Friday, March 30, 2012

Today's Treat: Deadlines, Jane Yolen and an Award!

Today's Treat is a Friday segment dedicated to helping writers 1) treat themselves like a writer by building confidence and craft and 2) putting themselves in situations where others will treat them as a writer to build community and connections.

The Beauty of Deadlines:

I am happy to report that the dust is clearing and I am emerging, ready to get back on track.  Its not easy because I have not written in over a week!  There was just too much "stuff" happening in my personal life that took priority.  And with that came stress and sleepless nights that zapped my creativity.  I have felt absolutely dry.

But now that things are settling down, its time to get back into the game.  But how?

Its difficult to jump back in.  I remember when I had a career job and I had been out for an illness or vacation.  My desk seemed foreign when I returned.  It was almost like I had to re-learn my job.

I kinda feel that way with writing.  Its slow going to get the juices flowing again.  But that's where deadlines are helpful!  I am holding myself accountable!

I have decided that it is ok to have taken time off to deal with "life", but like a boss at a "real job" I am telling myself, "Self, you still have deadlines.  You still are held accountable for what you were to accomplish this month."  And with only 2 days left in this month, I feel the crunch, but welcome the goal.

Tomorrow I have 6 hour train ride to Boston.  I will be writing the entire time to complete my monthly goals.

1)  complete my March manuscript for 12x12in'12
2)  revisions for my February manuscript

On ward and upward!
Jane Yolen's "Take Joy: a book for writers":

I have been studying Jane Yolen's fabulous book about writing and I invite the rest of you to join me as I read weekly and discuss my discoveriers each Friday.

The first chapter of "Take Joy" really spoke to me this week, as it deals with why we write.  So many writers, she states, talk about writing as a chore or almost torturous.  In it, Yolen encourages her readers to learn to write with joy, not fear. 

She says it is a personal choice to choose joy and what she finds is that it is "not the writing that makes writers miserable.  It is the emphasis on publication."  Yolen goes on to say that "all we can count on is the joy in the process of writing." 

"Know this about being published: it is out of your hands.  Even if you do everything you can think of to affect that outcome, " she warns.

These words have struck me deeply.  The stress I often feel when it comes to my writing is all because I have been focused too much on publication.  I am focused on the destination instead of enjoying the sunshine and flowers along the path.

So this week I am really spending time learning to have joy in the process.  Its not easy.  Especially when I have had fantasies about publication for so long.  However, I feel I do need to reel myself in.  To learn what it is about writing that I love.  To be honest with myself and ask "if this never gets published, is it worth it?"  I want to shout YES...but to tell you the truth...I am not sure.

I am putting myself on a "publication/industry/business" diet.  For the next 2 months I am going to only spend time on my craft, writing the best stories I can, and finding joy in that process.  No queries, no business at all.  Let's see how I do!

If you have any pointers on how to find the joy in the process, let me know.  :)

The Sunshine Blog Award!

Last but not least, I want to thank Elizabeth Stevens Omlor over at her blog Banana Peelin' for giving me the prestigious Sunshine Blog Award!  It is always so nice to be recognized by other bloggers, and especially Elizabeth who is such a wonderful inspiration and fabulous blogger!  Thanks, Elizabeth! 

According to the award, I must:
  • Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog
  • Answer 10 questions about yourself
  • Nominate 10-12 other fabulous bloggers
  • Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated
  • Share the love and link the person who nominated you.
1. Favorite color:  I am usually drawn to shades of blue

2. Favorite animal: sock monkey  :)

3. Favorite number: 4

4. Favorite non-alcoholic drink: black coffee!  iced if possible.

5. Facebook or Twitter: Facebook

6. My passion: so many.  But I think they all come down to living life to the fullest and laughing often.

7. Prefer giving or getting presents: Giving. 

8. Favorite pattern: Argyle?  strange question.

9. Favorite day of the week: Saturday morning ~ laying in bed, drinking coffee with my love and chatting.

10. Favorite flower: Gerbera daisies.  So bright and colorful, yet simple.

I am going to bestow this award to the following ladies.  Each one of these blogs are frequented by me and I am recognizing them as wonderful rays of Sunshine in the world of writing!  So grab the button and flaunt it ladies!  You are Sunshine Award Winners!

