Monday, December 27, 2010

How-To Books: What I'm Reading

Winter is officially here, and I am at leisure to catch up on my reading. Winter is a time for me to learn much more about the writing process. I've got three books I'm studying. A Step in the Write Direction by Donna Clark Goodrich, and Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, and Louise DeSalvo's Writing as a Way of Healing. These books came at a great time, and I study them each day.

Donna's book has a chapter on writing devotionals, and I was reading it right when I received an opportunity to submit to a book anthology of devotionals. I am applying her tips as I write. Perfect timing, God's timing.

Bell's book is written just right for my simple thinking brain. I understand all of his suggestions and ideas. There are easy exercises at the end of each chapter (I know, I hate exercises, also, but these are fun). Where was he sixteen years ago when I began my writing journey? Trying out his wings, I'm sure.

Last but not least, DeSalvo's book has been an amazing eye opener. I sensed by prayer that I needed to keep writing after my son passed away. Little did I know my need to write mirrors what DeSalvo recommends as a journey of healing. She says everyone, writers and non writers alike need to take up a pen or a paint brush or a crochet needle and express their deep hurts for an audience of one.

Thought I'd pass along these great reads. I'm certain you won't be disappointed.

Until next time . . . read and write.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Google Alerts: A Fast Way To Research

I heard about Google Alerts several months ago. It is a fine way to have an agent or editors' information sent right to your inbox. All without having to spend hours researching.

I'm using Google Alerts for my agent search. I've set up a Google Alerts file that I add to whenever I receive new alerts. When I'm ready to further explore the agents that may take what I'm writing, I have the information at my fingertips. If I wanted to know when my name appears on the Internet, I can add that to Google Alerts. There is an edit option where you can stop a search if you wish.

To learn how to sign up, go to Google Alerts. It is a simple few steps, and you'll receive just what you asked.

Until next time . . .

Thursday, November 11, 2010

To Read Or Not To Read

This question has bothered me. A lot. I write, but I also read. I dearly love to read. Writing is hard, hard work, although rewarding and a passion of mine. But, I read to learn of other worlds, when shouldn't I be writing?

I know people who read even more than I do. Why aren't they writers? Don't they know more than me because they read volumes every year?

I am here to settle this little nagging reading/writing thing once and for all.

If I need to get myself back in the chair to write, I better write. If my brain is on overload, I should take a break to read. Read in the genre I write. Read what I want to write about in the future and to see how it's done.

There is so much to learn about writing and creating a story, so I need my how-to books and magazines, but I also need to read children's books to show me how that's done.

I need to pace myself a bit and spend more time at my keyboard. Oh, but I forget, there are times I neglect my books, because my mind goes a mile a second and my fingers can't keep up on the keyboard.

How about you, Dear Readers? Could you share how you've handled this topic of when to read and when to write? Do you read too much?

Check out one writer's ideas on time for reading and writing here. And plain ol' life.

And this writer, Natalie Bahm has the perfect idea for time to read more. Why didn't I think of audio books? Sigh!

Until next time . . . read, listen, and write.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Are You My Mother?" by P.D. Eastman: The Early Reader Of Hope

I read this book "Are You My Mother?" to my children at least fifty times. To be honest, that includes me reading it long after they couldn't sit still any longer. I remember being alone, no children around, when the baby bird's sad words struck me-- "Where is my mother?"

Yeah, where is my mother? I wondered.

I'm not stretching the truth when I say this book became my first attempt to understand Mom.

When I first began reading "Are You My Mother?" I wasn't sure why I was so enamored with this book. I felt silly sneaking moments to read it while my children played outside or were at school. Wasn't there a law that a child should be present at the reading of a children's story? What was it about this book? Was it the illustrations? Darling ones for sure, but I knew the answer came from the words and their meaning to me. I kept pouring over what P.D.'s baby bird decided. "Now I will go and find my mother.

You may be wondering why I needed to find my mom.

