Into the Fog

Well, it’s fall. And it’s 2020. That means I’m a bit slower at getting back into a writing routine with kids back at school. (We hosted a nightmare trial of virtual school here at home.) On a brighter note, being home more during a pandemic did yield more writing over the summer months than during a normal year.

But since it’s fall, and I’m working on that new routine with all 3 kids in school at least a portion of the day, what better way to get started than writing something new AND for a contest.

Today’s treat for you is a quick 200 word word story for Middle Grade readers that I’ve entered into the Fall Writing Frenzy contest! The prizes are awesome – critiques from fabulous editors, agents, and authors. Good luck to all!

Photo Curtesy of Unsplash

My gut twinged. Whether it came from nerves or guilt, I wasn’t sure. I knew mom wouldn’t approve of pursuing this new found road. She’d also told me riding in the fog was dangerous. But, something about the misty landscape ahead lured me in, and I kept pedaling onward.

As I did, the serene scenery cast upon me a strange sense of calm. Something I needed after a maddening day at Howard Middle School. Perhaps this bike ride would prove to be today’s best decision yet.

A cool mist floated around me as the pavement turned from dry to wet. I hurried on, hungering for more peace, and at the same time, exercising caution so my tires wouldn’t slip from the road. The inviting atmosphere held true to its promise as more of the tension in my muscles withered away with each bit of drizzle that hit my face.

As I approached the top of the hill, the fog thickened. Excitement pulsed through me as I began my fast decent downward, bursting through the cloud of fog into a clearing, which showcased a world filled with magical creatures. The road ended, and I stepped into a new beginning.

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Spring Fling Contest Entry

A special treat for you today.

I’m entering a kidlit contest in which I had to find a spring gif and use it to inspire a story. The hardest part for me, it had to be in 150 words or less.  Then to enter, I needed to post it on my blog.  That means I get to share a story with you. Here goes:


Rain Duck

Image courtesy of

Duck’s Rain Coat

Knock. Knock.
Duck nudged a leaf to peek out of his nest.
Plink! Plop!
Rain patted Duck’s head. “Wet yuck!” he said. Duck ducked deeper inside.
His friends knocked again. “Wanna go for a swim?”
“Only if it’s sunny,” called Duck.
“We’ll try tommorrow.”
When his friends knocked, rain pounded. Duck didn’t quack back.
Later, the sun peeked out. So did Duck. A yellow bundle sat outside.
He untied the bow to find an umbrella, rain coat, and boots.
Duck dressed and waited for his friends.
They swam and splashed, but…
when he paddled, his boots slid off.
Then, the umbrella slipped from his grip, into the pond.
The rain drops dripped. He needed his nest.
He flapped his wings, forgetting the coat, and busted the buttons.
Rain poured and water repelled. Duck looked into the rain, amazed.
“It turns out my feathers make a fine rain coat,” he said.


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Update & A Big Something New

Almost 2 years to the date, minus 4 days.  That’s how long it’s been since I posted.

This update is much the same.

I’m spending my time writing rather than blogging.

That big project I referred to in my last post?  It’s done. It’s been behind me for a year and a half.  It was exhausting and emotional.  Cleaning out and parting with over 50 years of family belongings from three properties, while caring for three young children, left me wilted. Thankfully, my husband stayed beside me and helped tremendously. Still never thougth I’d loose both by parents so young, despite their older age.

Have  I been writing? Yep. As much as I’d like? No.

But I did get back to it after that very big task. I even treated myself to to a one day picture book building conference, which was amazing, shortly after holding the auctions from my parent’s estate. The result: my manuscripts improved and new ideas flourished.

The year before that was a weekend long picture book retreat led by wonderful children’s authors, Jill Esbaum and Linda Skeers.

And last May, I attended the SCBWI Wild Wild Midwest conference, and left with a wealth of knowledge and a wonderful critique on one of my manuscripts.

I almost brought the blog back then as I started designing my very own author website. I thought I wanted to link my blog and continue updates.

Then school let out for summer.

I completed the yearly task of planning, designing, and teaching crafts to 150 VBS (Vacation Bible School) attendees.

Then we started the nightmare of all nightmare kitchen remodels. No joke. If you don’t believe me, I still feel the need to vent once in awhile and can share all the horrible details.  We also did work in several other areas of the house, which left the entire house a complete disaster.

My kitchen was empty and ready for work by the 4th of July. We started a month late. I scurried to decorate my walls for my sons birthday party the weekend before Halloween because additional dry wall work (after already having my new cupboards filled, only to have to empty them and clean dry wall dust out twice. I should have been smarter than to listen to my contractor in telling me I could fill them.) and painting finished a few days prior.

