Saturday, July 24, 2010


I like to watch Book-TV on C-SPAN 2 when they have segments on authors and their writing habits. I just finished watching author and historian, James McPherson, whose book, Battle Cry of Freedom, won him the Pulitzer Prize. He’s written tons of other books as well. He had some interesting things to say. First of all, I found it fascinating that he stills prefers to type his longer pieces on an Olympia electric typewriter. He likes the “rhythm of the typewriter,” he said. He talked about the beginning of a story, which of course we call the “hook.” He said it’s what “draws in the reader but is also the most difficult to write.” I hear you, Mr. McPherson.

He said he thinks about the opening quite a bit before he sits down to write and then spoke about the writing process. “The actual formulation of the sentence is something I do as I’m thinking about it. Sometimes I start a sentence not knowing how it’s going to end. But the actual process of putting down the first clause or first words of the sentence … something clicks in my head and I think this is the right way to do it.”

He went on to say that “writing begets more writing.” He mentioned that it’s “probably true of most writers that writing helps to clarify their thinking and that thinking then leads to clarification of the next sentence or paragraph they want to do.”

I’m not comparing myself to Mr. McPherson, but I find that to be true in my own writing. Today I spent a few hours on my work-in-progress piece. I found that in some instances putting down first words in a sentence where I had no idea where it would lead just naturally led to more writing. After a while, the writing seemed to flow. Once I revise, I’ll keep some sentences in and cut others out. But the important thing is that I was writing.

"The writer must write what he has to say, not speak it." -- Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in your writing? Do you lack motivation? I am feeling that way today. It’s hot and humid outside. I just got home from running errands. I have a sort of deadline on one of my stories (for a workshop). But I sure don’t feel motivated. I keep staring at the last chapter I wrote and have no idea how to continue. Ever have one of those days?

So I tore myself away from my PC, which was very easy to do (heh-heh) and treated myself to a cold, refreshing agua fresca (fruit drink) of watermelon. Then I started reading a book I just bought about the story of Ralph Waldo Emerson. A writer friend of mine wrote it. She autographed it for me yesterday and I was anxious to start reading it. It is so well written and the photographs in it are outstanding. Reading got me motivated again. Yea! Getting immersed in that book worked like magic for me. What works for you? Here’s a link to a Writer’s Digest blog on “9 ways to get started and stay motivated.” That also helped me get “unstuck.” Good luck!

Took the above picture by the side of the road where a vendor was selling his pinatas.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Writing Contests

You might remember that at some time I mentioned that entering writing contests is what got me hooked and started in this career. There were many disappointments, of course, when I didn’t win or even place. But there were moments of joy when I did. I remember one specific episode when I entered a writing contest about patio decks. I loved my deck and spent many hours out there, especially at night gazing at the stars. I wrote about that. And lo and behold, I won. That was years ago, but I still remember the UPS truck driving up and the delivery guy unloading box after box of gallons of deck stains, paint, brushes, etc., for our deck. That was my prize – items for the deck! I was one happy camper. Other times, I won free subscriptions for magazines. Winning gave me the confidence to pursue what I loved. I still think it’s a great idea for those writers just starting to break in to enter writing contests. It gives you an opportunity to follow guidelines, word counts, and deadlines. Debut Children’s Authors Helped by Contest Wins written by Institute of Children’s Writers' author Laura Aldir-Hernandez covers what I’ve been writing about. Read it and start submitting.

Last week I attended and signed books at the Latino Family Expo being held at the convention center. The picture above is of Folkloric dancers performing in their colorful dresses.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Book

It’s an exciting time for me. Info on my latest bilingual picture story book, Battle of the Snow Cones, due out in November of this year, is already making the rounds online. To find out more about it, click on La Bloga blog where it was featured this week. It can be pre-ordered at as well. This has been a collaborative effort between the illustrator and the writer. It becomes "our" book because we both put so much into it. Talented Illustrator Alisha Gambino’s art in vivid, brilliant colors makes the book come alive. It’s a fun read, I think, and I hope readers of all ages will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. It’s always a thrill when you finally see your book in print whether it’s the first one or second or third. The excitement is always there.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Helpful Advice

I just had to print out blogger Kate Monahan’s Writer’s Digest online article on “10 Things My Creative Writing MFA Taught Me Not To Do.” I found them extremely helpful because I’ve come across some of these myself. For example, one of her “don’ts” is taking risks in writing. She writes: Don’t “Play it Safe. Never play it safe. Writing is about taking risks. About digging deep and uncovering the raw, sometimes painful pieces. When one takes risks in their writing, the words on the page are alive and full of truth.”

At a writing workshop I once attended, we were told to write “without fear.” It took me a while to figure that out. How many of us actually do that? Read the rest of her blog for the other “nine” don’ts. Helpful advice.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


In our critique group, we all agree that writing a synopsis is sometimes harder than writing the story itself. A writer is expected to write a one-page summary of the entire novel. How scary is that? We all struggle when it comes to that part of the writing process. But it’s very important to do it right. A publisher’s guidelines will sometimes ask for a synopsis and maybe a few chapters of your manuscript. The synopsis is the first thing they see. So you’d better make it interesting enough that they will continue to want to read the rest of your story. Here’s a link by blogger Marg Gilks that I found helpful on this topic.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I have an old copy of Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. The other day I read a Writer’s Digest article, “What You Might Find in Your Old Notebooks," by blogger Kate Monahan, which mentioned free writing and referred to a quote in Goldberg’s book. I decided to revisit the book, especially the chapter Goldberg wrote on “Rereading and Rewriting.” She mentions putting your writing aside for a while and then coming back and rereading. I recently mentioned just that in a writing workshop I conducted for senior citizens. I commented how I’ve revisited an earlier piece several days or weeks later and discover that I have a different perspective. Most of the time, it’s a much better perspective. Goldberg writes in that chapter, “See revision as ‘envisioning again.’ If there are areas in your work where there is a blur or vagueness, you can simply see the picture and add the details that will bring your work closer to your mind’s picture.” It works for me. Happy writing.

Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.” -- Natalie Goldberg