Monday, 20 March 2017

How Do I Write With A Toddler In The House


I've been asked a lot lately, how do I write with a toddler in the house? To be more specific, with a toddler and a five-year-old kid in prep school, in the house.

I decided to put some thoughts on paper, because actually, until I really thought about it, I didn't realise I actually have strategies to make it happen.

I know there are millions of writer mum's out there, navigating the baby years, which inevitably move forward into the school years.
I've seen a few lot of posts about the school years, none about with a toddler in the house, which is quite a deal different. When it comes down to it, what do I actually do to achieve my writing goals.

If I am going to be even more philosophical, why do we even have writing goals?
Here are my reasons.

1. I value myself. 2. I value my writing. 3. I believe I can make a contribution to society in doing so. 4. I truly enjoy writing.
I have managed to write and independently publish and market seven books to date, not including the unpublished manuscripts that I am submitting for traditional publication as well.

Sure my family comes first, but being a mum does not exclude me from being a writer. Sometimes we need to pan back from the microscope and look at the big picture.


 I can do both, and in fact, I believe there is no better time in life to write than when you have a young family.


I have chosen to stay home with my kids, leaving the world of nursing behind me, and I can truly say I do not regret it for a moment. So how do I do it?

 I set myself realistic goals. I know a lot of authors profess that they write every day. I have a young family. I continually struggle with energy levels and I have a toddler at my side, 14 hours of the day, not to mention the demands of my five year old who has just started prep.
She is gone for 6 hours of the day. My toddler sleeps for approximately 2 hours during the day. I want to write every day, but it doesn't happen.

Once my girl is at school and my toddler's head hits the pillow, I have a snack, so that I'm not distracted. I sit at my computer, call up my latest manuscript, put on my dictation headset, enable DragonDictate, and I write. Usually an hour maximum.

I do not dictate punctuation, it interrupts the flow. I manually add punctuation as I go, which gives me time to think about what I will dictate next. I write until I cannot write any more. When my energy runs out, I stop. I rarely push myself.  I do not write well when I am fatigued.  So I write what I can, then I save it.

I save my documents by date. This gives me an idea of how many days in the week I have written.

I also keep track of my word count. I don't have a great attention span, being perpetually tired. I do not beat myself up at a low word count. Even 50 words are still words. To me, 1200 words in a day is a minor miracle. But as we know, every word counts.

Some days, the toddler doesn't sleep, or I have an appointment, or something fun to attend. Those days I know will be unproductive when it comes to writing. I have found my most efficient time for writing is during the day, so when that toddler goes to bed, I do not plan any housework, or even consider it. This is my sacred writing time.

When my first child stopped sleeping through the day, I lost my daytime writing time. I struggle to write at night. I can edit at night, without any trouble as the words are already there, but I can't be creative. If I was going to have any writing time, I had to get up early, and hour before everyone else.  5 am became my sacred writing time.

When my second child came along, sleep deprivation once again destroyed that plan. I needed to snatch sleep when I could. I didn't stop writing, but I did negotiate writing time with my husband.

Every weekend, when I felt like I had enough energy, I would sneak upstairs with my computer and headset.  I would shut the door and block out the world of family and obligations.
It was my sacred writing time, even if it was only an hour on a weekend, sometimes two.
Regardless, I managed to write an entirely new manuscript of 46 thousand words, by doing this.

 My office is a Harry Potter cupboard under the stairs. It's in our living area, so I can snatch moments on email and facebook etc during the day when the toddler is in the high chair, or I don't know, making his own lunch.  Just kidding!  Sure, there is no privacy, or quiet moments when your office is in the living room, but I gets it done.

In essence, the long and the short of it is, writing is in my blood. It is my career, and so I pour into as much as I possibly can, without it effecting the everyday workings of having a young family.

I often set myself deadlines, but I make them really generous.  I am to have this manuscript finished by this month and then I calculate out the days until that deadline. Then I calculate the words needed to write to make my goal. This gives me a great incentive to get it done.

