Thursday, April 21, 2016

It's Been How Long?????

Wow! It has been almost six months since I have put fingers to keyboard for this blog! Well, know?

Since I last wrote, I signed with agent extraordinaire KENDRA MARCUS of BookStop Literary! She is one dynamite lady who really knows her stuff, and her partner Minju Chang is super sharp. Theirs is a very editorial agency, which I love. Though it often means more work for me, the suggested revisions push me outside of my normal boundaries and ultimately result in a better manuscript. Having that kind of guidance and accountability has already made a huge difference in my writing and my process.

My current project is coming along nicely. In the near future, I will share its evolution with you, dear readers. Please stay tuned.

For now, check out my post on Angie Karcher's RhyPiBoMo blog, in which I put on my literacy coach's hat to discuss the merits of rhyming picture books in the classroom, beyond Circle Time:

I hope you enjoy! I will do my best to give you a reason to visit again soon!

Until then,

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Letter to Young Writers

Dear young writers,

Never think that you are too young to have anything worthy to say; each person you meet, experience you have, idea you dream, or world you imagine offers infinite possibilities for your writing.

Capture these kernels of creativity in a journal or writer's notebook. Include photographs, words, snippets of overheard conversations, poems, quotes, song lyrics - anything that makes you tingle, smile, cry, cringe, tremble, shout.

Free write, list, doodle, imagine, wonder, dream. Record your triumphs, loves, losses, and hurts. This will be your treasure trove of writing ideas, and you will always have something to mine. Trust me; you will be glad you did.

Want more? Check out my Young Writers page.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Poem and a Picture for your Friday Pleasure

Yes, it's been a lonnnnnnnnng time since I posted - three months, to be exact. Those three months have been wonderfully (okay, maybe not always so wonderfully) chaotic! Now that the school year has come to a close, I will have more time to devote to this blog, so thanks for not giving up on me!

I hope this last Friday in May finds all my writer friends, family, and new visitors bursting with creative energy. If not, maybe a little poem and artwork will spark some activity in your prefrontal cortex!

Penny Parker Klostermann, whose book THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT (Random House Books for Young Readers) releases August 4, 2015, graciously hosts me and my son Ethan on her blog this week. Hop on over and check it out here:

I hope you enjoy our collaboration and Penny's fantastic blog. Happy writing, y'all!


Monday, February 2, 2015

Caught in the Madness (or How I already broke one of my Writer's Resolutions...)

My very sneaky schnauzer, Ella, stealing pizza. Yes, she's on the counter!

  The Look of Shame

Well, I did it.

I mean, who can blame me?

It wasn't my fault, really.


Okay, so maybe I was a teeny tiny bit responsible.

I guess I should tell you what IT is...

I entered another challenge.

I know, I know! I pledged in my last post not to do that.

But how could I resist an international, slam-dunk kid's poetry tournament like

You understand now, don't you?

I couldn't.

I shouldn't.

I wouldn't.

Of course, there's no guarantee I'll even make it to the top 64 contender's bracket. (I'm not sure if that's proper basketball terminology, but it sounds March-Madness-y, doesn't it?)

To be selected as an authlete, I have to survive the first poetic challenge: Write 2-8 lines explaining why you'll be the winner.

I decided to go all double-dactyl-y, in honor of the word basketball, (and to show off my poetic prowess, of course). So without further ado, here is my entry piece:

There you have it, folks, and it only had me sidetracked for a few hours!

YOU want to join me in the Madness now, don't you?

Come on. Get off the bench, throw on that stinky, old jersey and flex those dribbling have work to do!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Weeding the Virtual Garden, or Staging My Own Cyber Intervention

Recently, it occurred to me that I have been spending more time roaming around writer cyberspace than doing any actual writing.

In truth, I have become a twitter-addicted, blog-brained, cyber-junkie!

Oh, the shame!

While my "research" has yielded valuable insight into the agenting and publishing worlds, wise advice on craft, and timely information on contests, challenges, and events, it has also consumed massive amounts of quality writing time (which is scarce for this working mom).

Something has to give.

Notice I said give, not give up.

