Archive for ‘Diary’

January 1, 2016

Celebrating 2015 and Looking Forward


Hope you all had a relaxing holiday break. Many wishes for you in 2016.

In setting my goals for 2016, I am first following Julie Hedlund’s anti-resolution revolution and writing down my successes. In the past, I didn’t even make resolutions. Seemed pointless since they came from a place of what wasn’t achieved, a place of negativity. With Julie’s approach, you celebrate successes from the previous year and use it as a base to build upon. I did this last year and faired better in making forward progress. My next thing is to figure out what happens at mid-year when the plan starts to unravel. It’s possible I should make only 6-month goals in order to remain flexible with my changing needs. Without further adieu, here is my recap of my successes big and small for 2015.

  • Rejoined my in-person picture book critique group. Love being back with my peeps.
  • Got an accountability partner. Just sort of happened and it’s been great.
  • Three month picture book mentorship with Kathi Appelt.
  • Winner of the 12×12 Diversity Scholarship!!
  • Attended three SCBWI conferences (Asilomar, Spring Spirit, and Oakland) and Kidlit Summer School.
  • Took an excellent on-line class on Character Building in Picture Books.
  • Grew in my picture book writing skills.
    • Realized I love writing with lyrical language.
    • Started using storyboarding during the revision process and loving it. Really helps with pacing and being able “to see” the full story.  (Got the idea after seeing this terrific post.)
  • Volunteer PB application reader for We Need Diverse Books
  • Positive feedback on my stories from a few agents.
  • I read 212 books! Checkout my post where I break down the numbers and list some favorite titles (Adult thru PB)
  • Seeing myself continuing to grow as a writer. Taking joy in the process without getting too consumed by the agent search.

This past year turned out to be a year of “revision”, due to my three-month picture book mentorship, professional critiques, and an R&R (request and resubmit) I received from an agent. As a result, I only wrote 1 new PB draft. So my word for 2016 is CREATE. My over-arching goal is to create new material. Whether they be drafts of new picture books stories, or background material/character sketches/free-writes for my YA novel idea.


Goals for 2016

  • Finish latest round of revisions for prospective agents.
  • Take Nonfiction Archaelogy and start a new PB story which will be a NF Biography. (So excited to be finally taking this class.)
  • Attend 1-2 writing conferences. (maybe NJ-SCBWI ??)
  • Finish reading Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole – excellent craft book.
  • Write 12 new sh***y first draft PB stories.  (This will be my biggest challenge. I dread first & second drafts. I have a strong internal editor. Thanks to Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas group I’m gonna shoot for the stars!)
  • Read/listen to 25 novels. (I love audiobooks! No way I would be able to get through this many novels without it.)
  • Restart research efforts for my novel.
  • Add two more polished stories to my portfolio.
  • Blog at least once a month. (I do miss conversing with all of you. 🙂 )
  • Write/think about stories/Study Craft EVERYDAY – even if only for 5 minutes. (Up till now I work in spurts which is okay, but when I fall off the bandwagon I lose momentum.)

Wishing you the very best. What are some of your goals for 2016? 

December 29, 2015

My Book Reading Report for 2015

It’s that time of the year to tally up. Here are my stats according to GoodReads.

4 Adult; 9 YA; 5 MG; 1 CB/ER; 1 Graphic Novel; 192 PB

Listed below are my favorite reads from this year. This list contains titles published in 2015 and past years.

2015 Reads
ADULT: Year of Wonders (Geraldine Brooks)

YA: I’ll Give You the Sun (Jandy Nelson), An Ember in the Ashes (Sabaa Tahir), The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

MG: The War that Saved My Life (Kimberly Bradley)


  • Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats (Alicia Potter & Birgitta Sif)
  • The Iridescense of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse (Patricia MacLachlan & Hadley Hooper)
  • Snoozefest (Samantha Berger & Kristyna Litten)
  • Last Stop on Market Street (Matt de la Pena & Christian Robinson)
  • Water is Water (Miranda Paul & Jason Chin)
  • Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (Kate Messner & Christopher Neal)
  • What do You Do With an Idea(Kobi Yamada & Mae Besom)
  • Miss Brooks Loves Books! (Barbara Bottner & Ed Emberley)
  • Seven Blind Mice (Ed Young)
  • The Princess and the Pony (Kate Beaton)
  • Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match (Monica Brown & Sara Palacios)
  • Peek-a-Who? (Nina Laden)

What were some of your favorite reads? Always looking for excellent titles for my 2016 to-read list.

July 26, 2015

Mid-Year Check-in slightly late

flowersHi Everyone,

Hope your summer or winter is grand. Hope your reading and/or writing is going splendid. I have been focusing more on my own writing and hence have had to cut back on doing book reviews. It is a struggle since there are so many wonderful books I want to tell you about, but have limited time. I do have a slew of books ready to talk about in the coming months.

Here is what I have been up to these past seven months.

  1. Completed a three-month PB mentorship with the amazing author Kathi Appelt. If you ever get a chance to study with her do it! Thank you WNDB for the opportunity.
  2. Attended two SCBWI conferences where I got to soak up on craft and network with agents/editors.
  3. Queried agents with my picture books, now just sitting back (constantly checking email) for a response.
  4. Re-joined my in-person critique group. So now I have three fabulous critique groups.
  5. Started volunteering with the head librarian at my kids’ school. It’s been a lot of fun. I love, love booktalking and giving recommendations. So much fun finding that next awesome book.
  6. Finally setup by iPhone to listen to audiobooks from Audible and the local library. Absolutely loving it! I listen while driving to work, folding the laundry, and exercising on the elliptical. Now I stand a better chance of ‘reading’ more novels.
  7. Number six was important and driven by my next goal which is to write a historical fiction novel. I’m currently reading Mary Kole’s Writing Irresistible Kidlit, which is fantastic!!
  8. Currently participating in Kidlit Summer School – The Plot Thickens. The free-writes are helping me come up with possible scenes for the novel. The class is FREE!!
  9. Participated in RhyPiBoMo but flamed out. Don’t think rhyming is for me, at least not for now.
  10. Attended ALA Summer Conference in San Francisco. Check out my ALA album to see which authors I met.

Would love to hear how your reading and writing has been progressing!

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


#10 – Treated my girlfriends to

#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.


#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


#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.

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