Reading, Reading, Reading (And a Dare)

Happy New Year’s, y’all!

And before you give me that look (because it’s January 9th), you should know that technically, it’s still the Christmas season. I just came back from my church and all the greenery is still up, all the manger scene men, women, sheep, and camels and the Baby Jesus are still hanging out. So really, I’m not late at all.

But I have been busy, reading books, coming up with a word for the year, thinking, thinking, thinking. And writing, too. I know. I’m surprised, too.

download (2)Oh, goodness, I love Bob Goff’s books! So when I saw that he had a daily devotional, I didn’t have to think about that choice, I just clicked. It’s called Live in Grace-Walk in Love and yes, it’s Christian-based but if you know anything about Bob Goff, you know he’s love-based. He’s a consummate storyteller and he uses these skills to make his points; I could grab a quote from each day but here’s one from Day 6 that moved me as a writer but I think it works for anyone who has big dreams and might be frustrated in the journey to accomplish them:

Go change the world from where you are, while you’re moving toward where you wish you were.

And then because I am a writer, I had a delightful time, hanging out with Julie Hedlund this year for the 12 Days of Christmas for Writers. That’s come and gone but lots of inspiration and fun, a good way to end a year and start a new year. (Pssst! If you’re a picture book writer, go see all that she offers!) And she read from Jane Yolen’s book, Take Joy. 

takejWell, I clicked on that, too, because I love Jane Yolen (and not just because she raved about the voice in my first page in a manuscript years ago). I clicked because I liked what Jane said in the very beginning: write because it brings you joy.

Speaking of Jane Yolen, she’ll be at our SCBWI Southern Breeze conference in March,along with daughter Heidi Stemple. So if you love Jane and Heidi (and really, the entire faculty at wik’20 is stellar!) and you’re somewhere around the Southeast, then come join us in Birmingham on March 13th and 14th. I will be very happy to introduce you to Jane and Heidi because we’re this close. Or we will be by the time the conference is over. If I’m not arrested for stalking.

AND one more book I have to mention is Make Your Bed. 

So when I was thinking, thinking, thinking about 2020, I kept coming back to “20 Hard Things You Need To Do to Be Happy” by Mark Chernoff.  (I told y’all, I was busy! In a sitting-around-reading-stuff-on-the-web sort of way.) And specifically, I kept thinking, thinking, thinking about Number 1:

You need to take small chances every day.

Now, I realize that taking a small chance is not exactly going to help change the world, but the more I thought, the more I began to figure that maybe taking a small chance might in fact, change my world.

I wondered if taking a small chance every day would move me past fear and into action. Because here’s the thing: when your world is rocked by crises or losses or major setbacks, you may be numb at first. But eventually, fear settles in your soul as you begin to realize that there’s so very little in this life we control. Love and faith and friends and family help--they help a lot!–but sometimes, we can be caught in the “playing it safe” zone because we’re so afraid of what may happen.

And so the word “dare” began to form in my mind. Dare to do something that you might not have done before. And not something big; I didn’t need to take a trip around the world. I just needed to maybe go to a movie by myself.

Which I haven’t quite done yet. But I did go into a restaurant and sat down to eat by myself. “Yes, table for one,” I said. And you know what? It was empowering! I know it’s a small thing, but honestly, I haven’t sat down in a restaurant to eat alone since my working days, before I had kids.

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the WorldSo though I don’t usually do a word for the year, I chose DARE so that I’d keep that first hard thing foremost in my mind. I mean, even I can remember a word. Which leads me to Make Your Bedthe last book on the list.

Admiral William H. McRaven gave a speech at the University of Texas–you might’ve seen it, it went viral–and this book is a longer version of that speech. It won’t take you long to read it but he talks about changing the world, and gives ten lessons from his days as a Navy Seal that tells you exactly how you might change the world. One of them is taking risks. And in his book, he cites the British Special Air Services motto: “Who dares, wins.”

Now I will never take the kinds of risks a Navy Seal does; I won’t win any special medals for bravery. But if I don’t risk putting my writing out there, I’ll never know what might be possible in my life, how I might change the world of a child or adult who reads something I’ve written. And perhaps he or she might go on to change the world in some way.

It could happen, but only if I dare.

