Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Happy National Dog Day (Don't worry cat people, your day is coming up in October). I picked this image because the dogs look just like my Best Furry Friend (BFF) Max. If you have a dog for your BFF why not celebrate with him/her? Here are a few suggestions from National Dog―
  1. Take your dog to the beach.
  2. Assist an ill or elderly neighbor by walking their dog.
  3. Buy your dog a fun new dog toy....or two...or five.
  4. Buy your dog a fashionable collar and leash.
  5. Spend the day taking photos of your dog and then enter our photo contest!
You can find more ways to celebrate at  National Dog Day's website. If you don't have a dog, but want one, check out your local shelter. That's how we found our wonderful, Max. In fact, National Dog Day was created just for that purpose. It desires to help galvanize the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year, and acknowledges family dogs and dogs that work selflessly each day to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort

Because I love quotes, and your dog loves to hear the sound of your voice, here are a few sweet sayings your can share with your BFF― 
  • "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." ―Groucho Marx
  • “Happiness is a warm puppy.” ― Charles M. Schulz
  • “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” ― Josh Billings
  • “A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won't be too bad.” ― Robert Wagner
  • “Dogs don't rationalize. They don't hold anything against a person. They don't see the outside of a human but the inside of a human.” — Cesar Millan
If you need any more inspiration that dogs from shelters make wonderful pets, check out these photos of our magnificent Max at the beach, trying to put highlights in his beard, and savoring his treats. 
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Do you have a dog to help you celebrate National Dog Day? Is he a rescue like Max? What breed is your BFF? Or, are you looking forward to National Cat Day?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

If my kids were reading this quote, they would definitely say the broccoli is telling them NOT to eat it. Of course, Ms. Lamott is using broccoli as a writing metaphor. What she actually means is when you are at a crossroads trying to figure out what your character is going to do next, listen to them. Try to hear that still small intuitive voice we heard as kids that used to help us know things before we knew we knew them. She believes this voice can lead you to the right decision. She also believes that the loss of that childhood intuitiveness happened over time as grown-ups, who were the ultimate authority, dismissed our uncanny knowing of the right thing to do. For us to write well, we need to learn to hear that voice again. Shut down the doubting voice and listen to your broccoli instead of the rational mind for, as we know, it often leaves little room for creativity. 

Ms. Lamott does a much better job of explaining how to go about listening to your broccoli. If you would like to learn more, grab a copy of her bestselling book, Bird by Bird, find the chapter on Broccoli (about halfway through the book) and learn how to listen to your broccoli.

Image result for Bird by Bird"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our  family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.' "

I don't just love listening to broccoli, I love eating it, too. Here's a link to favorite recipe that will hopefully help you enjoy your broccoli as you listen to it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

This cartoon made me laugh which to me, is always a good thing. However, I am late with this post and it was due to headlights... sort of. As you may know I was at the SCBWI conference for three days last week and my head was spinning from all the information I heard and needed to digest in relation to my work. What, you ask, was so impressive to make my head spin? Scroll down and I'll share a few tips with you.

Inspiring & Informative Quotes:

  • Don't just write what you know. Write what obsesses you. - Meg Worlitzer
  • Picture books are art that make you feel more than you understand. - Adam Rex
  • Shout your good news and allow others to celebrate with you. - Agents' Panel
  • Remember who you are. This business has many opportunities for rejection. - Stacey Lee
  • Success can be other things than just writing. - Lori Nichols
  • Do what you love and the work will find you. - Dan Santat.
  • Don't talk about it. Be about it. - Varian Johnson
  • Supporting characters are like our life-- we can't get through it (or the ms) without them. - Brandy Colbert
  • It might look like a long shot but you'll never know unless you keep shooting. - Kwame Alexander 
  • Joy is the soil in which books are grown. - Stephen Fraser
  • Telling an agent you have six manuscripts tells her you haven't been able to sell six manuscripts. - Julie Strauss-Gabel
  • Read, Write, and be Nice! - Agents' Panel

What I Learned:

  • The most important thing I learned is that if you haven't been to an event in seven years, what you need now is very different from what you needed then. I wish I had learned that on the first day instead of at the end of the second, but I'm glad I learned it before it was over. After ten years with SCBWI I realized I no longer need tips on how to write a query or polish those first ten pages, I got that. What I need is how to improve my technique and skill as a writer. I finally understood this and picked more fitting sessions for the writer I am now. Sessions like the standing room only talk by Brandy Colbert, How to Write Compelling Supporting Characters and Narrative Tension: How to Keep Them Up All Night by author pals Stacey Lee and Anna Shinoda
  • I also learned you should always find out if they validate parking so you don't pay $30.00 instead of $12.00. :(
  • I learned that even successful authors like Meg Wolizter have people walk up to her and ask, "Have I heard of you?" Her excellent come back is, "In a perfect world, you would have." Love it!!!
  • I learned that you should definitely attend all the keynote speeches, agents, editors, and authors panels. It's like an entire semester of writing tips and tricks in only ninety minutes!
  • One final thing-- have fun! If there's a party, attend it. If you're sitting next to someone you don't know, say hi. Children's writers are very friendly. 

