Magic Hour Writers

Our Mission: To encourage and promote excellence in writing for children through
friendship, education, and peer support to writing colleagues.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Zoom Meeting Highlights - December 8, 2021

Attending: Judy, Karen, Valia, Ruthann, Luneil, Jackie and Patty

Karen: Has been working on Griffith Historical Society Museum display. She has done an enormous amount of research on the town of Griffith. In addition, she’s sent off her story “The Last Ride” to an editor. Karen is also working on General Grumpy, which is part of her series of train stories for children.

To our great delight, Karen has also been nominated for a DAR award for her book about the Purple Heart, The Medal with a Heart It will be the 90th birthday of the medal in 2022.

Judy and Luneil read another chapter from their already loved WIP, about Lottie Nora and Ryleigh Emma. They have prepared a questionnaire for their beta readers to fill out. The group also discussed plot points. 

Valia read his work in process called, When Parrot leaves a Mango Tree. This is a story about a family that has moved from Chandwara India to Hammond, Indiana. A homesick boy listens to the sounds of his new home, and they remind him of his former home. 

Jackie suggested a book to Valia which might help him plot the comparisons. 

Ruthann is busy with two grandchildren and promises to write when she has a spare second.

Patty completed another NANOWRIMO and read Chapters 25 & 26 of her story, The Iron Ladies.

There was further discussion about questions to ask beta readers, which will be helpful for any WIP being read by the appropriate age group. It’s helps to determine if the story is headed in the right direction.

The meeting concluded around 8:45 pm.

Next meeting:  January 12, 2022, @ 6:30 by Zoom.

Happy Holidays to all!

Respectfully submitted,

Patty Yackanich

Zoom Meeting Highlights - November 10, 2021

Members Present:  Jackie, Judy, Karen, Luneil

Karen is working on another train car story and discussed ways to get people interested in your product. She has been specifically working on promoting the Griffith Depot Museum.  She is also working on her latest revision of Ivy.

Judy has been participating in a foster grandparents program in Michigan City three times a week, providing emotional and academic support to students in Queen of All Saints School.

Judy and Luneil continue to work on Ryleigh Emma and Lottie Nora. Members have been getting the chapters ahead of time so they can offer more in-depth critique. Judy and Luneil have asked beta readers to critique both the characters and the story line. The characters have very different personalities which complement each other and the story moves along at a nice pace.

Members discussed the children’s author David L. Harrison and his Word of the Month blogsite that Jackie used to contribute to regularly.

Members decided to continue to meet via zoom through March since the winter months could make travel difficult.

Next Meeting: December 8, 2021


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Zoom Meeting Highlights - Thursday, October 13, 2021

Members Present: Judy, Luneil, Patty, Karen, and Hardarshan Valia

Zoom meeting started promptly at 6:30 PM. 

PATTY, read Chapters 23 and 24. Chapter 23 is titled ‘Montmartre’ wherein Odette is taking Vienne to the underbelly of the city. She warned Vienne not to tell others otherwise face dire consequences. Chapter 24 is entitled ‘The Rat’ where Vienne meets Rat who is shabbily dressed, uncouth character. First she is terrified by his presence but then she realizes that Rat is also being badly exploited by Odette. They will help each other under the terrible circumstances.

LUNEIL AND JUDY, shared story of Ryleigh Emma’s chance to solve a mystery. It began with Lottie Norma picking up a note that fell from Mike’s food tray when he was emptied it. The note revealed that Mike, a shining star will be dropped from the school's sport team. Now the girls are on the way to solve the mystery of why Mike is being dropped from the team. They found out that Mike’s parents have a role in the episode. Stay tuned to the mystery!

KAREN, informed that she is continuing the revision on four chapters of Rescue Ivy book. However, much of her time is being spent working on the Griffith Historical Museum. She is redoing the displays in the History Museum. The idea about redoing came when she attended a lecture entitled “Why Do People Care About Your Museum?” where the speaker, Director of Hesston Steam Engine Museum from LaPorte, emphasized that people have hundreds of other things to do and will come to your museum when you decide to make it a personal rather than just old-style displaying in boxes. Hence, Karen is writing stories that relate to the display box. For example, she rewrote one aspect of Griffith History dealing with fur trade via Story of a Beaver character. Listening to the story, illlustrated via the display box, looked amazing and children will love it very much. 

HARDARSHAN VALIA read a picture book version of his story entitled “When Parrots Leave a Mango Tree.” The adult version of this was published in Hoosier Horizon. The story deals with how one should be connected with roots. Stronger the roots, greater is the strength to fly high.

Next meeting scheduled for Nov 10, 2021 at 6:30 PM

Submitted by,

Hardarshan Singh Valia

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Zoom Meeting Highlights - September 8, 2021

Attendees: Judy, Luneil, Karen, Ruthann, Valia, Jackie and Patty

Meeting started at 6:30pm

Member Discussions:

Karen shared with us a story she’d written years ago, TADPOLE TROUBLES with ALBIE. She told us about the origins of this story and is considering doing some editing and hopefully, submitting. It is a funny and scientific story about frogs laying eggs in a swimming pool and Albie trying to save them all before his father opens the pool for the season.

