Friday, November 30, 2012

Twyla Tharp, Anne Lamott, Rituals and a sleeve of Saltines

I'm not gonna lie.  Twyla Tharp has been stressing me out this week. Sometimes I wonder how my Type A personality is going to survive 12 weeks studying this book.  I've been obsessing over the need to create a ritualistic routine in my daily life...its not easy. 

Last night I had the amazing opportunity to attend A Conversation with Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) at Symphony Space in NYC.  I adore Anne Lamott.  She has a way of being so honest.  She doesn't make excuses for who she is.  All the while, she makes me laugh.  I love that. 

I was ready to sit back, relax and relieve some of my "Twyla stress".

Anne entered the stage.  Her first topic of conversation?  The habit of productivity.  No joke.  She said, "I need consistency, discipline and structure.  I have anxieties but thrive with routine."

OK.  I get it.  Routine works. 

Thanks, Anne.  Or should I call you Twyla?

Back home, standing over the sink eating a sleeve of Saltines (I had to skip dinner to see Anne), I got to thinking.  I felt revived.  I felt encouraged.  I felt energized.  Suddenly I wasn't feeling inadequate in regards to my lack of routine, I felt empowered to find what exactly would work for me in my life at this particular time.

What was different?  Why was a empowered by Anne, but overwhelmed by Twyla?

It was the "cosmic banana peel" as Anne calls it. 

"Remember that whenever the world throws rose petals at you, which thrill and seduce the ego, beware. The cosmic banana peel is suddenly going to appear underfoot to make sure that you don't take it all too seriously."

Anne reminds us that even the accomplished have footfalls.  They stumble.  They mess up.  And its ok. She is so open in sharing her own mistakes and laughing at them.  Apparently this works better for me, as I have a lot of "banana peels" to share.  In fact, sometimes I lie awake in bed at night and imagine the amazing blog post I will create for Elizabeth Stevens Omlor's Banana Peelin' once I am published.

So, covered in Saltine crumbs I imagined Twyla hungover, grouchy, not accomplishing a thing in her studio.  I imagined her staring at the blank space and 2 hours later the space is still blank.  I giggled as I saw phone call after phone call interrupt her moments to create.  Its kinda cruel shadenfreude, but it helps me to imagine these things.

You see, even Twyla doesn't get it right everyday.  Its about showing up.  Its about trying.  And once in awhile there will be a banana peel which will make me land on my tush.  Its ok.

So, I hope you aren't as Type A as me.  I hope Twyla hasn't been haunting you at night telling you you aren't doing enough.  Remember, this is a process, a journey.  Take a deep breath.  Try.  And if you slip...laugh.

Homework from Chapter 2:

1)  Pick up your pencil and a notebook and don't leave home without it.  Always be prepared/

2)  "Quietness without Loneliness"  Sit alone in a room and let your thoughts go wherever they will.  Do this for one minute.  Work up to ten minutes a day of this mindless mental wandering.  Then start paying attention to your thoughts to see if a word or goal materializes.  If it doesn't, extend the exercise to eleven minutes then twelve, then thirteen...until you find the length of time you need.  Note that is this the exact opposite of meditation.

3)  Face your fears and speak to them.

4)  Take a day off from the biggest distraction of your creative self.  Once you try one day, add another, or try the whole weekend or every day after 5pm.  You get the idea.  There are a lot of distractions out there--and you can live without them.  At least for a little while.

Have a wonderful weekend!  Happy Writing!

Join us next Monday as we study Chapter 3:  Your Creative DNA from "Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life" by Twyla Tharp.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday Writers Weigh In: Rituals of Preparation

Yesterday we laid out Twyla Tharp's 4 Rituals for Preparation as discussed in Chapter 2 of "Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life".  If you haven't read the post, you might want to.

A recap...

4 Rituals of Preparation:
1)  Find the environment that works for you
2)  Develop the start-up ritual that impels you forward every day.
3)  Face down your fears
4)  Put distractions in their proper place

Now that we have had time to digest and perhaps get indigestion from Twyla's suggestions, its time to reflect. 

