Monday, November 29, 2010

Doubt, Depression, and D...?

Don't quit reading. It's gonna be a rambler, but hopefully a short one. And the writing message is... DREAM BIG. Don't give up on your dreams.

Friday, I spent all day going through my children's toys. I ended up with a bag of trash, and a bag of toys to donate. There are no toys in the living room now. All toys are organized into tubs and buckets and bins and shelves and boxes and bags, okay, okay, I know, you get the picture. Seriously. All day! Writing? ZERO! Christmas decorating? ZERO!

What about Saturday, you ask. Nope. ZILCH-O there, too. I spent all morning preparing for the party and last-minute cleaning. We ate. We partied. I cleaned. Then I went shopping. Got home at dinner time. Helped hubby prep living room for new paint job.

christmas fireplace stockingsSunday? ZIP... Went to church. Came home. Ate lunch. Talked about fireplaces, shelves, cabinets, paint, showers, rugs, and where to put the piece of furniture that started it all: my hubby's new gun safe. He had to have a place to put it. And while we're at it, we might as well paint the walls, too. Gosh! If I had known I would do all this, I'd have bought him a gun safe years ago. Then again, maybe not. I'm not really into home decorating. I like to keep it simple. The complexity of my mind makes up for the exterior of my simplicities. I don't even wear makeup (okay, maybe 4x a year).

And finally today. Writing? Decorating? Nope, nope, and nope. I worked for all day. Pizza and chips for dinner. And my entire pantry sprawled out all over my kitchen island!!! When hubby goes to do something, it's never simple! So now we have to buy new (sturdy) cabinets because he discovered current ones are collapsing from cheap backing and glue. Good thing we never got around to staining them. That would have been a an eventual waste of time, money, and effort.

And that's why I'm feeling doubt, depression, and disturbance about not decorating. My house is cluttered up because of a crazy painting project that's gonna take weeks instead of hours. I'm beginning to wonder if I'll even get to put up a Christmas tree. I feel like I have no time for anything. So right now, instead of writing or decorating, I'm blogging. Go figure. But I won a book today. Didn't even know it, but it came in the mail today. That was fun. And I have all of you, my online friends, who commented over the weekend and made me feel D-elighted!
sun decorative sun
Okay, I lied. It's not short. Pretend like you're reading in my journal. Anyway, the state of NC is going to lay off 5,000 more teachers next year. And since I'm a teacher as of December 2007, and I've never gotten a permanent job as of yet, I'm beginning to lose all hope that I ever will. Often I told myself that I'd honestly rather write anyway. But it's hard when doubt and depression creep in and try to wrestle my mood to the ground. I watched an hour of TV with my son. Like that's productive. I only watch TV when I'm depressed or when I'm looking forward to an awesome show (like LOST) with my hubby. I rarely watch it by myself.

I'm just happy I have a job at all right now. So I'm going to pick myself up off the floor and find the time and energy to do the things that make me happy. I even walked for twenty minutes each day for the last four mornings! Doubt and Depression don't mix. So just DREAM BIG instead... 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Revision is Like Decorating

So it's time to start decorating the house. I've never actually decorated for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving before, but this year I'm going to give it a try.

Revision is like Decorating | revising your manuscripts | writing and editing | revision tips

Last year, I bought a whole bunch of new decorations, and I'm excited to go through the boxes just to see what I have. It'll be like opening a present! And then Saturday I'm having a very small birthday party for my little girl who's turning four. Thanksgiving was nice and peaceful, as peaceful as a three-, almost four-, and six-year-old can make it. We ate good, but didn't go overboard. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for.

So how is revision like decorating? Aren't we all trained to think revision is like cutting back? I may be stretching a bit here, but we have to stretch our minds when we revise, too. Since I'm crazy, and I'm revising six mss right now, I like to think revising can be a bit like decorating. I mean we want to decorate our writing with the best language possible, and that means being sparse with adjectives and adverbs. I mean, like I'm not gonna put five wreaths on my front door, or anything. And then we have to clean up our sentences in other ways, too. I'll have to do a lot of dusting as I take down all my pictures and put up the new fancy Christmas decor. We can take each sentence, dust it off, and decide if that's really the best place for it. Think about if you want to keep it in the story, or try something new. Could it be moved closer to the beginning or the ending?