Valia suggested that Karen and the rest of us, watch the Netflix movie, “My Octopus Teacher” regarding story and science. Several members agreed now that summer is over there'll be more time for writing/editing.

Patty read chapters 22 & 23 of THE IRON LADIES. She was extremely grateful for all the suggestions for improving the chapters, especially the points that were not made clear for the reader. She feels this is the greatest help for writers, caring individuals who give suggestions and ideas for improving work.

Valia Read his poem NOMAD, alternate title, SHADOWS IN THE NIGHT. It was a lovely, moving poem about his mother’s passing. He also shared a few touching incidents that occurred at home at the same time.

Ruthann excited by the birth of another grandchild, has promised to get back to writing as soon as she is able. The group would love to hear more Boopy stories.

Judy spoke about her Senior Memoir writing workshop which she is conducting. The group gave several ideas to help encourage the seniors to share life stories and situations. There was discussion about editing, sharing with other writers, reading memoirs to others, and general suggestion for future classes. Judy hopes to be able to take the collection of the senior’s life stories and put them into book form when the classes are over.

Meeting concluded around 9pm.

Next Zoom meeting: October 13, 2021 at 6:30pm

Respectfully submitted,

Patty Yackanich

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Zoom Meeting Highlights - August 11, 2021

Hardarshan Valia attended the SCBWI Big Five-Oh Summer Conference, Friday July 30th- Monday Aug 2nd. It was amazing to hear that how 50 years ago, the conference started with about three dozen attendees and since grew to the most desired, knowledge disseminator place for Children’s book writers and illustrator. One of the interesting things that participants learned was that during the pandemic period, children’s books were in high demand and the trend may continue. Hardarshan Valia participated in Roundtable Pitch and gave a two-minute “Elevator Pitch” for his manuscript ‘A Gift from the Past.’

Member Discussions:

Judy – She has started a writing project for the seniors at the retirement facility. The project is entitled “Writing Memoirs.’ The maximum enrollment is ten and duration is 12 weeks. The participants are given prompts and asked to put down their feelings then and now after such a long journey.

Karen – She is busy revising last four chapters of her previously written book ‘Rescuing Ivy.’ She has also devoted time working at the museum of Griffith Historical Society. In that regard, she visited Cedar Lake Historical Society. Last summer, she also participated in a zoom meeting with Daughters of Revolution; subsequently in July, she attended their in-person meeting.

Ruthann – The group encouraged her to revisit story “Boopy” which she stopped writing as the bird had passed away. That discussion reminded Ruthann of an encounter with a raccoon that could easily inspire another short story.

Jackie – Her photographs and memorabilia, some pertaining to her mother, were on display at the Lake County Fair. Jackie won ribbons in three photography categories and ribbons in three collectables categories. The exhibition lasted till August 15, 2021.

Hardarshan Valia – He read the poem ‘Healers of the Night’ that describes a scene at a jazz concert.

Next Zoom Meeting: September 8, 2011 at 6:30 pm


Submitted by: Hardarshan Valia

Monday, August 9, 2021

Meeting Highlights - July 14, 2021

Members Present: Helena, Jackie, Judy, Karen, Luneil, Patty, Ruthann, Valia

Members met for lunch at Wicker Park. Luneil gave Jackie a crystal “Making a Difference” plaque from MHW which commemorates the past eleven years. Members also had a cake for Luneil who will be moving to a different state in August.

Helena brought in two books she created. She began writing the first one in 2017, which tells the story of her ancestors. She began the second one, about her father, in 2018. Both are written in Chinese and include old family photographs. Now Helena is working on her mother’s book.

Valia spent a lot of time at Wicker Park during the lockdown. His days walking the paths inspired many poems, a couple of which he shared with the group. Glove on a Fence was published in Nightingale & Sparrow literary magazine Fate of Granite gave us all a little chuckle.

Judy and Luneil read their third version of the introduction of Lottie Nora and Ryleigh Emma. Lottie Nora is more than happy to show Ryleigh Emma around the school on the first day and introduces her to several students and staff members. Ryleigh Emma is thrilled she already has a new friend and a new mystery to solve.

Patty brought in two versions of her query and synopses of The Iron Ladies. Members made a few suggestions. Patty plans to submit to several publishing companies this fall.

Next Zoom Meeting: Wednesday, August 11 at 6:30.


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Zoom Meeting Highlights - May 12, 2021

MEMBERS PRESENT: Judy, Luneil, Patty, Karen, RuthAnn, Suzy and Hardarshan Valia

Our Third zoom meeting started promptly at 6:30 PM. Judy announced that one of the next meeting agendas would be whether to meet in person at a park or continue the zoom meeting format. Judy has recorded the meeting for those who could not attend; however, the recording will be stored for two months for them to listen. HARDARSHAN VALIA gave information on the website, a good source of information related to publishing. He also mentioned that SCBWI had introduced a free webinar for its members; the first one is entitled ‘Transferring a picture book manuscript into a visual narrative scheduled for May 13, but a recording will be available May 14. He also urged SCBWI members to take courses offered by SCBWI-Indiana, where he took one course on writing a picture book by Shannon Anderson.

