January 30, 2010

Sunday Scribblings 200: Milestones

Two years ago...

For the first time in months, my sister and I were out on the town without kids.  We chatted non-stop and ate leisurely in an upscale restaurant.  The cell phone rang; it was my husband.


"Hey," he said.  "You got a letter."

"Honey, can't this wait?" I asked, irritated by an interruption about mail.

"Well, it's from a magazine."

I sighed.  "It's probably just another rejection but go ahead and read it."

Papers rattled on the other end of the phone.  My sister watched with curiosity.

"Okay," he said.  "The first part's just formal stuff."

"Skip it."



"They want to buy your story."

"WHAT?"  I dropped my fork.

He chuckled.

"Are you kidding?  Cause that's not funny."

"I'm not kidding. They want your story.  They've even got the amount they're going to pay you."

"Let me call you back," I said, feeling jittery and queasy.  A scream threatened to erupt but I held it in.

"What is it?" my sister asked.

"An acceptance!"  I whispered.  "I gotta--" I pointed outside.

She laughed and hurried after me.

As soon as we reached the sidewalk I let out a scream. And in spite of stares, I jumped around and danced a victory dance.  This cemented it for me.  I was a writer.

P.S.  Check out the contest at Kid Lit today!

January 29, 2010

Overcoming Rejection

Rejections stink, don't they?  As instructive as they can be, I'm sick of them.  Yet my stack keeps growing.  I thought of throwing the hated things away, but something felt wrong about it. Papering my walls with them sounded depressing. So I made this instead:

Art inspired by Kelly Rae Roberts

Allowing you to read them made me a little nervous, but it's growth for me.  I'm not ashamed anymore; they've become my banner of moving forward.  And if anything I hope it encourages you that you're not alone.  Take THAT rejection!

How do you overcome rejection (or the fear of it)?

January 28, 2010

Inherited Gift?

I've discovered something about my eldest daughter, she inherited a unique gift from me.  No, we're not supermodel tall.  We don't have enormous feet.  Or curly hair.  Simply put, our gift is a knack for falling down at the worst times.

I once spilled in front of an entire football team waiting in the lobby.  There was nothing to trip on, but my shoe slid out from under me and there I was doing the splits with athletes looking on.  I tried to laugh it off and spouted something about calling me Grace.  No one laughed.  No one.  You'd think the sight of me strewn across the floor would've set them off but they must've just lost a game or something.  Perhaps they were used to girls falling around them.

My daughter recently spilled in front of a professional ice hockey team.  Professionals.  She one-upped me.  These guys at least chuckled and asked if she was okay.  They hadn't played their game yet.

When it comes to blog awards I tend to fall down.  (Like that segway?) I INTEND to give these precious gems away and gush over my sweet awarders but something happens and I trip.  I never quite make it to the finish line.  I've spent hours trying to figure out which awards you guys DON'T have but never get my list finished.  So, I'm going to try something different. 

If you are reading this, you are someone I consider a friend (yes, even if you lurk) and because of that you deserve an award.  I'm going to hold out a grab bag of awards and I want you to take one.  (I'm not asking, I'm telling.  Yes, I'm bossy.)  Kind of like picking out a toy from a brown paper sack.  Except there's no sack.  And you don't get a toy.

Side note: Even though I talk big there really is no pressure to take awards if you prefer to keep your blog award-free.  I won't be mad.  Not really.

Without further ado, here are your choices:

First up is the Superior Scribbler Award given to me by Mary who is hilarious and warmly honest.

Second is Kreative Blogger Award given to me by Natalie who writes heartfelt thoughts, stirring questions and helpful writerly tips.

Third is Circle of Friends Award given to me by Mary Anne who takes awesome photos and shares from her soul.

Fourth is the Silver Lining Award given to me by Shelli who gives valuable marketing advice and incredible links.

Fifth is the Over the Top Award given to me by Kristin Rae who's thoughts from weight loss to writing tips keep me coming back for more.

There's your grab bag.  Reach in and pull out your prize.  I love you all!

January 24, 2010

Sunday Scribblings 199: Yes

Sean gripped my hand as we waited for the doctor.  I shivered in the chilly room.  The door swung open and Dr. Walters strolled in.  I tried to read the expression on his face.

