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Journal

19 Apr

FullSizeRenderThis is a very special journal. I got it several years ago while I was still teaching. The cover intrigued me with its melting clock, random numbers and elastic side fastener. I knew exactly how I would use the minute I picked it up. It was my retirement planning journal. I jotted notes, phone numbers, workshops, passwords, etc on its pages. I took it to every retirement meeting I attended whether it was in-district or at the state offices. I took it with me to my finical planner twice a year. Sometimes I would just take it out, turn the pages, and stare at it. I wondered if it was really possible. Was it realistic? Was this attainable? This melting clock was my reminder that there was a day and time somewhere in the future when I would meet my retirement goals. And guess what? I did. Almost two years ago.

For the first year of retirement, this trusty journal remained with my official paperwork. I never opened it again, but I kept it just in case… just in case the IRS called me, just in case the school district called me, just in case the state retirement board called me, just in case.

Last year, I took it out. It was time to put it to good use again. After all, it served its purpose so well I thought I could get one more ‘miracle’ out of it. I tore out the pages pertaining to retirement and filed those in a manilla folder. Now, with a clean slate, I use the melting clock to remind me that in time (no one knows how long) I would be a published author.

This is my Submissions Journal. On each page, I write the title of a manuscript I have sent out into the world. Under the manuscript title, I write where, when, and to whom I sent it out. I count the months since the last submissions. I decide to either resubmit to new names and places or revise yet one more time. I take it out now and then just to stare at all the titles. I envision my published books in libraries and bookstores everywhere. But like my retirement plans, these things take time.

I added a new page yesterday… a new manuscript, a new name, date, and address.

Facebook Writing Communities

16 Mar

latteI was so excited to get feedback on my latest revision that I actually showed up at our meeting place a half hour early for my critique group meeting. I’m never early to anything! That’s okay, I’ll just have a nice latte and browse Facebook while I wait. th-4 Facebook is my newest addiction. But I must say it’s because I’ve met so many wonderful authors and illustrators in the writing communities. I belong to several organized groups and I enjoy each one. I’ve noticed there are many of the same people on the same sites I am. It seems we swim in the same schools. That’s okay too, as a matter of fact, that’s better than okay. I’ve gotten to know some of these people pretty well, and I know who’s judgement I can trust, who will challenge my thinking, and who I can go to with my questions. th-2In addition to the groups, I’ve found that writers share openly. No matter what time of the day or night, I know I can always find an interesting article or two to read on Facebook. I’ll learn of a new revising strategy, a plotting technique, an agent accepting submissions, an editor’s wish list, blogging recommendations, or a writing contest. th-3Undoubtedly, I’ll find another recommendation for my own reading. I usually keep my library site open on another tab and when I hear of another great must-read, I add it to my holds list. I know that when I get home today there will be an automated call on my phone from the library telling me that books I have on hold are ready to be picked up. I’ll probably just grin, delete the message, and sit down to read my new selections (because of course, I’ll have stopped on my way home).   So, really, an unscheduled half hour is just the warm-up I need for my critique group. Thanks writing pals!

In Like a Lion

5 Mar

UnknownTrue to its reputation, March is coming in like a lion. But right around the corner, spring is ready to pounce. This weekend we will move forward one hour. Next week we are looking forward to warmer temperatures and melting snow. The following week we will look for four leaf clovers, leprechauns, and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. And before you know it, we’ll celebrate the official first day of spring with singing, dancing, and frolicking in the streets. Let’s look back just a few short months. What good has come out of this past winter? Has being homebound brought you closer to loved ones? Helped you organize your closet or deep clean at least one room? Given you the time to focus on your craft? Forced you to eat home-cooked meals? Provided solitude for meaningful meditation? Inspired you to learn something new? Offered a creative outlet? For myself, I’ve polished two manuscripts and sent them out to five industry professionals. I organized another critique group. I’ve started a number of new writing projects, one which is very promising. I’ve been invited to be one of the administrators on the Debut Picture Book Study group on Facebook. I completed last year’s picture book review challenge, Celebrate Every Day with a Picture Book.  And I embarked on this year’s challenge to keep up with new picture book publications, which includes reviewing picture books and offering some fun kid-friendly activities for each one on my new page, 2015 Books Alive!

