Writing Journey Speed Bumps and Detours

We’ve all been there. We’ve got our plan, our manuscript, and we’re feeling confident. (Because we all should believe in our stories and art.) We query, apply for a mentorship, or submit it in a contest. And then we wait…which is really hard!

How to pass the time?

  1. Throw yourself into another project
  2. Listen to podcasts
  3. Watch webinars
  4. Critique other’s work
  5. Read a book
  6. Exercise

I’m going to stay with this one for a bit. Though not an easy thing to do, exercise will definitely improve your mood in the long run. This may become something you turn to release frustration. Or get rid of nervous energy when you’ve finished being Monica Geller and already cleaned the entire house or apartment. (Guilty)


7. Do something completely unrelated to writing. Sometimes we need other distractions and things to put our energy into. (Hobby, craft, fixing something, creating something, cooking ect.)

Okay, the verdict is and it’s a…….pass. Ugh.

Tears stream. Maybe anger even bubbles. Self doubt and sadness come to stay a while. As well as the very uninvited guest known as Imposter Syndrome. And guess what? It’s OK to feel all of these things! You were supposed to get your hopes up because that show you BELIEVE IN YOUSELF! And, since we’re human, we then experience all of the emotions. Once again, it’s okay to feel whatever way you are as long as your safely experiencing it.

What to Do

You can push through this speed bump and continue on your way. Or maybe you slow down and re think your path to getting where you’re going. Do you maybe need to look at joining a critique group or organization to get you headed in the right direction? Perhaps a craft book will help things become clearer or shine a light on a certain place where you’ve found yourself stuck. Another option is to stop. Take time for you and give yourself a break. It may just be the mental fresher you’ve needed all along but didn’t know it. Whatever way you decide, do what’s best for you, at YOUR PACE. Last time I checked, writing and being published doesn’t happen over night. It is a JOURNEY, and I’m happy to be on it with so many wonderful people that I never would have met without writing.

So please take care of yourselves. Listen to what you need, and reach out for support. And when you’re ready, try again. I’ll be rooting for you!!!

Take care writing community!

It’s About Encouraging the Love for Space with James McGowan

Hi everyone! I’m mixing things up a bit today and am excited to say the talented James McGowan is our special guest! James is an agent at Bookends Literary Agency as well as the author of Good Night Oppy! I’m thrilled he was willing to take time out of his busy day to help our initiative for Books 4 Karachi Kids.

Hi James! What was your first memory as a child where you connected to a book?

Can I cheat on this question? I specifically remember one weeknight as a child, reading a board book with my mom. I cannot remember the title though! Of course, neither can she. But that was my first time reading on my own and I totally wish I could remember it.

That’s definitely a proud moment! I’ve witnessed my youngest learn to read and it’s so heart warming to see their face light up when they realize they’ve just read a book. Even though you both can’t remember the title, the memory of you reading on your own stayed with you, which speaks to how special it was.

In what ways do you hope your writing will impact the lives of children?

I hope my writing, particularly with GOOD NIGHT, OPPY! inspires a bunch of kids to become space lovers. I am endlessly amazed by space, and I think it’s a topic that kids will love. We’re always learning something new.

I’ve been reading space books with my youngest and they love them! It’s something so big and full of wonder. It really creates a sense of awe for all of us.

Thank you for joining us today, James, and sharing your memory and wish for children. GOOD NIGHT, OPPY! comes out this September and is available for pre-order now. Thank you everyone and have a great day!

Why I Write

Thinking about this topic actually brings tears to my eyes. I love children’s books. The transformation that happens when a child is read a story…seeing them go on an adventure, or learn to cope with something difficult, or begin to learn more about life, love and themselves in those few pages….it can only be described as magic.

I write because I want to help children and caregivers connect. I want story time to be something special, whether it’s a heartfelt moment, or a learning opportunity told in a gentle manner. I think childhood is such a special and fragile time, and I would love to be even just a twinkle of positivity – and a reminder that imagination is a wonderful thing.

