Nov 29

Feedback and Conflict

by Hannah Holt »


I like arguing. Well, I like white-glove arguing. Hashing over manuscripts is something I enjoy.

However, I am also a coward. Other forms of conflict terrify me.

Like today…

My husband and I returned from a movie at the same time our babysitter Susan* pulled into our driveway. Susan had driven our boys (ages 2 and 4) to the park. The boys were rolling around and laughing UNBUCKLED in the backseat.

Inside I screamed.

But what do I say to her? Susan is not an inexperienced young babysitter. She is a family friend with children of her own. She knows better. Or should.

My conversation with Susan could have gone better. I wished I could have remembered my manuscript critique rules in this moment of tension. The manuscript critique rules are:

1) Start with positive feedback
2) Present the problem(s)
3) End on a positive note

My side of the conversation should have gone like this…

1) “Susan, I really appreciate you watching our kids this afternoon.”
2) “You should know, however, that we don’t allow exceptions to the car seat rule.”
3) “I know that you care about our boys. Our house rules are meant to keep them safe.”

It seems so easy in hindsight. When at the time, all I could think was, “Ah! Aah! AAAAaaah!”

Do you find it easy to give feedback to others? When is it easy? When is it difficult?

*Name has been changed.

Nov 04

The Idea Machine (My Creative Process- Part 1)

by Hannah Holt »


Every book starts as an idea.

Ideas come easily enough. Five or more book ideas probably float through my head on any given day. However… if an idea stays with me… if an intriguing phrase pops into my head around that idea… if my first draft reveals substance (garbled substance, but substance nonetheless)… then I think about pursuing it further. I don’t keep a notebook of ideas; however, I do keep an electronic folder of partially explored ideas.

For example, one day, I was out running errands when I smelled burning paraffin. Oh, paraffin is a fun word! I want to write a story around the word paraffin.

So I wrote a picture book about a little girl, who goes on an adventure in a wax castle. It was a fanciful, magical, and allegorical story. Unfortunately, it was too abstract for young children. I loved the story, but it just wasn’t working.

Twenty drafts later, I took the story in a completely different direction. The revised story doesn’t contain any paraffin, but it is an enjoyable adventure filled with “ha-ha” and “ah-ha” age appropriate moments. It’s better. But still not finished. It’s languishing in the “partially explored idea folder.” Maybe I’ll read it a year from now and decide it’s worth polishing.

In my next post, I’ll describe my revision process. (To read Part 2, click here.)

Oct 21

For the Birds

by Hannah Holt »


Here’s a peek at a few of my current projects…

This duck doesn’t understand the concept of personal space:

This sparrow teaches math:

This goose has control issues:

Oct 14

Feeling Pithy?

by Hannah Holt »

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All words are not created equal.

My favorite stories pair economy with poignancy. Maybe that’s one reason why I’m drawn to picture books.

However, some forms of storytelling rival even picture books for brevity (and I’m not talking about board books). Here are a few:

The Six Word Memoir: Can you write your life story in six words?

Flash Fiction: A story in 1,000 words or fewer.

Hint Fiction: A complete story in 25 words or less, suggesting a broader story.

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn” —Ernest Hemingway

Oct 07

Following the Muse

by Hannah Holt »

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Most of writing is just that: sitting and writing. However, sometimes it’s necessary to get out and explore ideas in the real world. Here are a few ways that I’ve followed the muse this year…

I stalked a feral farm goose:

I grew a garden:

I sewed a dress out of astro-turf:

I convinced members of my family to model for me in silly ways (Can you believe they are still talking to me?):

But what can I say? Following the muse is fun! How do you find inspiration?