Wednesday, January 21, 2015

“Serious art is born from serious play.” ― Julia Cameron

I'm taking the advice of Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way, and having some serious play this week. Of course, I brought my revisions with me, so it's not really serious play, but it is play. I'll be back next week to see what you've been up to. Until then, scroll down and check out what I'm doing.

Here's where we're staying. It really is that pretty.

But, I'm not doing this...

Or this...

Or even this...

However, I am doing this...

...and this...

...a lot of this...

...and of course, this... 

I am, after all, working on revisions.

Are you working on any revisions? Taking time for serious play? Reading The Artist's Way? If so, how do you make time to play?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Happy Wednesday! It's time for my Book of the Month post where I highlight a random book that I've enjoyed at some point in my life. It may be an award winner, or just a winner to me, but I'll share my thoughts and would love to hear yours.

This month's book is We Were Liars by E. Lockhartwhich I read as part of my monthly Adults Who Read Y.A book club. Upon my initial read of the book I was not a fan. I hated the ending. The characters sounded like spoiled rich brats, which they are, who did a horrible thing because they didn't get what they wanted. Upon my second read, where I read it as a writer instead of a parent trying not to raise spoiled brats, (no worries about the rich part, I am a writer) I appreciated the book much more. During the second read I studied the craft, the creation of the characters, and their emotions. I studied the story. It was after this second read I was able to see We Were Liars for what it is... brilliance!

In our group discussion we dissected the art of lying and the facades we create everyday through the art of simple lies. We examined how normal looks within each of us and how, at times, we are all liars.  Prior to reading We Were Liars, I was not familiar with E. Lockhart's work, but I am now and look forward to reading her other books for both enjoyment and craft. 

New York Times Bestseller

"Haunting, sophisticated . . . a novel so twisty and well-told that it will appeal to older readers as well as to adolescents."--Wall Street Journal
"A rich, stunning summer mystery with a sharp twist that will leave you dying to talk about the book with a pal or ten."

"Thrilling, beautiful, and blisteringly smart, We Were Liars is utterly unforgettable." - John Green, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars
"You’re going to want to remember the title. Liars details the summers of a girl who harbors a dark secret, and delivers a satisfying, but shocking twist ending."
- Breia Brissey, Entertainment Weekly
Are you a fan of E. Lockhart? Have you read any of her books for craft? Speaking of craft, how do you improve yours? Do you read in your genre? Study Robert McKee's Story or Blake Snyder's Save the Cat?  

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

It's the first Wednesday of the month time for another IWSG post where we writers help each other deal with our insecurities. A warm thank you to Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and his team of Ninjas, for providing writer's a safe and supportive format to speak openly, and without fear, about the insecurities that come with the craft of writing. Be sure to check out the IWSG Facebook page where writers can garner support more than once a month.

As I was perusing the Internet for a quote to sum up how I feel this month about writing, I came across this one-- It's an old adage that the way to be safe is never to be secure... Each one of us requires the spur of insecurity to force us to do our best.Harold W. Dodds After completing what I hope to be the final draft of my story, I can only hope Mr. Dodds is correct in that my insecurities forced me to do my best.

Once a month for almost two years I've shared my writing insecurities with you, Can I get it done? Will I like it? Will anyone read it? Now that my story is in the hands of my beta readers, I have a new worry... Am I ready for the next step? 

Writing the story had it's highs and lows. Some days I felt like I was writing the next Newberry other days... well, we don't talk about those. Now comes the hard part, letting go. I know we have all heard that Disney song a bazillion times, but sometimes letting go is the hardest part. I take solace in Mr. Dodd's quote that my insecurity forced me to do my best. I just hope my best is good enough.

Have you finished a book and let it go? Was it easy? Hard? Did you sing the Disney song while you submitted? Most importantly, did you survive the process of letting go? 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As you prepare to say hello to a New Year, I thought you might find encouragement and inspiration from the folks below:

The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.
Melody Beattie

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.
Helen Keller

Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.
Hal Borland

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, 'It will be happier.'
Alfred Lord Tennyson

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day. 
Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Any new beginning is forged from the shards of the past, not from the abandonment of the past.
Craig D. Lounsbrough

Each New Year, we have before us a brand new book containing 365 blank pages. Let us fill them with all the forgotten things from last year—the words we forgot to say, the love we forgot to show, and the charity we forgot to offer. 
Peggy Toney Horton

May your 2015 be filled with joy, peace, love, and lots of good books! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

It's the second Wednesday, time for my Book of the Month post where I highlight a random book that I've enjoyed at some point in my life. It may be an award winner, or just a winner to me, but I'll share my thoughts and would love to hear yours.

