There seem to be writing contests and pitch parties everywhere in the picture book world! I just entered my first contest hosted by Vivian Kirkfield called #50 Precious Words. The contest is a picture book in 50 words or less with a beginning, middle, and end. This challenge was equally fun and difficult for me as this was a bigger concept of a story for a PB. Inspired by some of our night's living on the boat and the surprises that happen at sunrise.
So, without further ado, I present to you my entry, PIRATES DON'T SLEEP, coming in at exactly 50 words...
PIRATES DON’T SLEEP
by BLAIR NORTHEN WILLIAMSON
What is it like to sleep at sea? Leah wondered.
She ran down below.
The boat rocked.
“HOTT!” Leah whined.
ERRRRRK the hatch lifted.
“Better,” she whispered.
CLUNK. The hatch closed.
Leah was restless.
WAAAAAAAH! Goats called.
The sun’s rising?
“You’re a real pirate now,” Dad declared.
A few tidbits of "news" for February...
Very exciting, my new website address is www.theislandwriter.com with a new blog name: Making Waves.
Plastic Ocean Project update:
The connection I made with Plastic Ocean Project is going really well. I helped them secure a boat out of Oriental, NC (land of Camp Seafarer and Camp SeaGull where I have a lot of history and very connected friends in that area). Thank you to those who helped point me in the right direction to help me help them! They leave on Sunday for their first 3-night research trip into the Gulf Stream to track the migration of the Right whales! They have beautiful weather in the forecast and I hope they are able to have a few whale encounters bringing them a safe and successful trip! They will have a film crew onboard using 360 and a research team taking samples of surface sargasm. This is all for the completion of their documentary, If the Ocean Could Talk...
If you are interested, here is a link to read more about it. This group is based out of Wilmington / Wrightsville Beach, NC right off of Figure 8 Island where I spend a lot of time, so it means a lot to me to help out such great people who share a passion of mine.
I really want to support their organization because they are doing such a great job educating communities about the problem with plastics in our oceans what what they can do now to help. One of my books, ISLAND GIRLS: TURTLES IN DANGER aligns directly with their mission of spreading awareness about plastic pollution and what is happening beneath the surface. As a dive instructor, I have seen it all first hand and it's really sad to witness. Check out their page, What Can You Do? for lots of information on what you can do now to help from home. I look forward to future projects with Plastic Ocean Project and hope to have a few exciting announcements on this front in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, check out my reviews & endorsements page. There are quite a few new ones that have come in from some incredible people and organizations and it's all very exciting!
On the publishing front, no news to share here, still waiting. Apparently editors are very backlogged from the submission surge and publishing shut down of 2020 and are still trying to recover. I'll share updates when I have them. Thank you all for your continued support and interest.
Stay tuned :)
A note from the query trenches and writing zone that is inside of the four walls of my house:
I've been reminded lately to be yourself. Not only in my day-to-day life, but also in my writing. You may ask why I am saying this now... that of course we should be ourselves... but here is some background. Some of you may know that I am a part of the Picture Book 12 x 12 Challenge. It's so inspirational and the biggest community of talented writers that I have been a part of to date. At the beginning of this challenge, there is a forum to form critique groups and meet other writers. Critique groups are kind of like support groups for writers, your writing family, and you will depend on their commitment for (years) and their experience and feedback to critique and edit manuscripts each month. We have all committed to writing 12 picture book manuscripts this year, but this forum allows people who also want to commit to critique each others work to meet and introduce themselves. I found the search to be kind of like interviewing for a job. You want committed people to be your partners to take your work to the next level and want to make sure they will put in the same effort you will. Well, I have totally found my people. We are a dynamic group of four women. We email almost every day with different pieces of news to share from our agents or advice to each others, videos are shared about learning rhyme and meter. We each bring something different and unique to the table and we live all over the world. We have two fantastically talented author/illustrators in our group, one in England, one in California, and an amazingly gifted actress who is hilariously funny with her writing, and then me. At first I was thinking, what on earth and I doing in a group with these women who are so talented, already published, and have so much experience writing, what could I possibly bring to the table?! I got in my head a little and I was so nervous about our first meeting but quickly realized we each bring something totally unique to this group. I need to focus on my own voice and let my own quirkiness shine. That's what makes unique manuscripts. This business is all out the unique storyline you can write, and I have it. Over a year into writing, I feel so much more comfortable with writing and less afraid to let my colors shine. Picture books can really teach adults a thing or two! Such a great reminder from Dr. Seuss, "Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You." I plan to take this mantra throughout my writing career because when you are you, that's when the magic happens. So I'm off, to continue writing my own unique magical stories, with the support and encouragement from the 12 x 12 challenge and my critique group... while publishers and editors review my manuscripts that are still on submission. Time will tell where my beautiful stories will land. Can't wait to take the next step with them.
