You have the right to see your words in print! Step Ten…

10. Print and Perform

The words and the pictures are done. You know the output – eBook and or print – and you have already put a great deal of thought into your book launch and hopefully, beyond.

Printing a book is a stage requiring your focus for a moment. The single determinant is your budget. How much are you prepared to outlay right now? It could take years to recover the costs unless you are working on sales full time, so make sure it is either unallocated funds in your budget or you can afford the outgoing with the incoming return effectively on the ‘drip’.

It is useful to have already sought quotes from various printers, both locally and overseas. (I am assuming you are reading this entire document at first sitting, then going back to set one!) For local printers, I strongly recommend sourcing from your own immediate backyard. The shipping costs for books can be astronomical simply because of weight. For overseas printers, buyer beware! Once the books have left the factory and are loaded on a ship, there is no way to return the product if it is faulty. An agent is useful to say the least.

Aside from a printer, a graphic designer is your true friend at the moment! If they are worth their weight in gold, they will be able to take over the conversation with the printers to ensure the internal pages are set up correctly to accommodate ‘bleed’ and the cover is a separate document. You will have to specify paper stock, binding method and soft or hard cover. Don’t panic about any of this – simply ask questions if you don’t understand a question or a request for information. All the printers and graphic designers I have ever worked with have been amazingly patient with a ‘newbie’.

The graphic designer will also set up all the pages and text as you wish. This includes the imprint page, cover and blurb at the back. Be prepared! I suggest setting up a DropBox file (or other file sharing tool) and add a folder with illustrations – scanned or photographed to the highest possible quality. A second folder with a sample of the imprint page, including business logos, photos, ISBN and copyright qualification statement AND your storyboard! Finally, add a third folder with a copy of the manuscript. This file sharing will be invaluable as your designer will be able to upload a PDF draft of your book in construction for you to approve!

And then the file goes to the printer – and you wait…

And wait…

And wait…

Not time to rest on your laurels though – this is the PERFECT time to do a tonne of administration stuff to get organised. Think of yourself now as marketing and PR manager! Remember you had to finalise plans for the book launch? The book release venue has been contacted again to confirm your intentions and you are shopping any moment now for the catering. How about now writing press releases to send to media outlets? You can have teacher resources considered and a social media platform you have been priming for the launch. Remember your SWOT analysis though? You have already decided your skills and weaknesses and these will heavily influence your plans at this point.

Step 10.

Let’s jump right to the point when the books arrive…

You have planned for this moment! I can nearly picture you crying as you hold your book in your hands. It is incredible, overwhelming, exciting, intimidating and humbling. A cacophony of emotion and you’ve earnt every one of them.

Well, You did it! 


You are a published author. I told you that you could do this.

Who knows what glorious things await you after this point…


Have fun!

YHTR Step Ten


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Working with an Awesome Publisher

Guest Post By Dianne (Di) Bates

Dianne (Di) Bates, award-winning author of over 120 books for children, recipient of The Lady Cutler Award 2008, and founder of the popular Buzz Words e-zine, reflects on her most recent publishing experience with Big Sky Publishing.

imageWorking with Australian publisher Big Sky Publishing to produce my two latest books, Awesome Cats and Awesome Dogs has been, in a word, awesome! I emailed my manuscripts in late January this year, receipt was acknowledged the next day, and them less than three weeks later I received an email from the publisher Diane Evans saying the company was interested. Submitting a manuscript and having it contracted in less than two months is something I hadn’t experienced in many years. This was the beginning of what has turned out to be a very happy journey for me.

The publisher was a total delight to work with; I was constantly told what was happening and my opinion sought and when I was sent samples of the artwork to approve, I was even happier. Each of the books feature lots of gorgeous illustrations combined with coloured photographic images of adorable dogs and cats from Best Friends Rescue and Little Legs Cat Rescue. The inclusion of real-life images and stories of the charismatic animals from these pet rescue organisations adds another level of education and inspiration. The books also feature quirky cartoon characters; the information is attractively presented with lots of break-out boxes – the whole of the books are all wonderfully designed.

