Archive for ‘Diary’

July 31, 2014

WOW Retreat was really WOW! (plus some good news)

This past July I flew out to Georgia drove 2+ hours (we got a little lost along the way) to attend a picture book writing retreat that was truly WOW on so many levels. Let me count the ways for you.

1) Awesome car buddies on the ride-up.meandmiranda

I have known Pam Courtney on-line through the Perfect Picture Friday series since 2012. She is a riot and so funny. Kathy Halsey is so sweet and full of stories. And finally being able to meet Miranda Paul who I was in a critique group with back in 2012. Awesome. By the way if she ever tells you she is shy and introverted don’t believe her. ;-) The girl can talk and she is a WEALTH of knowledge on everything kidlit.

2) Enota Mountain Retreat

Beautiful, peaceful surroundings once you get use to the bugs. Thanks to Sarah Davis Maynard there were morning exercises everyday. One morning we did the waterfall hike.

enota2

3) Party House Gals

This had to have been one of my favorite highlights of the retreat. Two floors full of dorm sized rooms. Seriously, I felt like I was back in college, which is a great thing. Talking in the hallways at all hours, spontaneous critique exchanges, playing Head’s Up, imbibing wine … just loads of fun! I finally got to meet people I had only known on-line over the past few years. Having Jackie and Karen two of my on-line critique group members there was icing on the cake.

partyhouse

4) Speakers

Our fearless leader, Kristen, had an amazing line-up of speakers. Something for writers at every level. On the craft side, I loved Dianna Aston’s Evocative Language and Jodell Sadler’s sneak peak into her Pacing Picture Books to WOW class. (you too can take this awesome class just click on the link)  I have no idea what a Master class entails but I am guessing  it would be something like this. I also loved the interactive discussions that happened during Ariel Richardson’s talk on diversity in books.

Here are some nuggets of information from the week:

  • Character + Plot – Unnecessary Words + Mishaps x Rule of  Threes = $$
  • Picture Books are about one true thing – making a promise and fulfilling it
  • Study Screenwriting
  • You cannot illustrate the word ‘WAS’
  • When writing pretend there is a little kid on the edge of your desk. The idea here is to keep your audience in mind at all times. (I have Rex from Toy Story sitting on the edge of my desk)
  • Make a pitch sheet. A 1-2 sentence description for each of your stories. If you can’t summarize your story into a pitch, then it might be a sign that you don’t know what your story is really about.
  • Bookstores want the hook to come across in the title & cover. (guess I better re-work my bland titles)

classes

5) Round Table Critiques

I loved my fellow “Seniors”. After 4 days of being with the same group we knew what every one was bringing to the table. I was the one who kept asking about the picture book “promise”. Cathy was the queen of humor while Charlotte was the queen of candy stories. I do love the Dots story. Nisha was a bundle of energy. And Debbie, well I am still impressed with your revision of Franklin.

round table jodell

 

6) Just getting to know everyone!!

I loved that all the faculty were so open and willing to answer question/chat/share a meal. There was no pressure it was really easy to get to know them. This is something that you just can’t do at a regular conference where you are lucky if you even get two minutes of an agent or editor’s time.

It really felt like we were all just one big family helping each other out.

friends2

7) As you can see the WOW retreat was really WOW on so many levels. If you are interested in WOW Retreat 2015 I would recommend reserving your spot now, as there are only a couple of spots left.

On a more personal note, I had been planning to use my 5 professional critiques at WOW to help me gauge whether I should start subbing to agents. Well that is not going to happen. See the sixth unplanned, last minute critique changed my plans. I am very happy to call the amazing, smart, caring, all-around nice gal Jodell Sadler my AGENT!!

meandjodell

Since it takes a community to raise a writer I’d like to thank a whole bunch of people:

  • Kristen, Rusty, Jackie, and anyone else behind the scenes for putting this awesome retreat together
  • My WOW6 and Critters with Goals on-line critique groups members and fellow writers Margaret, Emily, Susan, and Alayne who helped me get my stories in shape for WOW.
  • To all the wonderful teachers and writer’s groups I have participated in Susanna’s MPBM, Mira’s PB Course, 12 x 12, and PiBoIdMo.
  • And most importantly to my husband and kids, without their support none of this would be possible.
July 7, 2013

2013 – Mid Year Check-in on Life and Writing

booksaleHope you all are having a splendid summer or winter so far. Life has been busy. My hubby and I just celebrated our 10th anniversary. Wow! It’s been a journey. Can’t imagine what the next ten years have in store for us. ;-)  I did 40 Random Acts of Kindness for my birthday and went on a business trip to Bangalore for two weeks to deliver training. I now have a KG and a 2nd grader, that are in too many activities (piano, ballet, gymnastics, etc), but I love it. So far I have done three read-alouds with the girls.

