The Beautiful Life of Nora Pepper

Hello, dear readers! Before Thanksgiving, I wrote about the upcoming addition to our family, a little girl that was born on November 30th, to join big brother, Theo, 21 months. I’ve always been very honest, as a person. And I’ve always shared what I’m going through on the blog. Like the loss of my beloved cat Sushi, or the fertility journey we took to start building our family. Not only is it therapeutic for me, but I genuinely believe that truth brings people together and helps us all feel a little less alone.

It is with deep, deep regret that I’m sharing the following news.

Our beautiful Nora Pepper is still with us, but she won’t be for much longer. When we brought her home, she was extremely lethargic. We had the doctors in labor and delivery, several pediatricians, a home health nurse, and a lactation consultant on our team, and they all said she was just sleepy because she was born at 37 weeks. That can take a lot out of a gal! They all told us, “In the magic of time, she will wake up.”

And in 99.99% of babies, they would’ve been right. But a week later, she was still not waking up to ask for food, and feeding her from a bottle was an hourlong ordeal every three hours. She was only taking 1.5 ounces each time, and barely. Her weight was down. I had a sinking feeling all along in my mother’s heart, and I finally insisted that we go to the hospital. Luckily, we live 15 minutes from Children’s Minnesota, a world-class facility that sees a lot of very complex neonatal cases.

After ruling out any acute causes of lethargy, like infection, we were left with something much more devastating. A chronic condition. Physically, our wonderful Nora is absolutely perfect. Everything is formed beautifully. And I’m not just bragging as a proud parent about her ten elegant fingers, her curly eyelashes, or the softest newborn hair I’ve ever kissed. We’ve had all the x-rays and MRIs in the book, and she is physically flawless.

But due to a rare, random, and terribly cruel genetic mutation, Nora has a pattern of brain wave activity that is incompatible with life. Or at least a life that involves any cognitive awareness whatsoever. It’s likely that her brain was built like this from the start, has never functioned in any other way, and never will. The evidence-based data on this type of brain wave pattern is invariably grim. In short, this state has been described  as “the worst pattern short of electrical silence” and “a preterminal finding”.

We have Nora back from the NICU, and next week we’ll repeat a brain scan. If the findings are the same or worse, which we are completely expecting because of the hard data on this condition, she will enter hospice care at home. We will spend our last days together as a family, and we will make sure that all she will ever know in her brief time is pure love.

I believe in miracles. I do. Snow on a quiet morning is a miracle. My son’s laughter is a miracle. The overwhelming love and gratitude I feel for Nora, even as her condition has put me on the loneliest and most difficult road I’ve ever walked, is a miracle. Unfortunately, there is not going to be a medical miracle. The sad but simple truth is that, all of these things about life that are miracles, Nora will never be able to experience. Not in this case. Even in the magic of time, she will never wake up.

My husband, Todd, and son, Theo, and I are tremendously blessed. We have the support of friends and family, we both have meaningful work to help us feel human, we’ve found strength we never knew existed inside ourselves. Because Nora’s prognosis is so rare and so dire, we’ve been invited to participate in a comprehensive research study where her entire genome will be sequenced. Since her condition is coded into her genes, there is no way to help Nora. Even if we find the exact mutation, the die has already been cast. But maybe, in some small way, she will help another family down the road because of what the research team can learn.

This is a post I never thought I’d have to write. All any of us can do when the road turns dark is to keep going. I’m grateful for the opportunity to call Nora Pepper Macdonald my daughter. She always will be. Even as my heart is broken, it is somehow more full than ever. If you’re reading this, you’re part of why. Thank you for listening to our story.

Credit for these beautiful photographs belongs to Sarah Ann Photography, and they were taken before we found out. We are thrilled to have these treasures, we will cherish them for the rest of our lives.

Gratitude and Rest

The holidays always seem to put people in a reflective mood, and I am exactly that kind of sap! So if you want hardened writing advice for the next few weeks, you are out of luck.

The holidays are upon us and this year, I have so much to be grateful for.

No joke, my gorgeous blog readers, I have had the best personal and professional year of my life: We built basically a new house in a four-month renovation; my son, Theo, continues to be a daily joy; I got back to conference speaking, which was always a deep love for me; I was lucky enough to work with over 300 talented freelance editorial clients, and they continue to sign with agents and sell books and otherwise made me very proud; and we started on the journey to expand our family.

A baby girl is joining us in December. Terrible time of year to meet the ol’ health insurance deductible, of course, but we couldn’t be happier! This was the year that all my dreams came true, honestly.

