I have some upcoming ventures that promise to make a positive impact on the environment and raise awareness about pressing environmental issues!
2. Designing an Earth Week Program for 6 Grade Levels:Another exciting venture on the horizon involves crafting an entire program for six grade levels dedicated to Earth Week. This comprehensive initiative aims to instill a sense of environmental stewardship among students by engaging them in various activities and discussions. From interactive workshops to eco-friendly projects, I hope to design a program to foster a deeper connection with nature and promote sustainable practices. The hope is that these young minds will carry the lessons learned into their daily lives, becoming ambassadors for a greener, more sustainable future.
3. Going Out on Submission with Climate Fiction on Coral Bleaching:In the realm of creative expression, there's a thrilling development in the form of submitting a climate fiction story centered around coral bleaching. Climate fiction, or cli-fi, has emerged as a powerful medium to convey the urgency of environmental issues. This narrative explores the delicate balance of underwater ecosystems and the devastating impact of climate change on coral reefs. Going out on submission signifies a step toward reaching a wider audience and amplifying the message of conservation through the art of storytelling.
4. Researching Red Tide in Florida Over Spring Break:Spring break holds a unique adventure – diving into research on red tide in Florida. Red tide, caused by harmful algal blooms, poses a significant threat to marine life and coastal ecosystems. By dedicating time to study and understand the dynamics of red tide, there's an opportunity to contribute valuable insights to the ongoing efforts to mitigate its impact. This hands-on research experience adds a practical dimension to environmental advocacy, reinforcing the importance of scientific inquiry in addressing environmental challenges.
My weeks and months ahead are filled with a commitment to environmental activism, education, and creative storytelling. Each endeavor, whether through public speaking, program design, fiction writing, or scientific research, contributes to a collective effort to safeguard our planet. Embracing these opportunities fosters a sense of responsibility and empowerment, propelling us forward into a future where the well-being of the Earth is at the forefront of our endeavors.
Celebrating an incredible year...
One year ago, I embarked on a journey fueled by passion and purpose, driven by a desire to make a positive impact on our planet. Today, as I celebrate the first birthday of "Island Girls: Free the Sea of Plastic," I am overwhelmed with gratitude and pride as I reflect on the incredible journey this project has taken me on.
It all began as a simple idea – a vision to create a book that not only told a story but also carried a powerful message. The journey from concept to reality involved turning that idea into a tangible project, which then evolved into a carefully crafted manuscript. The addition of captivating illustrations brought the narrative to life, making it a visually compelling experience for readers.
What started as a personal project soon gained momentum, attracting the attention and support of corporations and individuals alike. The ripple effect was heartwarming as people from different walks of life began rallying behind the cause, encouraging my efforts to raise awareness about the environmental impact of plastic pollution.
The transition from a manuscript to a movement was marked by the book's growing popularity. Readers not only embraced the story but also embraced the mission – to free the seas of plastic. The support manifested in the form of book purchases, honors, and features in various magazines and articles, amplifying the message to a broader audience.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this journey has been the recognition received for the hard work invested. The book has been honored with various awards, a testament to the collective effort put into creating a meaningful piece of literature that resonates with readers and environmental advocates alike.
The impact extended beyond the pages of the book, reaching festivals, schools, and communities. Invitations poured in, allowing me the incredible opportunity to share my mission with children around the world. Being a part of these events and engaging with young minds has been a deeply fulfilling experience, knowing that we are sowing the seeds of awareness and responsibility.
Looking back, the journey has been nothing short of extraordinary. It reinforces the belief that hard work, dedication, and a genuine commitment to a cause can yield remarkable results. The feeling of seeing a dream transform into a reality is indescribable, and it serves as a reminder that every effort, no matter how small, contributes to meaningful change.
Throughout this journey, I have adhered to the principles of kindness, directness, and professionalism in every interaction. These values have not only shaped the project but have also fostered positive relationships with supporters, collaborators, and advocates.
As I raise a toast to the first birthday of "Island Girls: Free the Sea of Plastic," I am filled with gratitude for the incredible support and enthusiasm that have surrounded this endeavor. The journey has just begun, and I eagerly anticipate many more book birthdays, each one marking a step closer to a world where we celebrate the beauty of this planet, where it is free of plastic pollution.
