Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kick in the Pants - Thanks Authors!

   I had the pleasure of attending a Local Author Event tonight at one of the St. Charles City-County libraries. Close to 50 authors from the St. Louis area gathered in the library, chatting with guests and selling their different works. 

   It was great to see Keith Hoerner (author of Missing the Mark) again, as well as Chad Odom (author of The Last Archide) and Peggy Archer, author of several children’s books. I met several new authors and grabbed another book or two for my “to-be read” pile that is clearly getting out of control! I even found a few Christmas presents that I am sure my family will love. 

    Throughout the night, a reoccurring thought ran through my mind. I want to be sitting here next year with these talented people. I want to have a table with a sign, my book, and people asking me about it. Is that too much to ask? I certainly don’t think so and I am committed to making it happen. The best aspect of these events is that they provide the extra kick in the pants we sometimes need to enter another contest, write another draft, or research a new topic. The work continues!

Photo Credit:  Stephanie Buscema

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The gift of a second chance

    On this Thanksgiving, like on so many others, I read and appreciate the wonderful posts about thankfulness. I love reading about the joys, gifts, and special moments in the lives of those around me. While many people dedicate themselves to thirty days of thankfulness, I am just not that steadfast. For me, it can be summed up in one main idea. 

    There are no words to fully explain how thankful I am for having the opportunity to experience the past six years. In November 2006, right around Thanksgiving, I almost died in one of my heart surgeries. The surgeon made a critical error, causing a blockage in the lead vessel transporting the blood out of my heart. Numerous specialists and surgeons have told me it is miracle I did not suffocate on the operating table.

   Six years later, while I still struggle with the long-term effects of that blockage, I also try to appreciate each day for the opportunity to simply live it. There have been lots of highs and lows, but I am here. I am alive. I have been able to watch my children grow and thrive. I have laughed and cried, I have yelled and danced. I am living my life thanks to the gift of a second chance. For that, I will be forever grateful.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

First Book

    As a reading specialist, a mother, and a writer, there are few gifts I consider more valuable than the gift of a book. My children have grown up surrounded by books. In the womb, stories were read to them. One of my baby showers was a book shower. It is hard for me to imagine life without books.
    In my humble opinion, I believe all children should have access to high-quality books. All children, not just the ones who can afford them. Now I am certainly not naive. I understand that many children lack basic needs, i.e. nutritious food, clothing, adequate housing. Again, as an educator, these are issues I face daily. I still believe that our students need and deserve books. Their brains and bodies need to be fed. Sadly, 80% of the preschools and after school programs serving children in need do not have a single book for the children they work with.
     This is where the amazing work of First Book comes into play. To date, First Book has provided more than 90 million books to children in need. Yes, 90 million books! First Book currently serves over 35,000 schools nationwide. Their goal is not to fight illiteracy but to end it. Music to my ears!
     As you consider your holiday gift-giving this year, please consider including First Book on your list. Your $10.00 donation will provide four brand new books for children, perhaps even youngsters in your neighborhood. Please visit their site, talk to a friend or co-worker about  First Book, and encourage others to do the same.

 First Book

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Coffee and Critique

Coffee and Critique

I miss my critique group. They are a fabulous bunch to say the very least! Almost all are published authors, writing in a wide range of genres. Each member brings a unique writing style, point of view, and knowledge of both reading and writing. Working with them fills my cup, if you will. It allows my creative juices to run freely and their wisdom is vast. My schedule has been more demanding than ever as of late, making it impossible for me to meet with them. It is clearly evident my writing has suffered in their absence. That said, this post is about the the importance of critiques, especially finding a critique group with which you can trust your work and heart.

A few thoughts about critiques:

  1. Find someone (or several someones) who is honest but also understands tact. A poorly delivered critique can be crushing. You also need to find someone who understands writing and reading. They have to read in-depth and in a variety of genres. If you can find someone who writes in your specific genre, i.e., children's or horror, even better!
  2. Make sure your work is ready before you give it to them for a critique. If you present a rough draft, critical time will be wasted on basic grammatical and structural errors.That is a major no-no in our group!
  3. Be prepared to possibly have some kind of emotional reaction (good or bad) but understand their critique is not about you.You did ask for their opinion about your work, like it or not. 
  4. After you review or listen to the critique, let it sit for a few days. Any emotions, the highs and the lows, will have subsided, and you will be able to look over the critique(s) more objectively. I often need a good week.
  5. Revisit the critique(s) when you have dedicated time to work through it. Focus on how the suggestions and revisions would help make your work better in the long run.
  6. In looking through the critique(s), label or identify your technical errors because those things absolutely need to be fixed.  
  7. Once this is completed, review the more subjective comments. Chew on these for awhile and then make your own decisions as the author about what you’ll use and what you’ll ignore. A word of advice - if you had multiple critics and they all made certain comments about the same thing, pay attention to it! 
  8. Last but not least, make sure you thank your critic(s). Even if you disagreed with some (or all) of what they had to say, they did take the time to help you. In the end, if you were not satisfied with the critique(s), find a new critique partner or group. There is help out there!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Young Writers Program

    As many of you know, I am plowing my way through Nanowrimo in an effort to churn out a novel in one month. Don’t worry, this is not another blog post about my nano adventures. Nope, it is a post about our 14 year old daughter’s adventure with Nano through the Young Writers Program.