"Is it what we thought?" Sean asked, squeezing my hand tighter.

I inhaled.

"Yes," the doctor answered, "you're having a boy."

January 20, 2010

Distractions of Fun

I've been enjoying a visit from my sister and her family this week.  They came into town to see my daughter's award ceremony today.  This morning I arrived early to school in order to save seats.  My sister came later and asked the receptionist directions to the gym.  The receptionist took one look at her and freaked out.

"You look just like her!" she squealed.  "It's like you're twins."

"We are twins," my sister said, laughing (the identical laugh which only compounded the freaking).

The receptionist reprimanded me later for not warning her (sorry, I forget). But at least now she knows how I'd look with long hair.

All this visiting, reading, painting and freaking people out with our look-alike-ness has kept me from blogging.  We did, however, reminisce about childhood memories which inspired a story for the Highlights contest.  Now I have my rough draft finished and I'm going to start revisions.

Since I'm so far behind with housework and everything else (including my 1000 word/day count on my WIP), I'm going to take the rest of the week to unplug (learned about this from Diana).  I'll still be checking in with your blogs and twitter because I miss you and my sister swears I'm addicted to blogging.

What are you working on during Unplug Week?

January 18, 2010

Revised YET Again!

Oh my gosh.  I didn't think re-doing my blog would be so hard.  I'm obviously blog template illiterate.  BUT, I think I've got the comment bar problem figured out.  Let me know.

Thanks for your patience through all my changes!

Without Defining It

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it. --Hannah Arendt

I rebel when someone tries to TELL me something through a story.  But I learn countless ideas through stellar writing. 

I don't try to teach a lesson in my writing, but sometimes my opinions shine through and it takes effort to erase it.

Do you struggle with your "lessons" showing through?  Or do you write for sheer pleasure, no lesson intended?

January 17, 2010

No Sunday Scribblings?

Aack!  I'm going through withdrawal.  No new prompt at Sunday Scribblings today.

Update: Okay, they DID put up a prompt (whew!) but I've got company coming for Martin Luther King day so my story will have to wait.

NOTE:  I apologize if the comment bar is messing up. Several of you emailed to let me know it's glitching (thank you). I'll be working on it today.

January 16, 2010

I hated Nancy

I hate Nancy.  Or I did.  The name that is.  My Dad was in Vietnam when I was born and Mom didn't know she was having twins (it was the time before ultrasounds).

A girl's name was selected.  My sister came out first so she got it.  I was the surprise.  My Grandparents scrambled to name me.  They came up with Nancy Catherine.  The first name based on my mother's sister who'd passed away.

That fact should have been enough to make me like it.  But I didn't.  I thought Nancy sounded whiny.  It might've had something to do with the latter series of Little House on the Prairie when an evil girl took the place of Nellie and her name was--Nancy.

I've kept my name hidden for years.  Until...

I know.  It's a picture book.  BUT, I looooooovvvveeee her!  Talk about a character.  And so fancy.  Last year a friend of mine gave me the Fancy Nancy "Let's Get Fancy Together" set for Christmas. It's packed with party supplies and the coolest fancy glasses ev-er.

I'm feeling rather proud of my first name these days.  Thanks Jane O'Connor and Robin Press Glasser.  You freed my Nancy-ness.

January 15, 2010

Friday Awards Giveaway

My sweet blogging friends (mwah) have been precious to give me blog awards and I've neglected sharing them.  SO, Fridays shall be Awards Giveaway Day for the next few weeks.

(No pressure on taking awards if you prefer to keep them off your blog.)

Today's award (tada) the One Lovely Blog Award was given to me by the sweet and hilarious Diana.  If you haven't visited her blog, you are MISSING it.  Her fun humor and writing wisdom will keep you coming back.

I want to pass this award along to six wonderful-to-browse LOVELY blogs:

Cata's Crafts and Illustrations - Full of gorgeous pictures of her crafts, collages and paintings.

Wishes and Heroes - Fun surprises with his artistic wit.

Your Life - Brief but powerful, this blog is whimsical with breathtaking photos.

Starlight - Stunning pictures alongside intriguing prose.

Life Goes On - Insightful poetry and nature photographs that move you.