Just try to take my Twitter away now, and the results wouldn't be pretty.


I'm not kidding.


My Two-Step Solution?


1. Keep ONLY those cyber activities that are absolutely essential to my growth as a writer and my current writing goals and projects



2. Create parameters for using them

Disclaimer to self: Parameters subject to change with writing focus and priorities.


Well I can't do either of those unless I have clearly defined my current writing goals and priorities, so I guess it's actually a Three-Step Solution.

Here are my immediate goals:
  • Write a mystery piece for the Highlights Fiction contest
  • Finish and revise CB version of a PB manuscript per request of publisher
  • Find an agent
  • Submit finished PB manuscripts
Not-quite-immediate goals:
  • Write new PB biography based on research already completed
  • Continue writing poems for themed collection
  • Continue working on MG historical fiction and YA realistic fiction WIPs
  • Submit completed poems and short stories to magazines
With my goals in mind, here is a sampling of my Absolute Essentials:
  • Twitter 
A sampling of my "parameters"

- on Twitter, follow only hashtags and people/groups related to current goals and projects (#mswl, #picturebooks, kidlit agents, etc.) AND limit my time to one hour total each day.

-catch up on blogs only twice a week

-no new challenges until I reach my goals!!!

Well, there you have it folks! With this simple Three-Step-Program, you, too, can be cured of your nasty, little cyber habit.

And if you happen to see me like this...

Remind me to get back on the wagon!

Happy writing, y'all,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fun, fun, fun! Holiday Contest Poem

I had so much fun writing this for Susanna Leonard Hill's 4th Annual Holiday Contest. The premise:
350 words or less about a wacky weather holiday experience. Here's my take, hitting the word count right on the nose (whew!):

The Rumbledy, Jumbledy Holiday Feast

          The last week of school before winter vacation
Miss Chipper’s class planned a unique celebration.

“C’mon,” said Miss Chipper. “With your help, I bet -
we’ll make this a party we'll never forget!”

Ricardo piped up from the very last row,
“Why don’t we watch Rudolph and sing about snow?”

“Or maybe make gingerbread houses,” said Lee.
and string up some popcorn to hang on the tree.”

“But those are the same things we do every year.
There’s nothing unique about that!” said Jahir. 

“I got it!” cried Rachel. “Why don’t we include
“our family’s traditional holiday foods?”

“Super-fantabulous!” Miss Chipper sang.
“Our first international winter shebang!”

The next several days all the children were busy –
They fried, fricasseed and sautéed themselves dizzy!

At last the day came; they set up their displays
with casseroles, baskets, and platters and trays.

“Bravo!” said Miss Chipper. “This feast looks delicious!
Now tell me about all these wonderful dishes!”

Imani presented a round flattened bread.
“We call it Chapati in Kenya,” she said.

Jose brought pasteles, a savory pastry -
In warm Puerto Rico, considered quite tasty.

Mei-Lin made some dumplings to bring New Year’s luck
prepared with fresh chickens she helped her mom pluck.

When all had presented, they lined up to eat,
but just then a tremor rose up from their feet.

The ground shook and shifted; it shimmied and shivered.
It wiggled and wobbled and trembled and quivered!

Miss Chipper was heard above all of the shaking:
“Take cover, my dears, ‘til the classroom stops quaking!”

The chairs began sliding, colliding, and bumping!
On top of the table the dumplings were jumping!

The rice balls were bouncing; they fell to the floor.
They whizzed passed the children then flew out the door.

Latkes were launched in an eastward direction;
They toppled a chocolaty Belgian confection!

A baklava rocket whooshed into the air,
then landed in Annabel Sanderson’s hair.

At last it was over; they rose to their feet.
The table still held plenty goodies to eat.

“Wahoo!” said Miss Chipper. “Time to dig in.
Let the rumbledy jumbledy feasting begin!”

Saturday, December 6, 2014


I have a few confessions.

1. I once placed a "Tacky Christmas Award" on some hapless family's mailbox. Yes, it's true. 
In my defense, I was new in town and coerced by a band of merry, eggnog-infused co-workers.