This month I'm highlighting the Caldecott Honor-winning classic bestselling picture-book No, David by David Shannon, who started his career before he started school. At five years old he wrote and illustrated his first book. Each page had two words, No, David! ...along with pictures of David doing things he wasn't supposed to be doing. In 1999 I had the good fortune of meeting David Shannon. I was teaching first grade and he was the featured author at a small bookstore in Ventura Calif., where we went for a field trip. Sadly, that bookstore no longer exists, but Mr. Shannon has gone on to write a series of books about David, as well as write and illustrate many other books for children. I have been a fan of David Shannon since that first meeting when he managed to keep two classes of excited first graders completely engaged for a full thirty minutes. 

My kids graduated from picture books almost a decade ago, but, we still like to read them. Sometimes it's nice to bake a batch of cookies, curl up on the couch, and read a dozen or so picture books just to make you feel like a kid again. 

Are you a fan of David? Do you cast aside your pictureless books for ones with pictures every now and then? What do you do to make you feel like a kid again?


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

It's the first Wednesday of the month time for another IWSG post where we writers help each other deal with our insecurities. Thanks to Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh, for providing writer's a safe and supportive format to speak openly, and without fear, about the insecurities that come with the craft of writing. Be sure to check out the IWSG Facebook page where writers can garner support more than once a month.

I can't believe this is the last IWSG post for 2014. Each year I am surprised how fast the year comes to an end. I wonder if I will ever not feel the year has gone by too quickly. For my last IWSG post of the year I am happy to say I'm feeling pretty secure as a writer. Yay, me! Of course all that could change if I fail to meet my goal of editing or writing 30 minutes a day as part of Linda 
#WriteDaily30 challenge. If you'd like to more details, hop over to Linda's blog,
 Crooked Perfect, and check it out. I've reached my goal for the past three days and I have my fingers crossed, and butt in chair, hoping the other 28 days will go as well. 

How's your insecurity this month? Are you ready for 2014 to end? Do you have any goals you're trying to meet before the year ends? 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Jennifer Gaillard via photopin cc
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the USA. A time where our nation stops to remember what we are thankful for and eat a lot of food! So, even if you're not in the USA, I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and share a few things I'm thankful for. I'm thankful for family, friends, and you being a part of my blogging adventure. I'm also thankful for my sister who's hosting thanksgiving dinner so I don't have to cook!

Just in case you eat too much and need to burn some extra calories, or just feel like a laugh, check out this oldie but goodie from Gloria Gobbler. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Meet the Author

In October I attended the Orange County SCBWI Agent's Day where I met author, Marcie Wessels. Marcie was a keynote speaker, as well as one of the event's success stories, who shared the journey behind her first book, A PIRATE'S LULLABY: MUTINY AT BEDTIME (DOUBLEDAY 2015).  As a writer I've heard a plethora of talks about the writing process, but few have moved me the way Marcie's did. Her analogous comparison of the life of a writer to that of a pirate gave me new insight to what 
I'm doing each day. Marcie
encouraged us to embrace the pirate's life, no, not the plundering of villages, the adventurous part, where we, "...take pleasure in the journey and be spurred on by the promise of reward." Marcie Wessels

Marcie went on to beautifully expound on this premise allowing me to see myself not as a solitary writer, but as a pirate on an adventure toward the location of buried treasure. For some it may be publication, others it may be a finished book, but her call to reject fear and sail beyond the next horizon changed my perspective on writing. I am not just telling a story, I'm a pirate on an adventure to discover my personal buried treasure.

On Marcie's blog you can read all about how a flood, Bell's Palsy, and a lot of hard work spurred Marcie's adventure along eventually garnering her her first book contract. But until then remember...

Marcie_Wessels White.jpgMarcie Wessels’s love of books and her fondness for rhyme began at an early age. A lifelong student of literature, Marcie received a Ph.D. in Latin American Literature from Tulane University (2003) and taught Spanish at the University of San Diego. She is the author of a Spanish language textbook, Revista: conversación sin barreras (Vista Higher Learning, 2006), and several articles about Latin American film and literature. After the birth of her children, Marcie left her job to pursue her dream of writing for children. A PIRATE'S LULLABY: MUTINY AT BEDTIME (Doubleday, 2015) is her first picture book. She lives with her husband and two children in San Diego, California. You can find Marcie on TwitterFacebook, Linked In, and at Marcie

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Welcome to my first Book of the Month post where I will highlight a random book that I've enjoyed at some point in my life. It may be an award winner or just a winner to me, but I'll share my thoughts and would love to hear yours.