I unpacked the last boxes from the remodel as I put up Christmas decorations, and even yet today, I’m waiting on a call from a new plumber coming to fix just one more thing done wrong in the remodel. Almost everything was done wrong. Not kidding.

The venting I just did, only scratches the surface.  I won’t bore you with more details. In case your wondering, the contractor came recommended to me. I won’t recommend him to you. Don’t worry.

But, in between all that, kids went back to school. I got back to writing. I have several manuscripts, plus new ideas, coming together nicely. I’m close to having my stack of “completed” manuscripts ready for my next big goal: finding an agent.

And, for the big thing: I just published my website. I wanted to be able to share it here. Why? It’s too new to be found by google, but my blog is easily found. During that last conference, I learned it’s a good idea to have a website ready to go before searching for an agent.  Another goal completed!

As for linking my blog? Not now. At least not a defined schedule. Perhaps I’ll check in once a month or so, but I’m using my time to work on my several WIPs and new ideas. I do get more time these days with my youngest in preschool two mornings a week.  I love having that work time.

Two years from now, when she’s in school full time, maybe I’ll blog again, too. But for now, while she’s still home. I’m going to cherish the time I get with her. I’d be lying if I didn’t say they are all growing too fast.


Author, Jennifer Rathe








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Where have I been?

Hi!  Just a quick note!

As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t blogged for the last year. Why?  Because of life.

A significant struggle came up a year ago and ended in the result of loosing another family member.  And because of that I still have a big project ahead of me.

That changed the goals I had set a year ago.

Yes, I am still writing, but working on much smaller projects.

I have decided to quit blogging so my writing time can be spent working on these projects. The blog is still here, allowing me to come back and share my journey when I want, but I won’t be focusing on this blog. Thank you for understanding.

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2017 Iron Pen

The Iron Pen contest is sponsored by the Midwest Writing Center.  It gives you 24 hours to write a short story or poem.

I did it a few years ago and wanted to try again.  It’s excellent writing practice.  So, finally on Thursday night, I signed up.

The writing prompt was to be emailed at 5 pm on Friday.

At 4:50, I sat down to check my email and facebook to  get those out of the way before it arrived, but to my surprise, it arrived 10 minutes early.

My first thought when I read the prompt. What in the world am I supposed to do with this?

The Prompt:  Miracles are wrought with axes.

I headed to the kitchen to make supper, all the while the prompt running through my mind.

I had a character in mind and a name for her.  Now, what to do with her?  The category I entered was fiction.  The limit: 2000 words.

Somehow, by the time I finished eating, I had a little bit of an idea.  So, I cleared my plate and left the rest to the hubby and sat down to do some research on the computer.

I toggled back and forth between my writing document and the web.  I had a second character and a name. I put a few words on the document.  It was time to begin the bedtime routine.

Once the kids were in bed, I sat down to finish the thought I had been working on with a goal to finish the thought by 9:30 or so.  Then I would talk with the hubby a bit and go to bed.

I finished my thought around 10:00 or 10:30.  I had about 300 words.  Everything always takes longer than I think.

In conversation with my husband, I talked about the prompt and other ideas because talking always helps.  I knew there was one problem with my story.  I was literally using the prompt too literally and I knew it.  But I couldn’t think of anything else, despite looking up the words in the dictionary and the thesaurus.

By the time our conversation was over around 11:00 and past my bed time, I had a better understanding of the prompt’s meaning, but no new ideas.  I knew I shouldn’t have kept writing.  I should have stopped and talked sooner.

The good thing was I didn’t have lots of ideas floating around in my brain, so I was able to go to sleep.  Baby didn’t sleep as well as I would have liked and her fever had returned Friday night, after being gone all day.

When I woke around 7:30, I  was not in the position I hoped to be.  I was hoping the kiddos would sleep in.  Know new ideas. All three kids woke up.  I did a little reading to try and come up with new ideas. The babe felt crummy again.  She coughed so hard she threw up on me.  I contemplated whether she could have an ear infection and maybe that was why she was still sick, made breakfast, and put her down for a nap.

By that time it was 10:00.  I fortunately had a new idea, so after a bit of research, I started writing.  I had 7 hours.  No problem, right?

I planned to write fast and furious, take a break in the afternoon to either shower (the best place to get ideas) or be outside for a bit, edit, and submit.

The story idea was in place fairly well, at least in my head.  I maybe had 300 words again on the computer screen.  The baby woke up (the hubby was gone for the morning) and I needed to make lunch.  The kids had been playing very nicely.  Then one had an accident and needed mommy’s attention.  Then the baby was hungry.  My hubby got home and we made lunch together.  I ate fast and went back to work.  It was probably 1:30.

I would finish the story by 3:00.  And then take that break I said I would take.

