As I said last week, this year of horror is almost over and I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping for 2021 to be better. So, to that end I’m going to focus on the good things that await us—at least us writers and illustrators.

I’ll start with all the good stuff that SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators to the uninitiated) is doing as usual. If you are a writer or illustrator of children’s stories and have not joined this wonderful organization you are most decidedly depriving yourself of a wealth of information and comradery. They have online and in-person workshops and conferences, plus ways of promoting your work and articles on how to find publishers or improve your writing/illustrating. You’ll feel every so connected with the rest of the writerly tribe. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t just encourage and cheer for beginners, including authors and illustrators and editors who are widely recognized as on the top tier.

Since I started writing for publication, I’ve lived 2 states—Maryland and North Carolina—and have found many organizations that help writers, both locally and state wide. The state organization in North Carolina is North Carolina Writers Network. Again, they hold conferences and have a website where you can learn about writing, promote your latest publication, and learn about what contests they are holding. One of the biggies is the Thomas Wolfe Award. They also list what writers groups in each county are doing. For instance, in Craven (don’t you love that name?) County, where my handsome devil and I live, there is the NEXUS Poet group that meets on the first Tuesday of each month in the charming and very artistic New Bern.

If you look around your area, I’m sure you’ll find at least one independent bookstore that will be happy to sell your books for you. If you’re lucky, the store will also give you a spot to hold a book signing for your latest book. And, if you’re really lucky, will publish a literary journal where you can try to have your short stories, poems, or artwork published. New Bern’s Next Chapter Books and Art is the place here. It’s run by the talented and delightful Michelle Flye.

Your area will most likely have at least one local writer’s forum that meets once a month or so and hosts a guest speaker. If you go to the meeting, you’ll get information on how to write better and how to market your stories, but you also develop new relationships with people like you. In the Coastal North Carolina area, there are several in addition to NEXUS Poets. In the Pamlico County there is Pamlico Writers which generally speaking host a yearly one-day writers’ conference in the charming town of Washington inside the grand old Turnage Theater. Just to go see the theater is worth the price of admission. BTW, if you write for children you’ll probably heard of Sheila Turnage, who’s grandfather started the theater.

We also have Carteret Writers, which at the moment is having COVID break, but is hoping that someone will take over the reins in 2021.  This group usually sponsors a writers’ contest and publishes the winners in a literary magazine entitle Shoal. Again, they have a monthly speaker. Those of us who have put in a lot of effort to keep the organization going hope that a new group of people will raise their hands to take over the reins. (I know, I know, how can you take over the reins while you’re raising your hand?)  Look around your neck of the woods because I’m sure you’ll find someplace to have a writerly home. If not, start your own. To paraphrase a line from the delightful movie “Field of Dreams,” start it and writers will come.

The other thing you can do is look on websites or writers’ magazines and you will find lists of places to submit your sterling work and a number of them give you suggestions of what to write to have them interested in your work. Look on websites for magazines such as Writer’s Digest , or Poets&Writers, or The Writer Just use your favorite search engine and look for writer’s magazines. I use Author Publish when I’m looking for places to tell my readers about in the monthly newsletter I write for Carteret Writers. (The newsletter is aptly named “The Write Stuff.”) They do a lot of research about who’s looking for submissions, both articles and books. (We don’t need to rely on just the now 4 mega-trade publishers.)

You see? There’s plenty to look forward to in 2021. It may be the year you’ll end up on the New York Times best seller list. Hey, we can dream, can’t we?  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, or whatever else happy you want to celebrate.

Here’s to Surviving 2020 and Hoping for a Better 2021!

I wrote this first paragraph back in March, thinking that we’d be back to normal by August at the latest. Foolish me. In this time of sequestering, things are not much different for a writer. We tend to hunker down in our offices anyway. But now I tend to procrastinate more than usual because what else am I going to do with my time? My husband does the grocery shopping and someone comes in twice a month to clean our house. We can now Skype or Zoom or use some other version of tele-communicating with our friends and family and we can get carryout dinners when we don’t feel like cooking. The carryout dinner thing is really cool. We order from our house, drive to the restaurant, and honk the horn. Someone from the restaurant comes out with our food with surgical gloves on and we pay. Home we go to have a nice meal.

It’s now December and this horrible year is coming to an end. Like everyone else, we’ve read in the newspaper and seen on TV news that people are dying in the thousands, not just in the U.S., but around the world. And driving 40 minutes to and fro for a meal to eat at home, got to be old in a hurry.

The good news is that my handsome devil has rekindled his interest in cooking. Turns out he’s good at it. I’m a good cook, but having been cooking almost nightly for 60 years takes the joy out of it.

The pandemic has also reduced the incoming flow of new children’s books to read and review. Which means I haven’t had much reviewing grist for my blog mill. But, being a writer and a storyteller, now I just blog about whatever comes into my head.

I have been working on some short stories, including the one I mentioned in an earlier blog. I called that one “Trust,” because it has to do with the trust between a horse and rider. I have now sent the story off the Terrain magazine and hope to hear back from them in about four months. I also finished the sketch of the bad guy’s face.

Don’t judge me too harshly, this is my first ever attempt at drawing something that I think highly enough of to let see the light of day.

I also have had a short story accepted for the second edition of Next Chapter Literary Magazine. This story, entitled “Heart’s Convergence”, is about a teen boy rescuing his would-be girl friend from a raging river. I also had a story accepted for the first edition. The theme for the first edition of the magazine was Quarantine and the theme for this second one is Convergence because New Bern—where I live and the Next Chapter Books and Art is located, is on the convergence of the Neuse and Trent Rivers.

The other good news is that we adopted a kitten two weeks ago. We named her Pandie. Can you guess why? Friends have guessed Pandora, Panda Bear and other such “pandie” words. My hint is to think about what the theme of this post is.

My hope is that 2021 will be a better year for all of us. And that we lose no more friends to this pandemic. (Everyone who has died was a friend to someone.)  Have a happy holiday season.