And lastly, there's attitude. Can you not tell I'm excited to get down to business and work hard to start decorating? I think we should be just as excited when it comes to revising our works of written art. I admit sometimes it's hard to always be excited about working on our mss, especially when the ending won't come to us; or we need to add, or get rid of, a character. But when all the rearranging is done, and everything is in its place, won't it be enchanting to stand back and look at the finished work? Perhaps I'll revise something else today besides my kitchen and living room...

So revising is like dusting, being selectively sparse, and getting fired up.

  • Do you guys even like to dust? 
  • What gets you fired up about revising? 
  • When will you decorate your lovely homes for the holidays?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Books - mostly...

Read for Luck: books that children, parents, teachers, and writers will all love. My four-leaf clover rating system is on the left-hand column; just scroll down a bit. A few books for Thanksgiving this week. Enjoy!

Turkey Pox by Laurie Halse Anderson
ill. by Dorothy Donohue
Albert Whitman & Company, 1996
Words: 816, Level: 3.1
Summary: Charity has the chicken pox, there's a terrible snowstorm outside, and it looks like the Chatfields will have to spend Thanksgiving without Nana and her wonderful roast turkey stuffing and cranberries.
Read for Luck: This book is clever enough that parents won't mind reading it over and over again.

Would I Trade My Parents by Laura Numeroff
ill. by James Bernardin
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2009
Words: 616, Level: 2.5
Summary: A young boy considers what is special about all his friends' parents and realizes that his own are the most wonderful of all.
Read for Luck: Will make parents feel warm and fuzzy inside. We all need to feel appreciated and this book will help. Kids will see how other parents are and that it's okay to be different. They'll love the pancakes, too! And what better time than Thanksgiving to read this one, when lots of family may be around.

The Littlest Pilgrim by Brandi Dougherty
ill. by Kirsten Richards
Cartwheel, 2008
Words: 471, Level: 2.2
Summary: All the other villagers tell Mini that she is too small to help them with their chores, but she is not too small to be kind to another girl she meets.
Read for Luck: Anyone can find a book about the first Thanksgiving and teach about the pilgrims eating with the Native Americans, but this book will teach values: hard work, kindness, acceptance, and more.

4. FOR WRITERS (two books, this time)
A. The Night Before Thanksgiving by Natasha Wing
ill. by Tammie Lyon
Grosset & Dunlap, 2001
Words: 504, Level: 3.1
Summary:  In the tradition of "The Night Before Christmas," these rhymes describe the celebration of Thanksgiving with family and friends.
Read for Luck: Check out the rhyme scheme. Study the meter. Think about the plot. Now come up with your own "night before" book - purely as an exercise.

B. 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey
Orchard Books, 1990
Words: 485, Level: 4.0
Summary: School children on a field trip to Mack Nugget's farm save the lives of eight turkeys in this poem based on THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS.
Read for Luck: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to compare these two books by very different authors. Publication is eleven years apart. See how they are different and how they are alike. See if you can come up with your own lines to add to their stories. Could be a great learning activity!

Monday, November 22, 2010


Is there such a thing as sleepwriting? I'm falling asleep at my computer as I am reading through my e-mails. I must be tired, because that never happens.

What is Sleepwriting? | sleep | writers write | writing habits | tips for writers | creativity | productivity | rejuvenation

I finally got an angle for how I want to write one of my books and I am having a lot of fun coming up with the characters' names.

If you want to be a writer, then you must write. If you call yourself a writer, then you must write. If you want to be published, then you must write. If you want to see the stories in your head come to life, then you must write.

So now I'm going to go write, in my sleep. And decide on my character's names.

And tomorrow at work I'll try not to take a nap during my lunch break. Must...write...stories...down.

Last week I would have used 3-7 extra commas in this post alone. Today I've deleted them. How do your commas hold up? Do you follow the rules? Mostly I knew them all, but I still use way too many. (Like, yesterday, I ate a sandwich, and then I wanted to have dessert, so, now I'm going to, but I'm stuffed up from commas!)

What convention do you use too often?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Old and New, the How and Why...

Do you remember having that special stuffed animal as a child? Mine was a red and white checked rabbit with a yellow bib, yellow hands and feet and yellow ears. I treasured Sally. She stood like Bugs Bunny. My sister's treasure was Whitey, also a rabbit. Whitey looked more like a real rabbit, all fours on the ground. We played long hours together. And then our grandparents gave us Cabbage Patch Dolls. We played for about a month with the new dolls. And then we never played with the dolls or our rabbits again.