She left my siblings and me when I turned ten. Not physically, but she was gone just the same. I watched her eat, drink, and move about the house, but the mother I knew was no longer. She had changed in a way I didn't understand. And as my teen years drew closer, Mom became a stranger and more lost. Then, right after my thirteenth birthday, Mom had a severe mental breakdown, from which she never fully recovered. What caused it? A house fire that took the life of my baby sister.

I am grateful that I had ten good years with Mom. Being the eldest of eight children, I was more blessed than my younger siblings. Some of them never remembered her any way except for the new, sad Mom. Still, I suffered, watching Mom disappear.

When I began having children of my own, I missed my mother with a passion. To make matters worse, my friends talked about going to lunch with their mothers. How, afterward, their moms bought them a thing they wanted or needed. My face would burn from jealously. At these times, I left with feelings of regret for what I didn't have and what my children lacked not having a grandmother. And the even stronger emotion of longing, which turned into self pity.

By then, I had to own a copy of P.D. Eastman's "Are You My Mother?" (I got too anxious, waiting in between the times I borrowed it from the library). It was one of the first books for children that I bought. I soaked in every word and page. And kept reading P.D.'s words, "I have a mother," said the baby bird. "I know I do. I will find her. I will. I WILL!"

I would think, "How do I find my mother when she's not physically lost?"

The years flew, and Mom left this world a month before my first granddaughter's birth. The moment I saw Morgan Ann, the terrible ache in my heart flew out of its nest. I had been diligent, reading up on mental illness between "Are You My Mother?" and the day a new life joined our family. Those long years of searching naturally flowed on to an end. I reached a sort of peace about Mom.

The baby bird says in Eastman's book, "You are a bird, and you are my mother!"

If I were to write a book about my mother, it would end with, "You are broken, and you are my mother."

Over the last ten years, I struggled, again, with the issue of a loved one and mental illness. My son suffered with both physical and mental problems and died by suicide six years ago. You may follow my journey of love and loss and know there is hope in love.

Thank you, P.D. Eastman, for the book with a baby bird hero. It helped me begin a flight that moved me to here.

Until next time . . . Onward Ho!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Technical Support of Old

I just watched this You Tube of humor about books.

If you need a carefree laugh, here you go.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ready For a Time Out?

Are you ready to quit writing? You'd think I had quit by my long absence from this blog, but no, I'm writing.

If you are discouraged, today you've come to the right place. I've been discouraged plenty of times, but have not stopped writing. I've taken breaks, though. I believe if we are discouraged with our writing, we must take a time out. Whether that be a short break or a longer one.

We need to learn to be in a place to not strive so hard for that goal of publishing our first novel. If we strive overly so, we'll quit. Or make ourselves and our family nuts. That's not a healthy place to dwell.

Writing works muscles in our mind and fingers. Hard work, I tell you, even painful.

I've heard this over and over, but it's true: love the journey. At whatever we wish to pursue, love the journey.

Since I've quit striving so hard to be book published, blessings have fallen my way like a rain shower on dry ground. All the while, I still write. I still read mostly the age group of what I write. I still think of titles, lines, plots, scenes. Sometimes, I walk around writing in my head, until I can sit down to put words on screen.

Quit only if you find you'd rather pick up croqueting again. Don't quit if your passion to write and tell stories won't be silenced.

Until next time . . . read and write. Or take that time out.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Point of View

Writers hear point of view often, from workshops, magazines, books, and the Internet. Our job means for us to recall the point of view rules as we write.

Recently, I read an article in Writer's Digest on point of view by James V. Smith Jr. The article excerpted from Mr. Smith's book The Writer's Little Helper.

I thought I could learn nothing new on POV. Wrong. Mr. Smith does an excellent job in exploring the topic.

He starts by writing about understanding differences in POV, with advantages and disadvantages of each. There's first person, second person, and third person. Regarding third person, Mr. Smith explains third person unlimited omniscience. Then, he discusses third person omniscience.

What I plan to keep handy next to my computer? Mr. Smith's Quick Tip: Don't Let Your Authorial Voice Overshadow Your Character's Voice. Something I'm still struggling with, so very good job, sir.

Then, he goes on to say we can get really complex, with three or four times as many POV choices. For now, I'll stick with these basics and learn them well.

