinJuly. I’ll try to keep everyone updated on how I’m doing as much as possible. Thanks!

Is Your Website Teacher-Friendly – Common Core Curriculum

LiveImage.ashxOur newly appointed Assistant Regional Advisor, Helen Newton gave an excellent talk at our Tulsa schmooze this month entitled The Common Core: How to Use it to Your Benefit. The Common Core is a set of teaching objectives that will be adopted by 46 of the 50 states starting with the 2014-2015 school year and will focus heavily on tying literature and writing skills into all subjects – math, science, social studies, etc.

As Helen put it, “Life is not divided up into hours”. You don’t just use math or English in one class. Now teaching will reflect how everything is connected.

This is great news for writers on all levels, from picture books to YA, from fiction to non-fiction. More books will be needed.

This doesn’t mean you have to necessarily research the entire Common Core curriculum and write books to fit what they want to teach, but you should look at the books you’ve written and see how they fit within some of the objectives. Then make sure you do the prep work for the teachers and give them the tools to make it easy to pick your book when they need to teach about your book’s subject.

Write a up short book talk and post it on your website, create a reader’s theatre that can be used in the classroom, have something on your website to encourage literary circles, have activities for teachers to use in the classroom, and you should have a section to get kids interested – something interactive.

Another great concept is that kids will be taught to read critically, not just to think about whether or not they like a book, but to really get down to the reasons why they like a book. I find that refreshing.

Helen is an English teacher who has used a similar approach for years in her own classrooms. She does book talks once a week to get the kids excited about a title and want to read it themselves. The kids in her classes also do this themselves once every eight weeks. This, along with the books she uses in her daily lessons, adds up to fifteen to twenty books every week that the kids can be exposed to. She says it never fails that after she discusses a book, at least one student comes up to her and asks if they can check it out to read.

If a book you’ve written has, say, a setting of a science fair or has characters that deal with prejudice like Linda Sue Park’s book Project Mulberry, then teachers can use it when working on both of these different curriculum objectives. CC Icon

Another example is The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine which has an excellent explanation of prime numbers. Tulsa Burning by Anna Myers has great example of dialect in writing, Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl shows wonderful figurative language, and S.A. Bodine’s Compound show how plot twist complications affect story outcomes. All of these books can be weaved into lesson plans effortlessly.

The one thing that will help teachers use your books in meeting these new Common Core lesson plans is easy access to information about your books.

Helen gave these author websites as examples of great teacher-friendly sites:

Darleen Bailey Beard

Margaret Peterson Haddix

Brod Bagert

Anna Myers

Jerry Spinelli

Make sure you stop by Helen’s blog for more updates on this  subject. If you know of any great author sites with excellent teacher resources, make sure to let me know, I’d love to check them out.

July #writemotivation Week 2

photograph by Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. httpwww.flickr.comphotossahlgoodeWhat a week! I thought last week was a whirlwind, this one almost got away from me.  I have returned to civilization and (almost) miss those psychotic chickens. I don’t miss the bugs. I finally stopped itching, yesterday, even with the toothpaste. I must admit that I have dipped into the sacred pint of New York Super Fudge Chunk. After the week in the country, though. I don’t even feel guilty about it.

Here’s a look at this month’s #writemotivation goals:

1. Submit Institutionalized (YA contemporary) to five more literary agents. I’ve done more eliminating of possibilities this past week than submitting, but that is part of the process. Some on my short list, when I looked closer didn’t really fit as well as I had hoped. This was pretty time-consuming. The good news is, my list is shorter. I also haven’t received any rejections, so I still have five submissions out.2013-Participant-Campfire-Circle-Badge

2. While participating in Camp NanoWriMo, write at least 50K towards first draft of Pretty Vacant (YA contemporary). (Yay, camp!) I spent more time on my other camp this past week than this one since it ends first, but I still made a little progress. Yay, for camps with NO BUGS!

howtosave-150x2273. Read at least five more books – review one on the blog. I’m currently reading Sara Zarr’s How to Save a Life and digging it. Slowly chipping away at that gargantuan TBR pile. I may even snag Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series away from my daughter soon.

4. Finish critique of friend’s manuscript. (Hopefully by her birthday midway through the month!) Extreme sad face. Not. Even. Started. Utter Failure.