Of Twyla's 4 Rituals, is there one element you can see yourself adopting?  Is there a way to try one of her methods this week? What spoke to you?  What do you struggle with?

Writers, Weigh In and let us know what your take-away from Chapter 2 is.

And join us on Friday, when I will provide some exercises/homework to help you.  :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Creative Habit": #2) Rituals for Preparation

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”  Stephen King, On Writing
When I first started my blog and called it “The Write Routine” it was because I wanted to do just that…create a routine in my life that allowed me to practice my art daily.  I was seeking to find a way to allow this creativity to be a part of my everyday life. 

Well, here I am 15 months later and I still do not have a daily routine, or ritual as Twyla Tharp calls it.
The problem is that my “real life” routine keeps changing.  My job duties have changed, my living arrangements changed, my social obligations change, etc.  Yet there is a very deep longing within myself to have a writing routine. 

It’s what I equivocate with “living the life of the writer.”  Sitting down in the same place every day, at the same time and creating.  It’s what makes me wish I could quit my job. 
But what I really need to do is learn how to make room for this ritual in my life AND have my real life, too.  And that is going to take some real soul-searching.

I know many writers get up before the sun to have “their time” before the rest of their world wakes up.  But for some reason, this has been a difficult thing for me.  I like my sleep.  AND, when I am training for a marathon, I have to use that time for running.  Grrrrrr.  But once the rest of the day begins, it slips away and I have not taken that time for my craft that I should have.
In Chapter 2 of “The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life”, Twyla Tharp lays out her “Rituals for Preparation”.  She believes the very thing that worries me: ritual is taking your art seriously.
“Doing the same simple act the same way each morning habitualizes it—makes it repeatable, easy to do.  It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently”.

Now, it’s easy to think of Twyla as a machine that cannot be stopped.  But she does admit to sometimes wanting to skip her daily ritual of climbing out of bed a 5:30am every single morning to hail a cab and head to the gym for a 2 hour workout.  “But the quasi-religious power I attach to this ritual keeps me from rolling over and going back to sleep.”  She takes it seriously.
But simply rolling out of bed, although quite a feat on a cold morning is not enough.

Tharp outlines 4 Preparations for Beginning:
1.       Select the environment that works for you

A lot of habitually creative people have preparation rituals linked to the setting in which they choose to start their day.  By putting themselves into that environment, they begin their creative day.

Whether it’s at a desk with a cup of hot coffee, on a patio under an umbrella, in a studio with music blaring, it is important to find a space that alerts you that it is time to work.

“There is no one idea condition for creativity.  Make it easy on yourself.  Find a working environment where the prospect of wrestling with your muse doesn’t scare you, doesn’t shut you down.  When you enter into them, they impel you to get started.  Its Pavlovian: follow the routine, get a creative payoff.”

The key is to have a place where the magic occurs.  Sure, sometimes we may feel the need to venture out to a park or a museum, but we should always return.

Where do you do your work?

2.       Develop the start-up ritual that impels you forward every day.

Kathryn Erskine, YA author of Quaking and Mockingbird, spoke at the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC last January and encouraged us to stay focused, to make time for ourselves and our craft. 

She spoke of a candle that she lights at the beginning of her writing session.  For her, this candle was a reminder of her creative spirit.  When it was lit, it was a symbol to start work.  At the end of her writing session she would blow it out.  What a beautiful ritual.

Maybe for you its brewing that cup of tea and then placing on it on the desk.  Maybe its turning on the radio and firing up the computer.  Or simply hitting a certain word count a day.  There is no right or wrong answer, but do you have a ritual that marks your creative time?  Tharp states that it is these rituals that keep us focused on our goals.  When you enter into them, they impel you to get started.  Its Pavlovian: follow the routine, get a creative payoff.”