I also book in editing with my editor well in advance. As I use a freelance editor, I have to be spot on in my delivery, so I also make that part of my motivation.

So there you have it.  How I write with a young family.
The house may not always look like a vogue catalogue, but my family is fed and have clean clothes and I get to live my dream at the touch of my fingertips.


That is how I write with a toddler in the house.....

Until next time.....

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Blog Tour: Pickle and Bree by Alison Reynolds + a Critique Giveaway and a Slush Pile pass!!!!

I am delighted to welcome my friend Alison Reynolds, author of numerous books including the wonderful: A new friend for Marmalade and of course the hugely popular Pickle and Bree series. 

We are the last stop in the blog tour, but you can jump back to the other hosts, to find out more about Alison's books.  Trust, me, there is some real gold to be read, so I hope you hop along.



Boomerang Books: Click to read

Pass it on: Click to read

 Creative Kids Tales: Click to read

Buzz Words: Click to read

Aussie Reviews Click to read

Just Write For Kids: Click to read


Let’s start with a little about Alison and her books.

  So Alison, tell us, how did you get the idea for Pickle and Bree? Did you pitch it to a publisher, or were you asked to write the series? This always puzzles me.




 I was fortunate to be commissioned to write this series. The publisher sent me an illustration of Pickle and Bree and asked, “Would you like to work with these characters?” I said “YES”. Previously, they had mentioned the possibility of me doing a series on manners for 4 – 8 years. I’ve already written quite a few series on manners. This is not something that I ever would have thought would become a bit of a speciality, but I actually do think manners help create a gentler, nicer world.

After brainstorming, how much does the original text change for a Pickle and Bree Story? 


 The gist of the original text stays the same, but the text does often change. I really enjoy this process of chipping away at the text. One of the amazing things for me when writing picture books is how important each word is. The editor will often point out something, then I think and think and come up with a new line. Unfailingly, this is always an improvement on the original text. The more Pickle and Bree books I write, the easier it is to dive back into their characters and the plot soon emerges.

Seeing the illustrations for the first time from Mikki Butterley, were you blown away? We certainly think they are exquisite!!! 


My first reaction was a gasp of disbelief. How does she do it? Whatever situation I come up with I never need to think will Mikki be able to illustrate this? She always can brilliantly. I also love the details she adds to her illustrations and how she creates such a complete world. I feel so fortunate to work with her!

Now you have two new books coming out by Five Mile Press to be released February 2017.

I am dying to get my hands on this one below for my little G starting school this year. Can you tell us about them?


The editor suggested I write a book about bullying. My 7 year old niece was staying with us, and said some girls bullied her by saying she wore pink runners and she didn’t like feeling different. This resonated with me. Some children wouldn’t care if somebody commented on their shoes, but others would. So the THE PLAYGROUND MEANIES arose where Pickle and Bree are spending a day outdoors with their good friend, Jason. They’re excited to explore the playground, and are even more excited about making some new friends―until they meet two little bears who are not very friendly at all! Pickle is puzzled when the meanies try to tease him about his big feet, because he knows they are big and he likes them that way. However, his sensitive friend, Jason, is upset by the meanies’comments. Pickle and Bree have to deal with the playground bullies.

My Review:

When Pickle and Bree and their friend Jason, meet two rambunctious koala bears in the playground, they don't quite know what to do.  Howard and Gracie begin poking fun at Jason's panda bear feet.
Pickle being a bear, offers them a slightly rude suggestion, but Bree encourages him not to be mean. 
They try ignoring Howard and Gracie, but they seem intent on making even bigger fun of Jason's big feet.  Pickle takes the matter in hand, as only a bear can with the most ferocious roar, but that doesn't really have the desired effect.  Howard and Gracie just high tail it out of there, returning later with a picnic of honey buns. Intent on continuing their meany ways, the koala bears find themselves in a spot of... well, what can I say, that would give it away.  When Jason steps in, literally to save the day, Howard and Gracie realise that different isn't always bad. It's what makes us special.  