This month in honor of its 25th anniversary, I'm sharing The True Story of The 3 Little Pigs. I discovered this book when I was teaching first grade and immediately fell in love with it. My students and I enjoyed hearing this familiar nursery tale told from the Wolf's point of view. Who knew Alexander P. Wolf was framed? Who knew all he wanted was a cup of sugar for his dear old granny's birthday cake? Who knew that all this time we didn't know the real story!?!

Jon Scieska's was a pioneer in this idea of tweaking fairy tales to keep them fresh. Many have followed in his footsteps over the past 25 years, but if you want to check out an original, check out The True Story of The 3 Little Pigs, and let me know if you think Alexander P. Wolf is a big bad wolf or if he really was framed. 

You can read more about The True (25th Anniversary) Story of the Three Little Pigs over at Publisher's Weekly.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It's the first Wednesday of the month time for another IWSG post where we writers help each other deal with our insecurities. Thanks to Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh, for providing writer's a safe and supportive format to speak openly, and without fear, about the insecurities that come with the craft of writing. Be sure to check out the IWSG Facebook page where writers can garner support more than once a month.

As this year comes to an end are you feeling a little more insecure this month than usual? Take heart, you are not alone: 

"I'm always described as 'cocksure' or 'with a swagger,' and that bears no resemblance to who I feel like inside. I feel plagued by insecurity." ~ Ben Affleck

“I've often said, the only thing standing between me and greatness is me.” ~ Woody Allen

Anger is a manifestation of a deeper issue... and that, for me, is based on insecurity, self-esteem and loneliness." ~Naomi Campbell

"The biggest insecurity I had was my singing. Even though I had sold 70 million records, there was this feeling like, I'm not good at this." ~ Jennifer Lopez

"I have the show because I'm insecure. It's my insecurity that makes me want to be a comic, that makes me need the audience." ~Ray Romano

Insecurities will always be a part of life, but I believe Dr. Seuss has the best take on it:

How do you deal with your insecurities? Do you think Dr. Seuss has the right idea?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Recently I came across the German word, Schadenfreude [shahd-n-froi-duh]. I don't speak German, but I love this word. I love the sound of Schadenfreude and the way I have to contort my lips when I say it. I also love how it explains what writers are called to do daily in their writing: derive satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune.

Initially, I struggled with this concept. Each time my character got too close to danger, I redirected her into safety, but, as we all know, that results in a very boring story. So, I began creating situations that caused my protagonist pain and suffering. The story got exciting and we all lived happily ever after. Well, at least I lived happily ever after. As for my protagonist, she's not talking to me right now.

Have you ever heard of the word Schadenfreude? Do you use it daily in your writing or do you derive satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune outside of writing? 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Over the past few years I've met, either in person or on the printed page, many wonderful authors. Often I've wanted to shout from the rooftops about their writing success, and then I realized I didn't have to climb on the roof, I could just give them a shout out on my blog. So here goes...

I recently attended the Santa Clarita schmooze (A Schmooze is a gathering of children's writers and illustrators designed to share knowledge, great new
Ls, and companionship.) where I got a chance to meet Y.A. author, Amy Spaulding. Before the event, I'd never heard of her, but after the event, I was so glad to have met her. Amy is super funny and a very talented writer. At the schmooze Amy shared the pros and cons of being agented by a big house vs a little house. She said much, much, more which you can read about on the SCBWI blog under SCV Schmoozers! LOVE. REJECTION. AND ALL THINGS WRITERLY. One major thing I took away from the event was that everyone should take an Improvisation class to strengthen their public speaking skills, plus, it makes standing up in front of an audience oh so much easier! I don't have too much of a problem with public speaking, but being relaxed and funny while doing it sounds like a win, win. 

Amy Spalding lives in Los Angeles, where she writes, performs, and eats snacks. Follow her on Twitter. Like her on Facebook. Become her fan on Goodreads. Amy loves attention, so hop over to one of the above links and give Amy some of your attention.

Ink Is Thicker than Water
Ink Is Thicker Than Water
For Kellie Brooks, family has always been a tough word to define. Combine her hippie mom and tattooist stepdad, her adopted overachieving sister, her younger half brother, and her tough-love dad, and average Kellie’s the one stuck in the middle, overlooked and impermanent. When Kellie’s sister finally meets her birth mother and her best friend starts hanging with a cooler crowd, the feeling only grows stronger.

But then she reconnects with Oliver, the sweet and sensitive college guy she had a near hookup with last year. Oliver is intense and attractive, and she’s sure he’s totally out of her league. But as she discovers that maybe intensity isn’t always a good thing, it’s yet another relationship she feels is spiraling out of her control.

It’ll take a new role on the school newspaper and a new job at her mom’s tattoo shop for Kellie to realize that defining herself both outside and within her family is what can finally allow her to feel permanent, just like a tattoo.