Thank you, Mr. Smith for a fine article and Writer's Digest for another great mini class on writing.

Until next time . . .

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Summer Reading Comes To A Close, And . . .

My summer reading is over. The bug to read a pile of books has wane and now it's time to read my magazine pile. And boy do I have a pile.

I subscribe to The Horn Book Magazine, Writer's Digest, and SCBWI Bulletin. I benefit as a writer and a person by reading these three periodicals. I also receive the Backwoods Home magazine for practical ideas for self-reliant living. I would be hard pressed to know which one of these magazines to drop if finances required.

As I read my backlogged pile of magazines, I realize once again, I have missed each magazine very much. But life does take over and sometimes reading materials must take a backseat. This usually happens during vegetable gardening and harvesting, which includes wood cutting season. This busy work can last several months so reading can slow down, because writing is my bigger priority. Even so, I don't plan to stop taking my magazines.

I hope I'm not the only person who is guilty of letting the magazine pile stack up. Surely someone out there suffers from the same ailment: living life!

Okay, maybe it's not an ailment, but life can get pretty dog gone hectic. Much is required of us human beings, and I wouldn't change that for all the world.

Click on the links above and see about starting your subscription to my favorite magazines.

Until next time . . . please don't negect your most important job: family.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Uncle Tom's Cabin

By far, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" captivated me more than most any book I've read to present. I can see why it sold in popularity during its time, second only to the Bible.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author, had a calling, and she responded with passion. Not only did the book speak to me of how men can enslave other men in brutality, but of what happens when a person is brave enough to write what they're passionate about.

Harriet took a great chance, and I am sure she was persecuted for having written and published "Uncle Tom's Cabin." I hope I'm not afraid to pursue what I believe I need to write and in all honesty.

"Uncle Tom's Cabin" is on my granddaughter's school reading list. Glad to know schools are still bringing this fine book out in the open.

If you haven't read "Uncle Tom's Cabin," I encourage you to take the time. I believe you'll be glad you did.

Until next time . . . Read, read, read . . . Write, write, write.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Of Homeschooling and Summer Reading of "Uncle Tom's Cabin"

Whew! That was a long, but rewarding month of homeschooling my granddaughter, Carley. She finished up a bit later than public school, and she did it with high marks. She even whipped pre-algebra (she claims her most difficult subject, but this ol' nana knows better) and got an A in that. She worked hard, and I am proud of her.

Since Carley has left, I needed to unwind. I dove into my summer reading. Why is it that summer reading means classic books to me, I don't know, but I am swept up in the world of "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

I think I may have started "Uncle Tom's Cabin" years ago, but did not finish it for lack of time. This go around, I'm reading this book through. I love Harriet Beecher Stowe's style very much and truly wish second person would come back into popularity. It feels like a diary to me, and I do enjoy the diary.

I really love that she has an unashamed Christian message about Jesus Christ. How refreshing! I do adore Uncle Tom and could only hope I gain the faith like this man before I leave this earth.

I applaud Harriet and hope every child and adult will take the time to read an amazing exposure of cruelty sprinkled with the forgiveness and love of our Lord and Saviour.

For web information on Harriet, visit here. I love her quote: "There is more done with pens than swords." So true.

Did you know that Harriet belonged to the Semi-Colon Club? Visiting the club inspired her to write.

Now if only I could stop reading long enough to catch up on my e-mails.

Until next time . . .

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Confident Writer

Do you lack confidence in your writing? Home school a child and watch your lack turn into an “I can do this” attitude.

I’m fortunate to home school my granddaughter, Carley, for four weeks. I’m helping to end her sixth grade year, while she visits from another state. I was more than a bit intimidated to take on the responsibility to teach her. Since I never finished formal high school, but took the GED test, my lack of confidence held me back some what.

No longer.

My granddaughter taught me a bit of pre-algebra as I mentioned in the last post. That was a defining moment to undo another defining moment.

My first grade teacher told my mother about me, “Your daughter is friendly, but not real smart.”