The Lion, Witch, and the WardrobeStuart LittleCharlie and the Chocolate Factory

So how’s your writing going so far? I made a list of goals back in January, so let’s see how I did.  Since it is baseball season, I’ve come up with the following semantics:

Done — HOME RUN, On-Track — 1st/2nd/3rd BASE, Completely off track – FOUL BALL, Slight Change – PINCH HITTER

    1. Have my PB Concept story polished by March 2013 —  FOUL BALL — Latest critiques indicate I need to go back to the starting line and start over. For once I agree. Doh!
    2. Submit PB concept story to several publishing houses in 2013. — PINCH HITTER — Concept story is not going on submission (see item above). Instead a new song-based story is! sub
    3. Write 6-8 new drafts — 1st BASE — Wrote 2 new drafts.
    4. Have three polished manuscripts by the year-end. — 1st BASE — One done and another close behind.
    5. Complete Character-Driven Workshop from Picture Book Academy — HOME RUN
    6. Attend one writing conference, possibly Books of Passage in June or a Big Sur Writing Workshop put on by Andrea Brown. — PINCH HITTER — Attending the SCBWI Regional Conference in Oakland in October.
    7. Completed Making Picture Book Magic by Susanna Hill HOME RUN, but really a GRAND SLAM!
    8. Waking up at 5:30ish every weekday to work on writing — 2nd BASE — we’ll see if this holds once the kids’ school starts)

Taking the picture book course Making Picture Book Magic was not on my radar, but I am sooo glad I took it. It was perfect and just what I needed. The course is like a “how-to-manual” on writing character-driven picture books. Susanna does an excellent job of breaking the course into 20 modules, 1 per-day that can be completed in 15-30mins. These modules are building blocks for your story, which is exactly what you will be doing. At the halfway point you will be writing a full draft! Here is the best part of the course. Susanna will be commenting on your (optional) homework assignments along the way. I loved being able to get this type of early feedback from Susanna and my fellow classmates; it definitely enhanced the learning process for me. I am the type of person that learns best in a classroom, where you can have live Q&A. Susanna’s MPBM is the next best thing. I highly recommend this class to anyone who is just starting out or has been writing for a while and wants help on building a story with a strong arc and vivid characters.

Wishing you all the best in your writing goals for the second half of 2013!

February 11, 2013

40 Random Acts of Kindness in 40 Days for my Big 4-0

Random-Acts-of-KindnessLast month was my 40th Birthday and I celebrated by doing 40 Random Acts of Kindness (RAK). I was inspired by reading a post by a mom that had celebrated her birthday by doing 35 acts of kindness with her kids. This was a challenging but fulfilling experience.  One of the unexpected benefits was I became a better listener and more aware of people’s needs as I searched for the next unique RAK I could do.  While I don’t think I am one of those people who can do a RAK every day yet, I look forward to doing more kindness acts in the future.

Highlights from this experience:

  • Having my girls help me with the acts of kindness. My 6yr old holding me accountable, by asking me what my RAK count was every day.
  • Several folks telling me they were inspired to do Random Acts of Kindness
  • Brainstorming RAK ideas with friends
  • Seeing kids using some of the items left (toys, books)
  • Making someone’s day with a RAK

If you would like to learn more about the kindness movement checkout the website Random Acts of Kindness. When coming up with my RAKs I referenced the following two posts, What a Ride!: My Birthday was Awesome and 366 Random Acts of Kindness, and adapted the ideas to what worked for me. The first post had a list of simple ideas that can involve kids; the second post had a lot of charity organizations. For my 40 RAKs I wanted to thank the people around me as well as do random acts for people I didn’t know. My belief was everybody can use an act of kindness.