Moving forward to my first camera, a 110. I mailed off the film and had the photos sent back. During my adult years, photography went digital. I rarely printed out the photos. They're all still stuck on the computers, flash drives, and memory cards. When I started scrap booking about five years ago, I was still behind on the digital age, as far as cameras go. So I cut and paste every thing in real life, with my own two eyes, touching the papers and prints. Then I discovered DIGITAL scrap booking! And now? Well, I do neither!

In college, I was a creative writing major. Then I later went back to school to get my K-6 teaching license. Now, as far as PROFESSIONS go, I do neither. (But that won't last for long, I hope.)

What's wrong with me?

I'm a writer, that's what. Writers and all other creatives sacrifice much in life to live out a dream. With my new job, I'm not about to start saying I don't have time to write. I'll just have to MAKE time. Why does the new always outshadow (is that even a word?) the old AND the new? Sometimes it even happens in my writing. I'll be happily working along on this grande idea and suddenly I get a NEW idea. I'll run with it for a while, then FLOP, both ideas are idly lying around begging to be molded.

Does that ever happen to you? If so, what do you do about it? How do you encourage the old to stay fresh, when there's clearly something new shouting for you to take a look at IT?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving is Here!


This giveaway will run from Nov. 17 through Nov. 27. I'm giving away a wonderful little book that would make a great gift, House Blessings: Prayers, Poems, and Toasts Celebrating Home and Family by June Cotner. Poets included in the book range from Confucius and Winston Churchill to David C. Hay and Margaret Anne Huffman. There are seven chapters:
  1. Our Home
  2. Family and Friends
  3. Our Children
  4. Our Garden
  5. Graces and Toasts
  6. Holidays and Celebrations
  7. Reflections
All you have to do is 1) follow this blog, and 2) leave a comment below. Simply share three things for which you are thankful. Three things, that is, besides the normal stuff which we are all grateful for like family, church, friends, jobs, our health, and our homes. Umm...try to be specific. One entry per person. I'll start. I am thankful for the simple things in life, like hugs, colors, chocolate, my laptop, and chapstick. They can also be events and experiences. Like...when my son wrote me a valentine in the middle of November and it said "I love you" on it three times. Or the best thing about my new job is getting my son to school early and he's not embarrassed to give me a kiss because there aren't any adults on car duty yet. Have fun!

Monday, November 15, 2010

7 Essential Habits to Make it as a Writer

Sorry this post is a day late. My new job and being sick on Sunday threw me off. Excuses, excuses... So what better way to introduce today's topic of the seven essential habits of a working writer. These come from Quit Your Day Job: How to Sleep Late, Do What You Enjoy, and Make a Ton of Money as a Writer by Jim Denney. 

7 Essential Habits to Make it as a Writer | how to sleep late | writer habits | making money as a writer | author advice | writing books | resources for writers

Now, I'm not about to quit a job that I just started, but these ARE some great tips. Kristi Holl at Writer's First Aid, a Medicine Chest of Hope, spends a week delving into each one. They are found in chapter five of Denney's book:
  1. Write Daily
  2. Cultivate the Art of Solitude Amid Distractions
  3. Write Quickly and With Intensity
  4. Set Ambitious But Achievable Goals
  5. Focus!
  6. Finish What You Start and Submit What You Finish
  7. Believe You Can
Now, I'm not about to quit a job that I just started, but Jim Denney's Quick Start Guide to Writing for a Living include 12 simple steps:
  1. Make sure you are ready before you leap.
  2. Focus on writing that builds equity, not just the next paycheck.
  3. Set your price and stick to it. Don't sell yourself short.
  4. Nurture contacts and professional relationships.
  5. Diversify. Never rely on a single publisher or editor for all your work.
  6. Tell everyone that you are a writer. You never know who might know someone important.
  7. Connect with other writers.
  8. Study both the craft and business of writing.
  9. Deliver excellence.
  10. Deliver on time.
  11. Watch out for the "can of worms." Be leery of those who don't know what they want.
  12. Use your website to promote your writing business.
And just in case you're interested in the chapter titles of the book, see below. You can also click on the picture above to go straight to Amazon and read excerpts or even buy the book. It's next on my list of books to buy.
  1. A Holy Calling
  2. Taking the Leap
  3. It's a Living
  4. What Have I Signed?
  5. The Seven Essential Habits of a Working Writer
  6. The Need for Speed: Writing in Overdrive
  7. Professional Relationships
  8. Generate Your Own Success
  9. The Future of Writing
  10. Soul Survival

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Job

So, this was my first week at my new job as the receptionist for the ESC (Employment Security Commission, not the ESCAPE button on your computer). I'm already flying solo and it's not that hard. But I haven't worked alone on a Monday or a Tuesday, yet. Next week will be the true test.