3.       Face down your fears.

“No one starts a creative endeavor without a certain amount of fear; the key is to learn how to keep free-floating fears from paralyzing you before you’ve begun.”

Picture Book author Deb Lund recently blogged for PiBoIdMo and called these fears “Miss Midge”.  Miss Midge is the nasty voice that says miserable things to her.  Lund suggests to “name that beast inside you and move on.”

But how to do that?  Tharp recommends writing down your fears and then creating a pep talk to battle each one.

Tharp's top 5 fears are quite common and you might be able to relate:

1)            People will laugh at me

2)            Someone has done it before.

3)            I have nothing to say.

4)            I will upset someone I love.

5)            Once executed, the idea will never be as good as it is in my mind.

So she addresses each fear directly. 

One of my biggest fears is “My writing isn’t good.”  To combat this I remember past critiques where people really liked my work.  I remind myself of the growth I have been able to see in my work over the past year and the improvement that is evident. 

Take your top 5 “Miss Midge” naggings and battle them. Write them down.  Remind yourself.  Do this now, don’t wait til she speaks.  Get your fuel to stop her now.

4.       Put your distractions in their proper place.

In addition to your fears, distractions can be just as destructive. 
What is it that keeps you from working?

For me, it used to be the tv.  I would get sucked into some stupid mindless show and waste time.  However, a few years ago I took Stephen King’s advice to “blow up my tv”.  I have never been more free.

But now the distraction is social media.  My blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  Its wonderful to be part of such a vibrant community of writers online, but often I find myself talking about writing more than I actually write.  Therein lies a big problem.

And what does Twyla say about this?  I am sure you can guess it.  You need to rid yourself of the distractions.
“Subtracting your dependence on some of the things you take for granted increases your independence.  Its liberating, forcing you to rely on your own ability rather than your customary crutches.”

What are your distractions?  Challenge yourself to do without them for a day, or two or a week. 
I don’t know about you…but I realize that I have A LOT of preparation to do.  But remember, this is a journey.  Where we are today will not be where we are tomorrow.  It’s about growth and learning. 
Do not get overwhelmed with the information listed here, but maybe choose one step that you want to utilize or improve upon in your own practice.  Be kind and gentle to yourself.   Its called practice for a reason.

Stay tuned this week as we continue our preparation with activities on Wed and Fri.

Monday, November 26, 2012

To Thine Self Be...Kind

As I prepared for today's post about Chapter 2 in "The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life" by Twyla Tharp, I felt the need to pause and address a few other things.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to be us. 

Although Chapter 2 is filled with "you shoulds" about living the creative life, the truth is that not everything works for everyone.  And as I read it I started to feel a little overwhelmed at all that I was "doing wrong".  The last thing I want is for YOU to feel the same way.

Of course, there is a certain amount of striving and determination that is need to truly see our goals through.  But I want you to think for a moment.  If you were GUARANTEED that your end goal was going to happen, wouldn't you ease up a tad?  Wouldn't you be a little more forgiving about missteps and taking time to just breathe?

This time of year is so very hectic.  In fact, the month of November is chock full of so many challenges (literally) for writers.  There's NaNoWriMo for those novelists trying to complete an entire first draft in one month.  There's 12x12 for picture book writers who need to complete a mansucript a month for the entire year.  There's PiBoIdMo in which writers create 30 picture book ideas.  Its a tough month.

Add to that the impending holiday stress, end of the year stress, illnesses, day jobs, family obligations, etc.  Oy, November!

So, instead of adding to the stress with my post today, I wanted to kick off the week with an oath to be gentler to yourself.  I know I need a reminder.

It's ok to not be all things to all people and to once in awhile fall short.

Visualize your end goal.  I bet its a vivid visualization because you have spent so much time thinking about it.  Well, right now tell yourself that it WILL happen.  You have the drive and the determination.  Now relax.  Breathe.

Does it help? I know it does for me.  It will happen, so today I just need to make a little step.  No need to get frustrated.  No need to feel overwhelmed or not good enough.