I took one other bitty break to try and get the baby to nap again.  It didn’t work.  All the kids enjoyed time outside with daddy.  I was going to write outside, but… was a bit cooler than the day before, especially in the shade and the only place I could plug in the lap top.  So, I enjoyed some open windows instead and stayed inside at the not-cleared kitchen table.

It came down to the 1 hour warning.  I wasn’t done.  The baby was tired and thirsty and wanted mommy.  I curled up in the chair and let the baby nap and wrote at the same time.  Finally, about 4:30 we made the successful transition to her crib.  Ten minutes later, I finished the story with 20 minutes to spare.

But I needed to edit.  And I was 250 words over.  I sharpened a few places.  Deleted a long unnecessary paragraph.  Made a few necessary page changes.  I reread almost all of it, except a couple of paragraphs.  At 5:00 exactly, I sent my entry in.

It was unedited.  But I did it.  I wrote a story.  I entered.  It ended up about 1,900 words.

Since finishing, I’ve gone over a few things in my head.  Things I would have changed had a had time or planned to look closer at as I was quickly writing.  Maybe it would have made it stronger.  Maybe not.

As I sit here typing this, I’ve checked my email a few times as the winners are supposed to be announced this afternoon.  Nothing yet.  It’s 4:48.  I will check again here soon.

I don’t expect to win.  I’ve learned one thing with this contest – with rereading the piece from a few years ago and this one.  My short stories (fiction and adult, anyway) read much more like scenes to a novel.  This is what I’m most used to writing.  But this is the type of practice I need.  I think I did a bit better this time, though.  Also, I feel my title, opening line, ending line, and conflict were fairly strong.  However, I think my entire miracle scene could have been stronger.

Almost 5:00 – time to check my email again.

And nothing…….. ?  ?


Update as of Thursday morning February 23, 2017:

Yesterday afternoon, a Whitey’s gift card came in the mail for me.  Since it was still 60 degrees at night in February, I decided we might as well use it right away since more seasonable weather is on it’s way (for Iowa anyway) and because the baby took a very late afternoon nap.  I was kind of hoping (but, again, not expecting) that maybe it could be a celebration ice cream run.  After supper, I checked my email again before heading out the door and still nothing.  We got our ice cream.  For the kids bed time story, I made up a cute story about a horse going to school as we drove.  We got home, got the kids to bed, and I checked my email again.

Finally, the results were in.

I opened the email and read the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners.

My name was not there.  My eyes jumped to the top again to be sure I was reading the finalists in the fiction category.  I was.  I read the names again.  I read the honorable mention name – it wasn’t my name either.  Then I looked at the next line.  “Miracles in the midst of Gray.”

Wait, hold on.  That was my title.  And there was my name next to it.  A second honorable mention was listed?  Ok!  I’ll take it!

My first thought: Maybe there were only five enteries and they graciously put me in last place, but didn’t want to exclude only one person.

My second thought:  If I had time to edit, maybe my name would have appeared higher on the list.

I read the winners for poetry and nonfiction.  The last one didn’t have an honorable mention at all.  Did that mean only three entered?  That made my first thought seem more plausible, as did the fact that the day of the contest was extremely nice weather and maybe people chose to get outside instead of write.

Those are questions I don’t know the answer too.  I’m still super excited.  It means my hard work is paying off and I keep trudging forward with this dream of mine.  Even if I didn’t win, I would still continue on.  I love it!

I’m invited to read my work at an awards reception on Saturday.  I don’t know yet if I will make it.  And, I’m sure all of you would love to read this latest story.

But, I’m just gonna keep you in suspense.

I haven’t decided if I will share it here or not yet.  🙂

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A Sampling

It’s nearly the weekend.  And this weekend, I’m gearing up to write.  It’s the Midwest Writing Center’s Annual Iron Pen Contest.

For this contest, a writing prompt is supplied at 5 p.m. on Friday.  Entrants then have 24 hours to write a poem or prose piece of fiction or nonfiction.

I entered with a fiction story a few years ago and it was quite fun.  I haven’t had the time the past few years to do so, but, this year I’m making the time.

Of course, it falls on a weekend with many other fun possibilities marked on my calendar.  But this contest is once a year.  There are other times and possibilities for these other activities throughout the year.

If I wasn’t writing this weekend, you may have found me selling Lilla Rose at a friend’s vendor fair or at the Wapsi Education Center’s Cocoa Picasso.

Well, the first option would have been difficult since my other half will be attending the annual Men’s Retreat at our church.  It also means he will be gone for the morning which will mean writing time will be scarce.  Here’s to hoping the babe naps and the older two behave themselves or entertain the little.  Since two of these dear ones were sick this past week, it helped me decide that we weren’t going to do a lot of running out and about this weekend, which makes more writing time.

However, there is one other factor that has the potential to disrupt writing time.  It’s going to be in the 60’s in February.  Go outside?  Yes, please!!!!

