Thursday, December 06, 2012

I'm a Winner!

Badge designed by Ward Jenkins. Find him at
For the second year in a row, I participated in Tara Lazar's brainchild event, Picture Book Idea Month. Masses of writers voluntarily pledged to spend November coming up with (at least) one picture book idea per day. And — last time I checked the tally — more than 400 of us completed the task, right on schedule.

That, of course, makes all of us big, beautiful winners, and I've downloaded my well-earned badge to prove it. (In case you missed it, please see above.)

This year I came up with a total of 38 ideas. Several of them are fairly well developed with a potential story arc or a rough outline. Most of the rest are one-sentence descriptions, simple concepts, or just kernels of some sort (think: particular settings, loaded character names, trigger phrases that mean something to me).

Now, please pardon me while I decide which one or ten of those books to start writing!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

See You Tonight, SCBWI!

A teaser slide from my PowerPoint file.
Event alert!

I'm gearing up to present at tonight's SCBWI Western Washington Professional Series meeting. The venue is Seattle Pacific University's Demaray Hall, Room 150, and the program starts at 7:00 p.m.

My topic is "Exploring Your Voice As a Children's Writer" — which, in short, is about connecting with that voice in your head (you know you have one) and using it for good. In other words, letting it guide you in developing your only-one-like-it-on-Earth personal writing style.

This will be an informal and interactive talk with the best type of audience out there: Fellow children's writers.

After my bit, author-illustrator Ben Clanton will discuss "Hands-On Picture Books: Making a Great Reread-Aloud."

Looking forward to it, and cutting off my coffee consumption NOW. So any jitters people detect tonight will be all me.

Monday, November 05, 2012

What's News?

Yes, I did take back my blog, as I so bloggily declared I would in July. Sometimes, though, no blog news is good news. Other times — as is the case here — no blog news is really just no news in particular. That I felt like sharing. On the blog.

Oh, I was working, always working (a freelancer's gotta eat) — and writing, always writing (my YA WIP or whatever else I wrote to avoid it). But here's the thing about the writing: The process and my response to it turned downright rocky over the long Seattle summer. So I believe I did readers a favor by not blogging my way through it all. Seriously, no one but the dog needed to see that.

Now I've come back to the blog to share a merry milestone moment on my path to finishing my current novel-in-progress:

I have begun to revise the dang thing. (Psst. That means there is a dang thing to work with.)

I'll admit that I share this news with some trepidation. One feels that doing so could possibly cause one's manuscript, computers, external hard drive, and online backup accounts to burst into flames.

But by the time you see this, I will have trusted Blogger's "Publish" button, and you, to handle my news with care.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Taking Back My Blog

So many post ideas, so little blogging! What's up with that?

Seriously. I'm asking. Except that, actually, I think I know. As mentioned earlier, I've purposefully rearranged my freelancing schedule to commit more of this year's time to getting through my pretty-pet YA WIP. The one I've been pondering for (eek!) decades now and seriously working on for the past year.

That commitment means a lot to me. A LOT. And, so, because the writing — which by most of your saner external measures has gone really, really well — is never quite where I want it to be (let's face it, that means "done"), the Voice in My Head is less than nurturing. She might even be a bit trash-talky. Which, in turn, makes me shy away from the blog. I just don't want that voice writing here, not even in a veiled form.

So, this is the part where I step in to take back my blog. I am perfectly capable of writing in my own dang voice, thank you. Miss Voice can just shut her pie hole. (Which really is a shame for her given that my research includes lots of pie-making practice.)

Because you know what? Writing about my process is one of the points of having a writer's blog. !!! And, just like life with a capital L, that process gets messy sometimes — and messy isn't bad. It's not to be feared. It's just a thing.

More blogging it out to come.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Watch BookExpo America's Event Stream Right Here!

Hey, publishing peeps! I can't attend BookExpo America in NYC this year, but — with BEA's handy streaming player — I can make like a fly on its exhibit center's walls. I know there will be lots of great stuff to catch up on each day, but I'm particularly hoping to catch glimpses of some favorite (scheduled!) names in children's literature, such as . . .

Walter Dean Myers
Lois Lowry
John Green
Sharon Creech
R. L. Stine
Mo Willems
Dav Pilkey
Eoin Colfer

Fun, right? I thought some of you might like to join me (it's not stalking if we do it together), so please check back here June 5–7 to catch conference highlights.

[Updating the post on July 7 to mention that I've replaced the streaming player that previously inhabited this space with the sentence you're reading NOW. The player automatically started showing videos whenever anyone visited this post or the blog's home page, and that proved too annoying. To me. Honestly, that sort of thing drives me nuts! So the player went bye-bye. The wonderful videos are still available at BookExpo's main site, though, so please do visit that to catch up on or relive some BEA events!]