I’m taking some time away in December to do the newborn thing again, but I am one of those terrible people who can’t sit still, so I will have a limited slate of clients continuing with me. The blog may be a bit quieter, or my updates might happen at 2 a.m. Who knows?! After that, it’s back to business as usual in January, helping writers everywhere make their dreams come true for 2018!

I’ll send out an email blast once I’m back to scheduling my regular slate of clients, so if you’d like periodic updates, sign up in the sidebar.

Happy Holidays to you and yours, and I wish you blessings and joy this season. Now let’s eat some pie.

Picture Book Self-Publishing Resources Callout

Hey lovely readers! I work with a lot of clients as a freelance editor who are looking to publish their picture books independently. They often ask me for resources to help them with their endeavor, and so I’m compiling a list. For this particular list, I’m looking for services specific to picture books.

Where you come in: Have you personally worked with any self-publishing service provider to produce your independent picture book? Did you have a good experience?

I’m looking to hear about:

  • Typography and layout designers
  • Printers
  • Cover designers
  • Hybrid publishing houses
  • Marketing services

I am looking for personal experiences here. For this reason, I am obviously much less inclined to hear from PR people and representatives from various companies and publishers.

Please leave some testimonials and links in the comments for me to research, or email me at mary at kidlit dot com. Thanks so much for your help!

Critique Connection

Every once in a while, I open up the blog to a Critique Connection in the comments. A lot of writers have reported finding critique partners or groups this way. I haven’t done it in a while, so I figured, why not?

Here’s what you should leave in the comments:

  • The category of your WIP (picture book, middle grade, etc.)
  • Genre, if applicable
  • Whether you’re looking for another set of eyes for your current project, or a longer-term critique relationship
  • How to reach you (I’d suggest formatting your email like this: mary at kidlit dot com, just to discourage spam)

Good luck potentially connecting with some like-minded writers! I hope you find your next critique partner here.

Want to add a professional perspective to your critique arsenal? Read about my editorial services.

New Site, New Video Content!

Woohoo! I made a video, y’all! I was so inspired by my Facebook Live experience with WriteOnCon, which was super-duper fun, that I’m going to start shooting some of my blog posts out behind the woodshed… Just kidding! I’m going to start shooting some of them as videos. (The WriteOnCon video will be available to repost here in March, and I’m really excited to share it with you. It’s an hourlong Q&A about the craft of revision!)

What You’ll See Here

In this video, I’m talking about the recent changes to the website, the impetus behind those, and my passion for creating this content and sharing it with you, my lovely readers.

Why I Recorded This

I really want to get my old readers and new visitors excited about the site, which has been around since 2009. My hope is it’ll be around for many years to come. I can’t do it without you, though!

What’s Next?

Help me keep a good thing going. If you have any questions that you’d like me to answer, in a blog post, or a video, please post them in the comments below. Let me know if you like the new website format, too!

 

Pardon My Digital Dust!

Please excuse the slightly messy look of the blog that you might be seeing. After eight years (which is, like, forever in Internet time) with the same theme and design, I’ve decided to join my peers in the spiffy digital future.

My new blog theme is much more user-friendly and, best of all, mobile-friendly, very important these days, as people browse on all their various devices.

Website Frenzy

As you can probably tell if you saw my announcement about my freelance editorial site, MaryKole.com, I woke up this January on a mission: to revamp my online presence. But I’m a one-woman show. So there are going to be some bumps and hiccups and probably some things that look weird or don’t work. These are the growing pains of trying to be one’s own webmaster (with a little coding help behind the scenes).

Embrace this beautiful mess!  I’m sure I’ll have everything tuned up exactly the way I want it soon. In the meantime, enjoy the same great content you’ve come to trust from Kidlit.com as I work to make your experience even better!

Happy Holidays and a Joyful New Year

macdonald-family-8

It’s funny that this picture was taken in October and, already, it’s out of date. Theo is now 9 months old and about to walk. He’s babbling and getting into trouble and so big. There’s so much to be grateful for this holiday season. Theo is happy and healthy, pulling books off the shelf for me to read. My husband, Todd, has just opened a new restaurant, Red Rabbit, in downtown Minneapolis with a focus on fun, approachable, satisfying Italian food. Though I took some time off this year to get into the swing of motherhood, I continue to work with wonderful freelance editorial clients through my consultancy, Mary Kole Editorial.