Be gentle.  Be kind.  Believe.

I, _________________, do solemnly swear to be kind to myself.
I vow to treat my creative self gently and with love.
I choose to value my non-writer life, knowing that the experiences that I have in other areas help make me a well-rounded individual and might, indeed, spark a story somewhere down the road.  So, I will not despise or get frustrated with other commitments but choose to be present and observant instead.
I will take time daily to focus on what I have done and not what I haven't. 
I will find ways to relish the process and have fun along the way.  Knowing that each word I write is a gift to be savored. 
I will fight hard to abolish the spirit of not doing enough! 
I will allow myself seasons to relax and not write, even if that means I am not fulfilling an online challenge or a submission to my critique group.
I relinquish the clock that seems to be ticking and telling me that I am moving too slowly.
I will surround myself with individuals and community who feed my creative spirit. 
I will stop comparing my journey to the journey of others.  I will celebrate other's accomplishments knowing that my accomplishments will be unique to me and me alone.
I will stop judging my writing pursuits with harshness, instead looking at what can be learned along the way.
I acknowledge that not every single piece of "writerly advice" fits my particular situation and might not work for me. Therefore, there is no need to wear it all...just the bits that fit.
I will ease up on the trying and just only I can. 

Join The Write Routine tomorrow, Tuesday November 27th as we continue "The Creative Habit" with Chapter 2: Rituals of Preparation.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"Creative Habit": #1) I Walk into a White Room

"Creative Habit" is a 12 week series based on "The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life" by Twyla Tharp (Simon & Schuster, 2005).  This book is out of print. 

Picture this:  A blank computer screen.  An empty canvas.  An untouched notebook.

What emotions come up when you think of staring at this white space?

For some it is scary.  Others, paralyzing.  For some, exhilarating.
Twyla Tharp describes this as “the moment before creativity begins.”

But, what makes someone creative? How does someone face the empty page, the empty stage and making something where nothing existed before? It is not just a dilemma for the artist, it is something everyone faces everyday. What will I cook that isn't boring? How can I make that memo persuasive? What sales pitch will increase the order, get me the job, lock in that bonus? These too, are creative acts, and they all share a common need: proper preparation. For Twyla Tharp, creativity is no mystery; it's the product of hard work and preparation, of knowing one's aims and one's subject, of learning from approaches taken in the past. It's a process undertaken every day. It's a habit. “The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life” (Simon & Schuster, 2005) is not merely a look inside the mind of a remarkable woman with remarkable skills, but a programmatic, inspiring, encouraging guide to help each of us achieve our fullest creative potential.
1)       Establish a routine.

2)       Set a daily/weekly goal.

3)       Be disciplined.

“Over time, as the daily routine becomes second nature, discipline morphs into habit, “ states Tharp.
I met Twyla Tharp in 2005 while working on some educational initiatives for her Billy Joel-inspired Broadway musical, Movin’ Out.  Although some read her serious exterior as gruff, I quickly learned that Twyla Tharp was both brilliant and an incredibly hard worker.

She opens her book by describing her own daily routine, starting at 5:30am in a cab on the way to a studio for 2 hours of working out and dancing.  She never deviates from this routine, and it shows in her success.  Tharp is a woman who has gotten where she is, not by sheer talent, but by hard work and determination.

And “The Creative Habit” is a book about that hard work.  Its about building skill.  It’s a book about preparation.  “In order to be creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative.”  Throughout the book, Tharp gives exercises to make us stretch, get stronger and lasts longer.  It is her belief that this hard work is what pays off…not just being naturally good.
“It takes skill to bring something you’ve imagined into the world.  No one is born with that skill.  It is developed through exercise, through repetition, through a blend of learning and reflection that’s both painstaking and rewarding.  And it takes time.”

Are you ready to put in the hard work? 
Throughout the next 11 weeks, I will be reflecting on and providing exercises from “The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life” each Monday.  If you want to establish a routine, set goals and therefore be disciplined about your work as a writer, please feel free to join me. 