Big Sky Publishing also promotes their titles via schools through Redgum Book Club, focusing on quality children’s books for children aged 4 to 13 years of age. Diane Evan’s sister, Sharon, who is responsible for book promotion, has also been a blessing in the publishing process. On top of that, Jodie Bennett, who also works with the Evans’ sisters, has been responsible for the production and delivery of bookmarks and posters – all in full, bright colour, and like the illustrations in each of the books, beautifully designed and presented.

imageI could not have imagined that the Awesome Cats, Dogs and Horses’ books would turn out as brilliantly as they have. My whole experience with Big Sky Publishing from start to finish has been an author’s dream… in fact I really couldn’t have dreamed it, only hoped for it. What is also exciting is that the company will publish two more awesome books in mid 2016: Awesome Horses and Awesome Kids. I’m sure they will be just as awesome as the two coming out on 1 October this year.
Each paperback book has about 150 pages and retails for $14.99. The books will also be available as e-books ($6.99) and distribution to bookshops is through Woodslane, phone: (02) 8445 2300 F: (02) 9970 5002,,

People can also buy the books at the following links:
Awesome Cats … and Awesome Dogs.
Details about Dianne (Di) Bates
Twitter: @dibatesauthor
Blog: Writing for Children

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The Rise and Rise of Shelly Unwin Part 3

Today is the last interview with Shelly Unwin in which we look at some of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of her steps to her publishing dream. They include practical advice for anyone who is interested in getting published.

The things that impress me loud and clear from your story, Shelly are:

  1. although these books are only a very recent thing for you to be working on, the process of having written other things over several years (despite rejections and setbacks) helped you bring these ideas together at the right time.
  2. Having good networks and an understanding of the industry also developed over time and brought you into contact with the right people at the right time.Shelly 1.3

You’ve mentioned a few key steps in this process about building up networks and putting yourself in the right place at the right time. Can you comment further on these?

Faber Academy and “Stack of courses”

From the moment I decided that I wanted to be a children’s author I have been on a steady stream of courses. I went into writing fairly ignorant to the level of craft involved in writing a great picture book or children’s book. My first course, Writing Picture Books, with Cathie Tasker at the AWC really set me off on the right track, but I was still thirsty for more and have taken courses with the ASA, the NSW Writers Centre, the Australian Writers Centre and the Faber Academy. All of which have proved invaluable.

You mention attending a SCWBI conference. What other associations do you belong to?

Most of them I think! The ASA (Australian Society of Authors), The CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia), The NSW Writers’ Centre. I like to get to as many industry events as possible. I also follow a whole host of Facebook based writing groups.

Also something I found very useful early on was the 12X12 Picture Book challenge, run by Julie Headland in the US. I only signed up once but it made me commit to writing one new picture book draft every month- many of them were written on the 30th of the month! As a new writer I found this challenge helpful for getting the creative juices flowing and it also made me start thinking critically about which ideas might work in the market and which to leave at first draft. It also provided the opportunity to submit one picture book manuscript a month to a US agent and some, not all, provided feedback. I’d highly recommend it for writers starting out.

Editor consult Sutherland Writing Festival

Firstly I need to mention my amazing critique group here, because if it wasn’t for them I may well not have found out about the opportunities to have editor consultations at conferences. These are amazing one on one sessions, that you pay extra for, and generally an editor, or publisher gives you feedback on one or sometimes two of your manuscripts. These sessions not only give you insight into how the professionals are seeing your work, but it also opens the door to submissions into otherwise closed publishing houses. They also enable you to start to build all-important relationships with editors and publishers, and understand the different tastes of each publishing house.

Literary Speed dating

I gave this a miss the year before when I first heard about it, because I found the idea too daunting. Five minutes standing in front of a publisher trying to pitch an idea –gahhh! But then I attended the ASA Pitch Perfect course and it gave me the tools and the confidence to give it a go. And I’m SO glad I did. This is where I not only got my series in front of two other publishers, but I also met my agent. The event wasn’t nearly as scary as I was expecting either. All of the publishers were very warm and encouraging and all of the attendees were feeling the same nervous excitement, so there was quite a nice buzz to the event.

Have you ever ‘pitched’ at a conference – how did that go? What was it like?

