Saturday, October 10, 2015

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I have always enjoyed rainy days. I love the muted colors of an overcast day (especially in autumn), the cool lift of the air that accompanies a storm, and the quieter feel of rainy mornings and afternoons. There is actually a word for someone who likes rainy days; according to, a pluviophile is a lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days. I was happy to find this definition a few years ago!
But the rain this morning is a double-edged sword. After last weekend’s historic flooding in South Carolina, today's rain is not a welcome sight. Although the rain has effectively ended our recent drought, it has caused a glut of new issues. Many bridges are still out, much of the state is under flood watches through tonight, and already-swollen rivers continue to rise and rise. Although my area thankfully came through last weekend relatively unscathed, I am so sad for our neighbors to the south in Columbia, Charleston, and all of the other areas affected by this wet weather.

I have heard such tragic stories this week—and I am sure you have, too, if you’ve watched the news at all. But in the midst of all the BAD, there has been a lot of GOOD. This week my boys’ middle school collected cases of water to send via the Red Cross to the affected areas, and one of my sons' teachers left to serve as a National Guardsman in the affected areas (what a wonderful example for our young men and women!). Donation centers have overflowed with offerings for flood victims. And the welcome that USC is receiving in Baton Rouge for the Gamecocks vs. LSU Tigers game today is touching and profound. Who would’ve thought?  

Since I haven’t posted in awhile, I decided that this rainy Saturday morning would be a great time to jump back in and post a link for anyone interested in helping flood victims in SC. The South Carolina Emergency Management Division’s website has information about how to donate, as well as a link to a list of most-needed items (click here for more information). 

I will have some exciting writing-related news to share very soon! Enjoy your weekend, stay dry, and Happy Writing! 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Eric Whitacre's Musical Rendition of Goodnight Moon

I am a huge fan of modern classical composer/conductor/musician Eric Whitacre. His music is beautiful and ethereal, and listening to his compositions can be as captivating and soothing as getting lost in a really good book.

One of my favorite pieces by Whitacre is his musical rendition of Margaret Wise Brown’s children’s classic, Goodnight Moon, from his 2012 CD Water Night. When my boys were little, we read this book every single night. My memories of Goodnight Moon are intertwined with recollections of baby kisses, nighttime cuddles, and the simple sweetness of my boys as infants and toddlers. The text of the book soars with the melody and wraps the listener in an amazing blend of music, words, and (in my case) poignant memories. It is simply beautiful!

Please check out Whitacre's website here, where he talks about reading Goodnight Moon to his own young son. And here's an excerpt of Goodnight Moon, performed by Whitacre's wife, soprano Hila Pitmann. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.☺

Have a great week, and Happy Writing!

Friday, September 4, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: A Poem for September

Thanks to Linda at Teacher Dance for hosting Poetry Friday today!

* * * * *
Autumn is my favorite season. Although it is still HOT here in South Carolina, I can see glimpses of fall in the yellowing leaves and occasional cool breezes. On the sports fields around town, soccer and football players hone their skills and the coaches’ whistles mingle with the scent of freshly mown fields. I am eagerly anticipating a visit to my favorite apple orchard, Sky Top near Hendersonville, NC, where apple picking is already in full swing. And although our summer was wonderful, I am really, *really* looking forward to saying goodbye to temperatures in the 90s.

For Poetry Friday today, I am sharing a poem I wrote at my son’s soccer practice last week. I hope you enjoy it!

by Becky Shillington

Summer’s deep green slowly ripens to gold.
Mornings are cooler,
Nights come sooner,
And the sky blooms autumn blue.

Whistles and shouts echo across fields,
School bells ring in a new year of learning,
And apples and pumpkins pop up everywhere.

Bands march under Friday night lights and
Life hunkers down for the season ahead,
As fall shouts, “Ready or not, here I come!”
poem and photo ©2015 by Becky Shillington 

Also, I am happy to share some exciting writing news: I’ve started a column called “Word Play” for a local magazine, YC Parenting. Here is the link to my first column, if you’d like to check it out, and here is a link to an article on stretching with children that I also wrote for this issue. I am enjoying this new challenge and looking forward to writing more for my wonderful editor/creative director extraordinaire! ☺

Have a happy Labor Day weekend, and Happy Writing!

Friday, August 21, 2015

POETRY FRIDAY: A Haiku for Back to School

Thanks to Catherine at Reading to the Core for hosting Poetry Friday today
This summer brought a whirlwind of travel and fun for our family—we camped at the mountains and the lake, spent time with family and friends, and finished our “summer tour” with a quick trip to Charleston last week.
One of the sweet turtles at the SC Aquarium's sea turtle rescue

But on Monday, our summer officially ended and my boys went back to school. Although it is hard for me to believe, they are now in the seventh grade! 

My boys on the first day of school

To celebrate back to school, I am sharing a haiku for Poetry Friday today. Wherever you are, enjoy your last few weeks of summer, and Happy Writing!