Shererart - Shining with the faces of angels and bouquets of flowers.


January 14, 2010

Inspire Me Thursday: Hope

The word Hope keeps running through my mind.

Yesterday was tough.  First the news about Haiti.  So much loss and tragedy; it's hard to comprehend it.  Then came news from my friend.  She has cancer.

I grieved about both.  I felt helpless.

But I'm not helpless.  There are things we can do for the people of Haiti.  And I can walk beside my friend through whatever she must endure.

This picture (above) is from my art journal.  It's childlike (inspired by Suzi Blu) but I like it that way because children are the best bearers of hope.

January 13, 2010

Wing Tip #6: Script Your Story

Today my tip comes from a thin but powerful little book called The Business of Writing for Children by Aaron Shepard.  It's a quick read but packed with information.  It walks you through formatting a manuscript, submitting, book publishers, words that make pictures, rhythm and much more.

Script Your Story
Mr. Shepard recommends trying your manuscript as a play. If acted out onstage would the characters be talking or doing something?  Scripting helps eliminate too much telling since you don't want a narrator drolling on.  It will bring out what readers want (action and dialogue), as well as reveal where the story drags.

While this idea might seem better suited for picture books; I think it could be done scene by scene in a novel.

Have you scripted or done something similar with one of your stories?

I can be a bit salesman-ish with my gushing over beloved How-To books so I wanted you to know no one's bribing me to do this.  All these reviews are from my own library.   Valerie at Something to Write About always puts a disclaimer and now I'm going to copy her (hope you don't mind Valerie).  Here it is:

(FTC disclaimer: Unless stated otherwise, the books reviewed have either been purchased from a bookstore or borrowed from the local library.)

January 12, 2010

My Friend

Update:  Her biopsy went well and wasn't painful.  She won't know anything for 24-48 hours.

My friend found a lump in her breast last week.  She has a biopsy today.  If you believe in prayer, please pray for her.  Her family's been through countless struggles already, even without this.  It doesn't seem fair.  I guess it never does.

January 11, 2010

Trouble Writing?

Every writer I know has trouble writing.  ~Joseph Heller

I might be morbid because this line gives me hope.  Is it wrong to be glad other writers have trouble writing?  Okay...maybe not glad, but relieved.  I feel a bit less alone.  Facing that blank paper waiting for words can be overwhelming.  And yet those stories inside my head beg to be written.

What makes it hard to write?  For me, it falls into three categories:

1.  Lack of sleep.  When my brain is groggy my stories are soggy.  Can I help it if your blogs are so compelling they keep me reading long after bedtime?  Stop writing such alluring posts! (no, don't)

2.  Perfectionism.  No, not the kind as in my house is spotless and I line up the ends of the rug with a broom.  But the kind that obsesses over whether my MC's favorite color is orange or yellow.  Is she tangy or sunny?  Then there's the psycho voice that interrupts me in the middle of a paragraph. "You're going to write that?  In your new journal?  You're marring the page with mistakes!"  If I don't shut the critic up, I'm tempted to close my book and lock the pencil away for good.

3.  Life.  You know, those little people needing to eat; friends wanting coffee; hubby wanting...snuggles.  Pfff.  Geez people.

Do you have trouble writing?  (If not, please share a different vice so as not to make me hate you.)  What keeps you from writing?

January 9, 2010

Sunday Scribblings 197: Extreme

I told her I wanted it different--extreme.  But I hadn't meant this.

At most, I thought she'd shorten it to chin length and add highlights; but not make it spiky blue!  I forced my eyes to blink and gave the best fake smile I could muster.

"It's--it's--"  I couldn't think of a word other than FREAK.

"Extreme, huh?  Huh?"  Her comb waved at the mirror.  She chomped her gum and glowed with the success of her artistry.

"Yeah."  I gulped.  What would Chuck say?  Probably something about a Smurf on crack.  And the kids?  Double gulp.  If I hadn't totally embarrassed them by now, this would do the trick.  I paid.  I left Sophie counting the obligatory tip on my way out the door.

I decompressed in the car for thirty minutes.  Katie had ballet lessons in an hour; I couldn't sit here all day.