That comment created a lack in me that I’ve stumbled over my entire life. Now, at age fifty-six, I see the world a little differently all because of a twelve-year girl. I truly see how powerful children are in our lives. And I understand more than before how important for us writers to write the very best articles and books for these smart individuals.

I’ve never doubted that a child could teach me about life. What I didn’t know was that I could go back to school under a child's knowledge. I’d say that is a neat experience.

Until next time . . . grab a child and allow them to teach you.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fodder Gathering Season

Summer is almost upon us, and we are on somewhat of a vacation. I will still write a weekly blog post, but at times it will be shorter.

Visiting, is our granddaughter, Carley, whom I am home schooling, and my husband's mom. I am grateful, as we create wonderful memories, but my writing comes in quick snatches.

I carve out time to work on my chapters in the early morning and during moments when Carley works independently by my side. But, before I could get into that new writing routine, I had to learn HOW to home school twelve-year-old Carley. With help from her mother, we finished the second week just fine. And guess what? Carley taught me surface areas in pre-algebra. Sooooo . . . this old Nana can learn past her fractions, after all.

Most of us writers take blocks of time to live life. It's a requirement, really, not only our responsibility to our loved ones, but to gain fodder for writing.

Presently, I'm in a fodder gathering season. I must not get in a knot, because I've cut back on my writing. No! When fodder gathering passes, I'll have much more to use in my stories.

With Carley and her great-granny here, how could I not?

Carley and I took Granny for a wheelchair walk down to the creek. For one of her school assignments, Carley reads "Walk Two Moons" to Granny and Granny loves the story (Carley reads better as she nears the end of the book). Yesterday, we visited a drive-through wild life animal park. Carley took a bunch of photos, and we all felt small as the giraffe sauntered by.

Living life, the good and the hard, is truly an amazing accomplishment. Then, we dissect what we choose by writing and reliving it all over again.

Until next time . . . live life and then sit down and write.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

When Someone You Know Publishes A First Book

Recently, an acquaintance of mine announced her first book to be published in 2012. When I read that my eyes nearly popped, and I walked around for an hour with a big smile.

I am truly excited for her.

It is good to be happy for those who publish their first books. In the past, I've felt jealousy many times, but as I grow as a writer . . . as I become more confident and spend time to make my story its best, that all too familiar feeling of the ugly green monster fads. He's a pale, pale green.

I am glad.

I want only the best for fellow writers and feel ashamed at my bouts of jealousy. I am certain if I live long enough, my time will come. It came when I published over three dozen articles, short stories, and puzzles. Didn't it? Well, sure. Even though I am creeping toward the age of the big 6 0, I am no longer worried. Why? I read about the eighty-year-old who published her first book.

So there!

Back to the author who is about to see her first book in print, I salute you!

Until next time . . . keep thy seat into thy chair and write.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chrisitan Writers Fellowship International, After 35 Years

I joined Christian Writers Fellowship International over ten years ago. A group of Christian writers that help one another, I most certainly benefited along the path to publishing and beyond. Beyond that? CWFI list serve members are prayer warriors. I have prayed for others and they have prayed for me. We are still praying. I love the writing support, but in all honesty, I've gained much more from their prayers.

After 35 years of serving writers, CWFI is closing its doors. At first I thought, "No more CWFI?" Well, not so. It's true the newsletter will stop. But, CWFI is already on FaceBook. Sandy Brooks, our wonderful director of CWFI plans to add a blog in the near future.

Now I'm thinking, "This won't be so bad. Just different."

What about Sandy? She will go through adjustments after serving writers through CWFI, since 1981. She gave her time, as a labor of love, so the changes for her will prove heart wrenching.

Sandy, thank you, God bless you, and I'm sure the next job God gives to you will bless others, once again.

All the best . . . for there is a time for every season.

Until next time . . .

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Colorado Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Contest

Last November, I entered the first few pages and the synopsis of my upper middle grade novel in the Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Contest. I paid the fee for one critique and hoped for the best.

In April, I received an e-mail saying I did not place, and the judges comments and critique were enclosed. What I found pleased me. Two judges gave honest and helpful feedback. I am grateful to them and wrote a thank you note as my response to their meaty suggestions.