Yet, I’m determined to come up with an entry in the fiction category.  It’s good practice.  It’s fun.  What’s to loose?

Well, I suppose sleep is a possibility.  I’m determined to get my full nights sleep.  This means my great idea better not come when I’m heading to bed or what comes before must be written enough that I can turn my brain off.  So, I’ll hope for maybe 4 hours of writing time?

So, with that being said, I have a question for you?  Who likes samples?

Yes, samples are great aren’t they?  Especially when they’re free.

While I’m preparing my contest piece/practice/sample I thought I’d share a writing sample of mine.  I’ll treat you to the story I entered last time.  Enjoy and wish me luck.  I promise to let you know how this little sliver of my journey goes.  Continuing on this journey until next time…………….

The prompt for this piece (or how I used it in this story) appears in a quotation box and then in italics.  Please, feel free to critique.  Also, anyone want to take any guesses as to the place that I based this setting on?


Moonlight Kiss

     Where was the moon?  Of all nights, Kyle needed it to be out tonight.  He stuck his hands in his pockets and paced along the river walk, taking another look into the dark sky.  No stars.  No moon.  The weather forecast was wrong; the meteorologist had called for clear skies.   There was no way tonight would be right, if he didn’t have the moonlight.

Kyle hung his head low.  Melissa would be here in 20 minutes.  He’d arrived early to settle his nerves; so everything could be perfect.  It had been a beautiful and warm, sunny fall day.   There hadn’t been a cloud in the sky.  But by the time he reached the river’s edge, he’d met a moonless sky.  Now his nerves were bundled into a knot that settled in the middle of his stomach.  But he couldn’t postpone; it was their night.

He kicked at a crack in the trail as he walked, as if it would diffuse the frustration he felt.  He glanced back at the sky.  It was still dark, but as he scanned the horizon, the towering buildings of the familiar downtown skyline were out of view.  When had he started wandering instead of pacing? How far had he gone and what time was it?  His heart rate ticked faster than his wrist watch.  He fingered for the button to illuminate the time: 8:55.  He had five minutes to get back.

He picked up his pace and did a slight jog.  He turned his mind to looking to the future with the woman of his dreams.  Kyle took a deep breathe.  Tonight didn’t have to be perfect if it meant the rest of his life would be with Melissa.  Yet as he jogged, he found himself pleading a prayer, “Lord, give me back the moon.”

Finally, after a quick sprint, he slowed to a walking pace to their usual meeting spot, but Melissa wasn’t there.  His watch said 9:06.  Melissa was always on-the-dot punctual.  He waited on their bench overlooking the river, under the giant old oak tree.  Kyle leaned forward, his elbows on his thighs.  He reminisced over the first night he met Melissa – in the exact same place, exactly a year ago.  It was a rather chilly night when she’d stopped directly in front of him. She leaned over the rail that bordered the river.  The moon cast a yellow glow onto her long, wavy, dark hair; same as it did on the water.  She’d immediately pulled a phone from her back pocket, looked at the screen, and returned the phone.   At the same time, she dropped one of her gloves.  Kyle stood and picked up her glove.  He approached her gently, “Ma’am, you’re glove.”

The woman jumped, obviously startled by his presence, but responded with a polite, “Thank you.”  He overlooked the water a moment and then introduced himself.  At first she seemed a bit hesitant to share anything with a stranger, but they enjoyed a short conversation and he’d asked for her number.  Their first date was here; their first kiss was here – under the moon. His mind trailed off to how Melissa had changed his life over the last year.  She had become a constant in his life, just as there was always a moon, even if he couldn’t see it.

~ ~ ~

          Kyle looked through the park toward the street.  It was almost 9:30.  Melissa still had not arrived and he began to worry.  He checked his phone.  No messages.  He took another deep breathe.  He felt lonely on the park bench alone.  She hadn’t responded to his texts.  He began praying for her safety.  After several minutes, Kyle felt a light tap on his shoulder.  He stood and looked behind him. “Melissa!”

They embraced with a hug, and then Melissa perched onto her tippy-toes to give him a gentle kiss on the cheek, “Sorry I’m late.”

Kyle wrapped his arms around her middle and pulled her close. “I’m just glad you’re here now.”  He lightly stroked her cheek.  She was much more tense that usual. “How was your day?”

Melissa remained quiet, then pulled away and sat on the park bench.  Kyle followed her lead and sat next to her, then ran his fingers down the back of her head and through her hair, hoping it would help release the tension she held.  Melissa pulled a folded napkin from her purse, revealing two cookies – their usual Friday night treat from the Corner Deli next to Melissa’s office.  As he reached for his cookie, Kyle felt his hand brush hers; and even with that simple touch, Melissa felt distant.  Tonight they ate their cookies in silence.