 Check out some of these titles on my new page.

One Lovely Blog Award

24 Jan

10898140_10204445602193978_626633667977284180_nLooks like I’ve been awarded the ONE LOVELY BLOG AWARD by my friend, critique partner, and fellow blogger Keila Dawson.

KCB-cov-front-ORIG-700Keila is a debut picture book author who’s first book THE KING CAKE BABY comes out this month.

This is a spin on the traditional gingerbread man, the King Cake Baby runs away in New Orleans during Mardi Gras to avoid being baked in the yummy confection.

Keila even gives the reader a copy of her own recipe for King Cake at the end of the book.

*****

The first part to accepting this award is that I must reveal

Seven Things You May Not Know About Me

1. All of my opera knowledge comes from Warner Brothers cartoons.

2. I grew up wanting to be Bewitched, not Elizabeth Montogmery but Samantha Stevens herself.

3. I randomly quote  The Princess BrideMonty Python and the Holy Grail, and Back to the Future (the complete franchise).

4. My first crush was Donny Osmond, no wait Davy Jones, no wait David Cassidy… hey they all have names that start with D.

5. Then I grew up and Rod Stewart stole my heart.

6. My husband and I have an agreement, if I ever meet Rod Stewart… well, you know.

7. I fib a little. At least one of these thing may not be completely true. 🙂

*****

The second part of accepting this award is to nominate up to seven other

Worthy Blogs

1. My first nomination goes to my friend and fellow writer Kathy Cannon Wiechman. Kathy’s first book, LIKE A RIVER: A CIVIL WAR NOVEL comes out in April, 2015 and has already recieved a Kirkus star. You can find Kathy’s blog at her website Swagger Writers.

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2. My second nomination goes to the following picture book bloggers.

Danielle at This Picture Book Life.

Tiffa at The Picture Book Review.

Eric at This Kid Reviews Books.

Tying Up Loose Ends

31 Dec

Tick-Tock 2014

clevon_1000

I’m down to the last two hours of 2014 and I need to extend the year by at least two months. I started a new feature on my blog in late March. And I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping up with it. But I need to more time to fill in the blanks. If you’ve been following Celebrate Every Day with a Picture Book (and I hope you have), you’ll know what I mean. I found a niche in this crazy blogsphere that I thought I could fill. I found some reason, whether big or small, to celebrate every single day of the year. And I paired the celebration with one or more picture books. I hoped that this would inspire teachers, parents, and caregivers to read to their charges every day. I did my best to have the daily pages posted at least a few days in advance so people would have time to pick up some of the books I was recommending for each day. Well, I did fairly well with that, but it took so much time that I didn’t have time to go back and fill in all the days prior to when I first undertook this endeavor. I got all of March filled in and have just started ordering books for days in January. I hope you’ll stick with me for a few more weeks while I find appropriate picture books for January and February.

Looking Forward

imagesAnd now, with 2015 upon us, I have another idea for this blog. It’s something I used to do with children to extend the life of a picture book beyond the published pages. Teachers used to have more time and freedom to foster creativity in children through literature. That time is seriously dwindling to a few precious minutes per year. Ironically, sites like Pinterest are exploding with creative ideas. So I’m going back to something I always enjoyed doing for my children and students, and hopefully give parents, grandparents, and others some simple and fun ideas to do with their little ones to make a favorite picture book come to life.

Beginning this month, I will be reading newly published picture books. I will choose a few each month to pair with a fun craft, game, or activity associated with one or more of the themes of the book to increase a child’s love of books and reading. Join me, won’t you?

