Monday, October 2, 2017

Keep a Morning Journal as Self-Care

I wrote a post for Storyteller Academy today about keeping a morning journal as self-care. I also talked a bit about the shooting in Las Vegas. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Revising Myself

The 12-week class that I mentioned in my last post finished last night with an interactive discussion with Editor Kate Farrell. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say the class has been life-changing. The instructor, Arree Chung, spent more time focusing on our creative process than anyone I've ever taken a class from.

He's the sort of person you can't say "can't" around without being told not to limit yourself. 

Isn't that the coolest book trailer? 
Arree worked for Pixar before he started creating picture books.

I bought into his class with the expectation that I'd complete my first picture book dummy by the end of it. I'm coming out of the class with so much more than that. 

Yes, I completed (and revised) my first picture book dummy, and I learned facts about design that will forever change the way I approach my picture book manuscripts.

I also gained an amazing critique group that will continue to meet, good friends whose work I believe in.

But my most important takeaway has been a change in the way I approach my work, both writing and illustrating. The morning pages Arree had us write clear away my anxiety, making it easier to work, and I'm finding solutions to story problems through taking walks and through drawing. Meeting regularly with a group of people who are working toward the same goals has been incredibly motivating. It's a healthier approach to creating stories. 

I feel like I'm revising myself as much as I'm revising my stories. It's a great feeling.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Crafting Outside My Comfort Zone

So, I did something kind of crazy today. I signed up for a 12-week picture book author/illustrator class where (if I understood correctly) I'll share picture book dummies with my instructor and a critique group every other Thursday. The class starts this Saturday. 

I am not an illustrator. 

BUT, I've been doodling and sketching for as long as I can remember, and I've wanted to learn how to make picture book dummies for years. I've attended workshops on it. I've purchased how-to books. Last year, I even joined a picture book critique group composed of mostly author/illustrators to push myself in that direction. 

But I only shared manuscripts.

I'm totally a chicken about sharing any sort of art with people. I can share my writing. But I have this block about art. My older sister is the artist in our family, and she's amazing. My style, if you can call it a style, will never be anything like hers. 

Maybe that's okay. Maybe that's even a good thing. I'm excited (and apprehensive) about where this class might take me. 

Are you trying anything this year that's outside your comfort zone?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


About a month ago, Dax discovered a damp, moldy patch of carpet under his little sister's bed. We had a sneaky leak in the bathroom that ran under the vinyl tiles and through the wall. Gross.

The wall and the floor in the girls' room was visibly in a lot worse shape than the bathroom, but the bed had hidden the damage. So, the girls slept on couches for a few weeks. We replaced the moldy bits. Their room doesn't look any different than it did before the damage.

The bathroom, on the other hand, needed more of an overhaul. Ben took out the toilet (that just kept finding new ways to leak) and the shower (that had mold growing underneath it). Dax pried up the vinyl floor tiles. A large section of the wooden floor had to come out, as did some of the sheetrock. They've been replaced. When we've painted and put in a new toilet and shower, it will look and function SO much better than the bathroom we've had for the last 13 years, but it's going to take a lot more time and money than the bedroom did.

I've been thinking about how, as a writer, I've found that different stories need different kinds of remodeling at different stages.

Last year, I added two point-of-view characters to my YA fantasy. It was a rip-out-the-tub-and-toilet remodel, and it took a couple of drafts to nail down the characters. I'm getting notes back from readers on my latest draft that indicate my next draft will be more of a mud-and-tape-the-uglies job. Then I can finish it with a shiny coat of new paint. At least, that's the plan. I'm currently 15 drafts into this story.

A little over a week ago, Shelley Moore Thomas (AKA The Storyqueen) announced her intent to write seven picture book drafts in seven days, asking if anyone wanted to join her. I didn't need seven new drafts. Thanks for Julie Hedlund's 12x12, I already have a bunch of drafts that need revising. So I told Shelley that as long as the drafts could be revisions, I was in.

We both cranked out seven drafts. Yay! Some of my revisions were more drastic than others. I killed some darlings, especially in the manuscript I thought had the most potential, and my picture book critique group agreed that it was submission ready when I shared it a few days later.

Currently, I'm expanding a picture book into a chapter book series. It may even end of turning into a middle grade series, but at this point I think it makes more sense as a chapter book series. The picture book was written in first person, present tense. I'm rewriting it in close third, past tense. The main character has a different name, and now the story is rooted in the real world. I like it. I think it will be well worth the effort when I've finished.

And so will our bathroom. :o)

Are you tackling any projects this summer?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday Writing Fun

Did you catch the ALA awards this morning? I hope you saw some of your favorites listed. :o)

It's been a good morning so far at my house: One picture book revision down. One MG chapter revision to go. I'm going to squeeze this blog post, some laundry, and an upper body workout in between.

If you write picture books, today is the last day you can sign up for Meg Miller's Revise More Picture Books Challenge. It's free. If you're participating and want to swap revisions for critique, let me know in the comments. I'm shooting for five PB revisions this week.

Tomorrow, Julie Hedlund opens registration for new members of 12x12. This one isn't free, but the price includes monthly webinars with awesome writers, editors, and agents. Last year, Jane Yolen's webinar was by far my favorite. This year, I'm most looking forward to the webinars by Tara Lazar, Miranda Paul, and Peter Reynolds.

Speaking of Miranda Paul, have you seen Emily Arrow's take on WATER IS WATER?

And if you aren't already subscribed to KidLit411, they're giving away prizes all week for their annual Birthday Bash.

What are your favorite writing challenges or support groups?