Kyle finished his snack and turned to Melissa, his eyes meeting hers at the same time.  A hint of sadness appeared, and whatever it was he wanted to be there for her.  He loved her.  Even with little light, he noticed a cookie crumb on the side of her mouth and quickly wiped it off.  Then he stood and offered his hand. “Shall we walk?”

Melissa gave a simple nod of her head and took Kyle’s outstretched hand.  Her hand still felt good in his, as if the puzzle piece fit just right, yet something was obviously not right.

At first they walked in silence.  Finally, Kyle broke the quiet.  Melissa responded with short, simple statements, but remained distracted.  When they reached the Interstate Bridge, Kyle led Melissa down a few steps to a little cement plot nearer the river.  He turned her to face the river, and then gently massaged her neck and shoulders.  When she began to relax, he leaned a little closer. “Did you hear the owl?”

“No,” Melissa answered quietly, and then cocked her head as if listening very intently.  Kyle leaned closer to Melissa, with his lips softly brushing her ear. “Who, who.”  A Melissa turned around and gave him a playful slug and laughed.  Her laugh was always beautiful.  They shared a quick kiss and turned back to head toward their bench.  This time they laughed as they walked and skipped, and swung their interlocked hands as they did so.

When they reached their usual spot, Melissa and Kyle embraced one another, leaned slightly into the rail and both jumped back a bit, surprised by how cool the metal was.  The nights were indeed becoming cool.  They laughed again, and Kyle leaned in for a kiss.  This time slow, steady, and lasting.  Kyle took Melissa’s face in his hands, stopped the kiss and stepped back slightly to look at her.  A bit of frail moonlight fell on her face and he smiled.  He looked to the sky where there was a slight clearing in the clouds that revealed half of the moon.  The light highlighted the surrounding clouds and he looked back at her face before the clouds could hide the light again.  Her smile shone as bright as the moon.

Kyle stepped back a bit more, then fell to one knee.  Melissa’s small hand flew in front of her lips as Kyle reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small box.  He slowly opened the lid and showed it to her.  The ring glowed in the moonlight. “Will you marry me?”

Kyle saw the tears form in Melissa’s eyes and gently slide down her cheeks.  He quickly rose to wipe them away.   “Oh, Kyle,” Melissa’s voice broke. “I don’t know what to say?”

“Say yes.”  Kyle glanced at the moon again.  “Our future is bright.”  He took her again and kissed her.

When they paused, Kyle looked at Melissa longingly.  The moonlight was gone again.  She laid her head against his chest.  She shook her head slightly. “I’m not sure I can.”

~ ~ ~

     Kyle was getting colder, yet he couldn’t pry himself away from the park bench.  The night seemed darker than ever and he had no idea what time it was.  He only knew his future was now as murky as the water and he felt he had to swim furiously to stay afloat. Kyle just didn’t understand.

He and Melissa fit together perfectly.  He had been happier than ever before and their conversations over the last several months had turned from ”I to “we” about everything from having kids, where to live, and what kind of house to buy.  What had gone wrong?  Was tomorrow night’s dinner date still on?  His mind flooded with questions.

After meeting Melissa, Kyle struggled in the beginning to believe a successful business woman like her would date him, a simple, uneducated mechanic, though he was saving for college.  But she had told him it didn’t matter; it was the person inside that counted.  It also strengthened his faith as he began to see better how God sees him – Melissa had turned his life around.

Now he’d spent his college savings on a ring to propose on the anniversary of when they met, and she wasn’t sure?  Life was indeed frail.

Kyle heard his phone beep – it was a text message.  At first he ignored it and inhaled a deep breathe of river air.  After a few minutes he pulled his phone from his jacket and swiped his finger across the screen: 1:15.  Who was texting him at this time of night?  He pulled up the message – it was from Melissa. Are u awake?

He waited a few minutes and typed a reply.  Yes.

Another message quickly lit up his screen. Where are u?

His reply: by the river.

A third message: Wait for me.

Kyle put his phone back into his pocket, not sure what to think.  He held his head in his hands.  Had Melissa reconsidered or was she on her way back to break things off for good?

~ ~ ~

     It didn’t seem long and Melissa was back by his side.  They sat in silence again for a few moments and then she spoke. “I’m sorry I wasn’t good company earlier”.  She turned and faced him more now.  She took a deep breath. “It’s just that yours wasn’t the first proposal I’d received today.”

Kyle looked toward the ground, unable to believe what he heard.  “There’s someone else?”  His voice cracked.

Kyle couldn’t have imagined his Melissa, a woman of strong faith, would do something like that.  Did he really not know her at all?

“No.” She shook her head.  “Never Kyle.”  She briefly put a hand on his knee.  “My uncle paid me a visit today.”