As I read the paperwork, I could see right off that Pikes Peak's point system and format was simple and organized. The points I earned for my story, CLAIRELEE A.D. (AFTER DISASTER), were the middle end of the grading system. I lacked fourteen points to get into the final judging of the contest.

Before I received the contest outcome, I read an article about how important judges comments can be to your story. I agreed, because the judges suggestions had a familiar ring. When I receive comments from agents, they're saying much of the same thing. With that many folks agreeing with what's not working, I have a clearer understanding of how to rework the plot and make this story worthy for young readers.

Next year I'll enter another story I am working on in the Pikes Peak Fiction Writers Contest. On second thought, CLAIRELEE A.D. (AFTER DISASTER) should be ready by then. I should re-enter CLAD and see what happens.

Until next time . . .

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Best Writing Advice of the Year

On my SCBWI list serve, I received a posting about a site by Jane Friedman, publisher of Writer's Digest. She had asked readers to submit links to what they thought was the best advice for writers they had seen online this year.

I read the first one by Agent Rachelle Gardener and appreciate every word she wrote. Bless her heart, she's thoughtful, wise, and I wish she were my agent.

Maybe one day.

Here's Ms. Gardener's link.

Read the whole posting of links:

I'll call this writing a tidbit . . . until next time . . . write and read and never give up.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Dear Lucky Agent" Contest: Middle Grade and Young Adult

Here we go again. Another "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest for the MG and YA writers. I really appreciate all that Chuck Sambuchino does for the writing community. His Guide to Literary Agents is a must read for all beginning writers and otherwise. I receive his articles daily and learn about the writing industry as a whole.

Go on over to Chuck's blog for the April 12th article about the "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest and see the rules for participation. Agent Regina Brooks will judge the entries. The deadline for submission is April 14, 2010, so hurry on over.

Good luck to all of us!

Until next time . . . write, write, read, read.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Who Taught Who: My Writing Class For Home Schoolers

I had a most wonderful experience teaching the first page of a story to a group of home schooled children. The most lovely young ladies you'll ever want to meet. I presented my talk, giving them a handout. They read and critiqued each others first page and we discussed it.

I was amazed at how beautifully these ladies put down words on paper. It is my opinion that most young people write better than adults. At least this adult, as I point my finger at myself. Their story's passion stands out on the page.

With extra time left over, I brought out my first page and read it. They thoughtfully gave me suggestions, great ones, and I learned. I will make the changes and it will be better. They even suggested how to please the gate keepers, so that everyone was satisfied. Smart!

May I suggest that we adult writers take a class from young writers? Let them teach us. I understand now the times I've heard about an author reading her work to students and they helped her.

Why should we be surprised? For after all, these children are our readers.

Until next time . . . read, read, read. Write, write, write.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book Examples Of When I First Care About The Character

How long does it take in your story before readers are hooked with your main character? Will they connect with the character at all?

We as readers need to care about the main character to keep reading. Even if she's a cranky, self-centered person, she needs to DO something to make us like her. It can be subtle or loud on the page.

I've pulled a few young adult and middle grade books off my shelf and give examples of when I cared about the MC's journey.

"Tender" by Valerie Hobbs has an MC that looks on the darker side of life. At first, I didn't know if I liked her. I always enjoy Valerie's books, though, and so I wanted to care about this main character, Liz. On page six, the grandmother forgets to do a simple thing, and this is what happens. Liz settles the tea cozy over the pot because Gran has forgotten. This is where I begin to LIKE Liz. A subtle move, but to the point within the first pages of what promises me a powerful story.

"Each Little Bird That Sings" by Deborah Wiles is one of my all time favorites about the progression from life to death. This middle grade book can help any child who's struggling with loss of a loved one. On page eight, Comfort (the name drew me to her) sits in her closet with her dog, Dismay. Here's where I liked Comfort. Dismay sat facing me (it's a big closet), with his paws touching my bare toes. He panted nervously and his dog saliva drip-drip-dripped onto my feet. Comfort loves her dog, and now I love her.