I have! It was scary. I get nervous speaking in front of adults, especially when it’s something I’m passionate about. I had my name pulled out of the hat (I had put it in there) to pitch at the NSW Writers Festival. I had learnt my pitch so that I could deliver it with out reading, but when it came to it I chickened out and read from my notes. I was quite disappointed in myself. The feedback on my first page (it was for my Young Adult novel) was encouraging though, and I met quite a few new people afterwards who came to congratulate me, so it was well worth doing, and I worked the editors feedback into my next draft.

How have these things helped? Did they always go as planned?

Everything helps. I think even if things go awry there is always a valuable lesson. For example one of the publishers that I was hoping to see at the speed dating didn’t turn up, so I was only able to pitch my series to two publishers. I thought about going home, but I persuaded myself to pitch my YA novel, which I hadn’t worked on in a while. I thought I’d done such a bad job of pitching it the first time that I decided I had to try again. So I pitched it to Alex, my now Agent. She loved the premise and was so encouraging, that I then asked if she would consider representing a picture book author. She said she had one picture book author that she worked with, I told her about my series and left her with a hard copy of the whole series. She followed me on twitter that night, and I had an excited feeling in my gut that things were headed in the right direction. I could easily have gone home and missed out!  My take away from this experience; in an industry where chances to talk to the right people are few and far between, never pass up an opportunity.

Thank you Shelly for your generosity in participating in these interviews over the past months and sharing your experiences with us. I have certainly found wisdom and encouragement for my writing journey.

Find Shelly Unwin here:

Find Debra Tidball here:


Filed under Author Interviews, Debra Tidball, Publishing Tips, Writing Tips

You have the right to see your words in print! Step Nine

Illustration Process YHTR Blog Emma Mactaggart

9. Illustrate

I know I could illustrate a book if I chose to! Confidence for this comes from understanding that everyone can draw. Everyone. It is a universal skill and it is learnt. Those who are amazing illustrators do one thing I don’t – practice, practice, practice. For this reason alone, I now outsource and choose to commission an illustrator to prepare illustrations, which I then purchase. With a contractual agreement in place, I own the rights to use the images though the copyright remains that of the illustrator. I offset the cost of the illustrations through book sales, exhibitions and sale of the original illustrations once the book has been printed and speaking about this entire process in workshops and presentations! For me – it is worth it because I am not prepared to put in the time!

I am often asked where do you ‘find’ an illustrator? There is a magical source (which I have banned myself from because it is so distractingly beautiful!) called ‘The Style File’ where illustrators show their digital folios. I also suggest people go to their local university / tafe (if they offer graphic design or visual arts courses) and make sure you attend the end-of-year exhibition. Sing up for fabulous subscription eZines like Pass It On (profiles an illustrator each week). Of course, and a perfectly wonderful thing to do, is to go the National Gallery of Victoria and check out the Bunyips and Dragons exhibition…

You can approach any living illustrator and commission them to do illustrations for your book! Be brave, ask, and see how you go.

One fabulous hot tip if you are accepting the help from your lovely next door neighbour… Ask them for one sample and scan it. Make sure the image is a quality that can be reproduced. Often, a water colour, or a pencil image looks brilliant to the eye, but once scanned, seems to disappear!


Have fun!


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The Write Opportunity

The children’s writing world is full of opportunities for you to experiment and practice the craft of writing – to ‘sharpen the pencil’ as I wrote about last month (here).

Buxx words logo

It helps, firstly, if you have a way to find out about the opportunities.  Being linked in to the writing community is imperative. Writer’s centres, online websites (like Just Write For Kids Blog; Creative Kids Tales etc) Facebook groups (JWFK, Australian Picture Books Authors and Illustrators etc), industry associations (ASA, CBCA, SCBWI), critique groups and the like are valuable sources of information. However, industry newsletters (PIO and BuzzWorpass it onds) provide a one stop shop for all opportunities (both for competitions and publishing) and are rich with other helpful ‘insider’ information. They sometimes also provide opportunities in themselves!

I find that writing for a purpose and having a deadline are good motivators for me to keep writing. So I like to take advantage of competitions and opportunities. I used to just enter those that give feedback – if I’m truthful, I think this was a way to protect my delicate ego (“I don’t expect to win but the feedback is invaluable”) and while both these things are true, I have since found that sending things out a bit more indiscriminately produces its own reward – like allowing me to experiment – and I am often surprised with where it leads.