“You mean the one you never see because he is a big wig accountant in Chicago, but sends you cards every year on your birthday?”

Melissa nodded.  “That’s the one.  He told me he has cancer.”  She looked to the ground and clasped her hands.

Kyle wasn’t exactly sure what to say. “I’m sorry.”

“He wants me to take over his accounting firm Kyle.”

“Oh.” Kyle looked up at the sky.  He always knew she dreamed of having her own accounting firm.  The moon was out full and bright now, not a cloud in sight.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier.”  She paused.  “It’s just that I was overwhelmed, and I knew it was our anniversary, and I didn’t want to ruin tonight.”  Melissa hesitated. “And I ruined it anyway.”

Kyle took Melissa’s head in his hands and she rested her forehead on his chin.  “It’s okay.”

Melissa looked up at Kyle. “I do want to marry you.  My answer is yes!”

The moonlight lit up Melissa’s face like never before and he kissed her.  When they stopped he looked deep into her eyes. “I’ll follow you.”

“Kyle, are you sure?” She looked sheepish and guilty for asking all at the same time.

“Yes.” He held her face close again.

     “As long as I can see the moon’s frail light fall upon your face.”

He kissed her one more time.   His moon was back.


I have one more thing to share, as I reread bits and pieces of this piece as I pasted it here.  I read it a couple weeks ago and never notices this, but half way through, I started changing Melissa’s name to Amanda.  I was back to Melissa by the end. But somewhere during the writing I must have decided to change her name, but failed to do so completely.  Evidently, I didn’t do so good at editing either.  Surely, that hindered my chances the last go around.  Lesson Learned!





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Goals and Loose Ends

Happy New Year!

I guess that statement comes a bit late, as January is almost behind us with 1/12 of 2017 almost already gone.  I’m a bit late at coming back to the blogging ground.  Forgive me, please.

What have I been doing writing wise in the new year?

Well, at my January writers group, we set 2017 goals instead of just a monthly goal. I set two.

Goal #1:  Attend a writer’s conference.

To achieve this goal, I need to first decide on what type and which conference I would like to attend.  Location and travel have a big impact on this decision, as does time of year.

Next, I need to provide the financial means to attend this conference.  A year ago, I decided to support my writing  myself.  You see, I just feel too guilty spending a large sum of money on writing when I am a stay-at-home-mom, first and foremost.  Especially if I don’t succeed.  If I contributed to the income, I wouldn’t feel my ambitions are so selfish.  Yes, in our relationship the money is “ours”, but that money is for my family.  To make this dream a reality, I want to be the one funding it and putting my all (or lack of at times) into solely into my hands and be self sufficient in my endeavor.  Therefore, I started selling Lilla Rose hair accessories to make some of my own money.  That is my writing money.

Goal #2:  Draft 1/2 of my current WIP

This WIP (work in progress) being a second novel.  I started an outline last fall which led to some writing of scenes.  However, I need to go back to the outline and research stages, and then I can write.  I’m determined to plot more first, this time around. I think it will be easier. But I am a pantser (write by the seat of my pants) by nature.

To achieve this goal, I need more writing time.  I’ve been examining my schedule to see when and where I can fit more of this in.  I fear my 10 month old is starting to give up the morning nap.  This means no “me time” while older siblings are at school.  I also need to take time for my research.

How am I doing towards these goals so far?

Well, for successes, I’ve looked up a few writing conferences and have a few on my radar.  I need to see which ones best fit my current season and check on registration deadlines.

But, failures are evident too.  It took awhile for me to get out of Christmas break mode.  This week was a sick week.  I need to finalize my numbers from last year Lilla Rose wise and plan for this year. As I said, January is almost over.  So, I’m a bit behind.

My time hasn’t been completely void of writing though.  Last year, I started some special smaller writing projects for submission.  Then they sat there.  With the new year, I felt some ambition toward completing these.  Once I got into them, I thought of more.  So, I have been making progress on these.

If successful, and I’m still feeling some motivation from 2016 successes, it could help fund a conference and contribute to goal #1.  However, it takes away from time towards goal #2.

You see, sometimes my writing is like a ping pong ball – bouncing back and forth between projects.

But it is still progress.  And that equals success.

I’ve given a few clues on my facebook page (Author, Jennifer Rathe) as to what kind of writing projects I’m working on.  I also thank you for liking my page while you are there, if you haven’t already.

Two other clues: they stem from my initial writing experiences and combines another love of mine.  Leave your guesses in the comments.

Be sure to check back next year to see if I accomplished by 2017 goals on this journey of mine and in between now and then, too!








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A New Family

The scene was one I’d imagined……..

Sparkling lights on the tree adorned with dangling ornaments of all shapes and sizes. Red, green, and blue bow-topped presents piled underneath. Some of those gifts contained something I’d longed to give.