Each one of us has stories to tell through words and art. I hope you find what is that calls to you, that drives you, that moves you to create. Because it is a gift that wants to be shared, and could be the thing that makes someone’s world better.

It’s about Celebrating Diversity with Valerie Bolling

Hi friends! Today I’m honored to talk with Valerie Bolling, the author of Let’s Dance, a wonderful book where children from all over the world dance, tap, twist and twirl! It is a rhythmic read filled with beautiful illustrations that is sure to delight young readers. (Mine definitely liked it!) I’m excited to learn more about Valerie today!

Hi Valerie! What was your first memory as a child where you connected to a book?

I don’t remember the first time I connected to a book. What I do remember is that I always loved books. I loved being read to; I loved reading; and I loved writing my own stories and poems, too. 

The books that were read to me as a young child – usually by my great-aunt, Lucille – were Frog and Toad, Curious George, Amelia Bedelia, Charlotte’s Web, James and the Giant Peach, and The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. As I got older, I began to read these books on my own as well as series, such as Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Betsy, Tacy, and Tib, Pippi Longstocking, and books by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. None of these books are about Black children or written by Black authors. Fortunately, I still loved reading; however, some children could be turned off to reading if none of the characters look like them and/or if the voices and experiences of the characters are not like theirs. Malcolm Mitchell’s book, My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World, expresses this reality beautifully.

I think what you’ve said about representation is so important. All children should be able to see themselves in books. I’m grateful that your love for reading kept you invested, but understand that may not be the case for others. In a world where we are trying to encourage children to read, we as a community must make sure we are doing everything we can to foster this love. This means having diversity in books, in all genres, and with authors and illustrators.

In what ways do you hope your writing will impact the lives of children?

My life’s work as an educator, and now as an author, has always been about children. Every interaction I have with a child is precious. Every interaction is a chance to make a child experience joy and a sense of a community – and to feel special. My books allow me to facilitate these interactions.

I write because I want all children to feel at home in a book. I want them to smile, laugh, think, and question. Most of all, I want them to celebrate the diverse world we live in. My desire is for children of all backgrounds to see themselves in my stories and feel seen and heard, valued and validated.

“Feel seen and heard, valued and validated.” This statement is so powerful, Valerie! Children need to know they matter. By acknowledging them, it shows we are listening and appreciating them. This not only increases their self worth but also their self esteem. This increase will greatly impact their decisions, actions, and help them decide who they want to be. This is the power of supporting children and helping them believe in themselves! Honestly, I tear up about the beautiful scene and possibility of children finding their voice, their confidence, and seeing their immense worth.

Your hopes make my heart happy dance, Valerie, and I want to thank you for spending time with us today. Make sure to check out Let’s Dance! Thanks for joining us everyone and have a great day!

It’s about Being A Bridge with Megan Lacera

Hi friends! We’re continuing our journey of connecting to our childhood today with Megan Lacera! She is part of the husband wife team that created Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies. What a brilliant twist to have the zombie child try to introduce the parents to veggies! This book over flows with creativity and fun, which definitely has kids asking to read it again. I wonder what inspired Megan when she was young. Let’s find out!

Hi Megan! Can you tell us your first memory as a child where you connected to a book?

I have too many book memories to remember my first! I started reading early and devoured as many stories as I could get my hands on. But one that comes to mind is reading WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS by Shel Silverstein. It was a revelation to me; the simple, hilarious, and often poignant illustrations…the collection of stories/poems that shifted effortlessly from inspiration to irreverent. Many books up until that point felt like they were talking down to me or forcing a lesson. SIDEWALK never felt like that. There is a poem called “Sister for Sale” and it’s brilliant. I have a sister and I love her, but gosh, some days when we were young…yep, that poem got right to the core of frustration. Looking at the work now, Silverstein doesn’t shy away from the full complexity of childhood and humanity, and I think that’s why it continued to captivate.

