THE "FREE THE SEA OF PLASTICS" SCARF by the island writer.
Not sure if you know this about me or not, but I am a fiercely independent person. And that means I personally really need my alone time every now and then. Being a mom to two young kids, it's nearly impossible to get that time anymore but, my incredibly supportive husband took over kid-duty for the weekend and sent me on my way on a solo writers retreat. I was itching to get started on my middle grade novel. The "MG" novel that has been sitting in my brain for over a decade is finally a WIP (Work-in-Progress) and I am 5,220 words in. There is a lot for me to figure out on "how" to exactly polish a Middle Grade Novel, but the words being out of my brain and on paper is a HUGE step in the right direction and it is very exciting.
I stayed local at the Linden Row Inn downtown and made sure I visited some of the "hip" new coffee spots. I went to Roastology coffee and wrote in their awesome warehouse type cafe for the entire morning. After I had my caffeine fix, I relocated to my hotel for the weekend where I wrote by the fire in the Linden Row Inn lobby. The Inn has a black cat who sat on the couch and watched me type for hours. This was equally creepy and sweet. Many people have asked what I listen to when I write as they have seen me around town with earbuds in tip tapping away on the keyboard in my own little flow state world. The answer, classical music. I listen to the same 10 songs on repeat. In short, the weekend provided me with the opportunity to focus on writing which is a great outlet for me.
While the traditional publishing route is proving to take even longer than I originally expected, I am filling my time in other ways, trying not to sit around and wait.
Lots of more excitement on the way, thank you again to my friends and family for your constant support and interest in my path to become a children's author.
I grew up spending a lot of time on an island.
Some of my best memories are from time spent on the ocean.
I have lived and worked on yachts all over the world off and on since 2006.
I have been on hundreds of scuba dives for pleasure and for teaching.
I have logged thousands of miles sailing the oceans...
All of this time at sea equates to many, many, many, hours observing what is happening on and beneath the surface.
...and I've just seen too much plastic and pollution. I don't know what else to say other than this is a massive problem for our beautiful sea creatures and animals that live under the sea. Without awareness, we don't know we are a part of the problem. So I'm on a mission to spread awareness. "The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it" - Robert Swan.
Thankful to Plastic Ocean Project, The Ocean Project, Save Our Seas Foundation, Animal Ocean, Global Expeditions Group, EASE PADI Dive Center, AsiaPacific Superyachts, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Georgia Sea Turtle Center and many more who have supported my efforts already. If you'd like to help, please shoot me an email or comment below. I have come up with some very creative projects to spread awareness of this issue. More to come soon.
Thanks for all the support to date, ALL!
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!
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.