Here is my list of 40 RAKs. Enjoy!

#1 – Paid the bill for a father of two girls that was standing behind me at the LEGO store.

#2 – Left fancy chocolates, cookies in the company break room

#3 – Surprised my Pilates instructor with a cup of coffee

#4 – Gave a homeless person a $5 gift card to McDonald’s

#5 – Gave the librarians at our local library a box of chocolates. They are always so patient and helpful as I always have a ton of books on hold under three different library cards, across three different loan systems. It can be quite complicated sometimes.

#6 – Brought donuts for my co-workers. Normally one of the managers brings donuts every Friday, so it was fun confusing my colleagues as I brought the donuts on a Thursday.

#7 – Box of chocolates for the children’s librarians at another local library

#8 – Left a Large tip tonight during my birthday dinner.

#9 – Box of chocolates for the staff at my kids’ gymnastics club

gym

#10 – Treated my girlfriends to dinner.party

#11 – Wrote a gratitude letter to my baa (maternal grandmother) with the help of my mom. This act of kindness also made my mom happy too, bonus.

#12 – Wrote a gratitude/get well card to my Aunt.

#14 – Donated some toys to my Mother’s Helper. She redistributes them to other kids that she cares for.

#15 – Left some current magazines for others to read at the gym.

#16 – Gave each of the members in my writing group a book on writing great characters.

#17 – Donated a $5 McDonald’s gift card to a person in need.

#18 – Pushed the swing of a 4yr old at the park and ended up making a new acquaintance with the mom.

#19 – Gave chocolates to our pediatrician’s office and donated some books.doctors

#20 – Gave activity packs, books, and DVDs to the children’s ward at the local hospital. This was a lot of fun, as the kids came up with the painting sheets idea.

activityhospital

#21 – Donated old coats, DVDs, and books to the family homeless shelter.

#22 – Sent words of encouragement to a new mom that was going back to work.

#23 – Gave a friend a voucher for a free ski lift ticket

#24 – Paid the bill for the person behind me at the drive-thru

#25 – Watched a movie tonight with my girls instead of doing my own stuff (clean the house, surf the net, etc).

#26 – Hid scratcher lottery tickets in two books at a book salebooksale

#27 – Paid the parking meter for some people

#28 – Gave scratcher lottery tickets to the workers at Subway

#29 – Gave a homeless man a $5 gift card to McDonald’s.

#30 – Left jump ropes and hula-hoops at the park for kids to enjoy.park

#31 – Gave out scratcher lottery tickets to the service staff at work

#32 – At Target gave a re-usable bag to the person behind me since she didn’t have one. The retailers no longer give out plastic bags as our city has a ban on them.

#33 – Corralled some lost shopping carts.

#34 – Gave a small thank you gift to a co-worker for helping me out with some customer debug issues.

#35 – Donated some clothing for local foster kids. For those of you living in California, Sleep Train is currently running a Pajama Drive til March 3rd. Just drop of new PJ’s, underwear, or socks and they will be distributed to foster kids in your local community. sleeptrain

#36 – Left coins at the vending machine

vending machine

#37 – Gave the neighbors some homemade Texas chili

#38 – Started a mini-library at my kids’ gymnastic center

books

#39 – Made two micro-loans via KIVA

#40 – A BIG  thanks to all my family and friends for their in-person and on-line continuous steady stream of likes and positive, uplifting comments. Coming up with nearly 40 unique RAKs was a bit hard, but having you all by my side made it easier.

January 6, 2013

2012 – Year in Review

2013_watch

A belated Happy New Year to all my wonderful readers. I am writing this post about a week later than I would have liked too, however that is a good sign for me. It means I am sticking to my New Year’s resolution on meeting my weekly writing goals before blogging. More on that shortly.