On Ideas

30 Apr

I’ve been working on a character sketch for about a week now. I know her name, age, home, likes, dislikes, pretty much everything about her. I’ve also been working on a story to put her in, but nothing seemed to be just right. Then just before midnight as I was drifting off to sleep, this happened…

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I turned on the light, grabbed my laptop and started writing furiously. Luckily for me, my husband can sleep through my late night frenzies so I didn’t even have to leave my bed. As I read my first draft this morning, I realize that it’s not too bad. There’s a lot of work to do to get it right, but I’m on the right track. And now that I know where I’m going, the journey is going to be so much easier. Maybe I should just lie down for a little while.

On Creativity and Art

25 Apr

10153238_10203890570323989_6113696178644298692_nMy critique group met this morning. I shared something brand new and totally different from what I normally write. It kinda went over like a baloney sandwich at a banquet. It started out okay. It had a funny ending. But the middle was missing something. It just didn’t work. That’s not to say that the whole thing needed to be pitched, there were just some problems to address. So we focused on what worked. We talked about how to move from the initial concept to a desirable product.

So I went home with some sound advice and a plan. I knew where the strengths were and I knew what I wanted. The first thing I did was reread the original story with new eyes and the words of my critique partners ringing in my ears. Then I put it down, did some laundry, fed the dogs, read a new picture book, and worked on my blog. All the while, this was stewing in my head. I hadn’t planned on working on it today, I was going to let it simmer for a few days. That was the plan until … wham! It rushed at me full force.  I opened my computer and started revising. I finished it in less than an hour. And now I want to gather my group back together and scream, “Look at this! I’ve got it!” but I have to wait two more weeks to see them.  Oh well, maybe in that time, I’ll find something else to change.  If not I’ll start on my next project.

Lunar Haiku

15 Apr

Blood Moon in April

Earth between the Sun and Moon

Cool Total Eclipse

total-lunar-eclipse-april-15-mt-lemmon-skycenter-3

April Weather Haiku

15 Apr

Three Day Weather Rock

Hot to Wet to Cold and White

So Cincinnati!

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Unabashed Self-Promotion and Grovelling

3 Apr

OK, I guess I’m going to have to beg.  I’ve been working for a month now on a new idea.  I find picture books to go with each day’s observances according to several different Day of the Year type calendars.  It’s been a lot of fun for me, but I’m not noticing any likes or comments from you guys… then I realized these are all set up as pages not posts, and new pages don’t send notifications.  So, I’m writing a post to let you all know what I’m working on.

At the top of each post are the headings, my new heading is called Celebrate Every Day with a Picture Book.  It’s a drop down menu of all the daily pages I’ve written so far under each month’s subheading. I would like this to become a resource for parents and teachers to find new and old picture books to share with their kids. I try to have a few days in advance completed so you can plan ahead.  My goal is eventually to be about 2 weeks ahead, but I’m not there yet.

Sure hope you check it out.  But better yet, comment and let me know what you think.  Maybe you’re looking for something different?

Gotta go work on it some more.

Can you take a minute to check it out?  Please, Please, Pretty Please with Sugar on Top?

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On the Turning of a Phrase

27 Mar

images-3Sometimes the turn of a phrase makes all the difference in a story.

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On Good Endings

26 Mar

UnknownA good ending must be as satisfying as dessert.

-me

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On Post-Critique Revision

21 Mar

When revising, it’s always a good idea to put a manuscript away for a while and come back to it later.

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It’s easier to determine the cause of the fire after the flames have been extinguished.

Jackie and the Beanstalk

20 Mar

Three Cheers for Spring!

Hip-hip-hurray!  Hip-hip-hurray!  Hip-hip-hurray!

Today is the First Day of Spring! And Susanna Leonard Hill is having a spring writing contest on her site, details below.

http://susannahill.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-march-madness-writing-contest-is.html?m=1

Basically, The March Madness Writing Contest is a challenge to write a fractured fairy tale in 400 words or less.  Having a spring theme is optional, and I decided to give it a try since today is the official first day of spring… at least on the calendar!  My story is based on an old favorite, Jack and the Beanstalk.  Now, before you get all outraged at using a familiar folk tale, remember that fairy tale is the umbrella for fables, folk tales, myths, and legends.  Besides, on her own website, Susanna uses a picture of The Three Little Pigs, and her sample story (which is great, by the way) is based on The Gingerbread Boy, both folk tales under the fairy tale umbrella.  