PATTY, read Chapter Eighteen The Liar from her manuscript The Iron Ladies. Vienne learned the history of Gepp’s family and how her grandfather’s abusive treatment affected Gepp’s childhood growth. She realized the role she will be playing in bringing happiness into her father’s life.

LUNEIL AND JUDY, presented the character sketch for their collaborative novel Lottie Nora and Ryligh Emma. They described in detail the steps taken to record the characterization of their protagonists. After that, a table was presented that highlighted their character, which was later incorporated into their stories. After that, Luneil read her accident-prone character Lottie’s first day at school. That was followed by a reading by Judy, who described the sleuth Ryligh’s first day to school, thereby setting the premise to where they will meet and the plot will thicken.

KAREN, informed that she is continuing the revision of her Rescue Ivy book. It has sixteen chapters with an epilogue. She intends to do one more revision before final submission.

SUZY, returned to the group and has started working on the story of Mrs. W.

NEXT MEETING: scheduled for June 9, 2021 at 6:30 PM

Submitted by,

Hardarshan Singh Valia

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Zoom Meeting Highlights - April 15, 2021

Members Present: Judy, Luneil, Valia, Patty, Karen, Jackie and Helena

Meeting started promptly at 6:30, our second ZOOM meeting and it was a great success. Judy announced that our meetings will continue this way, but the day will change. We will now meet on the second Wednesday of the month. Next month's meeting will be May 12, 2021 at 6:30 pm.

VALIA, read “On Sacred Ground” published on March 29, 2021 at the International Human Rights Art Festival.

LUNEIL, announced she will be moving to Virginia, but will continue to meet with our group via Zoom. We talked about Barty, and the possibility of him having a girlfriend.

KAREN, is hoping to again sell her Rescuing Ivy book.  She has been doing extensive revisions on Ivy’s story.

JACKIE, shared a poem, The Dark Forest, her son Aaron, wrote as part of a school assignment incorporating the Golden Shovel method. A golden shovel is a poetic form in which the last word of each line forms a second, pre-existing poem (or section thereof), to which the poet is paying homage. Jackie, also gave suggestions for sharing documents.

JUDY, read her story about Ryleigh Emma. She also read LUNEIL’S story about Lottie Nora. They have decided to collaborate their stories and combine their two characters to join forces in solving mysteries. There were many suggestions on how to merge the two characters, ideas for a series and recommendations about age groups.

PATTY, read part of Chapter 17, of her Vienne story, THE IRON LADIES.

There was further discussions about the basic Zoom plan, individuals using it for meet-ups and time limits. We also talked about meeting up together, outside in warmer weather.

Meeting was adjourned approx.: 8:40pm.

Next Meeting:  May 12th @ 6:30.

Respectfully submitted by,

Patty Yackanich

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Zoom Meeting Highlights - March 11, 2021

MHW Members got together, via Zoom, after not meeting for over a year. Judy set up the Zoom account and created a how-to document for anyone who is confused about how the process works. The link will be sent out a few days before each monthly meeting. Please call Judy or Jackie if you want to get on the mailing list or still need some technical help sorting it all out.

Current and past members, as well as anyone interested in writing for children, are welcome to join us virtually through these meetings. Membership dues have been waived this year, so this is a great time to see what we are all about! Also ask to join our Magic Hour Facebook Page if you haven't already. Hope to have a big turn out next time :). JSH

Members Present: Pete, Helena, Patty, Valia, Judy, Jackie
Minutes by: Judy Lachance-Whitcomb

  • Pete 

    • Has moved away from poems and is focusing on a children’s book inspired by his journey into family history (DNA test, Ancestry)

    • He has also written lyrics for a song that he is waiting for a friend to put to music.  He shared one lyric with the group, I’ll See You in a While.

  • Helena

    • She has been doing all her writing in Chinese and hasn’t been writing in English.

    • Mainly, she has been writing about her family’s history

      • She has one book completed on her father

      • One book on general family history

      • Her mother is over 90 and she wants to complete a book as she did for her father for her mother.

  • Patty

    • Patty had taken a break from her novel due to Pete’s health issues and COVID.

      • She has gone back to it and appreciates the break because the “step back” from it has given her a “fresh eye”

      • She is using “filter words” to eliminate some of the weakest words written.

        • She uses the “search” function on Word and types in a filter word.

      • She takes the filter word out and is surprised at how much better it makes the sentences.

      • filter words: 

  • Valia

    • He has taken several on-line workshops through SCBWI with Shannon Anderson and Lynn Oliver

      • He has now become interested in writing a children’s picture book

        • He shared what he has written on it so far

  • Judy 

    • While at Clarendale, she didn’t do any creative writing

      • Her writing was devoted to putting out a monthly newsletter that was an average of 30 pages

      • She also wasn’t attending MHW meetings because of her other commitments at Clarendale.

    • With freed time, she is determined to attend MHW meetings regularly and start writing again.