In conclusion, this past year has been a testament to the transformative power of storytelling and the positive change that can be achieved when passion meets purpose. Here's to the continued success of "Island Girls: Free the Sea of Plastic" and the hope that its message and the message of future books, will inspire generations to come.
Cheers to a future where our seas are free, and our planet thrives.
I can hardly contain my excitement as I sit down to write this blog entry. The words are pouring out of me, and I can't help but feel both humbled and amazed by the incredible turn of events in my writing journey. I never thought I'd be able to write about having an agent, but here I am, sharing my story with you all.
"Slogging in the slush" is a term I often use to describe the arduous process that authors go through to secure literary representation. It's a term that encapsulates the endless hours of effort, the unyielding determination, and the unwavering belief in one's work required to catch the attention of a literary agent in the highly competitive and sometimes cutthroat publishing industry.
The query trenches, as they're commonly called, can be a daunting place. Rejection letters pile up, self-doubt creeps in, and the act of sending your manuscript into the abyss of the internet can be disheartening. Some agents send form rejections, some never respond at all, and, in the rare instances when they do express interest, they may eventually say something along the lines of "I'm not the champion of your work."
I've been through it all. In 2023 alone, I sent out a staggering 109 query letters to agents, hoping to find someone who believed in my work as much as I did. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, and I sometimes wondered if I would ever find the right fit.
Then, it happened. After months of relentless effort, I received a response. But not just any response – it was from one of the top agents in the industry, working at one of the most prestigious literary agencies. I was shocked, stunned, and in complete denial that Karen Kilpatrick would want to talk to me. But after our first Zoom meeting, I could see that she did indeed believe in my writing and saw the potential in my work. Karen is a lawyer, an author, an agent, brand creator, editor, toy inventor, the list goes on... bottom line, she hustles hard and is hungry for book sales.
I am honored, excited, and completely overjoyed to announce that I'm now working with Karen at East West Literary Agency. It's a dream come true, a milestone I could hardly have imagined. I had done everything I could to promote my work, including submitting to publishing houses that allowed unagented submissions and connecting with smaller publishers and editors through conferences and pitch contests. Now, I'm excited to take things to the next level with Karen by my side.
This is such an incredible opportunity and I can't wait to see what kind of traction we can gain. I couldn't be more thrilled to have such an amazing teammate in this journey.
But let me make it clear – I'm not relaxing at this point. I don't want to. It's time to work harder than ever, to continue making connections, and to create more leads and interest in my stories. This is just the beginning, and I'm determined to make the most of this incredible opportunity. Check out the year end sales announcements by this agency here I cannot wait to have one, two, or more than a few announcements on this reel in 2023/2024 and many years to come.
This milestone is beyond exciting, and it's one of the biggest accomplishments in my life to date. It's a validation of all the hard work, a humbling experience, and an exhilarating step forward. I can't wait to see where this journey with Karen and East West Literary will take me.
It's time to celebrate and to keep pushing forward in the world of writing, and I hope you'll all be there with me every step of the way.
Happy October! I have had an incredibly creative past 4-5 months and even wrote an entire body of new work. Some of my newer stories have won PITCH contests, some of my stories have WITCHES in them... and I'm really hoping to reach another major milestone in my career as a children's author soon. STAY TUNED for lots of exciting news on the way... in the meantime...
This is my first year participating in Kaitlyn Sanchez’s Fall Writing Frenzy. (You can read all about the contest here.) The challenge is to write a 200-word or less Fall-themed #kidlit story based on one of the photographs chosen for the contest.
Right around when Kaitlyn announced the contest, I lost someone very close to me. My children and I find joy in talking to cardinals whenever we feel sad, and the feeling of loss paired with the dreary woods photo, inspired my entry, THE CARDINAL'S GIFT, complete at 188 words, in hopes of spreading JOY.
Thank you, @KaitlynLeann17 for organizing the contest as well as to the many generous prize donors:
@Ms_Holliday93, @readbystephanie, @ErDiPasquale, @IvanTaurisano, @ebonylynnmudd, @AndreaYWang, @AReynosoMorris, @amandarhill32, @HovorkaSarah, @chanastiefel, @ShannonStocker_, @AutumnLeaflet, @BrianGehrlein, and @JStremer.
There is so much that has happened it truly is hard to keep up with. It's exciting, it's overwhelming, I'm working hard to scale.
Here are a few updates of what I have brewing for the rest of the year.
