Friday, January 31, 2020

What I learned From My Mentorship with Tammi Sauer

When I found out I won the mentorship with Tammi Sauer, I may have done a happy dance in the toy isle at Target. I could hardly believe that Tammi had chosen me to be her mentee. Tammi is my favorite picture book author, and the opportunity to work with her was a dream come true. I had to pinch myself to realize I wasn’t dreaming.

Once the initial shock wore off, Tammi and I got right to work. She had already seen three of my manuscripts, but she asked me to send her three more. She also asked me to send her ideas for future manuscripts, and she told me which ideas she felt were worth pursuing. This was extremely helpful, and really gave me an idea of what I needed to do next, and where I needed to focus my effort.

Tammi then went on to edit three of my picture book manuscripts. She took what appeared to be great manuscripts, and made them amazing. We would email back and forth, until Tammi felt the manuscript was just right. She is a master at revision. She helped me to dig deeper and write better than I ever have before. I loved getting Tammi’s comments and feedback on each manuscript. Every email from Tammi was a treasure trove of knowledge. I learned so much about picture books from her. Tammi really knows her stuff, and she was more than happy to share everything she knows with me. She made my manuscripts shine.

Working with Tammi was everything I imagined and more. Tammi was kind, generous, and extremely helpful. She has so much knowledge and expertise in the picture book industry, and she graciously shared anything and everything with me. She was a true joy too work with.

I now have three strong manuscripts, and I am in the process of researching and submitting to agents. Tammi has given me recommendations, and told me which manuscript to submit first. I would not be where I am without Tammi’s help. She has been the absolute best mentor. I truly am lucky to have had this opportunity. I cannot thank Tammi enough for all of her help. But most of all, I am glad to have made a new friend. Thanks, Tammi.

I also want to thank Tara for creating this amazing opportunity and program. Without her, none of this would be possible. She is such a kind and generous person, and I am glad to have had the chance to get to know her and to be a participant in WWTS. Thanks, Tara.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Writing with the Stars Contest

In January I entered the Writing with the Stars contest run by author Tara Luebbe. This contest is for aspiring picture book writers and illustrators to win a free three-month-long mentorship with a published author or author/illustrator. This is the third year this contest has been running, and it is an amazing opportunity. It gives writers and/or illustrators the chance to work and learn from someone in the industry. The mentors help critique manuscripts, answer questions, and give valuable advice. This is not something very many aspiring writers get to do. It is definitely a unique and incredible opportunity.

When I was looking over the mentors chosen for this year, I was surprised and excited to find that my favorite picture book author, Tammi Sauer, was on the list.  I knew immediately that I wanted to enter. Tammi is an amazing author, and the thought of her sharing her expertise with someone like me made me so excited. Of course, I had reservations. I kept thinking about what were the odds that she would choose me. However, I knew she had to pick someone, so why not me?

Each person entering the contest can submit to three different mentors. They can only win one mentorship, but they can apply to three different mentors. I, however, only wanted to work with Tammi, so I only submitted to her. I knew she would be the best mentor to help me improve my craft and further my writing.

I got right to work reading and polishing my best manuscript. When I felt like it was ready to go, I sent it off with the application cover page. I tried not to think about the contest too much, but it was on my mind every day. I kept thinking about how amazing it would be if she chose me. I tried not get my hopes up, but let’s be honest, that is no easy task. My mind tends to run away with all of the possibilities and opportunities. It is probably the writer in me, but I definitely spent a lot of time fantasizing about the what ifs. 

About a week after I sent off my application, I got an email from Tara Luebbe telling me that Tammi wanted to see more work from me. She told me to email her two more picture book manuscripts for Tammi to review. I was elated, but I also knew that Tammi had most likely asked for more manuscripts from other writers. I tried to keep my excitement in check, but it was hard. My mind was really running away with me. I just kept thinking that maybe she would pick me.     

I then had the agonizing task of deciding which two picture book manuscripts to send to Tammi . It’s hard to know exactly which of my manuscripts were the best ones to send. I read and reread everything I have ever written. I went back and forth. Finally, I knew which ones I wanted to send. I sent them off, and waited for the day the winners would be announced. It was so hard to wait.

When January 31 arrived, I could hardly stand it. I checked Twitter every few minutes. I didn’t want to miss the announcements. I was on my way to Target, when I finally saw the announcements being made. As I scrolled down through each one, I could hardly breathe. When I came to Tammi’s name, I could not believe that my name was next to hers. Tammi Sauer had chosen me. Me! It was a dream come true.  I was going to work with, and learn from my favorite picture book author.

I am so grateful for contests like Writing with the Stars. It gives people like me opportunities that we would not otherwise have. I am so thankful to Tara Luebbe and Tammi Sauer for being so generous and kind. They sacrificed and gave up their time to help others. They are amazing. I can’t thank them enough. I am one lucky writer.