Even my phone case sparkled. 
I could go on and on about the conference, but, as they say, a picture is worth one thousand words, so here are a few pictures. Some from me and some from my writing partner Mara Bushansky. 

Kite Tales lunch. DELICIOUS!!!

Party partners. 
Ready to Sparkle at the
Sparkle & Shine Party.

They kept us hydrated. 
Brandy and me.
Sparkling with new & old friends.
Andrea showing off her sparkle

How do you keep growing as a writer? Reading? Workshops? Graduate courses? Do you like partying with writers? Have you ever paid too much for parking?

P.S. I'm featured on the A to Z Blog for Themes That Rocked the A to Z Challenge. **squeal!!** You can check it out here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Never Pitch an Agent in the Bathroom

This Friday I'll be attending SCBWI'S 44th Annual Summer Conference. The last time I went to this event was in 2008, oddly enough, I still have my badge.

In 2008 I had only been a member of SCBWI for three years, but I thought I had this writing thing in the bag, boy was I wrong! It's been ten years now and although I still don't have this writing thing mastered, I have learned a few things along the way like, Never Pitch an Agent in the Bathroom.

When I first heard this tale I thought it was a joke. But it wasn't. Some desperate writer actually slid her manuscript under a bathroom stall to an agent. I've heard of doing that to get an autograph, but an agent? Needless to say that action did not result in a contract.

Enough about what not to do. If you're planning on attending a conference this weekend, or sometime in the future, here are a few things you can do:

Before you go

  • Be prepared - Read other writers’ blog posts describing their experiences so you can get a better sense of how to use your time wisely. 
    • Buy yourself a new journal/notebook dedicated for this event. You will hear a lot of tips and tricks, but you won't remember them unless you write them down. Or better yet, master Evernote and keep all your notes in the cloud.
    • Bring your business cards. You want to have one if an agent or editor asks for it.
    • Dress the part. It's not the office, but it's not your bedroom either. Agents and editors are professionals and they are looking to work with one. 
    • Bring some extra cash for books and social events. 
    • Wear comfortable shoes and bring a sweater. I think whoever sets the thermostats for these events must be from the North Pole.
    • Most importantly, do the work--WRITE. If you're going to share your work, make sure it's your best.
  • Do your research - Time spent researching the guest speakers, agents, and editors is worthwhile. Usually, there are multiple sessions going on at one time, knowing the speaker allows you to streamline which sessions you will attend. 
  • Practice your pitch - Agents and Editors hear hundreds, if not thousands, of pitches. If yours is rambling and unclear chances are they will forget it as soon as you walk away. Make yours interesting, but try and keep it under 90 seconds.

When you get there

  • Smile and be friendly-A warm smile is the universal language of kindness. ~ William Arthur Ward
  • Attend as many events as you can - I've found these events to be exhilarating and exhausting. However, since I've made the financial commitment to attend, I take advantage of as many sessions as I can. I also take prolific notes. So much is happening that it's impossible to take it all in. After the event is over, you'll be happy to have your notes. 
  • Be realistic - While we would all love to leave the conference with a contract in hand, it's highly unlikely this will happen. However, if you play your cards right, you can leave armed with the knowledge and experience that may one day result in that coveted contract. 
What is your best tip for attending a conference? Are you going to the 44th Annual SCBWI Event? If so, tweet me and let me know you're there. If not you can attend virtually by following me on Twitter @JennsScribbles, Facebook, and Instagram @ jennsscribbles

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I'm Going to Summer School!

What do you do when the summer blues make you want to spend your days lounging around the pool? Go to summer school! As a writer I'm always looking for ways to improve my craft and Kidit's Summer School is just the thing I needed to drag me back to my keyboard. 

kami and sKidit Summer School is run by Co-Founders Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen & Kami Kinard along with a crew of authors, illustrators, agents, and editors, who you can read more about HERE.  It all begin when authors Kami Kinard and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen started blogging together at and decided they wanted to create a blog-centric event that focused on craft. They spent a long time brainstorming (a favorite activity of both) before coming up with #KidlitSummerSchool. Kami and Sudipta both enjoy writing, and teaching writing, so their idea was to create a program that offers in-depth writing advice on a particular topic each summer. The 2014 focus was on character development. The 2015 focus is on plotting in children’s literature.

Daily blog posts by authors and writing professionals offer inspiration and help you hone your craft. The faculty includes award-winning PB, MG and YA authors.

Kidlit Summer School is for anyone one who loves to write children’s literature, from accomplished writers, to those just starting out.

The best part about Kidlit's Summer School is it's virtual! This means I can lounge around the pool as I work, but instead of working on my backstroke, I'm working on 30 minute dares, plots, pitches, and more. Best of all this summer school is free! The first day of school was Monday, but registration is still open if you want to join the fun. Yes, there is homework, but no worries, everything is on the honor system so if your backstroke needs more work than your plot, you can always skip a day. 

