Saturday, February 27, 2010

School visits

I did two author visits to local schools yesterday, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Like I’ve mentioned before, these young audiences rejuvenate me. Their enthusiasm and energy is uplifting. Visiting their schools and libraries is always a treat for me.  I also enjoy the questions by the students during the question-and-answer session. They never fail to amaze me. From how old are you to how long does it take you to write a story to how many words does your story have, to do you draw the pictures for the book, etc., etc., they are always curious about how an author works.

After one of the school visits, a couple of young students (with their teacher’s permission) asked if I would take a look at the stories  they had submitted to their teacher for some writing project. I agreed. I was blown away by how well they wrote and what great imagination they had. I sort of critiqued their papers (because they wanted me to) and praised their work. They beamed. That’s what makes some of these school visits so rewarding.

“A good picture book begins with delight, ends with wisdom, humor, warmth, or love, and means more than it says.” – Barbara Williams

Monday, February 22, 2010


I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics and am so inspired by these amazing athletes. Every time an interview is conducted with one of them, they talk about the dedication and passion each brings to his/her craft. And the tremendous amount of time they dedicate to their craft in order to achieve their goals is unbelievable. Practice, practice, practice are the words that I continue to hear. The same could be said of the writing process. We, as writers, need to be as dedicated and passionate about our craft as any athlete out there. And above all, practice, practice, practice.

I found a brief article on the online Writer’s Digest Community blog written by Robert Lee Brewer, titled “Simplify to Find Success,” which I found helpful. It lists ways to identify obstacles that keep you from your writing goals, such as short-term and long-term obstacles and how to remove or prioritize them. I have a writer friend who recently did that. She drew up a list of things that she could cut out in order to get more writing time. And it’s working for her. I don’t know about you, but I need to do that as well. In the meantime, enjoy the writing process. It’s all part of the journey.

"Remember, the harder you work, the luckier you get." -- Sheldon Fogelman

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Writing YA and middle grade stories

Do you sometimes go through phases in your life? I know I do. Years ago, I was into pattern drafting, then cake decorating, then ceramics, flower arrangements, bowling, and on and on. When I first started writing, I wrote nonfiction stories. Then I was a staff writer and did interviews and feature stories. Now I’m into writing children’s picture books, which I still love to do. But I also want to write middle grade and young adult stories. For me, it’s a challenge. But I’m learning. It might take a while, but I’ll get there. Nothing like a challenge to make the old creative juices flow.

If you want to write for children or older teens, there is an excellent article on HubPages by jonbard on just how to go about this. The title of the piece is “Creating Characters for Tween & Teen Readers.” It mentions one of my favorite writers, Richard Peck, 2001 Newbery Medal winner (A Year Down Yonder).

If you’re into writing children’s picture books, visit author Anastasia Suen’s blog. She is an author, teacher, and consultant. I was lucky enough to hear her speak at a writer’s conference not too long ago. She has excellent tips on writing for children.

"I identify very strongly with kids. Twelve and thirteen-year-olds feel things intensely. They need to know about what they are feeling, and more than anything else, they want reassurance that their feelings are normal." -- Judy Blume

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A deer in my yard

A while back, imagine my surprise when I came home to discover there had been a deer in my yard. A real deer! My neighbor had a picture to prove it. I had been out shopping and when I got home, there was all this commotion on my block. “We don’t know where it came from,” one neighbor said. “Suddenly the dogs started barking like crazy and there’s this deer running through the neighbors’ yards.”

When I saw the picture, I marveled at how graceful the deer looked leaping through my yard. I wondered where it had come from. I live in the suburbs and there are no woods nearby. There was a lot of construction going on at the time for a new development and some land had been cleared. Had the deer been uprooted from its natural habitat? I felt sad for the deer that must have been frightened and lost at the same time. Did it ever find its way back or was there anything to go back to? I’ve often wondered what happened to that magnificent creature. Maybe there’s a story there. You never know. Have you ever had a deer in your yard?

"I like the idea that magic can be hidden under the surface of everyday life." -- Trina Schart Hyman

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Books on writing

I really identified with the article, “Confessions of a writing-book junkie,” by Janet Pocorobba, which appeared in the March issue of The Writer magazine. She writes about buying tons of how-to-write books because she felt she needed to know the latest about what these books on writing had to offer. She was afraid she might miss out on something new and important if she didn’t order the latest one as soon as it came out.

That’s me! I thought. I am guilty. I don’t buy tons of those writing books like she does, but I do own quite a few. In fact, many of the same ones she mentioned. In an earlier blog, I mentioned a speaker at a writer’s conference who finally told the audience of aspiring writers who kept asking for advice and recommendations for books on writing, “Just sit in that chair and write the damn book.”

Many times I think we get distracted from our writing by focusing too much on these books instead of our own writing. It’s okay to try and learn as much as we can about the writing process, but at some point in time, we have to just sit down and write. One sentence from her article that really grabbed me was, “I’d been looking for knowledge in others’ words and advice, and valuing it over my own experiences.”

I know that we all have a ton of life experiences that we can draw on to write. So get out there and write that book that only you can write.

“Nothing one ever experiences or feels is wasted.” – Lynne Reid Banks