I applied to the Rutgers University One-on-One Conference for Children's Literature. I have no idea if I will be accepted or not, but it looks like an incredible value and I'm taking a chance. That is in October in New Jersey. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
I am taking part of a few conferences this summer:
The Vermont College of Fine Arts Summer Residency Writing for Children and Young Adults and Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in August. Both of these have pitch opportunities to big editors, so I'm excited for the opportunity to pitch my new manuscripts to a panel of editors who will hopefully want to produce the book with me!
In addition to the conferences, I am flying to Nashville, TN to pitch Island Girls to a big distributor. As some of you many know, one of my biggest struggles has been keeping up with the demand for Island Girls. I have wanted a distributor on my team and this is a very rare and exciting opportunity. Think of this like Shark Tank- I'll have 5 minutes to sell these guys on me and Island Girls which would be such a huge breakthrough for me. Please send me good vibes, this will happen over the weekend of August 18. I am excited and nervous, I could not pass up this opportunity!
In addition to the conferences and reading camps, I am taking part of a few conferences and working on revisions for two manuscripts for editors at pretty big publishing houses. One for a new picture book I wrote and one for my middle grade novel.
There are so many exciting things happening and I'm so thankful for your support and encouragement to keep writing and making a difference for our oceans!
So much more to come!
All my best,
April has been a busy month of many school visits! I absolutely love connecting with kids and hearing their ideas of how we can all work together and make a change.
I still have a few more schools to visit this week and also the Richmond Book Festival this weekend.
Kidlit Contests are all around!
I'm participating in this week's contest called the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest --
Find a gif and write a spring-inspired story. Blossoming flowers? Sure! Easter eggs? You bet! Mothers day? Of course! Anything related to Spring is yours for the telling.
1. Your story should be geared towards kids ages 12 or under.
2. Choose a gif to inspire your story.
3. All gifs should be child appropriate and in no way be derogatory towards any faith, race, etc.
4. Now for the dreaded word count! You have 150 words. That’s it! No more but less is always welcome.
Writing with such small word-counts is always tough but I felt up for the challenge.
Thank you so much to the hosts for another fun #kidlit writing exercise! I went back and forth on what kind of story I wanted to write and I actually ended up writing two stories-- one about the Easter bunny and one about... spring at the beach. After reading both, it was clear that my beach story was stronger. Every class and conference I have been to says write what you know best... and I know the beach.
Enjoy my entry below inspired by the GIF by O2 Slovakia, source:
Happy Spring, y'all! Best of luck to all of the #SpringFlingKidlit writers!
BBGB FOR THE LOVE OF PUBLISHING EVENT!
The BBGB event was a huge success in Richmond, VA! I hosted a live audience in Richmond as well as a crowd cast of aspiring kidlit authors virtually. It was the first of many and I really enjoyed sharing my story and how I published Island Girls.
Palmetto State Literacy Association Conference
I had the incredible opportunity to speak and network at the Palmetto State Literacy Conference as a debut author. This conference was geared towards educators and I was able to speak to a crowd about how they could use Island Girls in the classroom. Mentor texts, environmental segments, creative writing courses, Earth Day, Ocean's Day, and mainly, as a way for kids to use their voices to create major change for our world! Thank you so much to Seafarer friend Kelly Mac and her mom Kaye who helped get me to this stage. What a thrill. I can't wait to return to beautiful Hilton Head Island next year.
BOOKSTORE 1 SARASOTA EVENT
Thank you, SARASOTA! This event was a little unique because I got to surprise the crowd with the real Island Girls! Sadie and Josie each had a chance to share their story and answer questions from the audience. They even got to sign a few books. I am so proud to see them gain confidence when speaking and understand how much this little book is spreading awareness about plastic in our oceans. It was so fun and special to see friends from so many parts of our Florida life come out to support and celebrate with us. Thank you, so much, for the love and support, Florida! I'll be back!
Watch out publishing world, I'm a ninja now😉
Ok ok ok. So I'm back from Hawaii and I had the most incredible experience. A lot of people are wondering how it was, what we did, where we went, etc... so the intent of this blog is to help other authors and writers decide if this type of retreat is right for you and to let you know what all we did!
There was so much anticipation built around going to Hawaii. A total bucket list location for me... and so many thoughts ran through my head:
How can I fly so far away from my family?
Am I being selfish by going on this trip alone?
Am I crazy?
Am I really worthy of investing in myself?