5. Exercise 4 times each week. More than four times, baby! Got the cramps and muscle strains to prove it!

6. Participate in all Crit Camp activities, which include critiquing 10K samples from manuscripts from the other participants and preparing crit letters. I’ve had so much fun doing the work for Natalie C Parker’s Crit Camp! I’ve received my initial crit letters back and Natalie’s feedback on my critiquing was so great. I’m ready to write up my final crit letters with much more depth and clarity. I hope my own critique partners notice the difference in my critiquing when we meet up next week. I can’t wait to try out my new skills.

On last minute announcement…Xmas in July post headerdrum roll please!!!

I entered my Middle Grade manuscript, Night of the Museum Crashers, into the Christmas in July Pitch Contest and out of 206 entries, mine was one of 30 chosen!

Yeah, baby! I’m so excited!

So what happens next? On July 18th and 19th, all the winning entries (Yes, that includes mine!) will be posted on the two hosting blogs. The lovely Michelle Krys and her equally lovely companion across the pond, Ruth Lauren Stevens have assembled these fantastic group of agents to view and make comments on the entries or possibly even make requests for submissions:

Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services

Tracey and Josh Adams of Adams Literary

Becky Vinter of Fine Print Literary Management

Diana Fox of Fox Literary

Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary Management

Lucy Carson of Friedrich Literary Agency

Lara Perkins of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. 

Logan Garrison of The Gernert Company

Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency

Tamar Rydzinski of Laura Dail Literary Agency

Monika Verma of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, Inc.

Brianne Johnson of Writers House

Carly Watters of P.S. Literary Agency

Stefanie Lieberman of Janklow & Nesbit

Jessica Sinsheimer of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency

Katie Shea of Donald Maass Literary Agency 

Amazing, right? Check out Ruth or Michelle’s site for more details. And make sure to stop by to check out all of the amazingly talented entries on the 18th (including mine!OMG! So excited!) You can also follow the action on Twitter at #XmasinJuly and I’m on #TeamRuth. (Never been on a team before…very cool!)

How a Few Days in the Country Almost Killed Me

Doing a favor for loved ones rarely puts one’s life in danger, but then it also rarely involves psychotic chickens.

Last week, the kids and I set off on a four hour road trip to house-sit for my folks deep in the Ozarks of rural Missouri and to experience what my dad kept calling an adventure (my first clue something would go terribly wrong).

I was greeted with a four page manifesto of chores – the bare minimum necessary to keep the place running smoothly. That’s okay, I thought, I wrote my folks something similar once when the hubs and I went on vacation many, many moons ago – a survival guide for babysitting the younglings, more than double the length of their instructions.

It’s all in the details.

I admit, I may have glazed over some of the details in that first reading due to road fatigue and children demands – What’s to eat? How do I work the TV? Why are there so many bugs here?

One of the details mentioned something about a rift in the chicken world with one particularly spiky chicken nicknamed “The Bitch” who had to be quarantined away from the younger chickens throughout the day so she didn’t terrorize them and peck them unmercifully. Good thing I didn’t have to start worrying about that just yet.

We started the next day with a brief introduction to the psychotic chickens. Entering the pen and throwing scratch on the ground. Don’t ask me what scratch is, I don’t know. I just measured it out of the bucket labeled “scratch” like the directions said and spread it around like I was told. I am not a country girl – as you may have guessed by now. The two oldest chickens met us near the gate to the pens, clucking in what sounded like a friendly manner. They went after that scratch the minute it hit the straw-covered ground. That gave us time to observe them and check out their surroundings – and most important of all, look for eggs. My folks had been gone a good twenty-four hours by then so we found a good haul. We made our slow departure, eggs in hand. I left the chicken compound thinking, hmm, maybe this chicken thing would be easy.

Ha.

After that excitement, the daughter who has developed an extreme phobia to all flying insects, decided to stay inside while the boy and I enjoyed a beautiful walk along the countryside. I did remember the one detail in the instructions about bug spray; if you’re going to spend any amount of time outdoors, spray, spray, spray. Or you’ll get nasty chigger bites. Spray we did, then off we went to enjoy nature.

Trevor Walk

Trevor walking up ahead.

Wildflowers

Wildflowers in the morning sun.

Uphill Walk

If only I hadn’t forgotten how steep and rocky the hills were on the return trip. Who needs an elliptical or treadmill? This hill was set to extreme cardio level 10!

By the time we’d walked a little over a mile, I was breathing so hard it hurt my chest and my calves were singing in pain. I thought I was going to die. And I hadn’t even begun the daily chores. Nice. When we climbed the final steep hill back up to the house, my son decided he’d had enough. Time to take a shower and call it a day. I tucked him in to his favorite spot with his favorite things and started a movie. He was back asleep before I went out the door. I envied him.