WHAT A YEAR IT HAS BEEN!
Below is a timeline that is the most interesting and the best way to present what went down in my writing career... with a few very important shout-outs at the end.
September - November 2020
In short, this really is quite incredible what has transpired so fast. I am proud I have found a passion, something I know I am good at. Even in the short period of time I was querying by myself, it is clear there is interest to publish the stories I am writing.
I know I've said this a lot, but it needs to be said again. I would not be where I am today without Rosie Pova and the Writing Workshop of Dallas crew. They single-handedly taught me what I needed to know, what I needed to do, and created a very easy process for me to understand and follow. Yes, the stories are in my head and are my own, they are my own imagination and stem from my own creative mind. However, I didn't know where to start or the first thing about the publishing industry and they showed me the way. I am forever grateful to Rosie and Blake who have believed in me from the very beginning. I also need to say thank you to my agent Jeanie for investing her time and energy on my success. It feels pretty awesome to have such great people believe in me and even better that I can call them friends.
I can't wait for the ride to continue, my new manuscripts to come to life, and eventually, the joint book signings with Rosie! It will be such a thrill to see my books on the shelves one day.
Thank you all for your continued support and interest. It means the world to me.
All my love, luck, and healthy wishes to you all in 2022.
As 2021 comes to an end, I was reminded by a friend yesterday about how lucky I am to have found a passion and career that links my time as a dive instructor and sailing captain to my current life as a working mom and author. It seems like a different life when I reflect on our time living and traveling all over the world on yachts. During that time, I had a very unique perspective, literally working under the water as a dive instructor. I witnessed the problems of plastic and trash found in our oceans first-hand. I saw the littered shores in Patong Bay, Thailand and the coast lines of Malaysia. I saw more and more trash accumulating on reefs in places like the British Virgin Islands and even the shores of Figure 8 Island, NC and Siesta Key, Florida. I watched as a turtle tried to eat a plastic bag on numerous occasions, more recently, with my children snorkeling in the Dominican Republic. These experiences made a huge impact on me and inspired me to do something about it. One of the hardest things for me was figuring out what to do or how I could make a difference. I am very fulfilled knowing that I found a way to tie these unique experiences of my past to my now, in hopes of making a difference for our future. I can't wait to share these experiences through my children's picture books. So much good is coming in 2022!
*Picture above is of my oldest daughter in Siesta Key, Florida with a quote that really speaks to me. "The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it". -Robert Swan.
Photo above of S/Y Yanneke Too, Phi Phi Islands, Thailand, 2009.
In my years post-college, I worked on yachts all over the world. Honestly, the structure of daily life, the planning, the training, and the insanely hard work and long hours in the industry gave me incredible tools to take with me in my life. This picture is of my last “superyacht” home, S/Y Yanneke Too. We were based in Phuket, Thailand at Yacht Haven Marina and cruised through the Phi Phi and Pulau islands of Thailand and Malaysia. As chief stewardess and private dive instructor on board, standing watches as a licensed captain, things were always happening. And boy do we have some stories to tell.
So many ideas for my children’s picture books come from my time working on yachts, traveling the world, living among different cultures, experiencing new traditions, and learning to appreciate each moment.
This picture was a good moment. One of my final sunrises on watch. One that I’ll never forget. One where a little flying fish jumped up from the sea and landed right on deck after I took this picture. She flip-flopped around. We had a moment together before I saved her. I’ll name that fish Fiona in my next picture book, give her a voice, and help explain what is happening in our oceans from plastics to entanglement, all from her perspective. I can't wait to write it!