2. When I go to the movies, I sometimes sneak in contraband water bottles. Don't judge me. 

3. During my ninth grade Spanish exam, I whispered an answer to a classmate. BUSTED. Parent conference and abundant mortification followed.

4. When I was fifteen, my friend Sheri and I soaped up a neighbor's windows on Halloween. But he was the creepy, walk-around-in-your-underwear-with-the-curtains-open kind of guy, so he deserved it. 

5. I was one of the dancers on Richard Simmons' original Sweatin' to the Oldies video.

Ok, I made up that last one. I did own the VHS, though. That's embarrassing enough.

So here's the BIG confession - the ONE you've been waiting for. Are you ready?????? Here goes:

SHHHHHHHHH...    I'm a perfectionist.

Disappointed?  Lame? You were expecting something juicier? Sorry to disappoint. But don't go yet; there's a point to my "confession," I promise! 

Those who know me well won't find this at all surprising. Take my mahjong girls, for example. I'm pretty sure they take secret bets about how long it will take me to straighten an out-of-place tile. In fact, I would bet they sometimes tap a three dot or a six bam slightly out of line just to watch my internal drama unfold.
 First, I surreptitiously eyeball the errant tile a few times. Next, I begin to squirm and lose focus (another advantage to their devious machinations). Then, when I can no longer stand it, when my head is about to come unglued and start spinning like a zombie-child's plaything, I nudge the offending tile into perfect alignment with its brethren and finally exhale, amid their laughter, eye-rolling, and stealthy exchange of quarters under the table.

Here's another example. From my junior year in high school, until I graduated college, I worked at Service Merchandise. Remember that place- the king of catalog showrooms in the eighties? I was a check-out girl, and the perfect employee. I showed up on time (Yes, friends, there was a time I was punctual!), polished the display silver until it was fit for Buckingham Palace, and meticulously dusted the endless rows of glass shelves and everything on them. I also maintained a cheerful and professional demeanor, even on Black Friday, or when a customer, irate because each of his items was out of stock, forgot the boundaries of personal space and human decency. Well, actually, one time I broke down in tears. The guy's wife was scandalized and apologized profusely while pushing him out the door. 

In any event, I was (in the immortal words of Mary Poppins) "practically perfect in every way."

So imagine my surprise, when during an annual review, among the glowing comments from the assistant manager, Mr. Hornfeck (his real name), I heard the following words: "Your only fault is that you're too perfect."


"Your perfectionism slows you down," he said. "You don't have to polish the backs of the silver platters; no one sees them. And you can miss a piece of dust here and there. No one but you will notice."

To add insult to injury, instead of the maximum seventy-five cent raise, I was awarded fifty, bringing my salary up to a whopping $5.25 an hour. I am still not over that.

So what does all this have to do with writing? With MY writing? Simply put, everything

Perfectionism can be crippling for a writer, especially in the drafting phase. Instead of focusing on the story, the perfectionist gets caught up in the nuance and sound of the words, the placement and use of punctuation, the careful crafting of phrases and clauses -- all those things that should come later, during the revision stage.  If I give in to the compulsion, I could revise one sentence eight to ten times before moving on. Thank goodness for word processors. If we were still in the typewriter days, I would undoubtedly spend a small fortune on correction tape! 

But that's not productive writing. It disturbs the flow of ideas and stymies progress, leading to exhaustion and frustration, not to mention that nagging, uninvited guest: self-doubt. 

So what's a poor perfectionist to do? It's not so easy to turn off the inner-editor, but it is possible. What works best for me is to have a deadline and a clear goal. Challenges like NaNoWriMo, PiBoIdMo and the like, are perfect for the perfectionist, as it forces us to concentrate on the content, rather than the craft. Not that craft isn't important, but as I read somewhere, readers will forgive mediocre writing if it's a great story with compelling characters, but they'll quickly abandon a work with gorgeous writing that lacks those same things. 
By the way, I change "mediocre" four times in that last sentence (sheepish grin).  What can I say? Old habits are hard to break. I'll just have to remember Mr. Hornfeck's words: 

"You can miss a piece of dust here and there. No one but you will notice."

Happy (unfettered) writing, my friends!