Together we will learn to embrace the empty white space.  Together we can develop the Creative Habit.

 Favorite Quotes from Chapter One:
“The blank space can be humbling. But I’ve faced it my whole professional life. It’s my job. It’s also my calling. Bottom line: Filling this empty space constitutes my identity."

“The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more.  And this routine is available to everyone.  Creativity is not just for artists.”

“Creativity augmented by routine and habit.”

“Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits.  That’s it in a nutshell.”
“If art is the bridge between what you see in your mind and what the world sees, then skill is how you build that bridge.”

“Everything is raw material.  Everything is relevant.  Everything is usable.  Everything feeds into my creativity.  But without proper preparation, I cannot see it, retain it, and use it.  Without the time and effort invested in getting ready to create, you can be hit by the thunderbolt and it’ll leave you stunned.”

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tying up Ends and Making Bows PLUS A Winner!

Well, its Friday.  I don't know where the week went.

I realize that I have a few housekeeping bits to settle.

First, I never took a moment to thank the amazing authors who shared their stories during WriWOPi in October!  What a fabulous series!  I am truly honored to have hosted Ame Dyckman, Tammi Sauer, Amy Dixon, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Deborah Underwood. Thank you for sharing your stories.

I also want to thank everyone for your support as I embarked on a new journey of creating Teacher's Guides for Picture Books.  I launched this business by sharing the guides that I recently developed for Corey Rosen Schwartz's THE THREE NINJA PIGS and Amy Dixon's MARATHON MOUSE.  The response has been wonderful and I have booked 4 guides for other authors.  If YOU are interested, please feel free to email me at for more information on a Common Teacher's Guide for your book.

And because of your incredible support, I was contacted this week by Dianne de Las Casas (Picture Book Month) and asked to be the Education Consultant for PBM and create a special reference guide for the website.  Wow!  How exciting! 

Lastly, I have been quite vocal on the blog over the last few weeks about my doubts and struggles.  To help me through this, I will be starting a new series on Monday based on "The Creative Habit" by Twyla Tharp. 

All it takes to make creativity a part of your life is the willingness to make it a habit. It is the product of preparation and effort, and is within reach of everyone. Whether you are a painter, musician, businessperson, or simply an individual yearning to put your creativity to use, The Creative Habit provides you with thirty-two practical exercises based on the lessons Twyla Tharp has learned in her remarkable thirty-five-year career. In "Where's Your Pencil?" Tharp reminds you to observe the world -- and get it down on paper. In "Coins and Chaos," she gives you an easy way to restore order and peace. In "Do a Verb," she turns your mind and body into coworkers. In "Build a Bridge to the Next Day," she shows you how to clean the clutter from your mind overnight. Tharp leads you through the painful first steps of scratching for ideas, finding the spine of your work, and getting out of ruts and into productive grooves. The wide-open realm of possibilities can be energizing, and Twyla Tharp explains how to take a deep breath and begin...

This book is out of print, however, I will be sharing its wisdom and leading YOU through the exercises.  May the next 12 weeks offer us time to creatively grow.

Lastly, I forgot to announced the winner of the signed copy of MARATHON MOUSE by Amy Dixon!  Thank you to all who commented and tweeted. 

The winner is...



Have a wonderful weekend, folks!  See you on Monday!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday Writers Weigh In: My 2 Published Books...kinda

It is often said that there are only a few stories out there, a few ideas and they keep getting recycled over and over.  This is said mainly by editors, agents, and writing teachers who claim that originality is hard to come by.  Its usually used as a battle cry to find something unique.  Something fresh.

But its true.  And here is my "story"...which I am sure you all have experienced, too.

My first published book came out in 2010 and was published by Greenwillow Books...which is crazy because I don't have an agent and never sent in a query.  It was just published.

I came up with the idea while participating in PiBoIdMo 2011.  Yes, my book that was published in 2010 was an idea that I didn't come up with til 2011.  What's the confusion?