Am I a good enough writer?
Who will I meet?
Will they be nice?
Will they like my writing?
...Seriously, the list goes on and on and on of the doubt, Blake can vouch for me, I almost canceled around September / October when I was in the middle of hockey season wondering if I should really go. I was totally chickening out. The questions, the nerves, everything about it was so new and uncomfortable for me... but something just told me I had to do it. (I was also incredibly lucky to have such a supportive husband who all but told me I was going. He said that I deserved this and I will have a blast). So... I went.
The Writers Workshop Dallas is the group I have been with on this writing journey since day 1 back in January of 2021. I knew they hosted great online classes like the picture book course I took with Rosie Pova and the mentorship I did with her... so when I saw that they opened applications for a retreat in Hawaii I thought I had to put my hat pool of applicants.
Apparently, it was a highly competitive pool of applicants and I was so lucky to have been selected as one of the retreat attendees. When I got the email that I was selected from Blake, I actually couldn't believe it. In the email, we were notified that the Hawaii Island Retreat where we were staying had two accommodation types: A regular room in the hotel itself or a yurt. When I found out the yurts had a bathroom and running water inside of them, I knew the yurt was for me on this adventure.
I am so glad I chose to stay in the yurts because I actually think the accommodation in the yurts was nicer than the hotel rooms, even though we paid less. More to come on this later.
Before the Retreat:
We had to send 7000 word sample of our writing to the group to critique before we got there. We were required to write critique letters to each author in the group answering a specific set of questions and an area to fill in with other feedback. We were not given the names of the people attending the retreat beforehand or any information, so all we had to go on was a name and a manuscript.
Meeting at the Airport:
When we met at the airport for the shuttle to the retreat location up in Waimea, we all introduced ourselves as... Blair... who wrote X. or Kate... who wrote Y. It was so crazy to match people with their manuscripts, I was shocked at who some people were who had written certain manuscripts. I was "Moon Beach Rising Blair." It was a very great way to meet our fellow attendees.
Location of Retreat: The Hawaii Island Retreat itself was very remote. I would have preferred to be in a location closer to town with way more to do. If you travel so far away to a place like Hawaii, it would be really great to have the ability to experience more of the culture.That being said, the location of the retreat sat upon a grassy hillside overlooking a beautiful Pacific Ocean bay. The week we were there just so happened to be best "whale watching" week as the whales were migrating from Alaska and very active. It was heavenly and SO exciting to see whales breech all day, every day. Total magic. How can anyone complain about that? You kinda cant. There were plenty of hiking trails and it was good for me to "chill" out a little but I also was ITCHING to do more.
The format of the workshop:
I was in the fiction writing group and this was our schedule:
8:00 am breakfast
9:00 am daily lecture by Ying Compestine and or Mark Gottlieb
10:00 am - 12:00 pm critique break out groups
1:00 pm Lunch
3:00 pm Afternoon activity (hike, trip to the store, beach, etc)
6:00 pm Dinner
The morning lectures by Mark and Ying were very helpful and informative, we workshopped pitches and heard a little bit about query letters from Mark. We learned about making a career from writing and a little about the submission process from both Mark and Ying. The time around that table was invaluable hearing stories and having a bit of a Q&A with top industry experts.
The critique time was incredibly helpful for the person who had their work being critiqued. IE -- I was first, on the very first day of the workshop, Monday. Lucky for me, I got to spend the rest of the week working on edits that were given to me on that very first day. The rest of the time I was at the workshop, I was in the sessions listening to others critique writing, critiquing it myself, and learning directly from how Ying who would correct or bring the level of writing up to the next level. She would stop us and say, "add a tag line here", "tell me what she looks like, what is she wearing, what does the room look like..." Sitting in and listening to Ying for the week critique like this was very beneficial for me. I learned a lot that will help me on the creative and editorial side of my middle grade novel I am working on.
OPEN READING NIGHT :
I loved this part of the retreat where we each had a turn to read a portion of whatever we wanted. Published work, something we were working on, poems, etc... I loved hearing everyone from the non-fiction and fiction side of the workshop along with Mark and Ying's readings. That was a really cool part of the retreat.
We each also had one-on-one meeting with Ying and Mark which were very helpful.