Coming up in the new year, I have WriteOnCon (February 2-4, 2017). I’m involved doing critiques, and this is a great online writing conference. There are a few other things in the works for 2017 that I’m very excited about, but can’t really discuss at the moment.

Please share your 2017 writing resolutions in the comments to inspire your fellow blog readers, and me! I can’t wait for another wonderful year. Though a lot of people would rather see 2016 over and done, I have to say, it’s been a great one here at Kidlit! As always, I am so, so grateful for you, my wonderful readers. I can’t believe it’s been eight years of learning and discussing issues related to writing and publishing together. Here’s to many more!

Writing Blueprints Promotion

Most of my readers know that I hardly ever do any kind of promotion on the blog. I work hard to have credibility with this website, and I don’t want to break your trust by constantly hawking products. (With the exception of my own book and editorial services, though there was some interesting discussion on this issue earlier this year.) You get spammed pretty much anywhere you go online, so I’m not keen to add to the volume of advertising everyone sees on a daily basement.

Every once in a while, I do make an exception. What’s my criteria? If I find a resource that I fully believe is worth your time and money, I will absolutely share it. That’s exactly the case with the Writing Blueprints online courses, created by Children’s Book Insider. I’ve had CBI on my radar for a long time. They’re a trusted voice in the kidlit writing community. We share the same audience: people who are passionate about creating children’s books. Well, they’ve created an online classroom platform called Writing Blueprints, where writers pay a one-time fee for access to content. Then they go through various videos, worksheets, and lessons at their own pace, teaching themselves about writing, marketing, revision, etc. I love the self-paced aspect. People don’t often have time to commit to a set six-week course, for example, but everyone can make ten minutes in a day to watch a video or fill out a worksheet.

Currently, there are courses for picture book and chapter book writers. The information in the courses is incredibly in-depth, the advice is rich and actionable, and the prices are reasonable. The interface is fun and easy to use. I have absolutely no qualms recommending this content to my readers. I’m actually doing the Blueprints myself, just for fun.

When you click the above link, you will go to a store page that showcases all of the available Writing Blueprints products. Through December 31st, there’s a holiday sale on their Book Marketing Bundle ($119, on sale for $69), Picture Ebook Course, Chapter Book Blueprint, and Picture Book Blueprint courses (normally $197 each, on sale for $147 each). Click “Redeem Coupon” during checkout and enter the code HOLIDAY16 (must be all caps) to claim holiday promotional pricing. There’s no way to embed the coupon code into these links, so you still have to remember to use it.

I’ll leave this information in my sidebar so you don’t have to go digging for it later. I’m really happy to tell my readers about this awesome resource. I vouch for it so much, in fact, that I may create my own course for them this coming year. More on that later! When I was agenting, my favorite kind of writer was the one that made it a point to keep learning, keep growing, and keep honing their craft. It’s not too late to put a Writing Blueprints course on your Christmas List. Access is granted as soon as the transaction is complete. Feel free to point your spouse to this post, or share with your writing friends.

Happy Holidays! I’m in my busy, busy winter season. Lots of writers are coming to me for editorial work because they want to make 2017 the year that they finally publish. Writing Blueprints gives you a great tool to get yourself closer to your own goals, on your own time. Check these courses out!

Critique Connection

By request, I’m letting this post be a way to find virtual critique partners. I’ve done these in the past, and people have reported finding good connections.

It’s simple. In the comments, please post:

Category: What you write, whether MG, YA, picture books, etc.

Genre: If you write in a specific genre

What You’d Like Critiqued and How: Are you looking for a partner to exchange pages with as you’re writing, someone to read an entire novel, etc. If It’s a bigger manuscript, maybe note the word count.

How to Get In Touch With You: If you’re not comfortable sharing your email, you can type it in a way that discourages spam (mary at kidlit dot com), or you can ask potential partners to reply to your comment…then come back and see if you have any nibbles.

It’s a little old school to do this on a blog, but if you’re looking for a critique partner going into the holidays and New Year, I can vouch that my blog readers are some of the smartest and best looking kidlit enthusiasts around! 🙂

In other news, I’ll be doing some critiques and participating in this year’s WriteOnCon in February. It’s a completely interactive online writer’s conference. I’ll post more as their website for this year gets up and running.

Burning Questions

It’s the summer slump and I’m looking to beat the heat with some new questions from blog readers. I have a lot of ideas for new content that I’ve been encountering in my editing, but I’m curious to know what questions you have.

Post them in the comments. They can be anything to do with writing, publishing, the children’s market, etc. I’ll write responses as articles on the blog in the coming month.