My 3rd idea for PiBoIdMo last year says, "A porcupine desperately wants a balloon.  Everyone else at birthday parties gets a balloon...except porcupines...for obvious reasons.  But Milford (the procupine) is determined to find a way!"

You guessed it!  My book has the EXACT same premise at the uber-talented Deborah Underwood's A BALLOON FOR ISABEL.  Wow, right?  Guess I won't be spending any time on that idea. 


As a participant in 12x12 this year, I came up with my August manuscript and was feeling quite pleased.  In fact, its gone through a lot of revisions.  And I'll admit that I am not incredibly happy with the climax and resolution....but I truly felt, up until last night, that I was getting closer.

Last night I had some time to kill and I decided to feed my writer's soul by browsing the shelves at Books of Wonder. 

While browsing the Picture Book section I spotted a book on the bottom shelf that caught my eye.  I had never seen it or heard of it before and just by the title I could tell that it was "similar" to my August 12x12 manuscript.
Internal Spread from the Stan Wackarrino book in question.
I said to myself, "Self, you probably shouldn't pick that up and read case you get influenced by it."  However, I was curious and I opened up the book.  To my dismay it had the EXACT climax and resolution to my August manuscript!!!  I couldn't believe it!

Now I don't want to give too much away, but it was published in 2001 by a highly-respected and often-published author/illustrator who's name rhymes with Stan Wackarrino. 

I was crushed.  This was not just an "idea" of mine that I found on the shelves.  It was a MANUSCRIPT that I had poured myself...along with Stan Wackarrino apparently...into.

So what is the takeaway?
  • I know firsthand that a truly original idea is hard to come by.
  • There is at least a part of me that is proud to have the same ideas as some of the best in the biz. That must count for something. 
  • Its back to the drawing board.  Time to take my "Stan Wackarrino-esque" story and turn it on its head.  Find a new twist.  Make it fresher.
  • Being a writer is tough.
What about you, writers?  Do you have similar stories?
Weigh In and share.  I bet we find out that even our frustrations are NOT original.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The "Morning After": One Conference Attendee's Struggle

For an SCBWI conference attendee, the "morning after" can pack a lot of emotion.  And believe me, I felt them all during today's coffee time, reflecting back on this past weekend's NJ SCBWI Craft Weekend.

T. Lazar, J, Hedlund, me, A. Raynor and P. Nozell
at the NJ SCBWI conference in June 2012
Happiness that I have such wonderful, talented friends in my life and that we are pursuing the BEST career ever!

Sadness that I have to wait til the next conference to see some of them.

Excitement to get back to work and revise, write, repeat!

Exhaustion from the constant amazing information shared.

And even some doubt. 

Yes, doubt.

Although I try to be realistic, there is always that hope that somehow I will wow an agent and editor and become the buzz at the conference.  There is that hope that this conference will be "the one" when my career will REALLY start. 

And then on the way home, with my folder full of notes and critiques I start to doubt that I even have what it takes to do anything more than party with writers.  I want to be on those bookshelves beside them.  I want  to talk about promoting books and what my school visits have been like.

I start to doubt myself.  My writing.

Pursuing a career as a writer is a struggle.  But what does that mean, exactly?

I heard a report on NPR this morning about the differences between how the East view struggle versus how the West views struggle.  I found it very interesting.

Within this report, Jim Stigler, Professor of Psychology at UCLA states,"I think that from very early ages we [in America] see struggle as an indicator that you're just not very smart," Stigler says. "It's a sign of low ability — people who are smart don't struggle, they just naturally get it, that's our folk theory. Whereas in Asian cultures they tend to see struggle more as an opportunity."
In Eastern cultures, Stigler says, it's just assumed that struggle is a predictable part of the learning process. Everyone is expected to struggle in the process of learning, and so struggling becomes a chance to show that you, the student, have what it takes emotionally to resolve the problem by persisting through that struggle. 
To read the entire transcript or listen to the story, click here.  It really is a fascinating report.
But back to my "morning after".  My doubt.
Today I choose to embrace my struggle.  To persist.  To look for the joy in the sweat and the hardwork.  To celebrate the process.  To learn from the disappointment and doubt.
I might not be a superstar after attending my event this past weekend but I am one step closer.  One day closer. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

MARATHON MOUSE: A Teacher's Guide and a Giveaway!