But, whenever I imagined this scene over the past few years, reality set in. It was unrealistic, impossible, and too far from reach.

Far off because my writing “routine” or lack thereof had never been established, at least how I wished or imagined. A steady writing routine would maybe be doable in five years or so, when all my kids are in school. So, whenever I’d daydream, I knew better not to get my hopes up.

Impossible because I’ve never been close to succeeding. Hadn’t worked at it long or hard enough.

Unrealistic because even when my dreams come true, years from now, it will never happen how I’ve imagined. Someday, when I do become published the book release, fanfare, signings and launch parties will surely be at some other time of year – an event of their own. There would also be social media and the inability to contain my excitement.

So, the imagined…ripping and shredding of wrapping paper, followed by: “You wrote this? You’re published! Congratulations!” and other tunes of excitement in the gift recipients voices – impossible.

The element of surprise..not attainable.

A dream I needed to let go of.

You might recall my last blog post following this writing journey of mine. After having a story ghostwritten (written by a writer friend) about me, I decided to try my hand at some short story nonfiction stories. Some of these were my own stories and some were ghostwritten about others.

So, since I was trying my hand at this type of writing, I searched out Chicken Soup for the Soul and practiced my writing based on topics they were seeking submissions for. I wrote some and submitted some. A writer friend of mine told me it can be up to a year before you hear if a story is accepted and if not accepted, you don’t hear at all.

So, after I wrote them, I tried to put them out of my mind. None the less, it was good practice for my writing journey.

For most of the stories I’ve submitted, it’s been six months. Some of the books are already in print. So, that means another rejection. Some have been more recent, which means more waiting. What do I do in the meantime? Write more, of course.

And celebrate that a few of those presents under the Christmas tree contain a Chicken Soup for the Soul book with a story written by yours truly! Yes, I am a contributor. Sometimes, dreams do come true

That’s right. A few months after submitting one of the stories, I got an email I longed for – that a story I wrote made it to the final submission round. Included were the lines. “Congratulations. only a small number of stories submitted have made it this far. So, I waited again for the final word that it had been chosen, knowing around Thanksgiving I should have known for sure.

While having this dream come true and enjoying a bit of praise, there is a bit of irony in my story. It will not be printed with my name on it. No, I did not choose a penname. Like that story in Guideposts that had my name in the byline, but wasn’t written about me, this story was ghostwritten by me for a friend and, thus, appears with her name.

A big thanks to my friend and old college roommate, Jennifer Sommerfelt, for letting me write her story.

While I was working on some different pieces for Chicken Soup submissions, I saw a post of hers on facebook about a dance class she had participated in. I knew by how she outlined her experience in her post that this was the exact type of success they were looking for in their submissions. She graciously allowed me to write it and help me get published.

One of my blog followers and former high school English teachers made a comment earlier this year about “this being my year” for success. I laughed in disbelief. My doubts were valid though. My novel and stories were nowhere near submission readiness. My third child was born in March. But maybe, thanks to that bit of encouragement, it helped me persevere on my journey and not give up.

I have found a bit of success on this altered path of my journey and I’m grateful to God for the talents he’s given me. It has encouraged me and inspired me to continue.

Yet, it doesn’t mean this journey won’t be difficult. Many of my dreams are probably still far off. I still don’t have a solid writing routine. I have rough drafts that haven’t been polished.

I have, however, learned LOTS. This process of writing short stories and having them critiqued by my peers has taught me where I need to improve. I learned much from the edits of my story done by the editor at Chicken Soup. Yes, many of my favorite lines from my story were cut. That’s part of this journey.

As for this new family, I can at least consider myself, in a small way a part of the published writers family and Chicken Soup family. Although, Chicken Soup considers my friend the member of the family since it is in here name and all correspondence is now through her. But in the back of my mind I know I wrote her story and they chose my writing. (She also said she’d forward everything to me :).

It was a joy to see my writing in print when the contributor’s copies came in the mail. Together my friend and I shared them. My recognition is in the back of the book in the contributor bio section where she got to thank me.

And as of today, December 27th, 2016 this new book is on sale in stores – Chicken Soup for the Soul Curvy and Confident. My story: Dancing Away My Insecurities by Jennifer Sommerfelt. I feel privileged to add something to the stack of books produced by Chicken Soup for the Soul.


Thanks to my family, friends, and readers for their support. Here at the end of 2016, I’d say it’s been a successful writing year.

I happen to have an extra copy of this new book lying around which I will give you all a chance to win. Comment on this blog post by January 1st and I will choose one random winner to receive a copy.

Thanks again for your support. I’m looking forward to the journey ahead.

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Merry Christmas!


Christmas blessings to you dear readers, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus the Christ!

How do you celebrate the season?  What special activities and traditions does your family have?