Happy Monday!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Happy Ending

I made real changes in 2015. 

I gave my notice at work in January, telling them that I'd finish out the school year and that I'd be willing to sub for whomever they hired. I loved my teaching job, but it was time to quit. 

I also signed up for a membership with Julie Hedlund's 12x12 in January. 

I have this driving need to write picture books, so I thought I'd better do something with it.  Writing a couple of new picture book stories a year just wasn't helping me master the craft. Julie's challenge to write 12 new picture books in 12 months was exactly what I needed. I wrote them. I revised over and over and over again. I went from getting no response or a form response to my queries to getting compliments from agents. The last half of the year, I stopped querying to just focus on my craft because I could see my writing improving. I even wrote a few rhyming manuscripts, something I haven't managed in over five years. Poems and rhyming picture books are different art forms.

In February, I used Scrivener to revise my MG space opera. I'm still not an expert at using the new software, but after many years of using MS Word, I wouldn't say I know everything about Word, either. I'm like the software, and I'll use it again. I might even be good at it someday. :o)

In March, I had an unexpected conversation with an agent at Writing for Charity. She'd written out a page and a half of fantastic notes for my picture book manuscript, and I went into our session thinking that we'd be discussing picture books. She steered the conversation around to my novels, specifically the YA fantasy that I hadn't touched in almost a year. By the end of our conversation, I knew how to revise it, and she asked me to please send it to her when I finished. Then she sat by me at dinner, and we discussed picture books. I actually met with two agents at Writing for Charity. I wasn't impressed with the second one. It was a valuable experience for me because now I know what I'm looking for in an agent. 

I didn't finish that beastly revision of my YA fantasy until November, but I DID finish it. It isn't ready for agent eyes yet. I did the heavy lifting, and I'll fine tune it in 2016.

Meanwhile, I'm revising the space opera again. Going back to a story after months away makes it so much easier to see what it needs.

Looking back over the year, quitting my job was exactly what I needed. I'm still helping out at the preschool. Next week, I'm subbing for the teacher all week. But quitting that job allowed me to change my focus. I made a lot more progress the second half of the year than I did the first six months.

By the middle of the year, I'd started joking with my husband that I was having a mid-life crisis. Quietly. I'm a quiet sort of person. I told him that I'd rather come out of it with a weight set than a new car, and he played along. He even bought some of the weights and started lifting them with me. Exercising regularly and eating better has done more to combat my insomnia, anxiety, and depression than anything else I've tried. Sleep is my new friend.

If you're interested, I'm following the program outlined in BODY FOR LIFE, by Bill Phillips. The workouts aren't very long. I'm alternating an intense 20 minute aerobic workout with weight lifting for six days a week. You don't have to count calories or starve to follow the diet. It's about eating the right fuel to get the most out of your body. I'm not into before and after photos or anything that makes people feel shame about their bodies. But I do love feeling better. I don't use the author's products because I found better ones. 

If you're looking for great vitamins and protein shakes, Plexus has the best ones I've tried. No added sugar of any kind and they actually taste good. They have free shipping today. They're also running a great deal on membership if you're interested in buying their products wholesale. There's a huge price difference for customers versus members/ambassadors, so that's what I do. If you want to check it out, you can follow this link:
Full disclosure: If you buy or sign up through this page, it will benefit me. 

I will probably never mention this on the blog again because it feels too much like selling, and that's not what my blog is for. However, BODY FOR LIFE and Plexus have contributed to changing the quality of my life (physically, mentally, and emotionally) this year. I work better when I'm healthy. 

Wishing you all the best in 2016! xoxo

Monday, April 20, 2015


Krista Van Dolzer's debut novel (from Penguin Young Readers), THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING, releases on May 5th! I love, love, LOVE this one, and I have a signed ARC that I'm giving away to one lucky winner.

Rose Wong's cover art reflects the diverse story within. The jacket copy reads: Twelve-year-old Ella Mae Higbee is a sensible girl. She eats her vegetables and wants to be just like Sergeant Friday, her favorite character on Dragnet. So when her auntie Mildred starts spouting nonsense about a scientist who can bring her cousin back to life from blood on his dog tags, Ella Mae is skeptical—until he steps out of a bio-pod right before her eyes.

But the boy is not her cousin—he’s Japanese. And in California in the wake of World War II, the Japanese are still feared and despised. When her aunt refuses to take responsibility, Ella Mae and her Mama take him home instead. Determined to do what’s right by her new friend, Ella Mae teaches Takuma English and defends him from the reverend’s talk of H-E-double-toothpicks. But when his memories start to resurface, Ella Mae learns some shocking truths about her own family and more importantly, what it means to love.

Ella Mae's voice grabbed me from the first sentence. The family dynamics (especially interactions with her parents and between her mom and her aunt) rang true. This book made me laugh aloud in many places, but it also made me go find a box of tissues.

Krista and I have been reading each other's manuscripts for about five years, and I've read this story more times than any other manuscript I've critiqued. For anyone. It has changed dramatically from draft to draft, but the scene with Takuma and Ella Mae that makes me cry has been there since my first read. And it makes me cry (tears leaking down my face) every. single. time.

If you have a U. S. mailing address and would like to be entered in the drawing, please comment below before Thursday, April 23, at 10:00 pm PDT. I'll give an extra entry to anyone who shares an interesting historical fact or even their favorite time and place in history. :o)

If you need a less biased review, here's one by Publisher's Weekly.

And if you're interested in reading more Marvelous Middle Grade reviews, Shannon Messenger has the links on her blog.

Thanks for reading!