Megan, you make so many good points here that I’m going to take a little time to unpack them. I LOVE that you connected to Shel’s approach. SIDEWALK does meet a child on their level and doesn’t sugar coat anything that they might be feeling. The book makes things real for kids in a way they can relate to. This is so important to highlight! You mentioned “Sisters for Sale,” which gets right to the not so great part of siblings. And it’s okay! You can agree, laugh, or even respond, “Yeah, that’s how I feel!” It connects so clearly to the reader on an emotional level they can understand. This is not to be confused with talking down to children. Children are smart, and they will respond to a book with excitement, or just the opposite. As creatives, we aren’t here to tell kids what to do. We are to write stories to meet them where they are in a way they can understand.

For my follow up, in what ways do you hope your writing will impact the lives of children?

For me, reading is a bridge to understanding, connection, intellectual growth, emotional depth, empathy, curiosity, spirituality, and love. I hope my work will be a piece of that bridge for others!

What a beautiful visual, Megan! A bridge to so many wonderful things. This is what we’re trying to do with #Books4KarachiKids.

Megan, thank you for taking the time today to talk with us. Have a great rest of the week everyone!

It’s about Joy with Matt Forrest Esenwine

Hello everyone, and thank you for visiting!

I am fortunate that the wonderfully talented Matt Forrest Esenwine has agreed to join the conversation today. Matt is an accomplished author of numerous books including Flashlight Night, Elliot, the Heart Shaped Frog, and the beautifully stunning Once Upon Another Time.

Matt, what was your first memory as a child where you connected to a book?

Thanks for reaching out! I had several favorite books as a child, but the three that always come to mind are “Mr. Snitzel’s Cookies” by Jane Flory, “The Land of Noom” by Johnny Gruelle (the guy who created Raggedy Ann), and the most significant, “The Secret Place and Other Poems” by Dorothy Aldis. This last book helped me develop a love of poetry and greatly influenced my writing style and sensibilities…even though I never knew that until I was an adult.

I love that these books stayed with you and their effect became evident when you were an adult. It shows us the staying power and impact of what we read as children.

My follow up question then is, in what ways do you hope your writing will impact the lives of children?

I hope my writing simply brings readers joy – whether it’s through encouraging their use of imagination such as “Flashlight Night,” better appreciating the world around them such as “Once Upon,” or helping them to realize they can stand up for what’s right, as I do in my next book, “I Am Today.” I don’t like books that set out to teach a lesson – although there’s nothing wrong with a lesson being taught – but the main focus of a picture book should be the story, the joy.

Joy, yes! This is so important for us as creatives to remember! We want children to enjoy reading, listening to stories, going on adventures and seeing the beautiful art of the illustrations. It is with this joy they experience that will encourage them to continue to read. We are hoping that the joy of reading is brought into the lives of children in Karachi.

Thank you so much, Matt, for your time and sharing your thoughts with us today. Please be sure to check out Matt’s books and look for Elliot, the Heart Shaped Frog out now! Thanks everyone!

It’s about Loving What You Do with Raissa Figueroa

Hi everyone! I am over the moon with happiness because today I get to chat with Raissa Figueroa! She is the illustrator behind the beautiful art in Sophie and Little Star, We Wait for the Sun, Oona and The More The Merrier. I’m a huge fan and am excited to share what stories inspired her and her wish to children everywhere.

Rainbow Bridge from Raissa's Etsy site

Hi Raissa, and thank you for joining us! Can you share with us what your first memory was as a child where you connected to a book?

My mother was avid about reading to my brother and I when we were kids. ‘Twas a very precious night-time ritual. We were expected to be safe and snug in our beds by 8pm if we wanted a story read to us. It was either that or we got to stay up for an extra half hour to watch some of our favorite cartoons. We almost always chose the former. Who would pass up a chance to rest your head on your mom’s lap as she transported you to different worlds? She’d do the voices of different characters and everything! It’s hard to choose just one book as we went through so many, but as an adult a few titles that still stick out in my mind are The Giving Tree, Rainbow Fish, Where the Wild Things Are and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful memory! It sounds like your mom put her whole heart into reading to you and your brother. As a mom, I love reading stories with my kids because it is a chance to be close and share a moment, a story, and a journey to another world. When I read, I love hearing the words just as much as seeing the world the illustrators created. The art brings picture books to life, and I love seeing young readers search the pages as the words are read.