"Bad Girls Club" by Judy Gregerson had me on page five. Destiny tells her parents what she wants to do for the summer. Then, her mom speaks sharply to Destiny's little sister, Cassidy. Here is where I care about Destiny. My arm automatically goes around Cassidy's shoulder. I lean my body in close, but Mom reaches behind her, grabs a towel from the counter, and throws it in my sister's face. I quickly pull it off. Destiny cares about her sister, so I care about Destiny.

I've learned much about this from Blake Synder's "Save The Cat," a screenwriting book that you can apply to novel writing. People are saying this is the best book ever written for writers. All I know is that it helped me.

With my story, ROAD TRIP OF THEIR LIVES, Kari's ninety-year-old granny begins a six hundred mile drive with her granddaughters to visit family. Granny knows Kari isn't happy about it and has told her she can continue the trip without them. On page three, I think readers will care about the MC. Kari can't imagine Granny driving all the way to Oregon by her lonesome. She studies Granny to see if she's joking, but she wears her poker face. Kari seizes the moment. "You know Granny . . . wouldn't it be fun to stop at the Monterey Bay Aquarium to see the dolphins and fish?" Kari cares about her granny and her sisters' safety, and I hope readers will want to stay with Kari's journey.

Check out Synder's book and you'll learn his secrets of how we can work our words to keep readers reading.

Until next time . . .

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Story Idea

Writing is an exhausting journey. I've wanted to quit a few times, but when I think about not writing . . . I can't imagine. Writing is a learning process. I started out not knowing a thing and had forgotten most grammar rules to boot. I have to nurture that passion to keep writing, and to find stories I look to real people.

For my second novel I wrote sentences daily, even if only one, until I had a solid first draft. I completed that story in three months. I wrote at night, which was really odd for a morning person like myself. Why would I write at night? I decided it was because the story opens at night and a storm is one of two antagonists. I've got dark, dark, going on and so I wrote at night.

I've written both my novel length stories in first person, but I don't do that well. Not yet, anyway. I wonder if I have to write that first draft in first person to create the story I envision. I'm learning this may be what works. For now. Maybe, just maybe, this is my way of writing that outline that so many folks talk about. I can't seem to get the feel for the story that way. Oh, I did a short outline for Second Novel, and it helped. But, the heart of my stories unfold in first person.

I'm still new to writing the novel length story. I'm not sure how best to pound out my words any faster. I do many things fast, like chores, speech, and when I take walks. Why not writing? I have many questions here, I know. So, back to what I do understand and that's where I get my stories.

My second novel idea came about in a real-life chatter between my two granddaughters, my mother-in-law, and myself. We had just buried my husband's dad, and I think we were all looking for something to laugh about. Mom said a daring thing and it sparked a gem of a thought (don't ever believe just children say cute things). We four kept elaborating on Mom's comment, building a make believe world of what if. I looked over at Mom and said, "This conversation gives me an idea for a story."

She laughed and seemed pleased. So, on our long trip back home, my husband drove and I typed and typed and typed. That ten hour drive sped by in a blur. Best of all, I knew I had a story.

This story is different than my first novel, in that this one is more humorous. Oh, it's got the tense scenes one would expect with nature being the antagonist, but it's also funny. And this story has come at a perfect time after the fourteen years I've been learning how to write. It's my favorite topic, where old-fashioned meets contemporary.

Thanks for allowing me to ponder. I hope I didn't bore you, but a blog is a good listener. Now, I hope people will comment and give me more insights.

Until next time . . .

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jan/Feb 2010 SCBWI Bulletin and "The Truth About Writer Friends"

This is the third and final article about the Jan/Feb SCBWI Bulletin.

I love what Teresa V. Mitchum says in the opening of her article "The Truth About Writer Friends." She's considered giving up her writing career, but then she'd have to guit her online writing group. Whew, do I ever understand that shaky thought.

I love my online writing group buddies. We don't have an official name, but that doesn't matter. We've came up with several names I can't even remember. We've become good friends and that's enough. We do take our critiquing seriously, though.

We get and give honest feedback. Some of us are stronger in picture books and others stronger in young adult fiction and everything in between. All of us care deeply about one another and our future as authors. I can say without a doubt we are much stronger writers because of this group.