1)  Kavita Ramchandran
2)  Jennifer Rumberger
3)  Diandra Mae
4)  Jennifer Kirkeby
5)  Rena Traxel
6)  Mira Reisberg
7)  Julie Rowan-Zoch
8)  Sylvia Liu
9)  4 Chicks and a Muse
10)  Angela Pena Dahle

Alright that's it for me today!  Have a wonderful weekend!  May we all enter April joyfully!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday Writers Weigh In: What if the Answer is No?

This has been a really stressful few weeks for me and I apologize for not posting in over a week without notice.  Truth be told, I had a few personal and family matters to attend to and when it came down to it, I had to prioritize.  I felt like a sinking ship and I needed to bail out some water in order to stay afloat.  So writing took a hit.

But here I am!  I am back and slowly climbing back and getting on the right track.

Now for today's Wednesday Writer's Weigh In, which stems from my experiences these past few weeks. When faced with some realy tough "life stuff" we can find ourselves questioning what we do and why we do it.

Therefore, if you could see the future and know that you would NEVER be published, would you continue to write anyway?

Go on writers...Weigh In!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Today's Treat: Guest Blogging, Personalized Classes and Conference Budgetting!

Today's Treat is a Friday segment dedicated to helping writers 1) treat themselves like a writer by building confidence and craft and 2) putting themselves in situations where others will treat them as a writer to build community and connections.

Guest Blogging
First, in case you missed it...I had the absolute honor of being featured on Julie Hedlund's Write Up My Life blog this past Tuesday as part of her series spotlighting pre-published authors who are taking part in the 12x12in12 Challenge

This was my very first guest blogging experience and I have to say it was so exciting!  And I hope to get the opportunity to be a guest blogger elsewhere in the future.  (hint, hint).  What a wonderful way to be treated as a writer by the writing community!  Thank you, Julie!

Anyway, I thought I would share the link again, seeing as my post deals with the topics dealt here on Friday with the Today's Treat segment.  Enjoy!

Personalized Classes
On last week's Today's Treat we talked about Writing Classes and the benefit of enrolling in such classes whether they are online or in person.  And one of my readers, Sue Heavenrich, posted a comment that really got me thinking.  She mentioned that she lives in a rural area so writing classes are not always an option.  Therefore, she reads books on writing and treats them like a class.  What a wonderful idea!

I have been reading a few books on writing, and although I totally "get" the book while I am reading it, I find that I am not always getting the full experience of what the book could be offering because I am not taking time to apply what is discussed into my writing.

Therefore, thank you for the suggestion, Sue!  As part of this Today's Treat segment, I am going to be reading through "Take Joy: a book for writers" by Jane Yolen.  Each Friday I will discuss what was in the week's chapter and how it can be applied directly into your writing.  So, consider grabbing the book and joining me! 

Conference Budgetting
Lastly, readers of this blog have heard me say how wonderful the experience of attending a conference is.  Perhaps nothing puts you in the situation to be treated like a writer than attending a conference.

This week SCBWI announced registration for their Annual Conference in LA in August and I am sure that some of you want to attend but are worried about the expense.  I know I do.  Well, I have a solution for you....its simple math.  Its called a budget...and although the US does not know how to do can!  It might be too late for this year...but I am focusing on 2013.

Take the cost of the registration, travel, hotel, food and spending money and give a monetary value to each.  Add up the cost of what it will take to get YOU to conference.  And then divide by the number of weeks you have til you need to pay.  That is how much money you need to save each week. 

For example, if I am looking at next year's SCBWI LA Conference this is what my math looks like.

$440 registration
$600  airfare
$800  hotel
$200 food
$200 spending money
divide that by 68 weeks til the 2013 conference
I need to save $33 a week.

Now I can look at my weekly budget and plan to start cutting out trips to the fancy coffee shop, start packing my lunch, cut out a trip to the mall.  Be smart and you can make it happen.

That's it for Today's Treat this week!  Have a wonderful weekend!  Happy Writing. 