A recent example: Buzz Words newsletter is running a simple competition about writing a paragraph beginning “I was twelve when…” The prize is a bunch of kids books (a good prize for children’s writers because reading current books is also essential for developing our own craft). I ‘knocked something up’ (it wasn’t too hard or time consuming) and submitted it – totally unrelated to anything I am currently working on – totally out of no-where. The interesting thing is, I became intrigued with the characters and ideas, and so when I came across a call-out for contributions to the latest Prints Charming anthologies (again in an industry newsletter) I found the perfect impetus to continue writing and placement for my story (It’s a magical story about a unicorn, in case you were wondering – but with a darker side!). It doesn’t matter how I go in the Buzz Words Competition – I’m already a winner with an idea and an outlet!

The other reward is that the more you enter – no matter how small (sometimes small is better) – the greater your chance of having something published. Another example: one of the aforementioned newsletters advertised that Positive Words magazine was looking for ‘fillers’ (small snippets to ‘fill in the gaps’ between longer stories). I sent in an eight word story (yes, that’s right – just 8 words!) and – voila! my name is in print!!


Having something published makes you ‘feel’ more like a writer and so, a. you want to write more, and b. you have something to put on your resume (and boast about). And the more you write, the better you get at it. Win, win, win! So what are you waiting for??

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You have the right to see your words in print! Step Eight

YHTR Emma Mactaggart

8. Design

You are on your road to being a published author, and the best way of processing your ‘to do’ list from this point on is to think like a publisher. Determine in advance how you wish your book to present in the market place. Is it just an eBook on Amazon? Is it printed locally or overseas? Is it hard cover or paperback? It is going to be everything – including being an app and available on iTunes. The technology is there, right there in front of you. The determinant is your budget. How much money is allocated to the production of the book? Like everything in life, if you do the work and research and product development yourself, you spend your time and not so much money. If you outsource the whole process, you pay someone else to use their time on your project. Economics 101!

Spend time looking at other books. I can guarantee the book you are holding in your hand right now has had numerous printing quotes prepared for it; it has been weighed and the distribution costs associated with a carton weight / container weight has been factored in; the cost for the purchaser to send the book as a gift has been recognized (does the book fit a large envelope therefore attract the lowest postage fee?)

Did you want this same book to be an eBook? Was it a simple conversion? Do you have to outsource this process or are you prepared to spend the time understanding programs like Kindle Book Creator and the Amazon way? Did you want the book to become a truly enhanced experience, therefore a different product borne of your printed book?

And once you have determined all of this, can you translate it for the graphic designer – or are you setting up the book using Adobe InDesign or equivalent program?

Yes, this all takes time – but you want the best product to go to market don’t you? If you want it in the bookshelves in a bricks and mortar bookstore – it has to look as though it belongs there!


Have fun!

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Filed under Emma Mactaggart, Writing Tips

Picture Books in the Eye of the Beholder

To begin my journey towards becoming a published picture book author, I became an avid (perhaps compulsive) reader of the genre. Yes, it has definitely helped having two young daughters around as an excuse for my weekly loitering in the kids’ section of the library. Anyway, I also began writing formal reviews around 18 months ago, in the hopes that studying these beauties would ingrain some wisdom and impart a whole bunch of amazing writing skills. Well, let’s see if some of it is getting through! These are my findings on what makes for a successful picture book. What features do you look for?

1. Front Cover / Title.
imageCan you judge a book by its cover? I say, if it’s love at first sight, then YES! I’m drawn to immediate eye-catching qualities, and those covers that reflect a glimpse of the adventure that awaits inside. Titles, too, should be catchy, humorous, thought-provoking and/or teasers! Think ‘Pig the Pug’ (Aaron Blabey) with his adorably ugly, bulgy-eyed, squashed face that so boldly graces its bright red cover, and a title that intices the reader to find out more. On the opposite spectrum ‘I Don’t Like Koala’ (Sean Ferrell and Charles Santoso) poses dramatic impact with its simplicity of a boy throwing a toy across a white background. With these examples, the visual expressions paired with the interesting titles say it all.

2. Opening / Closing Lines.
The opening line MUST win you over from the outset. I love those that grab your curiosity by the horns on first inspection. And the closing line… It should encapsulate everything explored, challenged, and triumphed. Really, the pair should work together; the story is like fastening a bracelet with its hook (opening) and its clasp (closing), and all the jewels and charms inbetween.
One of my favourites would have to be ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ (Eric Carle):
Opening – ‘In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf.’
Closing – ‘…he was a beautiful butterfly!’