2012 was an awesome year for my blogging. Increased the readership multiple-fold, partially due to establishing a presence on Facebook and Twitter. I wrote 68 new posts this year the majority of which were picture book reviews that were contributed to Perfect Picture Book Friday, Children’s Bookshelf, Kidlit Blog Hop, and the Carnival of Children’s Literature. I highly recommend you check out these sites for other great kidlit reads or information on children’s literacy. It has been an absolute joy conversing with you about great kids’ books. The top 5 read posts of the year were:

One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Tale
Where is the Green Sheep?
The Big Orange Splot
Cookies: Bite-Sized Life Lessons
See Inside Your Body

Interesting since the Big Orange Splot and See Inside Your Body were posted in 2011. These posts were all popular with SEO, since people (most likely educators) were searching for the book title plus activities. Susanna Hill from Perfect Picture Book Friday was onto something when she required all reviews to have activity ideas. Thank You Susanna. :-)

While my blogging year was good, I did not generate enough new picture book material.

  • Completed five drafts for the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge (instead of 12). An excellent community of PB writers. Sign-up is going on for 2013 here. I highly recommend it and will be doing it again this year.
  • Completed PiBoIdMo 2012 (come up with 30 PB ideas in 30 days). This was my third time participating and it was easier for me to come up with ideas than in year’s past. Yeah!
  • An almost polished version for my PB concept story.
  • Attended SCBWI Illustrator’s Day, East Bay Regional Conference, and several smaller workshops.
  • Took Anastasia Suen’s Picture Book Writing Workshop
  • Participated in two wonderful critique groups.

My goal for this year is to get more picture book content generated. This year I am trying to stick to this priority order:

  • Complete PB writing goals for the week
  • Social Media (12×12 related, reading blog posts on the craft)
  • Writing Book Reviews

I feel this change is necessary if I am going to get up the initial learning curve of PB writing. I do still plan to tell you about the greatest in children’s books. I do not know what my blogging schedule will be at this time. Right now I am trying to see if I can keep up with my weekly writing goals and will then determine if I can create a blogging schedule that I can keep to.  I will still be updating my Goodreads on a regular basis, if you would like to follow me there.

photo

My writing goals for the year are :

  • Have my PB Concept story polished by March 2013
  • Submit PB concept story to several publishing houses in 2013.
  • Write 6-8 new drafts
  • Have three polished manuscripts by the year-end.
  • Complete Character-Driven Workshop from Picture Book Academy
  • Attend one writing conference, possibly Books of Passage in June or a Big Sur Writing Workshop put on by Andrea Brown.

Since I only seem to get things done by creating deadlines. I created sub-tasks for each of my writing goals for the year and put them into Google calendar. I then printed out the task list and hung it in my office, so it stays at the forefront of my mind.

On the reading front, I just finished reading-aloud The One and Only Ivan to my 4.5yr and 6.5yr old girls. They loved it. Next we are reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and I told them we could watch the movie, most likely the old animated one. The girls are really starting to enjoy doing read-alouds and I hope to continue it throughout the year. I also read 200+ books this year.

What are your reading or writing goals for the year?

December 12, 2012

We Will Rock You – 12×12 Blog Party

blogparty

It is 12-12-12 today and time to celebrate the first year of 12×12 in 2012 Picture Book Challenge. While I only finished 5 drafts this year, it has still been an amazing year connecting, learning, supporting, and being supported by my fellow picture book writers. It is such an awesome community, you guys are GREAT!

A Big, Big thank you to the amazingly, talented, organized, and creative Julie Hedlund (check-out her Beastie Boys song).

I can honestly say I don’t know where I would be in my writing without the wonderful 12×12. If you are a picture book writer, check-out the info for 12×12 in 2013, it just gets better and better.

Since I LOVE 12×12 for its repository of knowledge and supportive nature. Here is my very quickly done riff off of “WE WILL ROCK YOU” by Queen.

We Will Rock You – 12×12

<stomp – stomp – clap>

Buddy you’re a young writer, fast learner
But you need to join 12-by-12 today
You think you’re an ace
You big disgrace
You need to check-out 12-by-12’s knowledge base

We will we will rock you — EDITORS!
We will we will rock you — AGENTS !

Buddy its hard road, long road
But 12-by-12’s says you’re gonna make it someday
Put your butt in its place
Leave no blank space
Start writing words all over the page

We will we will rock you — EDITORS!
We will we will rock you — AGENTS !

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,702 other followers

%d bloggers like this: