January 24, 2023

The "Staying Grounded" Part of the Writing Life

The past few weeks have been a doozy. 

On Christmas Eve, my mother-in-law experienced an unexpected  health issue that resulted in several days of hospitalization. A couple of days after Christmas, there was a huge windstorm in our area, and a large tree fell on a home we own. (Gratefully, no one was hurt, but the event created the need for lots of extra work communicating with an overwhelmed insurance company and coordinating with multiple contractors.) 

That same day, we lost power for a three-day stretch. Right after the power came back on, my mother-in-law came to stay with us to recuperate for about a week; her care needs necessitated multiple wake-up calls in the middle of the night. The day after she went home, my own mother experienced a health issue requiring emergency surgery. She is still in the hospital due to various complications that have delayed her recovery. I have spent the better part of the past week at the hospital, providing emotional support and engaging with healthcare providers as she heals and recovers.  

Add to this my husband hurting his back and being out of commission for several days; helping our daughter prepare for a move from our family home into her first post-college apartment; and helping our son as he returns to college after winter break and begins planning for a study abroad experience that starts next term, and suffice it to say, my plate has been FULL! 

Meanwhile, the month of January, a month that's typically very productive for me in terms of creativity, marches on.  

Although I've had very limited time (or head space) for creative writing this past few weeks, the truth of the matter is that writing (and writing-related practices) helps me stay grounded during times of stress and uncertainty. It's during times like this that I lean into the muscle memory of the writing routines I've developed over the years to keep my creative goals moving forward. 

Some of my creative writing accomplishments for the past few weeks include:

-Participating in StoryStorm to generate new story ideas.

-Tinkering around with two of the new story ideas that I've come up with during StoryStorm.

-Revising a story in response to an upcoming call for submissions to a publisher that I'd like to work with.

-Preparing a submission packet for a publisher that has an open submission window this month.

-Completing weekly manuscript critiques for my critique partner. 

-Sharing one manuscript for critique with my critique partner.

-Writing a heartfelt letter to a family member. 

-Coordinating author visits for World Read Aloud Day 2023, coming up on February 1st. 

-Exchanging weekly creative writing goals and weekly accomplishment reports with my critique partner. (I'm a week behind on this, but I'm determined to get caught up!)

-Preparing a year-end blog post, hosting a guest author on my Birth Stories for Books blog series, and writing this blog post.

Creative writing goals that I've yet to accomplish this month, that are high on my list of priorities, include:   

-Writing a heartfelt letter to another family member.

-Polishing and submitting stories for the two calls for submissions mentioned above.

-Preparing submission packets for a new round of agent queries (Note to Universe: I'd like for 2023 to be the year that I find a literary agent who loves my work as much as I do, and wants to be my career partner.)

Many years ago, I wrote this succinct mission statement related to my writing work: 

I write to teach, empower, process, and persuade. 

When I wrote this mission statement, the word empower was meant to convey that I wanted to write books that empower my readers. As I reflect on this mission statement today, I realize that adhering to my writing practices and routines has helped empower me during this period of time filled with uncertainty and powerlessness. 

My creative writing goals (those that have been accomplished, and those I've yet to accomplish), are helping me stay grounded during this challenging time. 

What helps you stay grounded during challenging times? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

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January 11, 2023

Birth Stories for Books: SUPER PIZZA & KID KALE, by Phaea Crede

Welcome to a new year, dear readers, and welcome to a new series of Birth Stories for Books interviews and guest posts. Today's guest, author Phaea Crede, last visited the blog to share her path to publication experience for her debut, Jet the CAT (Is Not a Cat)

In today's post, Phaea serves up another inspiring behind-the-scenes look, this time for her latest book, SUPER PIZZA & KID KALE (illustrated by Zach Smith, Viking Books, September 2022),  a silly and heartwarming story that piles on the puns. 

Take it away, Phaea!  

by Phaea Crede and Zach Smith


The origin of wood-fired warrior Super Pizza and their side kick, the lean, green roughage machine Kid Kale is as twisty and turn-y as a waterslide coated in olive oil. Here is a thyme line of how all the revisions, heartbreaks, and ultimate publication of Super Pizza & Kid Kale (Viking Books, 2022) went down.

June 2018

While playing a brainstorming game we learned at a recent library visit with author Josh Funk, my then 3.5-year-old daughter invents a character: a piece of pizza that wants to be a super hero. WOW! I immediately wonder what it would be like to be a hero that everyone wants to eat. 

With my kid’s permission, I start to work on a story about Super Pizza. 

July 2018 

So far, the story is just food pun nicknames for Super Pizza. Some examples are:

The Savory of Bravery
The Anchovy Ace 
The Loaded Legend
The Star Scrapper of the Sauce
The Muscled Mozzarella 
The Crusty Contender 
The Crust You Trust
The Lion Pie of Liberty
The Slice of Justice
The Garlic Guardian

(None of these made it into the final draft FYI.)

September 2018

Finally, I have a draft. Well, a 12th draft. After vetting the story with my critique group, I feel ready to try and DO something with the story.

October 2018

NESCWBI Agent/Editor Day, a lovely event that allows aspiring authors to get feedback from colleagues, agents, and editors. I bring two stories to read. At my second table with an editor, I share Super Pizza & Kid Kale. It goes okay! I send a follow up email to said editor.

November 2018

Said editor writes back! He says he likes the story and thinks it has potential, but feels it’s missing something. He recommends I add a side kick or a villain. If I do that, he says he’d like to read it again.

I revise immediately. Just kidding! I felt like the story conflict was PERFECT. A piece of pizza who wants to be a hero but can’t because kids keep eating it! Where would a side kick fit in? Nowhere. I move on to other projects, content to have written a brilliant story that no one understands.

May 2019 

The New England SCBWI Spring Conference. I love this conference. I always learn new skills and make new friends. I’m checking in when I see a familiar face – the said editor! I greet him and HE ASKS ME IF I’VE REVISED SUPER PIZZA YET!  I'm taken aback that he not only remembered my book, he was still hoping to read a revision. I try to not throw up all over myself and I tell him I will get the revision to him soon.

June 2019

I revise. I decide to combine the idea of a side kick and a villain into one character. A food that is the complete opposite of pizza: kale! In the new story the conflict comes from Kid Kale’s jealousy of Super Pizza’s popularity. KK turns against the townsfolk and causes weed-like kale plants to destroy everything!

Late June, 2019

I resubmit the revision to said editor. I feel great. This is really going to happen!

July 2019

The revision is rejected. Beep boop. I cry some marinara tears, then stuff the manuscript into a virtual pizza box and shelf it.

May 2020

I’ve just sold my first book, Jet the Cat (Is Not a Cat) have an amazing agent, Moe Ferrara and I’m out on sub with a new book, Asparaghosts, a story about a kid who is haunted by the ghosts of the veggies she rejects only to team up with them and rebel against the narrator. I feel great!

June 15 2020

Asapraghosts collects mass rejections. But, one rejection catches my eye. An editor says that while she doesn’t connect with this story, she likes my writing, and that food-related books are a personal favorite of hers. 

Hey! I have a food-related book! I send Moe a copy of Super Pizza & Kid Kale. She likes it, but has notes.

July 2020

I revise Super Pizza & Kid Kale again. Moe likes it! She sends it on to the editor and a few other houses for good measure.

August 2020

The editor passes. But the publishing house doesn’t! She says while she personally has a full list, she showed Super Pizza & Kid Kale to another editor who loved it. They wanted to make an offer, as long as I was open to some revisions.

I am now always open to revisions.

Still August, 2020

I have a call with my future editor Aneeka Kalia. She’s amazing. She has a few ideas for the book for me to consider including making the conflict between Kid Kale and Super Pizza less dramatic and centering the action at a school and not all over town.

She also has the idea of a huge double spread food fight. She is an awesome editor. I think all these revisions are great and will take the story to the next level. I say, heck yes.

Late August, 2020 

Viking Books officially acquires Super Pizza & Kid Kale

December 2020

I deliver the final draft of Super Pizza & Kid Kale to Aneeka.

March 2021

Aneeka sends me the first sketches from our illustrator, Zach Smith. They are amazing. This book is going to be amazing.

Sketches by Zach Smith

Summer 2021

Aneeka, Zach, and I work on some small edits to better support the layout and art. The book is coming together!

September 2022

Super Pizza & Kid Kale is a real book! I’m so proud of this graphic-novel style story that celebrates friendship frustrations and food puns. As Super Pizza & Kid Kale like to say, “with great flavor comes great responsibility.” I could add “with great patience and the willingness to revise without ego comes publication.” 

Grab a copy of Super Pizza & Kid Kale anywhere books are sold and check out my website to learn how to get a personalized, signed copy from my local indie book store Word on the Street.

Thank you for sharing a slice of your Birth Story for SUPER PIZZA & KID KALE, Phaea. You've shown us that persistence, flexibility, and a generous appetite for revision are key ingredients in the path to publication. 

Friends, the best way to thank authors whose insights have been helpful and/or inspiring to you is to support their work. Buy their books for yourself and as gifts. Request them from your library. Read and share them with others. SUPER PIZZA & KID KALE is available everywhere books are sold, including from your local, independent bookstore (which you can access online via Bookshop.org).


Photo Credit: 
Phaea Crede loves writing silly picture books for silly kids. Serious kids, too! She is the author of the picture books Jet the Cat (is Not a Cat) and Super Pizza & Kid Kale. Phaea lives outside of Boston with her husband, two kiddos, two kittens, one puppy, and a slightly stinky dog named Gus. 


Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including, Lucy's Blooms, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud, and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.