It wasn’t so much that the tasks were difficult – mostly there was a lot of watering garden areas and moving hoses around, carting water buckets to flowerbeds, that kind of thing. What killed me was climbing up and down to those rocky hills about thirty times to get it all done. I was a sweating, drooling, zombie-shuffling corpse (complete with incomprehensible moaning) by the end of the day.

And I haven’t even mentioned dealing with the chickens.

The instructions said around noon I’d have to corner The Bitch and pick her up – I was told not to worry because she was used to being picked up and this should be fairly easy to do (another warning sign that things would go terribly wrong). Once I had a firm hold of her I would then need to let the younger chickens out of the coop into the open area of the pen. After they were all out in the yard, I would gently secure The Bitch in the coop and lock her in for the remainder of the day after making sure there was plenty of food and water inside.

Right.

Let me just tell you that is not what happened on the first day. Or the second. Or the third. Not even on the fourth.

I brought my daughter along to help me corner said spiky/bitchy chicken.  After a few minutes, it was clear she wouldn’t be fairly easy to pick up no matter how “used to it” she was. All of our chasing did manage to direct her into the small dog crate in the chicken yard  – also used for chicken separation. Sweating and panting, we made sure she had food and water and locked her into solitary.

I was exhausted. And my chores were only half-done at this point.

For the rest of the day, there was just more water hauling, kid-wrangling, body-aching to contend with. The younger chickens actually put themselves to roost in the coop that night so locking them back in and releasing The Bitch, as we now affectionately referred to her, into the main pen was much easier than our noontime adventure. The only other notable event came when we were wrapping up our final evening chores. We had to bring in the leftover cat food for the outside cats so it wouldn’t attract raccoons. A little after dusk, I had my daughter shine the flashlight along the walkway while I retrieved the food. (Have I mentioned she’s also an arachnophobe?)

At the first sight of this…

Daddy Long Legs courtesy of Benny Mazur via Flickr
Daddy Long Legs courtesy of Benny Mazur via Flickr

…she screamed and the light went out.

I froze and asked her what happened.

  “Spider!” she yelled and pointed at the harmless loping thing as it made its way across the deck.

 “Turn the light back on,” I said. She did and then promptly screamed again.

“Eek!”

There was another one, a little closer, but still just as harmless, moseying along. At this point, my light source companion bailed on me, not waiting to see what other horrors lurked in the darkness. She high-tailed it back into the house.

I sighed and wondered if she’d ever get over her irrational fear of all things creepy and crawly. There was just enough light that I could still make out fuzzy outlines of most things so I just soldiered on. I was almost at my destination; the end of the deck. I grabbed the food dish and then screamed even louder than my daughter. Inside the dish, coming towards my hand, was the largest daddy long legs I’d ever seen (trauma of the situation may have warped my recollection of events and size of said arachnid). I dropped the food dish with a mighty clatter and spilled out all of the remaining cat food. The raccoons fed well that night, I must tell you.

I bolted into the house even faster than my youngling and slammed the door. I couldn’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation and the entire day. My daughter, once learning what I’d done, joined in laughing at me. This, of course woke up my son who just looked at the two of us like we were insane. At that moment, I’m pretty sure I was.

Day two was pretty much a repeat of day one, with the added bonus of pain. Copious amounts of pain from all the work I’d done the day before. I knew I wasn’t in great shape, but it wasn’t very nice of the Ozark Hills to advertise this fact so maliciously. Also, the chickens were much less cooperative.

Yeah.

Less.

The Bitch didn’t fall for the old, let’s go into the dog crate routine so easily this time. Instead, she hid underneath the back roosting nest after leading us on quite the aerobic chase around the pen. I finally had to go get a long stick to prod her (gently) to come out. Her response was to run around the back side of the coop where only a slimmer, younger chick could fit. Let’s just say she got herself stuck in an embarrassing position – literally stuck between the coop and the fencing.

WTF?

That wasn’t in the manual.

I pulled the fencing out as far as I could to make it wider for her and she still remained stuck, flapping her little wings and running her legs in mid-air, like a chicken with her head cut…er,I mean, to no avail. I gave her a loving, gentle prodding with the stick (I swear, it was loving and gentle) and she finally came out. Still, it took another ten minutes to get That Bitch in the damned dog crate.  Another day in the hole.