   Upon hearing about my participation in Nano via social media, Jordan’s interest was sparked and she did a bit of investigating. On November 1st, I received a text from her (she lives out of state), asking me if I thought she should try it. Pride running through my mother/teacher veins, I encouraged her to give it a go and that was all she needed!

   Over the past eleven days, Jordan has blended her creativity, smarts, and determination. She has already written over 17,000 words, putting her over the halfway mark (the youth goal is a mere 30,000 words). She is outpacing many senior nano-ers, myself included, and from the tiny bit she is willing to share, is creating an amazing story.

   At the end of the month, I don’t really care if Jordan reaches 30,000 words (but I think she will). It is not about the word count but more the process and the craft. She took on a challenge few adolescents would and has risen to it. While other kids her age are out causing trouble or siting around doing nothing, she is creating magic with her words. I am so impressed by my stepdaughter and feel blessed to play a part in her life.

Photo Credit: Nanowrimo

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Missing the Mark

     I just finished Keith T. Hoerner's Missing the Mark: A Target Child Speaks. After reading his personal story of trauma, I had to wait a couple of days before I was ready to attempt to put my thoughts into words. Keith's story is one of absolute terror, inflicted over a period of thirty plus years by the person supposed to love him the most, his mother. His story makes you question humanity on the most basic levels. 

     Missing the Mark, while an often difficult story to read because of its content, is worth the time. Keith intertwines vignettes, poetry, and honest reflection in a beautifully written story. His ability to candidly share his walk through hell puts you right there with him, providing a front row seat to his mother's physical and emotional abuse and his father's refusal to intervene.

     Having met with Keith before reading Missing the Mark, I believe his words reached out to me on a more personal level. He is a caring man and a gifted, wounded storyteller. His story, written in an often chaotic and jumpy manner, illuminates the true pandemonium he lived through. Keith is a survivor and is now using his private trauma to help others work through their own struggles with child abuse and neglect.Heartfelt and striking, it is a cathartic story through and through.

Photo Credit: WestBow Press

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Nano Update

    November is well underway which means Nanowrimo is in full swing! I dutifully registered near the end of October and anxiously awaited the official Go Time. Jumping into gear on November 1, I wrote my 1,667 words and even a few more. The next day, I did the same and was on a roll. Eight days in, I have not exactly maintained this fervor but I am hanging in there, which is saying something! As of tonight's count, I hit 11,210 words. I am averaging 1,400 words per day but I need to be over 1,680 to get to the 50,000 mark by the end of the month.

   Nano is not for the weak of spirit (or for those who work, have children, etc). I am quickly recognizing the balancing act involved with dedicating "butt in chair" time while also maintaining some form of household stability. Whatever sacrifices are involved in the event, there is something to be said about working toward a goal. So for those who love to create, those who want to be a writer, and those who want to be able to say, "I did it. I wrote a novel" well, Nanowrimo was made for you.

Photo Credit: Nanowrimo 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Go Vote

Today's message is short and sweet. Please go vote tomorrow. Get up a little earlier, skip lunch, whatever you need to do to make time to get to the polls. This isn't about party affiliation or preference. It is about having the right to vote, the privilege to have a say in what happens in our country. We are blessed to have this opportunity here in America. See you at the polls!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Author Inspiration

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the Missouri SCBWI conference. Of the several fantastic speakers, I have to say I enjoyed David Harrison's keynote the most. David has been writing for over 40 years successfully in children's fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. His first book, Boy with a Drum, has sold 2 million copies to date. As you can imagine, he had plenty to share and was such an engaging speaker.
Down to earth and funny, he drew us into his world with candid descriptions. He talked about many aspects of writing but one topic, the care and feeding of ideas, really stuck with me.  According to David, ideas are often so exciting and overwhelming they lure us in. They beckon us, "inviting us to woo them." He is so right - a new idea is like a new love. It calls to us, wanting us to spend all our time with him/her. These new ideas are the best part of being a writer as they spark our imagination. and ignite a love affair.  
David's entire keynote was playful while informative and helped set the day in motion. It was a conference well worth the time and money. Thank you SCBWI!

Friday, November 2, 2012

SCBWI Conference

Tonight kicks off the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Missouri conference. I registered months ago, eager for the event. I am attending tomorrow's day long workshop, but wished it would have been possible to attend tonight as well. Darn these other obligations!

This should be a fantastic day, with opportunities to network, hear about market trends, and get re-invigorated in the writing process. Featured keynote speakers include author Ellen Hopkins “Writing Bravely” and author David Harrison “The Writer At Work." There are additional sessions on school visits, the education market and nonfiction.

I will (hopefully) excitedly report back my findings after I have processed through it all and gotten over my writer's shock. Stay tuned!