"I can do this," I told myself.  "I am strong.  I am capable."  And a freak, said a small voice at the back of my head.  "No!" I shouted into the empty car.  "I am NOT a freak."  An elderly woman strolling into the salon shot me a worried glance.

I drove home fluctuating between the feeling of excitment about doing something crazy and feeling crazy about being excited.  I took a deep breath before entering the house.  Tally, the lab, noticed me first.  She barked as I entered through the back door and panted excitedly.  I gave her the routine biscuit.  Katie saw me next.  She was on her way to the pantry.

"Wow.  You look...different."  She gave a puzzled smile but hurried on to get a granola bar.

Jeffery, my ten year old, saw me from his spot on the couch.  "Hey Mom, I like your haircut.  What's for dinner?"

At least he knew what was good for him.  "Your favorite," I said, as reward.

Chuck came in and kissed me on the cheek.  I waited for the snide remarks but nothing came.  He jabbered on about his day and some client who didn't follow through on a deal.  Finally he stopped long enough to look at me--really look.

"Did you do something different?" he asked.

"Just a little color," I said.  "Nothing too extreme."

She's Fifteen

My eldest daughter is fifteen today. *Sniff*  She's spunky, opinionated, confident, hilarious and strong.  Happy Birthday little girl!  I can't believe it's been fifteen years since you made me a Mom. *Whaa*

So in dedication to you, here's Taylor Swift's song Fifteen.  *Mwah*

January 7, 2010

Inspire Me Thursday


Kelley Rae Roberts' book Taking Flight inspired this drawing.  If you haven't checked out her website you should--it's beautiful.  She also recommended the Inspire Me Thursday website.  It gives a prompt each week for doing art. I looked it over today and really liked the concept.  The prompts haven't been updated since early December, but I thought I'd post some art anyway.  Sunday Scribblings have been fun for me to work on each week, so I thought I'd add an art prompt (keeping with my resolutions).

I'm still searching for my unique style in art and voice in writing.  I guess I'm hoping the more I dabble in various types, the more chance I have of finding my own.  I'll be moving Wing Tips to Wednesday since I'm doing art on Thursday.  Here's my new schedule:

Saturday/Sunday:  Sunday Scribblings
Monday: Quote Notes
Wednesday:  Wing Tips
Thursday/Friday: Inspire Me Thursday

What are your favorite websites or inspiration sites?  And if you have any tips on voice or style, I would love to hear them.

January 6, 2010


I've been working on a picture book manuscript for well over a year.  It has changed MANY times.  But last night, while I was painting in my art journal I had an awakening of sorts.  I set up a dummy (a mini-book) drawing my pictures along with the manuscript lines on the pages.  And do you know what happened?


It all came into focus.  Seeing the images helped me understand what parts were relevant to the story and what parts weren't.  I'm feeling giddy!  Only a week away from my critique group meeting and I can't wait to share.

What's created epiphany moments for you?  What gives clarity to your writing?

January 5, 2010

Highlights Fiction Contest

Highlights Magazine for Children is having a fiction contest this month!  The theme is fiction based on a true story from your family.  So, for all of you children writers (or writers who dabble in different genres) here's your chance.  Three prizes for $1,000 OR tuition to Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua!  Here's the details:

Fiction based on a true story from your family.
Three prizes of $1,000 or tuition for the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua.
All entries must be postmarked between January 1 and January 31, 2010.
No entry form or fee is required.
*Entrants must be at least 16 years old at the time of submission.
We welcome work from both published and unpublished authors. All submissions must be previously unpublished.
Stories may be any length up to 750 words. Stories for beginning readers should not exceed 475 words. Indicate the word count in the upper right-hand corner of the first page of your manuscript.
No crime, violence, or derogatory humor.
Entries not accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope will not be returned.
Manuscripts or envelopes should be clearly marked FICTION CONTEST. Those not marked in this way will be considered as regular submissions to Highlights.
Highlights for Children
803 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431
The three winning entries will be announced on Highlights.com in June 2010. These stories will become the property of Highlights for Children and will be published by Highlights. All other submissions will be considered for purchase by Highlights.