3. Re-readable Story.
imageRe-reading the books allows you to get the most out of the experience. But with kids, if it doesn’t grab them the first time, then you’ve got no chance of a repeat reading. Stories with humour, suspense, imagination, emotion and depth, thought-provoking sub-plots and surprising secret details, as well as plays with words, are winners when they still grab you upon second, third or one hundreth reading. ‘Scary Night’ (Lesley Gibbes and Stephen Michael King) is a great example of a book that evokes excitement, interactivity and curiosity in its plot and language, with little elements in the drawings that encourage hours of perusal.

4. Relatable Characters.
imageWe connect with characters who show different facets of human nature and overcome internal and external struggles in pleasing, fascinating ways and with universal appeal. For instance, parents and children can relate to the everyday challenges seen with the lovable, strong-willed Alfie in ‘Hurry Up Alfie’ (Anna Walker), as well as those that open our eyes to a world beyond our own, such as the generous Bridie in ‘Bridie’s Boots’ (Phil Cummings and Sara Acton), and the diverse cultures seen in ‘An Aussie Year’ (Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling).

5. A Unique Idea.
How clever are these creators to come up with something that is like nothing we’ve seen before?! I’m thinking of heartwarming stories that explore relationships in difficult circumstances (‘When I see Grandma’, Debra Tidball and Leigh Hedstrom), interactive language and unique artistic media (‘I’m a Dirty Dinosaur’, Janeen Brian and Ann James), and inventive ways to be hilarious (‘My Dad Thinks He’s Funny’, Katrina Germein and Tom Jellett).


6. Language.
The language and the illustrations work together in tandem with their ability to tantalise, entertain, interest and arouse emotion. Whether it’s rhythmic, alliterated, repetitive, or questioning, every word, every meter, every refrain needs to be exact. A couple of picture books in this class are the poetic ‘The Duck and the Darklings’ (Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King), and the exquisite ‘Teacup’ (Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley).

Image from Itty Bitty Book Van.

Image from Itty Bitty Book Van.

7. Illustrations.
imageThese are the driving force of the humble ‘picture’ book. Children’s book artists are completely brilliant with their mind-blowing ability to create captivating, striking, expressive, textured, detailed and varied images, with their clever use of colours and movement. Too many to name, and each with their own unique styles, here are some of my personal favourites: Freya Blackwood, Anna Walker, Matt Ottley, Shaun Tan, Bob Graham, Gus Gordon, Alison Lester, Bruce Whatley, Andrew Joyner, Peter Carnavas and Renée Treml.

What do you think makes for a successful picture book? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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Keeping track of your expenses

Keep track of your expenses

Keep track of your expenses

Last month, I talked about keeping track of your income. It’s now time to look at your expenses.

The expenses you have may vary depending on whether you are self-publishing or are traditionally published. In general, your expenses could include:

  • Workshops and conferences
  • Editing and manuscript assessment
  • Equipment such as computer purchases
  • Professional support – graphic design, accounting fees, virtual assistant etc
  • Memberships
  • Book promotions – advertising, bookmarks, banners
  • Books that count as being part of your professional library – the rules are not clear here, so be prepared to justify book purchases if needed
  • Purchasing printed copies of your own books to onsell
  • Postage and envelopes
  • Parking at conferences and events

As discussed in my last post, the easiest way to keep track of your income is with accounting software or a spreadsheet. You can use the same method to keep track of your expenses.

With any of your expenses, be sure to keep a copy of your receipt, especially if paying with cash.  This way you can match these up to any expenses you have so you can claim them at tax time. Sometimes it can be helpful to write notes on the receipts so you can remember what they were for. For example if you park at a conference, you could write what the conference was on the receipt. This can also help if you are asked to justify any purchases.

Keeping track of your expenses is just as important as keeping track of your income. By keeping track of both of these, you will know if you are making any money as an author or not.

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You have the right to see your words in print! Step Seven

6. Edit

There is no way around this. By now, you have completely fallen in love with what you have created. (I was so tempted to write, ‘as you would a child’ and you can’t see the blemishes – but I don’t really want the possible feedback about psychology 101!)