(Yikes! I’ve gone way past my usual ramble and I forgot to mention my Muffin post! So if you want to change the way you revise, take a look at “Writing Lessons Learned From Love It or List It.” And maybe you’ll start 2020 pulling out an old manuscript and giving it one more chance. Come on, I dare you.)



Roundup of Great Reads!

One of the lovely perks of social media and blogging is getting to know lots and lots of writers that I would never meet in person. And one of the joys of meeting other writers is sharing the joy of publication, whether it be a book or a magazine article, a poem or a short story. Most of the time, I blah-blah-blah about my own publications because–well, let’s face it, y’all, the name of the blog is Cathy C. Hall. But today, today is different.

Today is all about you and your lovely publications. Because geez, Louise, y’all. YOU have been busy writing good stuff!

And when I say you, I mean Becky Lewellen Povich, whose memoir, From Pigtails to Chin Hairs, is like a chat at the kitchen table over coffee. Her book is a collection of vignettes, a story told through snapshots of another time and the people and places along the journey of her life. You can’t read this book and not see and hear Becky on every page…or rather, the Becky that she’d become.

Or the you that’s Beth Cato whose The Clockwork Dagger kept me up reading til 1:30 in the morning! It’s a steampunk fantasy  adventure that’s fun and daring and textured and true, and if you haven’t hopped on to one of her blog tours to win this book, you’re missing something special. I’ve loved Beth’s short stories forever–and I’ve been drooling over her recipes (at Bready or Not) forever, too–but this novel might top them all.

And you, too, Julie Hedlund, whose just released picture book, My Love For You Is The Sun, is like a bedtime lullaby.  Her rhyming text, combined with the clay art  illustrations of Susan Eaddy, will rock little ones to sleep, night after night after night. Julie is the founder of 12 x 12, a writing challenge that’s a must for anyone serious about picture books. And you can see in My Love For You Is The Sun a culmination of all that she’s learned–and so generously shared with the kidlit writing community.

And last, but certainly not least, you, Krysten Lindsay Hager whose True Colors just landed in my Kindle reader, thanks to those lovely Lit Ladies and their giveaway! I’ve been laughing at Krysten’s take on…well, just about everything for years and now she has a book?  The tagline alone is brilliant: “Landry never imagined acceptance could leave her feeling so rejected.” How’s that for a great hook?

I love when writer friends succeed on that road to publication, don’t you? And if you’re ever in Georgia–and by you, I mean Becky, Beth, Julie, and Krysten–come say hello.  And I’d really love it if you signed your books!


Calling Children’s Writers: Start Your Writing Engines

It’s the start of the new year and you’d like to rev up your brain and start writing, right? You might want to begin with Shannon Abercrombie’s challenge:



Whether you’ve penned children’s books or dashed off a middle grade novel or tackled a young adult novel, here’s something you can sink your writing teeth into: Start The Year Off Write, twenty-one days of writing prompts and esteemed authors and illustrators sharing their insights. And prizes! LOTS of prizes! (And yes, I know it’s already started, but January 5th was just a few days ago. YOU CAN DO THIS. Um…I’m not sure I can do this because I’m already signed on for this next challenge…)



Meg Miller’s planned a week-long slate of revision stuff, including blog posts and videos and prizes! LOTS of prizes! ReViMo is specifically geared to picture book writers, so if you’ve ever participated in Picture Book Idea Month and have a slew of dusty drafts, here’s a great opportunity to shine ’em up. And you’ll notice that it starts Sunday. Gosh, that’s four whole days to get your little ducky picture book drafts in a row. You’ll need a couple polished-up picture books if you’re interested in this next challenge:



It’s the 12 x 12 challenge over at Julie Hedlund’s, where picture book writers can sign up for one of three levels (there’s a fee for each level) for a year-long dose of writing inspiration, advice, and prizes! LOTS of prizes! Registration continues for quite a while, so you have time to revise, work on writing prompts and really get your writing engines revved up before the fun begins.

There are SO many authors and illustrators and writers in the children’s community who give back with challenges and contests and advice and support. It’s amazing and generous and I so appreciate the time and effort it takes to coordinate these and all the other surprises that these and other writers have in store in 2014. I love to participate in these challenges, love meeting other writers, love how my writing improves along the way.

And yeah, I can’t lie. I love those prizes. LOTS of prizes.

(Know of a writing challenge? For essay writers or short story writers? Novelists or poets? Do tell–and don’t forget to mention the prizes!)