January 3, 2010

Wing Tip #5: Composing Art

"Ink on paper is as beautiful to me as flowers on the mountains; God composes, why shouldn't we?" - Audra Foveo-Alba

This page is from my art journal.  (Sorry the picture's not very clear.)  I liked this quote and thought it fit the first of the year.  Whatever your bent is (painting, scrapbooking, writing, cooking, poetry, music, drama, photography or whatever) I hope it encourages you to go forth today and create!

Note: If anyone's interested in making art journals, check out Suzi Blu's inspirational video here.  I find her quirky and hilarious.  She uses strong language at times, but not in this video.

January 2, 2010

Sunday Scribblings 196: New Leaf

Due to the move, Alycia had cleaned every last box out of the attic except this one.  A celebratory trip to the coffee shop awaited her when she finished.  Heaving the box from where Brock had placed it, she tugged it into the living room.  A knife slid through the unmarked lid.

"More of Evan's clothes we forgot to pass down to Michael and Brian?"  Brock teased.

She stuck her tongue out at him.  "The box is too small for that."

Pulling apart the cardboard folds she threw newspaper wads off the top.  A purse-sized book faced her.  She didn't recognize it at first.  Withdrawing it into the light she examined the cover.  Collaged across the front, yellowed under the glaze, were pictures from high school with the words:  "I'm a Grown-Up!"  and  "Freedom!"  decoupaged across it.

Alycia smiled.  She'd forgotten what her younger self dreamed about.  The book crackled as she opened it.  The first page had her as an eighteen-year-old graduate on it.  The next few pages held comments, collages and paintings of friends, thoughts and struggles.  Alyicia smiled, reminiscing the life she'd had then.  The last page was vibrantly painted but held only one line that said:  Life'll only get better from here!

The hope in that one statement made Alyica tear up.  Her younger self couldn't have known what life would bring.  How succeeding in her first job made her forget the dream of being an artist.  The difficulty of trying to have children.  Being surprised after adopting Evan to get pregnant with the twins.  Watching her children grow up and the return of her longing to paint.  While life hadn't gone exactly as she'd dreamed, she'd been right about it getting better.  Her children were adults now and she found herself once more "all grown up".  Alyica emptied the box tucking the journals into her hope chest to be browsed again later.

After Brock went to bed that night, she pulled a sketchbook out of the drawer along with paints and brushes. Sitting at the kitchen table she opened it to the first page and wrote:  Life'll only get better from here!

When It's OK to Open With Dialogue -- Les Edgerton's comments

A few days ago, I quoted tips from Les Edgerton's book here.  He graciously wrote back on my comments.  Since I only highlighted sections of his book, I probably didn't make it as clear as I could have, but he helped by putting this:

I'd like to correct a misconception that seems to have arisen, if I may. I'm not advocating that stories don't begin with dialog. What I weigh in against is beginning with a line or more of dialog where the speaker and/or the addressee isn't identified, or the context of the dialog doesn't make it clear who's speaking and to whom. That's where the problem is--not that it begins with dialog per se. Beginning with dialog in that manner means the reader has to read further to figure out all that, and then backtrack in her mind to make sense of the dialog she's just read, and that means the fictive dream has been interrupted, a definite no-no. For instance, if a story begins with a snatch of dialog like this: "She may turn left at the next light." then we know nothing about the speaker, who that person's speaking to, or what her sentence is about. That's what I mean by not beginning with dialog. However, if that same sentence is written this way: The perp was getting away. We'd almost lost her. "She may turn right at the next light, Barry," I said. "Be prepared." Then that works. (Admittedly, neither of those represent great beginnings, but I'm writing this on the fly. I just wanted to show the distinction. I'm not against opening with dialog in the least, nor are editors/agents et al--it's opening with dialog that doesn't let the reader know the circumstances and who the speaker is. There are also instances where even though we don't know the speakers, we can get from the context of the dialog what's going on. As in: "I wouldn't mind going to bed with her, Ralph, but then I'd have to touch her." Something like that doesn't necessarily need dialog tags or setup, etc. Make sense? I just want to make sure that folks don't misunderstand and think that I or any agent/editor is against opening with dialog--that's not the case at all. It's dialog which requires the reader to have to backtrack in their mind a bit further on in the read that's a no-no. Hope that helps clarify this! Blue skies--Les Edgerton