How is your summer going? Are you working on your plot or backstroke? Thinking about going to summer school with me? You're only a CLICK away from some literary summer fun!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The End

Often I've asked published authors, How do you know when you're done? I usually get answers like, You just know or Trust your gut. They are well-intentioned answers, but not very helpful as my knowing gut told me I was done after about two drafts. However, my critique group and beta readers said I wasn't.

As I procrastinate plot out my next novel, I have taken to rereading a few of my favorite books on writing. Currently, I'm reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird which is helping me overcome my Summer Break Blues. If you've read Anne's book, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't read her book, and you are an aspiring writer, do yourself a favor and read it.

airstream andreas stavroupolos octopus bed
Andreas Stavroupolos’s current abode‚Äîa 1959 Airstream travel trailer
Bird by Bird is not your typical book about writing, it's a book filled with instructions on writing and life. In fact there's even a chapter tilted, How Do You Know When You're Done. (Somehow I missed that chapter the first time I read the book. Probably because back then, I was far from being done.) In this chapter Anne equates the process of solving final draft problems to putting an octopus to bed. An image used by addicts when referring to controlling their addictions. As I read Anne's description explaining how as soon as you finally get all those arms, plot, character, voice, etc., tucked under the sheets and head to turn off the light, another long sucking arm breaks free. The analogy made me laugh as I thought about my own journey of putting my octopus to bed. It also reminded me that all writers struggle with finalizing that final draft, however, according to Anne, in The End, know you're done when you've run out of steam..., and that it's the very best you can do for now--well? I think this means you are done.

Have you finished a novel before? Was it like putting an octopus to bed? Did you know octopus have arms not tentacles?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

As I said last week, I'm struggling with the Summer Break Blues. So, I thought I'd share a little something that inspires me to press on when the going gets tough. I hope it inspires you, too.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Did anyone tell you how hard it is for beginners? How do you press on with the going gets tough? Do you just get going?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy IWSG Day, Canada Day, and Independence Day!

Who knew there was so much to celebrate in the first week of July!?! With all this excitement I shouldn't be insecure about anything, right? Wrong. I'm an artist and no matter what's going on around us, we can always find something to feel insecure about.  

Fortunately, it's the first Wednesday of the month, time for a post in Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer’s Support Group. IWSG is a place where writers release their fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the link above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. We encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might just be the encouragement a lonely, and somewhat insecure, writer needs.

The tireless July co-hosts are Charity BradfordS.A. LarsenAJTamara Narayan, Allison Gammons, and Tanya Miranda.

If you want to wear your support and commitment for IWSG members, The Insecure Writer’s Support Group t-shirt is available. You can purchase your IWSG shirt, designed by the very talented Jeremy Hawkins, at the NeatOShop

Now that you know what IWSG is all about, are you still curious about my insecurity for the month? I have the Summer Break Blues. I just finished a vacation, my kids are home, friends are coming to town, my schmooze is on summer break, it's sunny in So. Cal., the beaches are calling, as is everything else but my laptop, and I just want to be lazy. I want to take three months off the way I did when I was a teacher, well you never really take those three months off, but you get my meaning. I want to be on break. I want to sleep in late, go to the beach, make ice-cream, lounge around the pool with a good book, just relax for the next three months. 

But, I know I can't. My head knows that I need to write every day so I keep my writing muscle strong... now, if I can only convince my heart of that, too. 

Have you checked out the IWSG store or website? Do you have a case of the summer break blues? Do you have a cure for it? 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

As I may have mentioned here before, I coordinate a writers and
illustrators schmooze for SCBWI in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. For our June Schmooze we spent an evening with published author, Catherine Linka, whose second book, A Girl Undone released this week. It is the sequel to her first book A Girl Called Fearless. Catherine came to share her journey and tips on how to deal with rejection. However, her tips weren't just on dealing with rejection, but how she turned her dream into a successful reality.

While working as a book buyer for Flintridge Bookstore and Coffee House, an independent bookstore in La Cañada, Catherine obtained an MFA from Vermont College and wrote her first book which she described as, "If I can't sell this, I can't sell anything." Soon Catherine signed with an agent, bringing her one step closer to making her dream a reality... or so she thought. After months of rejections, Catherine's dream became a nightmare as she spent her days promoting book launch after book launch, while her own career stalled. But, as Walt Disney said, "All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." Catherine became as fearless as her main character, Avie, as she continued to pursue her dream. A dream that turned into the reality of a two book deal along with an opportunity to turn the first book into a television series. In the end Catherine's journey on rejection inspired us to hold on to our dreams.  To understand that writing is a business. That rejection isn't about you and if you have the courage to pursue your dream, it can come true.

You can read more about Catherine on her blog. Or buy her books and become fearless yourself.

Are you waiting on a dream? Did Catherine's story inspire you to pursue it? Do you believe that dreams can come true?

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