July #okscbwichat – Special Guest Brenda Drake



I co-hosted this month’s #okscbwichat on Tuesday evening with our Special Guest, YA author Brenda Drake.

Brenda Drake

Brenda-Drake-Author-Photo2Brenda Drake, the youngest of three children, grew up an Air Force brat and the continual new kid at school until her family settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Brenda’s fondest memories growing up are of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write young adult and middle grade novels with a bend toward the fantastical. When Brenda’s not writing or doing the social media thing, she’s haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops or reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Brenda is the host of the ever-popular Pitch Wars, Pitch Madness, and the Twitter pitch of all pitches, #pitmad. Brenda will be discussing what it’s like to host these mind-boggling contests, and how in the world she still makes time to write! Her debut novel, THIEF OF LIES: A Library Jumpers Novel, experienced a very successful release this month.

Follow Brenda on Twitter here.

During our Twitter chat, Brenda talked briefly of her own perilous journey to publication before we got into the topic for the evening, online writing contests like Pitch Wars and #pitmad. Brenda discussed the ins and outs of running Pitch Wars, and how it all got started. She explained the mentoring process for those who make it into the contest, and talked about why it is so beneficial for a writer to consider being a part of Pitch Wars in the first place.

As an added bonus, Brenda’s right-hand helper, Heather Cashman, joined in the conversation. The chat was an outstanding success and extremely informative. If you’ve ever considered entering a contest like this, you really should look into Pitch Wars. The next installment starts soon!

*If you missed the chat, you can view the Storify version of the entire conversation here.

**Next month, we have our first topic #okscbwichat, Support Through Social Media! This will follow a special SCBWI MEMBERS ONLY event planned on Saturday, August 20th, right before our regular #okscbwichat. We will be hosting a Social Media Hangout in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City where we will be sharing ideas on how we can better support our fellow members by using social media – from pre-ordering books to posting reviews to using Goodreads effectively.

The Twitter chat on August 23rd will complement this event. We will share ideas we learned at the Hangout during the chat. For more information, check our calendar of events on the SCBWI OK website.


See you for the next Twitter chat on Tuesday, August 23rd!



To see a full list of our upcoming Twitter chats on #okscbwichat for 2016 CLICK HERE.


July Flash Fiction Prompt


It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Flash Fiction Prompt, and now felt like the right time to get back to it, especially since I need to come up with a fantastic idea for our TGNA Fall Frivolity anthology.

And in keeping with the fall theme for our anthology,

Here’s the visual prompt for July…



Photo credit Slevin Aaron


Write a story inspired by this image in 1000 words or less.

If you’d like to share your story, email it to me at valerierlawson@gmail.com. Put Flash Fiction Prompt in the subject line.

I’ll share my story next month. (This may or may not be the story I include in our TGNA anthology. It’ll be a surprise.) I may post yours here, too. If I have enough people participate, I’ll post the best one on the blog!

If you are interested in entering a submission for our anthology, you can view more writing prompt ideas on our TGNA group Pinterest page. You can also view the submission guidelines on our blog. I look forward to reading your submissions!



Fantastic Literary Events in April – a TGNA Post


It’s List of Five Friday over at The Great Noveling Adventure and I’m sharing a list of literary events happening this month that is sure to excite every bibliophile among us.

Here’s a preview:

Don’t you just love spring? Creativity is in the air! It’s blooming right outside your window. And it’s just mind-blowing how many cool events are happening this month for people like us who love books. What’s even more amazing is some of them are happening RIGHT NOW! I had to take time out today to share them with you. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out.



    I remember when this bi-annual celebration of YA authors was a much smaller two-team event. Now it has mushroomed into EIGHT TEAMS! During this event – now in progress and ending April 5th at noon PST – you visit each participating author’s website to find out about new authors and exclusive content. You will also find on each page highlighted numbers you’ll need to enter the grand prize contest. This grand prize is unbelievable; one book from each participating author – that’s 160 books! – will be shared by six winners. Many authors may have additional giveaways on their own websites, so there are many opportunities to win FREE BOOKS and other fun literary prizes.


To read the full post, click here.

I do want to mention that one of the events discussed is an opportunity to submit an entry for consideration in our first ever TGNA anthology that we will publish later this summer. We’re VERY excited about this latest project.

TweetIf you like a challenge or need some company to help you write in the mornings, feel free to join me on Twitter every weekday. I host AM #wordsprints on Twitter @Novel_Adventure from 6-8am CST.

Pitch Madness – The Clue Version Begins

pitch-madness-1The lovely and gracious host of many a pitch contest, Brenda Drake, is hosting a month-long Pitch Madness contest with a fantastic Clue theme. The agents are being revealed today. If you have a COMPLETED AND POLISHED manuscript that is of the Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, or Adult variety, you can enter the contest beginning on March 10th. Your entry will consist of a 35-word pitch and the first 250 words of your manuscript.

Here’s the Pitch Madness schedule …

  • Hosts and their teams Introduction on March 3
  • Agent Introduction on March 4
  • Rules of the Game on March 6
  • Formatting Instructions March 7
  • Submission window will be on March 10 and will be open for 24 hours
  • The first slush round will be March 11-12
  • The final round will be March 13-17
  • The top 60 picks for the agent round will go up on the blogs on March 18 at 12:01AM EST (NY time)
  • March 20 at 12PM EDT (Noon) the agents requests are revealed, and right afterward is the tying agents challenge round
  • There will be a #PitMad Twitter Pitch Party on March 25 from 8AM to 8PM EST. Check here for rules of the Twitter Pitch Contest.

Stop by Brenda Drake’s blog for full details.

Good Luck!

Christmas Flash Fiction Contest

tgnalogorevampOver at The Great Noveling Adventure, we are celebrating Christmas the best way writers know how, by writing some Christmas-themed flash fiction.

But that’s not all, we’re inviting you to do the same. From now until December 22nd, we are having a flash fiction contest. Using the picture prompts, write a 500-1000 word piece to enter. We’ll be posting the top three submissions on Monday, December 23rd and the voting will begin. The winner will receive a shiny gift package. Visit our site for details.

You can also stop by and read my own flash fiction story, The Christmas Train.

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!