Teresa Mitchum says she was a little skeptical at first with the group not being physical. I was wondering how our group would work through the Internet, and it was perfect timing for me to join. With two sick relatives to care take, I could no longer do the drive time and be somewhere on a certain day.

The originator of our group is Lynn Becker (I'll post an interview with Lynn next time). I was thrilled and honored that she invited me into the group. Over the eight years since Lynn started the group, we've had three people leave and three more join. Now we have a comfortable group of six ladies that have all been together for four years.

Have some of us been so discouraged we've wanted to quit writing? Yes, indeed. We encourage one another when we worry we'll never see our stories in print, and after all the work and hours we put in. Although, our Terry Pierce has had many books published and is in the midst of working on her MFA. Go, Terry!

Then there's the friend part. We've been a source of encouragement when one of our children leave home, deaths of relatives, and the countless agent and editorial decline letters. And if some need time off, we always give it and keep their spot within the group. Like now, we're saving Terry's spot and one day soon she'll have completed her MFA and return to us.

Until my husband and I moved to Oregon over a year ago, most of us met yearly in person at a workshop in Thousand Oaks, CA. My wonderful group didn't let that stop me from being there in 2009. They carried me around in the form of a photo and someone took our group picture. I was still there in spirit, and I was in the group photo.

Teresa's article hits it on the pin point: "Each of us is committed to making our unique and unconventional group work."

If you have cold feet about an online writing group, I say go for it with commitment. The fringe benefits are many.

Until next time . . .

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jan/Feb 2010 SCBWI Bulletin and "Page One: Your Contract with Readers"

This is my second article about the Jan/Feb Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Bulletin.

"Page One:Your Contract with Readers" by Karen Schwabach was another wonderful "Ah ha!" moment for me. For a tidbit of what Karen is suggesting, she says, ". . . I usually write my first page last."

Now that really made me sit up and take notice. Is this why I've changed my first page so many times I've lost count. I keep going back to it like my MC, ClaireLee, wants to tell me something.

It just so happens that I revamped page one, once again. I like it better all the time, but I can't be sure it will be my last changes. Probably not.

Following are the first two sentences of my recent changes in ClaireLee A.D. (After Disaster): ClaireLee's eyes wavered from the line of students, followed shiny buttons up a wool pea jacket, and settled on the scarred face. The raised, red gash running through the girl's right eye fascinated ClaireLee, pushing her good manners out of the nest.

I hope I've set up a hook here, and that the promise of a contract for the reader will be fulfilled within the next beginning sentences of my page one.

In Karen's article "Page One," she goes on to give a small check list of choices to consider putting on your first page. Thank you for writing this, Karen.

As I said in the last post, the Feb/Jan SCBWI Bulletin is packed full of great information. Go to their Web site and join to become a part of a community of kind and helpful children's writers and illustrators.

Until next time . . .

Monday, February 1, 2010

Jan/Feb 2010 SCBWI Bulletin and the Query Letter

I'm going to do something a little different and it will be especially beneficial to readers who are not members of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. In three postings, I'll write about the wonderful Jan/Feb SCBWI Bulletin and about being in the list serve, but first the history.

I can't say enough about what a great organization SCBWI is for children's writers and illustrators. Going strong since 1971, SCBWI is world wide and for all it offers is well worth the yearly dues. They hold workshops, conferences, and retreats, and even though I've not been to a retreat, I can tell you the workshops and conferences are amazing. There is a fee to attend these functions, but there is the opportunity to help the regional advisor with the work of doing workshops and get fees waved. This is what I did for over five years and I learned much about writing and management.

I became a member of SCBWI over thirteen years ago, and what I focused on before I ever went to an event was to read the SCBWI Bulletin. There are seventeen departments in the Bulletin, covering many topics. Topics such as, Events of Interest, Book Review, To Market, Art Tips, Regional Events, Publisher's Corner, and Legally Speaking, to name a few.

To get to the meat of what prompted me to sing the praises of SCBWI, I want to share what's wonderful about the Jan/Feb Bulletin. I've been writing for fifteen years, and for twelve of those years I've read about and practiced the query letter. I don't remember being told in such simplistic and easy to understand words how to write that all dreaded, horrible thing called query letter.