I already have a new idea for a PB, thanks to a customer who shared a fascinating tidbit of knowledge with me. Today is day 12 of PiBoIdMo and I now have 10 ideas. Some clever. Some funny. Some good. Some not-so-good. Ninety percent of my ideas come to me in the form of a title, by way of a cool or clever phrase.

My new writing schedule is two hours each night after I put the kiddos to bed. It's not much, and never enough, but it's certainly better than nothing.

  • 30 min. to write
  • 30 min. to critique
  • 30 min. to e-mail
  • 30 min. to blog
"Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise."     ~ Alma 37: 6

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dance, Quack, One, Beach

Read for Luck: why children, parents, teachers, and writers all love these books. You can see the green four-leaf clover rating system on the left-hand column. Just scroll down a bit.

The Jellybeans and the Big Dance
by Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans
Ill. by Lynn Munsinger
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2008
699 Words; Level 2.9
Summary: When four young girls meet in dance class, it takes time for them to find a way to pull together as one, but Emily helps them realize that, just like a bag of jellybeans, they can be different and still go well together. 
Read for Luck: My daughter is turning four very soon and she LOVES this book. She likes to remember the character's names and name them on every page. She also loves to dance. Parents will like the friendship page. And who can't love a name like Miss Tingly-Weezer?

Mr. Putney's Quacking Dog
by Jon Agee
Michael Di Capua Books * Scholastic, 2010
Summary: Mr. Putney has all sorts of unusual friends. An overweight orangutan. An octopus with cold feet. An elephant that's very hard to see. Can you guess what their names are?
Read for Luck: Wordplay at its finest. My son kept wanting to peek at the "answers" on the next page. By the third or fourth read, you can have them memorized. Lots of fun. Author of seven other wordplay books.

One Is a Snail, Ten is a Crab
by April Pulley Sayre and Jeff Sayre
Ill. by Randy Cecil
Candlewick Press, 2003
Summary: A fun and clever way to count by feet. I hope you like to count!
Read for Luck: Teaching math concepts can be made super fun and super hands-on with this book. Definitely use with K-1 (and even 2nd at beginning of year for review). My children said it should be in the KIDS pile and not the TEACHER pile! April Pulley Sayre is one of my favorites!

by David Wiesner
Clarion Books, 2006
No words.
Summary: A boy finds a treasure on a beach and is invited into a magical world.
Read for Luck: Try writing the words to accompany this tale. Do it in different voices and from different points of view. I know we'll never do it justice. That's why there are no words. But could still be a fun writing exercise, anyway. Teachers can also use for writing prompts to tell a new story or even to practice summary.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Survey SAYS...!

1 - Complete Novice
  7 (22%)
2 - Started Writing as an Adult
  3 (9%)
3 - Still Learning
  15 (48%)
4 - Published (not worth mentioning)
  9 (29%)
5 - Published with significant pay
  4 (12%)
6 - Lots of genres
  6 (19%)
7 - Mostly One Genre
  12 (38%)
8 - A Conference Attender
  7 (22%)
9 - Multiple Books on the Shelves
  3 (9%)
10 - A Real Pro
  1 (3%)

So these are the results of my survey. Thirty-one people voted. It it interesting to note that the majority of us write in mostly one genre. I write mostly picture books (duh). And about half of us say we are still learning. I think that attending conferences is a great way to not only continue on our constant learning curve, but to also instill inspiration and keep us on the right path. I've been to three conferences. Next year, I hope to attend my first SCBWI conference. Number 9 - Multiple Books on the Shelves - may have been worded in a slightly misleading way. I don't know how everyone voted in that respect. It was meant as "I have several books published and on the shelves (for sale)" but could have meant to many "I own a lot of books about the writing craft, or simply lots of books, period." Either way, if we write, books are a large part of our lives. I am, however, curious as to who the "Real Pro" among us is. (Is that sentence even grammatically correct?) Will the real Slim Shady please stand up? Thanks, ya'll for participating in my survey. It was fun.


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