Ying: My one-on-one with Ying was a critique of a children's picture book manuscript I had submitted to her. We also took the time to discuss the business plan for me as an author. She helped give me advice and direction and encouragement. The friendship and connection I made with Ying was worth the entire trip itself. She is one incredible lady who I learned so much fun. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to get to know her on a professional level and as a friend / mentor.
Mark: My meeting with Mark was a lot about the business side of publishing. I was picking his brain about the type of clients he hires, what kind of books he would sell in today's market, how do I fall in comparison to other querying authors. He helped me by telling me I have an impressive platform and very intriguing writing. He asked me to submit my middle grade novel to him that I was very hesitant to do... but I did. Unfortunately, the first day he was back at his desk, I got a one two gut punch of a rejection from him, with an invitation to submit to another agent at Trident. The invitation to submit to another agent in his company was very nice and while I still totally took the rejection personally, I know that it wasn't personal. I know he is very busy and doesn't specialize in picture books at all.
The Hotel Itself
Is run by wonderful people. It is outdated and definitely not a four star hotel. I personally was fine with the accommodation because I selected the yurts and I knew what I was going to stay in. More of a "glamping" style type trip for me. It was SUPER fun, exciting, and the night that it rained... well, it sounded like I was inside of a drum. It was a totally magical time for me. Solo time away from being "mom" where I could focus on this new direction life has taken me as an author. One thing I will mention that was a complete let down was the coffee situation. I am a coffee girl and with the time difference (5 hrs from EST) I would wake up around 3-4am and be wide awake, ready to write. After my walk in early morning darkness with my flashlight from yurt village to the main hotel building.. only to find that I couldn't physically even make coffee myself! Bummer man! We were able to get this sorted out mid-week, but, still had some major struggles with the coffee.
Overall, I think if you go to a retreat like this with an open mind, ready to better your writing in a live critique setting, and take advantage of all the down time in between, then a retreat like this is for you.
I personally took every single opportunity I could to hike with Mark and his lovely fiancee, asking a ton of industry questions along the way. I ate meals with Mark and Ying, Blake and Mike. I made sure to connect with every other author at the retreat, learn a little of their backstory, what they write, their "why".
NETWORKING is a huge part of this business and I made such great friends... not to mention omg the level of conversation was so rich and the air was filled with passionate individuals writing about crime investigations, war history, Wuhan in the middle of the covid breakout, children in polish war camps, sci-fi stories I was so impressed with I could barely wrap my brain around the different portals we were traveling through... My mind was exposed to different genre's, poetry, memoirs, magical realism, nonfiction... you guys the richness of even being able to mingle among the crowd of such intelligent, inspiring, successful individuals was just something you can't really explain.
So while I've sat here for way longer than I thought... writing about my time in Hawaii and the complaints about the... coffee(?) I think it is safe to say that this retreat checked the boxes for me.
When asked if I will go again... the answer is a screaming YES! I just have to find a way to gently ask my family when I will be "allowed" to go again (!!)... and find a location with a group I'd like to travel with.
Did I have (unrealistic) hopes of making Mark my agent? YES.
Did I come home with Mark as my agent? No.
Does it matter? NO.
Am I in a much better place professionally after the retreat than I was before the retreat? YES
I have industry knowledge. I am armed with so much editorial craft for my middle grade, my picture books, and I have grown my network by a lot. Another thing I learned while on this retreat is that, for me personally, I continue to reassure myself that I LOVE writing. I love talking about the industry, I love hearing other's publishing stories, I love why people love their agents and why people don't love their agents, I have found a really great network of people who I enjoy being with, I enjoy working with, I enjoy conversation with, and I cannot wait to continue to learn and grow my career as a writer with.
What to look for when searching for a retreat:
HUGE thank you to Blake and Mike for taking us on such a wonderful turning point in my career as an author. You all did such a great job planning and selecting such a great group of writers who I am lucky enough to call friends. HUGE thank you to Ying and Mark for pouring your industry knowledge into us. As the first retreat post-covid... to have the two of you as our faculty was AMAZING. I know I personally learned a lot from you all and I can't wait to update you all with more publishing and/or agenting news... SOON I hope!
Watch out publishing world... I'm a ninja now 💙 😜
THANK YOU WRITING WORKSHOPS!
Blair has travelled extensively all over the world. She and her husband enjoy taking their kids on big adventures together. Blair writes children's picture books for all ages! Most of her stories are inspired by life events. They feature kid’s curiosity, love of the environment, laughter, and fantasy.