I loved the resolution here, and the fact that all the way along, Bree encourages Pickle and Jason to find a solution, without retaliation.

The end pages sport a full page of Pickle and Bree's Guide to Good Deeds, which were just wonderful. Five practical ways that children can process what it means when people are being unkind, and strategies to help them see their way through it.
 I must admit, I did shed a tear on the fifth, knowing that my little girl is at this very moment attending her third full day of prep school.

I cannot wait to share this beautiful book with her teacher, as I know it will go along way in setting the tone for the years to come. 
Brilliant story Alison and Mikki.

I give it 5 stars! 

Now onto the next one, take it away again Alison

THE BIG SNOW ADVENTURE explores why we should follow rules. Pickle and Bree are off for a holiday in the snow! Bree can’t wait to try skiing, and Pickle is excited about snowboarding — but Pickle and Bree are so enthusiastic that they forget they’re sharing the space with their friends. Pickle and Bree need to figure out how to have fun while making sure their friends have fun too.


Pickle and Bree are ready for a snow adventure, but it seems, neither of them have remembered their manners.  Pushing in line, ignoring the teacher's instruction, racing down the mountain collecting anyone on the way, and doing their level best to win regardless of anyone else.  When the two finally realise that their friends no longer want to play, they examine their actions, and try to make amends. 

I really enjoyed this one equally, as we see the shoe on the other foot.  Pickle and Bree being the ones to not follow the rules, and to suffer the consequences.  I loved this opposite take on the traditional way of imparting the story, which usually has the main character doing every right, and pointing out what others are doing wrong.  This really encourages children to examine their own behaviour, its impact on others and how to adjust according.

As per usual, we conclude with Pickle and Bree's Guide To Good Deeds,  where we learn five reasons why rules are there to be followed, and the consequences when they are ignored.

Another fantastic book, Alison and Mikki,

I give it 5 stars also!

Now, a little bit more about Alison. The way we met was through her generosity of spirit, and her desire to create an event for aspiring writers to meet the super star publishers of Australia.
Will you tell us a little about KidlitVic?

I love Melbourne and firmly believe that as a UNESCO City of Literature we needed an event in Melbourne where writers and illustrators of children’s and YA literature could meet with publishers. KidLitVic Meet the Publishers was established giving new, emerging and established writers and illustrators the opportunity to meet and hear from industry professionals about publishing children's and YA books in the current Australian market.

This year we are extremely proud to have 20 publishing professionals attending. With discussion panels of industry experts, the opportunity for a fifteen minute one-on-one manuscript or illustrator portfolio assessment with one of Australia's leading publishers, writing and illustration workshops and the chance to network with other creators, KidLitVic 2017 will kick-start, build, reinvigorate and strengthen your creative career.

For information head on over to Kid Lit Vic This year is completely sold out now, but I highly encourage anyone interested in gaining a foot into the Australian publishing industry, to check it out for next year. 





Just leave a comment on any of the posts in the blog tour, comment on facebook or twitter or even email to win a copy of The Playground Meanies or The Big Snow Adventure.



Win an opportunity for a children’s editor at The Five Mile Press to look at your picture book submission (strictly 500 words or less). Just comment on any of the posts in the blog tour and add initials JSP.
Win a free picture book assessment by the author Alison Reynolds. Just comment on any of the posts in the blog tour and add the initials PB.
Remember the more you comment, the more chances you have to win.



Win a print of Mikki Butterley’s fabulous artwork from one of these two books. Just send a photo or drawing of your favourite teddy to or upload to or Twitter @AlisonReynoldsa
Competitions close March 24th and winners to be announced and contacted by March 31st.

   Thank you so much for joining us Alison and I am looking forward so much for the release of your new books.

Be sure to stop by her website.

 Alison Reynolds