It is well known that things don't often go as planned and today is a good indication of that.
You see, today I was planning on writing a blog entry about my own experiences of running the NYC Marathon and tie it into Preston Mouse's experiences in the adorable book MARATHON MOUSE by Amy Dixon, illustrated by Sam Denlinger.  However, anyone with access to the news media knows that that particular blog entry is not possible for me to write today. 
But there is a lesson here. 
Just because dreams don't happen as you had planned, you need to keep chasing them.  I think if there is anything that Preston Mouse would like us to take away from his story, it is just that.  Thank you, Amy Dixon for sharing a tale of dreams, struggle and triumph.  Keep on, keepin' on.
And remember...there is ALWAYS a reason to celebrate...
You see, I was given the opportunity to create a Teacher's Guide for MARATHON MOUSE and today you have the opportunity to both read that guide AND enter to win your own signed copy of the book!
AND...if you are interested...

I can develop a guide for you to share with teachers and librarians, as well as tailored lessons and activities that you can use for your Author Visits.
I am a former teacher and I am here to help! I am currently creating Teacher’s Guides for Picture Books, Middle Grade novels and Young Adult novels.

You will receive:

· An initial phone consultation to talk about your wants and needs.
· An a la carte menu for your guide. Pick and choose which topics you want covered, or go all the way with a thorough cross-curricular option.
· Activities created specifically for your Author Visits.
· A guide fully developed to enrich students’ experiences.
· Lessons and activities which are "core curriculum standard compliant".

· Options for every budget!
I just love helping students connect and engage with a piece of literature so that it suddenly comes alive for the individual!  
Click here to see the Teacher's Guide for MARATHON MOUSE by Amy Dixon and illustrated by Sam Denlinger.
If you are interested in contacting me about developing a guide for your book, please email me at
To enter to win the signed copy of MARATHON MOUSE, become a follower of me (MarcieColleen1) on Twitter or be a follower of this blog AND comment below. The winner will be chosen over the weekend and notified next week.  THANK YOU, AMY! 
Marcie Colleen has a bachelor’s degree in Education of English and Language Arts from Oswego State Unversity and a Masters degree in Educational Theater from New York University. She is a former classroom teacher in New York State. She has served as a curriculum creator for the Central New York Institute of Aesthetic Education, Syracuse Stage, Tony Randall’s National Actors Theater, and various Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, as well as the International Lysistrata Project in 2003. She was the Director of Education for TADA! Youth Theater in NYC creating and managing educational programming reaching over 30,000 students and families in the NYC Metro area a year. She lives in Brooklyn, NY and is swiftly chasing the dream to picture book publication for her own stories.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I am a "Would Be Marathoner" and Proud

To all of my many friends and family who reached out to me this week, I want to thank you.  Your encouragement and love has been amazing.  I hesitated in writing anything about my experiences this past weekend, because I don’t want it to sound like I am patting myself on the back or saying “look what I did.”  But I am a writer, and something inside me felt like this story needed to be told. 
I am not looking for congratulations.  Just awareness to the good of people all over this area.  The anger and hate get tiring.  Just want to throw some positivity in there. 
Thanks for reading…