Every time a family member or dearest friend reads it, they will look through rose-coloured glasses and tell you how fabulous you are and how clever you are proving to be! They are right.

You have, of course, followed some conventions of writing, haven’t you? You have already checked the punctuation, spelling and grammar is appropriate. The page layout is pertinent and you are lulling your reader into a state of comfort by allowing recognition of something familiar. ‘Ah, this indeed is a children’s picture book!’

Take a breath. Now, think… Without this emotional attachment, possibly (actually, it is highly likely) you may have been given some feedback of use? A word singled out that may strike a discordant note in your otherwise mellifluous manuscript? A query raised about a slight lack of credibility via the actions or intent of your main character? Questions raised rather than answered in response to your choice of location and time frame for an event? Has every single word earned its place? Does the language sound fluid and melodic? Does it make you feel like crying when you read it?

Outsource the editing and don’t spare any expense. It really is a black and white moment with no shades of grey! Editing is possibly the single identifier of work of quality. Lack of editing is symbolic of irreverence for your reader – they deserve the very best having invested their time and money into your work!


Have fun!


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Filed under Emma Mactaggart, Writing Tips

The Giant Drop

Many times, I’ve been told the writing game is an emotional roller coaster ride. Ups, downs, hill climbs, racing downhill, loop-the-loops… From my experiences, I’m more inclined to match it to The Giant Drop; one of Dreamworld’s ‘Big 9 Thrill Rides’, particularly the vulnerability of submitting manuscripts to publishers.

Note: If The Giant Drop is unfamiliar to you, please click here. 🙂

Stage One: Emotional preparation AKA plucking up courage
Six months in the making and my story is complete. I’ve had it professionally edited and it shapes up really well. I’ve researched a list of publishers accepting manuscripts and cross-checked that my story meets their submission criteria. I’m pumped, confident, ready-to-go. I even get my friends and family involved in the pre-ride excitement. This book is going to be the next best-seller. Hurry! Let’s get on the ride!

I submit.

Stage two: The waiting line
All pepped and ready, I approach the line-up. Ugh… The long, tiring, mood-busting wait. Honestly, do these hundreds and hundreds of people all want to be published authors, too? Hopefully, my hidden gem will pop out of the pile and the editors will call me to the front of the line. Quick! I’d better refresh my email account. Inbox = 0.


The wait continues.

Stage three: The lift
After three (sometimes more) agonising months of waiting, I finally arrive at the front of the line. The publisher’s email has arrived (this example is a fortunate occasion where I’ve actually received a response).
I stare at the unopened message that blinds me with its bold font and confronting subject line; ‘Re: Your manuscript submission’. My finger hovers over the mouse. Do I really want to open this?
The bars come down over my shoulders and across my lap. I’m bolted in and the rise begins. There’s no turning back now. I feel sick, my breathing is rapid. If I close my eyes, will that make it easier to deal with? As I look down at how far I’ve travelled, slight confidence hits. I really am excited by this. I can do it. It’s going to be okay.

The ride locks in place and I anticipate its release.


Stage four: The drop
My stomach slams into my throat and it’s difficult to catch my breath. I want to scream, but can only manage a gasping shriek. ‘Thank you for your manuscript. Each year, we receive hundreds of submissions, but are only able to publish a select few. Unfortunately…’

When am I going to stop falling? Who can I blame for encouraging me to endure this horrid feeling? I’m doomed. Going on this ride was a BAD decision. How foolish must I be to think this would end well?

Never again!

Stage five:
The recovery

The ride pulls up and comes to a ‘gentle’ stop. Despite my doubts, I survived, and although I’m left with a slight feeling of nausea, I feel accomplished. I challenged myself and I was brave. Now, I’m left with no regrets. Although the drop was scary, it’s shown me I can do it, and next time, I’ll have a more experienced approach.

The bars are lifted and I feel free and a little more confident. I did it! I am okay. After a few deep breaths (and maybe a nice, warm bubble bath and some ‘me’ time), I’m ready to go again.

And, so, it begins once more…

Q: If you were to compare your writing journey to an amusement ride, which would you choose?
Q: Which ‘stage’ of the ride are you on right now?


Filed under Renee Price, Writing Tips