In what ways do you hope your art will impact the lives of children?

I can only hope that my art inspires future kids to perhaps pursue illustrating as a career. Growing up I always loved doodling but as time wore on I sort of pushed art aside to focus on a career path that wouldn’t leave me “starving”. It still blows my mind every day that I’m able to do this for a living. Had someone told me it was a legitimate possibility earlier I definitely would have stuck with it! Doing what you love, whatever it may be, is not only just an option, but it’s the best one you can make.

I love that! Being inspired is such an important part of life, and I hope that all children would be given encouragement to explore their interests, whatever they may be. Because with support, children will feel secure to try new things and experiences, which could potentially lead them to their passion in life. #Books4KarachiKids are working to provide access to books for the children of Karachi. We know books open up a world of possibility, and this is something we hope to achieve for them. Thank you for sharing your wishes with us, Raissa. And thank you to the readers. Have a great day everyone!

It’s about Love with Katie Frawley

Hi everyone!

I’m honored because today the fabulous Katie Frawley joins my blog! She’s the author of Tabitha and Fritz Trade Places and the co-creator of the #FireButtChallenge on Twitter, where you team up with someone and support each other to write something (story, revision, query) that day. Yes, I am a member and it’s a great way to get words on a page. Now to the fun questions!

Hi, Katie! Thank you for chatting with me today!

Hi, Kelly. I am always glad to help kids get books into their hands! A love of reading is best started young.

I agree! Can you tell us what was your first memory as a child where you were connected to a book?  

I suppose my earliest book memory is The Night Before Christmas. My mom would read it to us every year on Christmas Eve, she in her chair, we four kids gathered around her feet on the floor. She knew every word by heart, so she never had to look at the pages or turn the book toward her. She knew when to turn the page without peeking, which felt a whole lot like Christmas magic to me. She still reads this book every year on Christmas Eve, but now she reads it to her grandchildren.

I can imagine you and your siblings sitting around completely engaged by her reading! There is something so simple, yet so magical about story time. I love that your mom knew all the words by memory. My heart lights up a little more hearing she continues the tradition with her grandchildren. That is a special memory that will stay with your kids when they think of Christmas.

Stories can leave such an impression on the lives of children. In what ways do you hope your writing will impact the lives of children?

I hope to help kids fall in love with books! My second daughter is a bit of a reluctant reader, but I keep telling her, “We just haven’t found the right kind of books for you YET!” I’m so glad there are so many different books out there for the many different kinds of kids. The right book for EVERY kid is out there…somewhere.

I think you’ve brought up a very important point, Katie. Not all readers are alike or have the same interests. I know my oldest loves fiction while my youngest only wants to have us read nonfiction. Picture books have so many different avenues to grab a readers attention. We’re hoping to bring a variety of books to Karachi, Pakistan because we think it’s important to have a various styles of books for children to read.

Thank you for sharing your time with us today, Katie, and for fostering the love for reading!

It’s about A Springboard to Imagination with Eric Fan

Hi everyone!

I’m really excited because today on my blog I have Eric Fan! He is part of the brother duo that created the amazingly wonderful Ocean Meets Sky, The Night Gardener (which is an all time favorite of mine) and their upcoming book It Fell From The Sky out in September, 2021. (How beautiful is this cover!?)

Eric, what was your first memory as a child where you were connected to a book?  

The first book I can remember that made a profound impact on me when I was a kid was Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. I was obsessed with it, and wanted it read to me every single night for about a year. The moment that Max’s bedroom walls dissolved and yielded to his dream world was the moment I realized that a story could dissolve my own bedroom walls and take me somewhere far away. A book was really a door you could open to another world.

What a powerful memory! I love that the story dissolved your own bedroom walls, and you were transported some place else. I think is so important for us as adults to remember about the impact books have on children. Not only can they be listening to a story, but they can become part of another world. I know your books have had this effect on my children, as Ocean Meets Sky brought so much magic into our story time.