Oh, and by the way: Are you an Editorial Freelancers Association member? Or are you interested in learning more about the organization and/or hiring a professional freelancer from our talented ranks? Please stop by EFA's booth at BEA — it's number 2330. Our friendly reps would love to see you!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Reading Deprivation Week Check-In #2

Eleven-thirty on a Friday night, and I just finished a little revision session with my picture book WIP. This is the kind of thing a delightfully deprived girl does. The fun part was that it was . . . fun! Not work-like at all. I hadn't looked at this manuscript in about a week, so the experience had that perspective going for it. But I do believe that my mind is less gunked up than usual right now, which sharpens my Revision Vision. Always a pleasure to do business with that!

Before I forget to say so:

The weekend is about to test my commitment. The weekend and my just-home-from-a-three-week-trip husband, that is.

Tonight was easy to handle because the husband couldn't keep his eyes open much past nine. But I will want to spend lots of time with him Saturday and Sunday, and I think that could take me out of my deprivation element and cause vulnerability. Then again, maybe having him home will make it easier to sail on through. We shall see.

Random observations and details from Deprivation's Depths Dailies (a lame riff on my all-time favorite album title):
  • A big hindsight clue that it was time to redo this exercise was my uncharacteristic impatience with absolute nothings related to normal media consumption. Examples—
    • An inability to read The Descendants without hearing George Clooney as narrator. (I have not seen the film.)
    • Annoyance with distinct types of incendiary political/sensationalized entertainment headlines that made me want to tally examples to support a point I wasn't making about articles I wasn't reading.
    • Slower-by-mere-seconds browser performance on the home wi-fi network versus the router connection.
    • Newly restricted fast forwarding with On Demand programs.
    • Not being able to control exactly how a single thumbs-up/-down tap affects a Pandora station's playlist.
  • This week's experience makes me want to read more than I already do. More of the so-called good stuff. But I know that more of that is not "the" more I really need.
  • It did not fly, but I spent several minutes attempting to justify watching the movie Young Adult. (It's "work related," people!)
  • I made a cool cover collage for my writing notebook.
  • Seemingly out of nowhere today, I caught myself singing along with the car radio. Please note that I had NO memory of turning the thing on.
  • Instead of the traditional three morning pages, I've been routinely doing five . . . and needing to make myself stop there.
  • I've been eating less this week. That wasn't a goal — it has just been happening.

And now, as Day 6 begins due to that technicality known as the time of day, I will end my Day 5 report and see how fast I can fall asleep.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reading Deprivation Week Check-In #1

It is Day 3 of my deprivation, and I was just this minute blown away to notice that it's almost 9:00 in the evening. I haven't even considered supper yet.

I've been up since 5:00 a.m., which is definitely not my norm. (Six-thirty girl here.) But at 3:20, the newspaper carrier hurled the Seattle Times so hard at my front door that I half-expected to find the paper inside. I shut my eyes back down only to get a pointy dog nose to the face 10 minutes later. The pup replied in the affirmative when asked "Do you need to go outside?", so out into the rain we both went and into the swampy yard, she went . . . and went. Safely back in beds after wiping feet, drying faces, and rearranging blankets, we two girls drifted back into dreamland. But then, at 4:55, a shaving mirror spontaneously un-suctioned itself from the shower wall and crashed onto the bathroom floor, effectively ending the night for good.

After that early start I just explained in way too much detail, what blows me away about the nine o'clock hour-ness of the moment is how super fast this day flew past me.

Day 1 of Reading Deprivation Week did no such thing. That was a long one. I experienced a generalized (yet sometimes quite specific) antsy feeling from morning to night. I mean, I could see the new book I'd just started on my nightstand, my stack of magazines on the coffee table, my piles of research on top of/under my desk, my two waiting Netflix mailers on the banister, and the portal to the World Wide Web every time I looked at my computer screen.

I was aware all day that I'd committed to the deprivation process, but all day it seemed like every single idea I had for what to do next involved reading or watching or consuming. Those ideas flowed. Now — in case you were wondering — this week is NOT about not getting work done. It's not about zero reading. It IS, however, about sticking to the necessities. So on that day, especially, I had to constantly ask myself, Do I need to do this to further my work/successfully live my life today, or this week? Because, wow, were my peepers eager to land on some text (familiar shampoo bottles and nutritional information, anyone?). And, boy, was my trigger finger ever clicky. Click on, click off. Click, click, click — click it Off, click a little more.

Day 2 was easier than Day 1 but had its own standout moments of forgetfulness. Such as my suddenly wondering, Hmm, what's a better-for-this-sentence synonym for imploring? — and then soon realizing that I'd just spent several extra, unnecessary, low-quality minutes searching the online thesaurus.

Or here's one: After knocking off a little earlier than usual for the workday (perhaps because I got more done?), I plopped down in front of the TV — without thinking it through — and thought, Ooh, I never watch television at this hour! This would be a great time to watch that On Demand show from last week . . . no, wait a minute — STOP!!