After catching their bandmates in a compromising position, sixteen-year-old Los Angelenos Riley and Reid become painfully aware of the romance missing from their own lives. And so a pact is formed: they’ll both try to make something happen with their respective crushes and document the experiences in a shared notebook.

While Reid struggles with the moral dilemma of adopting a dog to win over someone’s heart, Riley tries to make progress with Ted Callahan, who she’s been obsessed with forever–His floppy hair! His undeniable intelligence! But suddenly cute guys are popping up everywhere. How did she never notice them before?! With their love lives going from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, Riley and Reid realize the results of their pact may be more than they bargained for.

Amy will be in Whittier at the Whitwood Library on Saturday, October 25th @ 2:00. If you're in the neighborhood drop by and say Hi to Amy. The event is FREE and meeting new authors is always fun!

Have you met Amy? Read any of her books? What are your thoughts on taking an Improv class?

Thursday, October 16, 2014


photo credit: morgantj via photopin cc
I love how Merrian-Webster defines relaxation:

re·lax·a·tion noun \ˌrē-ˌlak-ˈsā-shən, ri-ˌlak-\
-a way to rest and enjoy yourself: time that you spend resting and enjoying yourself -something that you do to stop feeling nervous, worried, etc. -the act of relaxing or state of being relaxed, a relaxing or recreative state, activity, or pastime -diversion

This weekend our family took an unplanned trip to Pismo Beach, something you can do when your vacation home is parked in your driveway, to celebrate my husband's birthday. Pismo Beach has been a favorite vacation spot for us since our early years of marriage. Back then we didn't have kids, a vacation home in the driveway, or much money. What we did have was the desire to get away and enough spare change for a room at Motel 6. The rooms were cheap and pretty bare bones, but we weren't going to Pismo Beach for the rooms, we were going for the beach... and the clam chowder. Seriously, if you like clam chowder, and haven't tasted the clam chowder from the Splash Cafe, you are missing a tiny bit of heaven on earth. 

Clam chowder isn't the only part of Pismo Beach I think of as heavenly; for me the entire town resonates heaven on earth. It's quaint, quiet (in the off-season) and somewhat quizzical in its ability to remain relatively unchanged year after year. Pismo Beach is a place where I can get away from my busy life, take a deep breath, and R-E-L-A-X. It doesn't take long, just a day or two, and I feel ready to dive back into the daily battles of revisions, rewrites, and rejections. I'm not sure if it's the town, the beach, or the calm chowder. I just know that when my battery needs to be recharged, Pismo Beach does it every time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

O.C. Agent's Day

Living in Southern California has  many advantages: the weather, the beaches, the mountains, but one major advantage for me, as a writer, is its proximity to events hosted by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, like the Orange County Agent's Day I attended this past weekend.

The event was hosted by the amazing Orange County regional advisors, Francesca Rusackas and Q. L. Pearce, on the lovely Cal State Fullerton Campus, (you can take a virtual tour of the campus here). This was a different venue from previous years which resulted in a shortened commute, free lunch, and free parking. All win-wins for me. 

The day began with the usual check in, jockeying for seats in the Titan Auditorium, a warm welcome from our hosts, a few announcements, followed by my favorite part of the day— the agent talks. 

The featured agents were:
Sean, Charlie, Christa, and Lori
Sprinkled in between the agent's were first pages panels and Spotlight Authors: Marianne D. Wallace and Marcie Wessels, who inspired us with their personal writing journeys.

Throughout the day, I gleaned quite a bit of literary insight. Some of which should be common sense: 
  • Do your research before you submit.
  • Follow the agency's submission guidelines. 
  • Address the agent by name.
  • Read, read, read!
  • Network with others in your field.
  • Don't send tweaks, changes, revisions unless they're requested.
...and a few suggestions that weren't so common.
  • Do cyberstalk (but not in a creepy way) to know what agent's and editors are looking for.
  • Don't compare your book with Harry Potter, Hunger Games Wimpy Kid, etc., if it's the next big thing, let the writing speak for itself.
  • Take your time on any requested changes or revisions.
  • Don't answer a rejection with a new project. 
  • A/B test your query letters if you're getting rejections.
  • Talk about your story, not the business.
As writers we spend a lot of time alone. Attending SCBWI events is a wonderful opportunity to connect with the writing world beyond our desks and computers. If you can, attend an event in your area. Schmoozes are free and fun. If there aren't any events in your area, join SCBWI and create one. Nothing sparks the passion for writing like being in a room full of writers!

Are you a member of SCBWI? Another writing organization? How do you connect with other writers outside cyberspace?