Happy (almost) Thanksgiving! There is a lot happening behind the scenes, so here is a very unorganized update of what has been going on recently!
This is only a little snapshot of what is happening behind the scenes, which is all fantastic and wonderful and so thrilling, but I still need a good solid publishing deal. I've asked all of these people if they care that I haven't signed a publishing deal yet, all of them say they do not care, they are just interested in hearing from an author on their journey and so thankful to have me speak! If I have pre-order or a way to order my books or if they are available, they will happily circulate to their audiences and support me. How amazing is that?! I am so humbled and thankful, and I just hope I can deliver an inspiring message to each different audience I speak to. Honestly, sometimes I am frustrated by this process and even doubt myself, but I think the important thing is to be real and maybe that is what is attracting people to ask me to speak at their events? Whatever the reason, I'm honored, excited, nervous, and I hope I will have books they can buy and that I can physically sign at the events. Nonetheless, I am planting a lot of seeds for when the time comes, whatever publisher decides they like me and my books, we can hit the ground running.
One last update, my agent has all six of my manuscripts out on submission and we are nearing the time when *hopefully* we start getting some good solid offers from publishers who have distribution here in the USA. I feel that is a very important piece of this publishing puzzle, to make sure my friends and family and network can actually physically go into a store and buy my books.
Thats it for now. I am so thankful for each and every one of you, for the different ways you are supporting me and for the ways you will support me in the future. It means the world to me.
Stay tuned for lots of excitement ahead... I know it's coming!
The hurry up and wait game continues...
Typically, publishers and editors take 8-12 weeks at minimum to reply to submissions, sometimes with an offer, and then negotiations begin. I have been on submission since September 15 with my agent at LLA... which brings us to 7 weeks out. The waiting game continues and there is so much that is happening in the background, behind the scenes. Hard work, persistence, late nights, rejections, sacrifices, discipline, criticism, doubts, doubters, failure, risks... with all of these, success will come. Hopefully, we will have some exciting news to share in the next few weeks. I am forever grateful to my agent Jeanie who is tirelessly working on submissions, marketing plans, PR pitches, researching the right editors to submit my manuscripts to, and keeping us insanely organized. Jeanie told me yesterday, "it is now a waiting game and a mission to tag the right editor." It will happen.
Stay tuned... thank you for the continued support!
So many questions have popped up about our recent trip to New York with kids: our itinerary, how were the crowds, where did we stay, proof of vaccination, how did the kids manage, etc... so I figured I'd just include all of that information here for you all as a resource if you plan to travel to NYC with your kids anytime soon.
Did you feel safe flying?
Yes. We have flown multiple times during the pandemic with our children. Put a mask on them, wash their hands a lot, keep your distance from others when possible, and have fun!
What were the procedures for Broadway?
It wasn't that bad. Each person attending the show had to show proof of vaccination, or medical / religious exemption. For children under the age of 12, you need a negative PCR covid test OR a negative antigen at home covid test within 6 hours of the show. Everyone had to wear masks at all times anywhere inside the theatre. More info can be found online here for various shows. The theatre was sold out and the show was incredible.
How did the kids dine in restaurants with you?
Most places only require proof of vaccination for the adults at restaurants and you must be masked until you are seated. If you are not vaccinated, you will have a bit of trouble dining inside in NYC. We also had proof of negative covid test for our kids, so we had that as extra backup.
How were the crowds?
I feel like it was less crowded than usual, but we also normally only gone to NYC around the holidays. Times Square was the most crowded area we visited, but it wasn't that many people.
What was the kids favorite thing you did?
Seeing the Lion King was, hands down, their favorite thing we did over the weekend.
What restaurants did you go to with the kids?
We took the kids to Vicolina, Serendipity3, and Tavern on the Green.
Vicolina was amazing Italian food, and where we celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary with the entire family and my friend and her family as well. We had the back room, so the kids being excited and loud wasn't too much of a problem. We had a table for 12 this night.