That night, way past their bed time, the younger chicks decided to test the new babysitters. They weren’t ready to go quietly into the coop. I reread the instructions and it said we were supposed to chase them in to the coop – and that they were used to this. (HA! And again I say, HA!) As this was night time, and I thought this was a quick chore, like it had been the night before, I did the unthinkable – I forgot to spray, spray spray before going out to do this simple task. It took at least fifteen minutes to corral all of those damned psychotic chickens into their coop. And don’t think I wasn’t a little bit tempted at my weakest moment to bring out The Bitch to finish the job and chase them into the coop for me.

The other chores went a little smoother, although I did drop the cat food dish, again – less to spill this time. I think it was just a little PTSD from the night before. Or maybe from my entire experience thus far.

One nice thing about this day…

Fireworks 2

…It ended with a bang!

Fireworks 1

And we only set one little small fire that was put out in a second. No problem.

(Did I mention that I woke up with the worst chigger bites all over my arms and legs?) Apparently, toothpaste works wonders for the itch when nothing else does, also you smell minty fresh. I thank my daughter for that home remedy she learned while watching some science program. You rock, even though you abandoned me in the dark. All is forgiven.

So what if the nice, relaxing country vacation where I could hang out with the kids and get some writing done didn’t happen exactly the way I thought it would. We eventually got into a better rhythm with the homestead and all of its creatures, even the psychotic chickens. By the fourth day, I woke up and didn’t feel crippling pain, just good, honest muscle ache – that I could work with. We all three had our stations in the chicken coop when it came time to put The Bitch in solitary and she went in with much less stress for all involved and in record time.

There were some really good moments, too. We made time to visit our favorite eating establishment there in Gainesville, Missouri. Antler Package & Pizza, otherwise referred to as The Antler, where they do indeed decorate with antlers and the heads that came with them.

Taking a break for dinner at our favorite Missouri hangout - Antlers.
Taking a break for dinner at our favorite Missouri hangout – The Antler.

Regardless of the décor, the food is to die for. Trevor devours the famous cheese pizza and my husband swears they have some of the best burgers around.

On the final day, once the sore muscles faded and the itching stopped, the chores were done, and there was time to just be, I had time to absorb my surroundings and this is where I was…

Trees at Sunset

and here…

Sunset Deck View 1 Sunset Deck View 2

and I did find some inspiration. So in the end, even the psychotic chickens were worth it.

Agents’ Day is Coming!

First, I just wanted say, WOW! I’ve gained 50 new followers since the beginning of the year and that’s pretty damn good for me.

“HELLO, NEW FOLLOWERS! YOU ARE AWESOME!”

For those of you who’ve been following for awhile, you’re just flat out amazing, but you already know that.

Enough with the flagrant flattery, I have some pretty great news to share…

As some of you may recall, I mentioned back in May that our local SCBWI chapter has a fantastic event coming up this fall. We are hosting an Agents’ Day on October 5th that will knock your socks off. Registration is now open to non-members as of July 1st – that means now!

Not only will you hear from three wonderful agents who are actively acquiring at this event and have one of the three critique the first 250 words of your manuscript, but you’ll also hear from some of the finest literary ladies with amazing talents who work right here in Oklahoma.

Here’s the Unbelievable lineup:

Keynote speaker Hannah Harrison

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Hannah will share her journey that brought her a two-book deal to write and illustrate picture books for a major publisher.

Special Guest Speaker Gwendolyn Hooks

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Gwen is the author of  seventeen easy readers. She will discuss her latest picture book sale success about the inspirational story of Vivien Thomas, the Man Who Saved the Blue Babies.

The three agents joining us for the day are:

Natalie Fischer Lakosil from the Bradford Agency

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Natatlie is interested in representing picture books through YA.

Danielle Smith from the Foreward Agency

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Danielle is interested in representing picture books, chapter books, and early/middle readers.

Ann Behar from the Scovil Galen Gosh Agency had a last minute scheduling conflict and has been replaced by:

Emily Mitchell from the Wernick & Pratt Agency

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Emily is interested in representing picture books through YA.

If that weren’t enough, the agents will also critique submitted query letters by attendees in a panel discussion. This is another spectacular presentation put on by our SCBWI Oklahoma chapter and you don’t want t miss it. Registration is limited to 90 people and over 50 spots have already been filled, so act soon! Visit the SCBWI OK website for details and online registration.