Runners have strong hearts.  This is evident from the several months of training through all kinds of weather, over all kinds of terrain, at hours others would rather be sleeping.  Strength training, hill training, speed training and long training every Saturday morning for the past 5 months.    Giving up trips, social engagements, sleep etc. 
We train for many different reasons.  Some run to symbolize a certain personal achievement.  To prove they can.  To celebrate their own strength and personal victory.  Others run for charity, raising millions of dollars for those who cannot run.
It is both an invigorating and exhausting journey. 
I am not going to lie and say that the cancelation of the marathon was not a huge disappointment.  It was. Had it been canceled on Tuesday or Wednesday, it would had been easier to take, than 36 hours before the race.   I had spent most of the week torn as to whether to run when so many were hurting anyway.  It was also hard to read countless nasty comments and articles online vilifying marathoners.  Comments about people who run the marathon deserving to be shot were quite hard to take.  It was evident that NYC needed someone to be angry at during the trying time.  The marathon served as that. 
I found out the marathon was canceled while on my way to the Team in Training Inspiration Dinner. At first I wanted to turn around and not go to the dinner.  Afterall, I didn’t really feel like being inspired at the moment.  All of the emotions of the rollercoaster-like week came crashing down.  But, I have learned through marathon training, when you don’t want to go on…you do just that.  You go on.
Of course, the Inspiration Dinner was very emotional.  There were many tears.  But also, a celebration.  The New York City TNT chapter’s 515 NYC Marathon team members raised over $2.2 million for cancer research and support services for patients.  This is $400,000 more than last year’s team.  Without even setting foot at the start line, we had accomplished a lot.  It was evident, we had a lot to be proud of.
But there was still so much more to do.
Saturday morning my Brooklyn team met in Prospect Park.  Carrying the warm throw-away clothes we planned to wear at the start line, bags of towels,  jugs of water and cans of food.  We loaded up two cars to capacity and sent them on to relief efforts in the NYC area.
And then, it was marathon Sunday.  As planned, over 100 of my teammates got our busses to Staten Island, but with a different purpose.  With rakes and shovels and work gloves galore, we traveled over the Verrazano Bridge to one of the hardest hit areas of Staten Island.  A short drive from the “would be” starting line. 
There we were exposed to devastation I cannot even begin to describe.  And we got to work, cleaning up alongside those who had been affected.  We emptied basements of muddied belongings, we ripped out carpeting and insulation, we tore down sheet rock and dry wall.  And in doing so, we created some of the largest piles of garbage I have ever seen.  Garbage that used to be people’s homes.  It was heart breaking.
We saw lots of other marathoners there, as well, from other teams or brought there by their own heart.
At the end of the long day, we boarded our busses and that’s when it was the hardest.  To get back in our busses and wave goodbye to or hug those poor Staten Islanders who would have to stay there in the cold with only NYPD flood lights to illuminate them as they continued a job that wasn’t going to end soon. 
As we quietly drove across the Verrazano Bridge, a bridge we had spent months or years dreaming of running over this particular day, a teammate solemnly held up an iPhone and played Sinatra’s “New York, New York”.   The grief was palpable.  Off we rode to our warm, powered Brooklyn apartments while those we had met were still hurting.  It was overwhelming.
So, although it has always been evident that marathoners have strong hearts, it is very clear that we have BIG hearts, too.  I am proud of my team and all that they have done to help the recovery. We might have read ridiculing accounts in local papers and on the internet, but we know the truth.  And those we helped this weekend do, too. 
There is still so much work to be done.  I urge anyone who can, find time to volunteer at a local shelter or in a neighborhood clean up effort.

We will continue to reach out as a team.  We will continue to help heal our city.  And next year, November 2013 we will run proudly through the greatest city on Earth and be proud of our “would be 2012 marathoner” title.    

Friday, November 2, 2012

Quite a week

Its been quite a week here in the NYC area.
I apologize but there is no Friendspiration today.
On Sunday I will be running the NYC Marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. 
It has been a difficult decision during this time of despair. 
I searched my heart...and I am going to run.  But it is with a heavy heavy heart.
Please continue to pray and donate to the rescue and relief.
I am pretty fried right now and cannot post all of the links I want to for resource.  (ie. The Red Cross).  Please feel free to post comments regarding ways to help below.