Serendipity3 was a very fun atmosphere where the kids were able to order burgers, mac n' cheese, and the most outrageous ice cream deserts you've ever seen. They have a minimum of $17 per person minimum to spend at this restaurant, so don't go there expecting to only get ice cream to split amongst your table. Our family of four ordered one sundae for desert after dinner and between the four of us, we couldn't finish even half of the sundae.
Tavern on the Green was so fun and a unique atmosphere, of course also a beautiful location in Central Park. They can accommodate big tables of people, we had a table for 14, as we went with the entire extended family who had come in town for a celebration of life ceremony. The kids loved watching the chefs cook as they have a huge open area where you can see the entire kitchen operation. The chefs were so nice and friendly, smiling to the girls and showing off some of their knife skills. They have three areas you can dine: outside, which is OK for non-vaccinated people, inside in the glass room, or inside in the old traditional building of the restaurant. All indoor spaces are for vax'd adults or kids with vax'd parents. The food was amazing for adults and kids. The kids menu even had toys / puzzles you can order to be brought to the table to entertain the children.
What were the kids favorite shops?
We went to Rockefeller Center area which had a lot of highlights: American Girl, FAO Schwarz, LEGO, Saks 5th Avenue, NIKE, and Bloomingdales to name a few. American Girl had a game zone where the kids can play basketball and video games, all free. They also have a cafe to eat, an area to get your ears pierced, and an entire salon if the girls want to get their hair done.
FAO Schwarz had toys everywhere to play with. Josie loved playing with a remote control car, Sadie enjoyed the magic show, they got glitter tattoos, launched in a rocket ship, and enjoyed looked at the huge candy section at the bottom of the store. LEGO was very cool to see all of the huge creations like a NYC Taxi Cab, the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, as well as an area to create your own LEGO character and building stations. Hand sanitizer was everywhere. We went to Saks 5th Avenue to get perfume testers for the girls. They thought that was really special and enjoyed smelling all of the different perfumes. Apparently there is a vial shortage right now, so not all counters were able to give out testers, but if you ask, many counters did. We were able to spend hours in Rockefeller Center with the kids having a blast, and we didn't spend a dime while shopping the first day. There are so many more awesome experiences that you can do in that area, and the best part is you don't have to spend money to have a blast.
What was one more "must do" for the family?
The Edge. The Edge at Hudson Yards and seeing "the Vessel" was a very cool experience for all of us. Going into the Edge was like a Disney attraction. They checked vaccination status and you had to go through a line and an indoor maze that reminded us of Space Mountain. Reserve your tickets in advance You go into an elevator and get taken up (120 floors?) and walk out - it feels like you are walking in the clouds, on top of the city. If you are afraid of heights, this maybe isn't the place for you. They also have an area in the observation space that has a clear floor, where you feel like you are standing very high in the air, I had a hard time stepping foot on it, the kids laid down and felt like they were flying. Gives me the "heebie jeebies" just talking about that part. It was incredible views of the city.
One more thing to mention, if you are planning to travel internationally anytime soon, check your passport expiration date and pay for the expedited service. We are traveling internationally as a family over Christmas and New Year's, Josie and I both had to renew our passports this year. We paid for Josie's to be expedited at the suggestion of the US postal service worker at her in-person renewal visit. We got Josie's passport back within a month of applying for it with no issues. My passport has been "in process" at the passport agency since August 5! I mailed my passport in to get renewed in preparation for our trip at Christmas, and it is still "being processed". I have called the agency, waited on hold on the phone for over an hour, paid for the passport to be expedited, and they haven't even processed my payment to get my passport expedited now. It's still "in process". I know I have a bit of time but I don't wan to mess around anymore. The bottom line is, if anyone needs a passport renewed, the wait times are insanely high and weeks and weeks and weeks of processing time due to covid, the best advice I can give is pay to get it expedited from the beginning! Save yourself the stress!
That's all for now! Hope this was helpful to those who had asked for advice and tips for traveling with kids.
Hoping to provide an update on the books soon!
Quick update on what's been happening behind the scenes...
It's a very long process and I have to remind myself to just keep swimming! I know I will get the right deal eventually and I know that each step I take will get me closer to the goal of publication. This was a really big milestone for me 🎉
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.