My favorite tradition with my kids is our Advent House.  It is filled with special activities like crafts, acts of kindness, and other fun activities. They love it, and so do I.

Each day the kids open a new door and find a clue or read what activity is planned and, once in a while, a special treat.  It’s a highlight to our season and helps us focus on the real meaning of the season.

This was day one for 2016.  A new ornament with items such as an angels a baby in a manger, and a Christmas star hidden in the snow.  Each child got to take turns finding an item and tell how it fits into the Christmas story.

It was a hit.

With that being said, and with the busyness this season brings, my December blogging format and schedule will differ from the past few months.  Later this month, I will post a special December blog post that I am currently working on.  And  I hope to have more author stories to share for you in the new year.

So for now, enjoy your family traditions and special moments of the season while remembering God gave His one and only son to you.  That is my focus for this month.

And if you are needing any Christmas ideas for anyone on your list, be sure to check out the books from my fall reading list (pictured below).  All from members of my writing group!  Almost finished reading this stack!





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Seeing My Name in Print

I’d imagined this moment many times in the past; dreamed of it too many times to count.

I pulled the magazine in my mailbox out into the daylight, and then hurried back into my house where temperatures were a bit warmer than the current mild spring day.

As soon as I walked inside and checked each child’s whereabouts, I turned to the Table of Contents, found what I was after, and then quickly fingered the slippery pages until I came to the correct one.

There it was – my name in the byline – “By: Jennifer Rathe”.

I smiled at the title and sighed a bit at the fact that the second page was a full page picture of, no one other than yours truly – me – posing with a bunny head.

Oh, yes.  I’d expected pictures – I just hadn’t expected one of them to be a full page picture of me from that day when I’d smiled into the camera.

I sat back into one of my creaky wooden kitchen chairs and read the article start to finish, as though I’d never seen it before. I hadn’t, in fact, seen the final version since giving my final approval and comments to the editor.

Once I finished, I glanced over it again and then proudly stood to show it to my husband and children.  They too were excited to see the final results. It’s not every day that your mom or wife appears in a well-known magazine.

The next day at church, I heard the congratulatory statements I’d always longed to hear. “Congratulations Jennifer on being published.  Your hard work finally paid off.”

Before this conversation, I wasn’t sure if subscriber’s copies had been distributed.  I also didn’t know anyone specific who received the magazine.  Then another comment, “I got my Guideposts magazine in the mail yesterday and was shocked when I saw ‘Jennifer Rathe’ in the Table of Contents.” The city and state confirmed to my new fan that it was me, as did the pictures. “What a good story. I didn’t know you were a writer.”

I smiled. And then all I could do was explain.

“I didn’t write it.” Mouths dropped open. Foreheads wrinkled in confusion. “A gal from my writer’s group ghostwrote it about me.”  I went on to explain more about how she got my story and wrote it as if she were me.   They were surprised to hear that whoever’s story is being told, this particular magazine uses that person’s name as the author, regardless of who wrote it.  No credit is shown anywhere in the magazine to the actual writer, if it is indeed written by a ghostwriter.

Those wonderful comments sounded great, but not yet deserved by me.

Even though I didn’t write the story, it was enjoyable to work with a fellow writer from my group so that God could use my story to encourage others. It was fun to have a hand in the editing process and give my approval for publication. Yes, I guess even the photoshoot in the park behind my house recreating the days when I played the Easter Bunny was, maybe……. a bit fun.  I still to this day wonder how many of my neighbors looked out their window, that chilly fall day, to see me traipsing around with a head from a bunny costume and a photographer trailing behind. Now, if they haven’t seen the article, they will for sure know why!

If you would like to read this story, it appeared in the April 2016 issue of Guideposts.  I may even have a few copies still lying around my house to loan out. A huge shout out to my writer friend Sheri Zeck for telling my story: The Easter Bunny Breakthrough.  Her writing journey appeared here on my blog on June 4, 2015.

Now, you may be asking yourself, why did this make an entry on my writing journey blog?

Because it inspired me.  It encouraged me to keep writing, because one day, I hope my name really does appear on a byline for something I have written.

And after I read through some of other Guidepost’s stories, I also became encouraged to try this type of writing.  I hadn’t really tried much of it before.  I’ve mainly stuck to fiction, though I have a few nonfiction pieces in my files, but nothing so personal.

I did some research and wrote some of my own personal true stories.  I also contacted my friends and tried my hand at ghostwriting. Hey, if nothing else it’s great practice for my other writing, right?  It’s also much easier to write short stories with having a baby in the house again – especially a baby who likes to cat nap.

So, nonfiction short story writing is how I’ve been spending most of my writing time lately.

Where will these new writing adventures lead me?  I guess we keep following along on the journey my friends, don’t we?



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