I look forward to hearing how you are treating yourself!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday Writers Weigh In: The Perfect Page

Picture Books are made up of pages...32 of them, often.  And through a wonderful blend of economy and creativity, an amazing piece of work emerges.

This week in my writing class we discussed what makes the perfect page in a picture book. 

I am curious to what others think.

Writers...Weigh In!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cleaning Before the Maid Arrives

Last night I had terrible writer's block.  I have been working on a manuscript for the past week or so, and it is just not "right" yet.  Its not what is in my head or what my vision is for the piece.  Which is fine.  That just means that I am not done yet.  And I know there are many revisions in my future.

However, the issue is that I have to submit something to my writing class tonight for critique.

I was planning on submitting this manuscript, but I truly thought it would be further along and "in a better place" by today.  But the truth is, it isn't.

So...I am struggling. 

1)  I need to submit something tonight and this is all I have.
2)  It needs a lot of work.  I could use some help figuring out what to do with it.  So in that case my class might be helpful in their critiques.
3)  It is not something I am super proud of at this point in time, so I am leary to "put it out there" as a representation of me. 

Is this along the same lines as cleaning before the maid arrives?

Shouldn't I be excited to get some feedback and direction on something that I am currently working on? I mean, this is not the same as submitting to an agent or editor before I piece is ready.  This is purely educational.

Does anyone else struggle with this?  Any advice on how to feel better about submitting this piece? 

Any pros or cons to submitting a work for critique before its "ready"?  Share them here!  I would to hear your responses.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Today's Treat: Writing with Class

Today's Treat is a Friday segment which deals with the following two concepts:
1) Find ways to treat yourself like a writer. (build confidence and craft)
2) Find situations where others will treat you like a writer. (build connections and community)

And for Today's Treat we are going to deal with something that meets both of these needs within myself...Writing Class!

I have been enrolled in a Writing Class since last Fall and I have to say, it has become such a wonderful part of who I am as a writer.  I truly feel that the writing class I am taking at Gotham Writer's Workshop in NYC fulfills the 4c's for me fairly well (confidence, craft, connections and community).

I highly recommend joining a writing class.  If you cannot find one in your own area, you can enroll in an online class like those taught at Gotham Writers Workshop ( 

Also, seek out classes that allow you the opportunity to receive individual critiques on your own work in addition to lessons about the craft. 

If cost is a problem, calculate how much a class is per session.  For example, a $400 semester for 10 weeks of classes comes out to $40/week.  What can you trim from your weekly spending to make this happen?  Eating lunch out everyday?  Try packing instead.  Morning Coffee?  Brew at home.  The savings will add up...and with a writing class in your routine, your confidence, craft, community and connections will be on the rise!  :)

Who has a writing class Success Story to share?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wednesday Writers Weigh In: Celebrity Read Aloud Game

In honor of World Read Aloud Day, let's play a little game!

If you could have ANY celebrity read one of your manuscripts aloud, who would you choose?

Would you need a calm, steady, peaceful voice like Morgan Freeman?  Or spooky and mysterious like Vincent Price?  Or quirky with great comic timing like Ellen DeGeneres? 

For my manuscript "Martin and Cyril in the Crevice of No Return" I would pick Will Farrell.  His playful, child like character would lend itself nicely to the madcap adventure of the story.

Now its your turn!  Pick one of your manuscripts and play along!

Clifford outside Books of Wonder in NYC today.  He was greeting kids for World Read Aloud Day!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Creating "Read-Aloudability"

Wednesday is "World Read Aloud Day" sponsored by LitWorld and therefore I will be spending much of the day at Books of Wonder in NYC in celebration.  All day they will have activities for kids, including authors and other members of the community reading stories aloud.  Its guaranteed to be a really special day. 

I got to thinking, what are the components necessary for a story to have "Read Aloud-ability"?  As Picture Book writers we are constantly striving for this.  We want to be that book that kids want to hear over and over again...but how do you create such a story?

Obviously liking a story or not and wanting it to be read aloud is partly subjective.  But, as a writer it is worth looking at some of the building blocks of the best stories to read aloud.  Below I have laid out "4 Guideposts to a Book with Read-Aloudability".