So without further ado, I present to you a 400 word fractured fairy tale….

Jackie and the Beanstalk

(A fractured fairy tale formally known as Jackie and the Three Beans)

jack-and-the-beanstalk-clipart

Jackie’s mother sent her to buy milk, eggs, and bread for the umpteenth polar vortex of the year.  Obviously, she was preparing French toast for breakfast.  Along the snow-covered path to the market, Jackie met a kindly old man; I think his name was Winter.  He offered to sell Jackie three magic beans, which he assured her, would trumpet the arrival of spring.  Removing her gloves, Jackie traded the man the coins her mother had given her for his mysterious magic beans.

Jackie raced home; okay, maybe she slipped and slid and skated home.  Either way; she kicked the snow off her boots, unwrapped the scarf from her neck, flung her overcoat on the table and announced, “Good News: Spring is on the Way!”

Upon hearing her freezing child’s tale, Jackie’s mother raged.  “How could you fall for that old geezer’s trick?”  She opened the door, letting in another cold blast of artic air, and flung the beans into the snow.

Well, you know where this is going, right?  Overnight, a giant beanstalk grew outside Jackie’s door.  In the morning she saw that it reached up, up, up, over fresh-fallen snow, above frosted trees, and past crystal clouds.  Jackie donned her gay apparel, which wasn’t a gay as it had been three months earlier, and climbed the sturdy beanstalk.

When she arrived at the top, breathless and a little dizzy, Jackie saw a radiant glass castle shimmering under the sun.  A lively elf with green thumbs greeted her.  “Come in,” he welcomed her.  “We were just preparing breakfast.”

Jackie, tired and extremely hungry from her long ascent, accepted.  She filled her belly with the most delicious French toast she had ever eaten and then immediately laid down for a quick morning nap.  She dreamt of lush green lawns, fragrant flowers, and warm sunshine on her face.  Waking up, she noticed that she was in a greenhouse.  Why she didn’t realize that earlier, we’ll never understand.  Regardless, Jackie tracked down the elf and pleaded her case.  Joyfully he explained that this was Mother Nature’s greenhouse.  He sprinkled a little magical soil over her and sent her home.

As Jackie descended, she could feel the sunshine on her back and a warm breeze in her hair.   She noticed the buds on the trees and the robin’s return.  She jumped into a puddle and ran into the house.

“Spring has sprung!” she proclaimed.

Happy New Year 2014

1 Jan

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I’m not one for making new year’s resolutions, they always seem so cliched.  But that’s not to say that I don’t like to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next.  A few weeks ago I was challenged to write a list of 31 accomplishments of last year.  I was so excited about that because I had a wonderful year in 2013.  I actually only wrote accomplishments since my retirement in May.  And, guess what… I exceeded the 31 count in only the 7 months between June and December!   I was psyched!  And since I truly believe that the best is yet to come (yes, a cliche), I am super-psyched about 2014!

I have already lined up several workshops, groups, and writing activities for the new year.  Here are my top five for January:

1.  Rate Your Story

http://rateyourstory.blogspot.com

2.  Start the Year Off Write

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1403795779858685/

3. ReviMo

http://megmillerwrites.blogspot.com/2013/12/i-i-will-revise-pre-revimo-interview.html

4. 12×12 Workshop

http://www.juliehedlund.com/forum/#/entry/signin

5. Writing for Children

http://www.uc.edu/ce/olli.html

In addition, I plan on entering three writing contests this month.

(Highlights, AKC Family Dog, and Rate Your Story).

Here’s a little cartoon I copied just for chuckles.

new-years-resolutions

So, time to get busy… Like the poster says, “the best days of my life are all ahead”!

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