But like I said, Day 3 has gone fast for me, and that's because a sense of freedom finally set in. I've stayed busy and productive and experienced the added bonuses of constantly bursting into song (I think I did that just once on Day 1 and only a couple of times yesterday), coming up with yummy thrown-together meals, busting out my happy walker's grin even in the ridiculously wet rain, and jotting down and starting to implement the steady stream of ideas shooting out of my brain and onto the pages of my WIP (yippee!) . . .

Four more days to go. That I will continue being tested (and may occasionally slip up) is a given. But now that I'm practically halfway through the week, all I want to do is slow down time to make sure I don't miss a tickety-tockety minute of it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

It's Reading Deprivation Week at My House

Tonight, I'm starting my second-annual participation in a self-imposed Reading Deprivation Week — a practice originally described/prescribed in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. To better reflect humankind's current state of distractability, Cameron now calls the exercise Media Deprivation Week, and that makes perfect sense. But I am attached to the original title, so . . . there.

What this means for me this week:

No reading or other media consumption beyond what I truly need to do for work and/or to survive. For example, I will read STOP signs while driving. But. No TV, no movies. No talk radio. No podcasts or YouTube videos or audiobooks. No web surfing. No listening to music with lyrics or spending time on nonessential emails. No social media.

Yikes!!!! What's the big idea here, anyway?

Well, the idea is to limit your exposure to the very external influences that clog your brain, take up your valuable time, and get between you and your creative output. Yes, reading is good. But the truth is that sometimes the habitual act of reading the daily news or even great LITrachoor can cause enough of a disconnect between you and your creative self to effectively break down your creative process, leaving you less creatively productive than you could be (at a minimum) or — gasp! — completely creatively BLOCKED (at the maximum)!

Cameron says,  "For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction. We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own."

Reading Deprivation Week helps dampen the excess noise so you can hear yourself think and get back to doing what YOU do.

I know from last year's experience that this exercise is difficult at first but then quickly becomes comfortable. Enjoyable, even. The rewards far outweigh any perceived sacrifices. I've actually been wanting to do Round 2 of this for a few months, but one thing or another has made me save it ("save it," I said, not "put it off"!) for the right time.

Turns out, this coming week is perfect for me, and it. I look forward to embracing Deprivation and seeing exactly how it fills me up.

Please do check this space for check-ins throughout the week. I don't know how many times I'll squawk, but I will be sure to post any blog updates to Twitter and Facebook using simple shares that do not involve my engagement. (In other words, I will post and run!) Please feel free to discuss any of it among yourselves in the comments this week. And I'll answer any questions you ask me next week.

And now, without further ado . . .

Let Reading Deprivation Week begin!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Happy New, New Year!

Hey, You(s?) — I finally made it to 2012!

Yes, yes, I certainly existed and definitely even functioned during January and February of this very year. But March is the first month in which I've been able to exist (and even function) in the 2012 space I set my sights on inhabiting late last fall.


I reprioritized my professional life so that I'm actually available to pursue the goals at the top of my list. These include
  1. Finishing and submitting my YA historical novel WIP (1/2 of a first draft complete)
  2. Ditto that for my humorous picture book WIP (full first draft in hand)
  3. Repurposing the three previously sold full manuscripts whose rights reverted to me after a few publication schedules were canceled in the Downturn
Turns out that making significant changes to your day-to-day work life takes a wee bit o' time. Old projects to finish, new goals-friendly projects to pursue/secure, other activities to step away from . . . and all that.

But. Here I am. Right where I want to be and ready to get it all DONE.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A Dickens of a Day

I just spent about 20 minutes rifling through my bookshelves, book stacks, book bags, and other potential book-hiding spots/receptacles. I wanted to share an excerpt from the book at left — my 2005 title Tales of Charles Dickens — in honor of today, the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens's birth.

But, alas, I cannot find my copy.

I do remember knowing at some point that I had just one copy in my possession, but I don't recall ever knowing that number had dwindled to just none. I'm thinking I left it behind during a school visit at which I displayed a number of my titles. So, darn that all.

The tales in this book are my retellings of favorite Dickens stories: "The Signalman," "Births: To Mrs. Meek, a Son," "Please, Sir, I Want Some More," "Hunted Down," and "To Be Read at Dusk." I wrote them specifically for reluctant readers (RL 3.2 / IL 4–9), and I enjoyed every minute of making the stories more accessible for younger kids. What writer or editor wouldn't love to work with a master storyteller's original tales?

Do you love that cover illustration as much as I do? The talented Sue Cornelison created it.

While I can't share a snippet from my book honoring Mr. Dickens, I can now stop beating around the bush (or maybe I've been beating a dead horse, given the anticlimactic nature of the extended mention of my own book I do not own) and share this delightful Washington Post piece giving props to Dickens's expert command of the verbose.

Please enjoy.

And, thank you for the stories, CD!