1)  Rhythm ~ a story that has good read-aloudability will be easy to read and will flow for the reader.  I think of a number of Dr. Seuss books, although to have rhythm books do not have to rhyme.  Included in the rhythm would be stories like "Runaway Bunny" by Margaret Wise Brown.  Through the repetition of certain sentence structures the story provides a very rhythmic telling.

2)  Pacing ~ a story that creates a wonderful build with each page turn.  The payoff when the page is turned might be humorous, scary or satisfying, but it should never be predictable.  Using anticipation and surprise workds well, too. Think of Bob Shea's "Dinosaur Vs" series and a little subtly, Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are".  Both stories utilize the page turns nicely.  Pacing can also be used to relax the child, such as in "Goodnight, Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown.

3)  Provides opportunity for discussion ~ remember that picture books are meant to be a shared experience between kids and the adult reader.  Therefore, picture books can (although not always) raise questions safely.  Books like "Julius, the Baby of the World" by Kevin Henkes and "Miss Nelson is Missing" by Harry Allard both deal with some big issues on a lighter note...but allow room for kids and parents/adults to have a conversation about such issues.

4)  Illustration Discoveries ~ when talking about picture books one must take illustrations into consideration.  Illustrations that provide lots to look at allow a book to be experienced over and over again and perhaps something new will be seen each time.  When faced with the "Again!" at the end of a story I usually like to just thumb through the book and say "Can you see the yellow hat? How about the cow?"  This allows the book to be enjoyed on a different level and provides fun for both the reader and child.

On March 7th the world with be celebrating the art of the Read Aloud.  Make sure to share one of your favorites with someone special. 

Oh...and Happy Writing!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Today's Treat: If Writing is Your Job...

Today's Treat is my new Friday segment in which we look at the two basic fundamentals of:

1) treating yourself like a writer a
2) putting yourself in situations where others will treat you like a writer.

Readers of this blog know that this week was a tough one for me.  I was having a difficult time balancing life (my real job, social engagements, cooking, cleaning, race training, etc) with my writing.  This caused me to have a "freak out" in which I didn't get anything done.  I was paralyzed.  Therefore, I posted asking for advice on how to deal with this.  (Anyone notice that I posted the Wednesday's Weigh In on Tuesday??  I was that mixed up this week!!!)

Many of you suggested that I make writing a priority and treat it like my job.  It was also suggested that I find any little time available (while commuting, before bed, in bed, in the shower etc) to write so that those writing projects get done.  These are great suggestions, but...I am going to take the opposite approach for Today's Treat. 

If you are going to treat yourself as a writer and therefore treat writing as your need to find time to "clock out".  Otherwise you run the danger of being a "workaholic".  What would you think if someone close to you was constantly answering emails from work, checking work related stuff on the internet and doing work?  In bed, on the way to work, in the middle of the night...not healthy!

I propose we take a stand right now to deem some areas of our life sacred.  These areas are places where working is not acceptable.  Yes, creativity comes to us at weird times...I know the shower always does this for me.  But write it down and then move on.  Come back to it during regular business hours.

Working constantly is not healthy...even if you love your work.  For your own health and for the loved ones around you...take time to take care of you. 

I took a hard look at my schedule this week and I assigned ONE writing project for each day.  Therefore, I am sure that everything will get done in its time...but I can also rest assured that I am not overworked and overwhelmed.  I also deemed after 6pm (evenings and dinner time) as sacred.  Once my boyfriend comes home from work my work day is over.  If I have any creative flashes during this time I will note them on paper and move on.  The evenings and dinner will be my time to unwind.

My challenge for you this week is to carve out some time in your busy schedule as "sacred"...meaning NO WRITING!  Maybe if you are feeling incredibly overwhelmed or scattered you could actually benefit from a "personal day"...or as we used to call it at my career job, "a mental health day".  But in any case, taking a break from work can actually fuel the work you do when its time.

Perhaps for you its mornings or afternoons or all day Saturday.  But find that time.  Then and only then are you treating writing as a REAL job.

When can you take time this week?  Please share your thoughts below.