Saundra Mitchell's article in the Bulletin, "How to Hook Your Query Letter" made me say out loud, "Of course, of course. Now I get it." This article is boiled down in a two page spread, so it's a very quick read (there is of course art work on the tops of the pages). It says more than the how-to book I read twelve years ago.

Here's a teaser from the article: "Hooks are not synopses or summaries. They're ads." Saundra Mitchell, that's the best news I've heard about queries. And you know what? It makes perfect sense. Thank you, Saundra, for writing "How to Hook Your Query Letter."

What if you're not a SCBWI member and you want to read the best article on query letters? Go to SCBWI's Web page and read how to become a member and get the Jan/Feb issue.

Until next time . . . when I'll write about another Bulletin article, "Page One: Your Contract With Readers."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Kidlit Contest

Another contest is underway, and this time at Agent Mary Kole's Kid Lit Blog.

To learn more go to submission guidelines.

What's neat is I've been researching Ms. Kole as a possible agent to send my query, and then someone announced her contest on my SCBWI list serve.

To enter Ms. Kole's contest you do have to link her site to three others including your own blog or other site you may have.

Ms. Kole asks for us to send up to 500 words of the beginning of a completed manuscript. Fun, fun, fun! The winners receive critiques from Ms. Kole.

I like contests.

Until next time . . .

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Clarity of Night Contest

Just a quick post to announce the Clarity of Night Contest. Jason Evans announced on his blog it is the 12th. contest he's given so far.

He wants a short 250 words inspired by the photo he has at the top of his blog site. Take a look and read the rules. Deadline is 11:00 p.m., Wednesday, January 13th. There are Amazon gift certificate prizes for the the top winners.

I just entered mine, IN THE FORM OF A DOVE, and I hope I place.

Until next time . . .

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Seven Things I've Learned So Far

I like reading articles by Chuck Sambuchino through Feedblitz. I especially like his "Seven Things I've Learned" contributed by up and coming writers. For my small reading audience, I'll give my list.

1. Writing is a hard job. It is not for the faint of heart and it takes time to learn the craft and find your voice. I've been learning and writing for fifteen years and I'm still not book published. I may never, but if I quit, I'll never know.

2. At the beginning, I tried writing picture books. I learned real fast that it was not for me. Not yet, anyway. I found my niche in middle grade and young adult nonfiction. By the time I had a good working relationship with my editor, I thought I'd try short stories and he snatched them up. I got paid better for them than for the nonfiction. So, it's important to learn where your strong writing lies and write it, at least to start.

3. Keep learning the craft. Even the well-read published book authors still train. It's not a one time endeavour. Teachers have to take classes to keep teaching, and so do police officers have to continue training to stay in their profession. I just bought a winter's worth of reading on the craft and business side of writing, so I can continue my education. I also go to workshops and conferences as often as I can. Last May's SCBWI Oregon conference led to a publisher's interest in CLAIRELEE A.D. (AFTER DISASTER). And I've done what the publisher asked and am waiting to hear back.

4. Take time to live life. This has not been a hard one for me, because life just happens. I don't have a problem immersing myself in my work for days on end, neglecting my family and chores. I have to make a point to write. I scrape for my hours-at-a-time to write and when I do this, I am overjoyed.

5. People watch and listen. Going into town and shopping becomes a training ground. I become in tuned to the way people carry themselves. I read their faces to see what's there. Are they happy? Are they sad? Are they serious? I pay attention as to what that looks like and how I might show that in my writing. I was surprised at how angry people could actually teach me a thing or two about my characters.

6. Read, read, and read some more. Any writer knows that reading what you write is necessary and fun. And as a children's writer, I have to read the age group stories that I am writing. It can be the reward for a long day of work at writing or any other chore. And I always read more in winter than any other time of year.

7. Never, ever give up. This can't be stated enough. In this world of fast and easy gratification, writing is not one of those things. I have to love the process and words and story, even if I never become book published.

Until next time . . .