In what ways do you hope your writing will impact the lives of children?

The greatest satisfaction I have from writing stories is when I see them used as a springboard for a child’s own imagination. All the books I loved growing up had a part in shaping my imagination and I hope our books to do the same. Of course, there are themes and messages in our books that I hope come across as well, but there’s nothing quite like seeing a whole class of children who have read your book inspired to write their own stories, or draw their own pictures.

Yes, stories become so much more for kids. It can bring inspiration into their own lives and guide their own creativity and imagination. This is one of the goals for #Books4KarachiKids. We hope to encourage children in Karachi to dream big and explore their imagination. Thank you so much, Eric, for sharing part of your childhood with us and inspiring us all! And make sure to look for the Fan Brother’s new book coming this September!

Have a great day everyone!

It’s about Inspiration with Vivian Kirkfield

Hi everyone and welcome! Today, I’m sharing a new series for our initiative to bring books to the children of Karachi, Pakistan. To understand the impact this could have, I think it’s important to reflect back on our own experience with books as children.

I’m honored to have Vivian Kirkfield as a guest on my blog! She’s an amazing author, advocate for children, and the kidlit community. When I asked if she would be part of #Books4KarachiKids, she was immediately on board! Yet another reason why she’s so special!

Vivian, what was your first memory as a child where you connected to a book?

Vivian: I have two early memories that are connected to a book. The first, when I was probably about 3, was sitting on my mother’s lap as she turned the pages of THE LITTLE HOUSE by Virginia Lee Burton. I think with that story, maybe because I was so young, it was the pictures that drew me in – We lived in the projects on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, but every Sunday, we took the train to Brooklyn to visit with my grandmother who lived on a tree-lined street  – and so I could relate to how squished the little house felt. I, too, dreamed of having more space. Happily, when I turned 10, we moved to my grandmother’s house ‘in the country’ – and so the story came true in my own life.

I love the image of you being read to by your mother. Reading provides an opportunity for a special moment between a child and their guardian. It’s a chance to share not just a story, but an experience. Another wonderful thing about picture books is how they come to life through the beautiful illustrations, which definitely draws the reader in even more. I’m interested to hear about your second memory!

Vivian: The second early memory of a special book is from my experience having my tonsils removed. Back in the 1950’s, if a child got a sore throat, doctors were quick to operate and remove the tonsils. I must have been 5 years old and was very excited – they’d promised me ice cream when it was all over. Of course, I had to wait for the ice cream, but when my parents came to visit me in the hospital, they brought something even better – a book! It was a Golden Book version of The Three Little Pigs – and I must have read it a dozen times till I was allowed to go home the next day. I loved the story of these three brothers – all so different and all heading out to live on their own. And I loved that the brother who worked hard and put in the time to build a strong house was able to save his brothers and thwart the wolf. I truly believe that book had a big impact on my own work ethic as I grew up.

I think it’s important to highlight how something you read when you were five, impacted your work ethic as an adult. This is the positive power of picture books! You have written many lovely books for children, including From Here to There: Inventions that Changed the Way the World Moves, Sweet Dreams, Sarah, and Pippa’s Passover Plate.
In what ways do you hope your writing will impact the lives of children?

Vivian: Books were such an important part of my life as I was growing up – fairytales, folktales, stories of true heroes and heroines or fantastical ones – they entertained me and educated me, but most importantly, they inspired me. That is what I hope my writing will do for children – and in the end, perhaps ignite that spark of curiosity that will lead them to ask questions, find their passion, and pursue a life of purpose. 

Inspiration brings hope, change, and the possibility of something greater. This is what we are trying to do with Books4KarachiKids. We wish for the children to have the opportunity to immerse themselves in various different kinds of picture books. We hope to foster their love for reading, imagining, and discovering. Thank you so much, Vivian, for speaking with me today. Please be sure to check out all of Vivian’s books on her website viviankirkfield.com.

If you would like to be featured in this series, please let me know! Thank you everyone!