Lazy summer days
Collide with early mornings
No more sleeping in

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Great Websites for Children’s Writers

I get super excited when I come across helpful websites to use during the writing, editing, and marketing process, so I am sharing a list of my favorite online resources today. Please include any of your favorite sites that are not here in the comments below—I am sure I have missed some, and would love to have as comprehensive a list as possible!

General Writing Resources:

SCBWI (the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) is a wonderful resource, with local groups in many states:

The SCBWI Blueboards (formerly the Verla Kay Blueboards) are a wonderful resource, and access to most of the information does not require membership in SCBWI. Lots of published authors, illustrators, and agents post regularly, and it is such a great support group for the children's/young adult writing community:

Absolute Write is another great (free!) site for writers of all genres. Check out the forums:

Rhyme Zone is one of my favorite writing sites! You can look up rhymes, definitions, famous quotes, synonyms, antonyms, etc. for any word. I use it ALL the time!

Visual Thesaurus is also a great tool. There is a small yearly fee, but it has been worth every penny to me!

Harold Underdown is an experienced children’s editor who freely shares his knowledge about writing for kids:

“Grammar Girl” Mignon Fogarty is a go-to resource for questions about grammar:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is observed every November by writers brave enough to tackle a first draft of their novel in 30 days. The whole concept is very inspiring, and the NaNoWriMo community is so encouraging:

The Poetry Foundation is an excellent resource for poetry lovers:

The Academy of American Poets also has a fantastic poetry website:

The American Library Association is a great resource for anyone interested in children's books:

The Children's Book Council has a fabulous site, as well, and is a handy resource for finding children's books:

Agent and Editor-Related Sites:

AgentQuery is a good agent-hunting site. Click on "Blog Roll" in the left-hand column for a good list of agent and editor blogs:

Query Tracker is a great site for tracking submissions to agents and editors. A basic membership is free, but you can pay $25 for a premium membership:

Publishers Marketplace costs $25/month, but is worth it while agent hunting. It has great information on what is getting published these days:

Publishers Marketplace also has a free weekly children's publishing newsletter called PW Children's Bookshelf. Go to: and click "subscribe" if you are interested. 

Writer's Digest editor Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog has super information: 

The Predators and Editors website lists agents and editors, and has tons of other information:

Literary Rambles is a website that has a huge list of literary agents specializing in children's literature. Every agent is not listed, but Casey and Natalie add new agent profiles regularly:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Big “Thank You” and a Chapter Book Submission Opportunity

Last week I was thrilled to receive my July “St. George’s Reward” from my writer friend Tabatha Yeatts. St. George's Day was celebrated in Geoffrey Chaucer's time as a day to reward people who worked at artistic endeavors, and this spring Tabatha selected one of her blog readers to be the recipient of her own "St. George's Reward" each month (you can read more about this on Tabatha's blog here). I have enjoyed all of my surprises, but especially love this month’s reward:

These beautiful magnets (created by writer Robyn Hood Black and available at her fabulous Etsy store, artsyletters) are the perfect melding of functional and decorative. I absolutely love them! Thank you so much Tabatha and Robyn!

Also, Sunscribe Publishers, a brand new South Carolina publishing company, is accepting chapter book submissions for their children’s imprint Dancing Squirrel this week. You can find their submission guidelines here.

Have a wonderful week, and Happy Writing!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer’s Secret Hours

Every year I wonder at the busyness of summertime at our house. So far this summer we’ve camped, climbed mountains, tubed the French Broad River, vacationed with old friends, slid down waterfalls, baked cookies, chilled out at a water park, made cotton candy and snow cones, eaten lots of watermelon, played games, gone swimming, etc. (I could keep going and going…but I am tired ☺). We are having a wonderful summer, but once again it is flying by. School starts for my boys on August 17, so that gives us only five more weeks of fun before “real life” creeps back in. But such is the rhythm of life!
One of my boys playing in the water.

Although this summer has been just as busy as every other year, I’ve discovered one important thing: the “secret hours” of writing time between when my husband leaves for work and when my boys roll out of bed. Now that they are almost 13, this time has stretched to 9:00 or 9:30, often even later. That means if I can drag myself out of bed and start writing by 7:00, I can have 2 to 3 hours of blissfully quiet time to myself in the mornings!

These “secret hours” have been a tremendous discovery for me. During the school year I have chunks of quiet writing time in the mornings, but this is always *after* the hustle and bustle of making breakfast, getting the kids off to school, exercising, etc. (I am not one of those disciplined writers who can get up at 5 a.m. and start writing before the whole house is awake—not yet, anyway.) It is a fun change to be able to wake up and start working in my PJs, a perk of writing that I’ve heard about forever but have rarely been able to do until now. I’ve used this time to work on a new picture book manuscript, complete some fun magazine assignments, and edit several other projects.

I hope you are all enjoying your summers and finding some “secret hours” of your own to take advantage of! Stay cool this week, and happy writing!
Our sweet puppy Gracie loves camping because she gets to sleep with the boys!