Now stay tuned for my next post, when I talk all about my mentorship with Tammi. She is the most amazing mentor, and I feel truly blessed to have worked with her.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Chronicle Books

In June, while on vacation in San Francisco with my family, I had the opportunity to visit a Chronicle Books bookstore. It was so fun. My kids and I stayed for a long time reading as many picture books as we wanted. I love being surrounded by children’s books, and this little trip to the bookstore was perfect. I always try to take advantage of opportunities wherever I am. You never know what hidden gem is just around the corner. So go out, explore, discover, and enjoy.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Inspiration in Surprising Places

Inspiration comes in all shapes and forms. Even amidst chaos. Just ask my four-year-old. She can wreak havoc in no time flat. I’m always amazed at what she can do in the few minutes that I am upstairs switching laundry. However, I found that I sometimes welcome her destructiveness. That might sound crazy, but her path of destruction has often brought me great inspiration for my stories. I am writing for children after all, and who would know children better than my messy four-year-old?

My husband thinks it’s funny that I take pictures of all of her chaos, but I just say that it is for research and inspiration. I never know when one of her crazy ideas is going to be the perfect idea for my story.

Some of the best stories have been inspired from everyday occurrences. We just have to be open and ready to the things that are around us. If our eyes are open to finding the humor and fun in everyday situations, than we will find our needed inspiration.

So embrace the messy, destructive chaos. It just might be the inspiration you’ve been needing.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


I follow a lot of writing blogs, and many of those blogs have contests to win a variety of prizes.  I enter all of them, and most of the time, I do not win.  But that does not stop me.  I am persistent. 

Well, I guess that persistence paid off, because a few weeks ago I received an email from one of my favorite picture book authors, Tammi Sauer, letting me know that I had won a copy of her new book, Truck, Truck, Goose!  I was so excited.  Not only did I win a book I had been wanting to read, but it was from one of my favorite authors.  The book has arrived in the mail, and it is adorable.  My kids and I love it.

I think that writing is just like contests on blogs.  They both take persistence and a little bit of luck.  We, as writers, cannot give up.  We have to keep on being persistent and put our writing out there.  We cannot let rejection make us quit.  We have to keep writing, keep learning, and keep submitting.  If I had not continued to enter contests on various blogs, I would never have won a book.  And if I do not continue to submit my work, and try to improve my craft, then I will never get published. 

I have to be … persistent.

Monday, June 12, 2017

SCBWI Idaho Conference on Youth and Children's Literature and Writing

In April, I had the opportunity to attend the SCBWI Idaho Conference on Youth and Children’s Writing. It was a great day filled with many authors, writers, and an agent and editor.  I learned so much, and made many new friendships and connections.  It is always nice to have an entire day dedicated to my writing.  I always learn new things, and I always make new friendships. I love attending this conference every year.

For a good portion of the day, I attended an intensive with the Bonny Becker.  She is the author of the Mouse and Bear books. She taught us her secrets to writing a great picture book.  She spoke a lot about ideas, character, traits, basic elements of a story structure, endings, research, audience, framework, and revision.  I learned a lot from her intensive.  It was very informative and helpful.  I always enjoy getting other authors perspective on the industry.

I also heard from the author, Leslie Patricelli.  She is the author of many board books about opposites—Yummy Yucky, Big Little, and Quiet Loud.  She spoke a lot about her journey to publication.  It was very interesting to hear her story about how she got her first book published.  I enjoyed listening to her.

Also speaking at the conference was editor, Wendy McClure from Albert Whitman Company.  She spoke about what it means to dig deeper in our writing.  I really enjoyed her presentation.  It was informative and fun.

Lastly, I heard from literary agent, Michelle Witte.  She spoke about rhythm and rhyme in our manuscripts.  It was interesting to listen to.

All in all, I had a wonderful time at the conference.  I am glad that I went.  I love this industry, and I love that I can attend a conference that teaches me so much about it.  I also love making friendships with other writers and authors. It was a great day.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


I find it funny that my kids will never willingly pick up anything off the floor, but when the chocolate chip bag spilled all over the kitchen, each child jumped up immediately to help me. They couldn’t shove the chocolate in their mouths fast enough.  It made me laugh, and I had to take a picture.  Who knew that all I needed was a little chocolate to get them moving?

The characters in our stories are just like my kids.  They need the right motivation to get them going.  They need a little chocolate.  We as writers need to figure out the driving motivation behind our characters.  We need to know what drives them.  What excites them.  What gets them moving.  Motivation is important in stories.  It helps determine how the plot unfolds, and brings out conflict.  Without motivation, the story falls flat.

So it’s time to spill a little bit of chocolate on the floor, and see if you can find your character’s motivation.