Monday, December 31, 2012

I'm a 12x12 Winner!

12x12 Winner Badge
I'm a Winner! I can scarcely believe it.

As you can probably tell by my lack of blogging, writing has not been my main focus for the past few months. I was actually on track to finish the 12x12 challenge on time or even early, but then November came and went and... no draft. Then December ALMOST came and went, and I was down two drafts! Eek!

On Dec. 30th I sat in front of the blank screen, all these horrible voices in my head saying I couldn't do it, and I just jotted down an idea or two, and began writing.... and here I am!

I cannot begin to describe how helpful this challenge has been for me this year. Thank you, Julie Hedlund, for hosting! Each time I felt lost, or alone in my struggles, I remembered that there were many other writers out there in the same boat, and that brought me comfort. Now I have twelve drafts to be proud of!

Monday, September 24, 2012

An awesome place to read Children's Books Online: We Give Books

I have recently discovered a wonderful resource for children's books online called "We Give Books," a relatively new digital initiative that allows anyone with internet access the ability to read a large, quality selection of children's book titles. Check out there video below to find out more.

So far I have read and loved the following stories:
  1. Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd - A witty, modern day parody of a classic picture book.
  2. Start Saving, Henry  by Nancy Carlson - A fun tale that illustrates the benefits of saving vs. spending. 
  3. Dog Wants to Play  by Christine McDonnell - Sparse with words, but fun and slightly rhyming. Follows dog on a search for a 'today' playmate.
 It's a great way to help me research picture books to grow my writing skills as well as search for new, fun, or even classic titles that the children I work would enjoy.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Liebster Blog Award

The Liebster Blog Award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. Thank you Krissy for tagging me and giving me this award. I love the graphic and will proudly post it on my blog. Please visit Krissy's blog The Brain of a Children's Author to find out more about her.

The Rules: 
1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves. 
2. Answer the questions the tagger has set for you and create eleven questions for the people you've tagged. 
3. Choose eleven people and link them in your post.
4. Go to their page and tell them. 
5. Remember no tag backs!

Krissy's 11 Questions for me and My Answers:

1.   What's the most recent book you've read?
The last book I read was actually a second read. It was Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why

2.  What's a really embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
Hah - Probably many, many things. But the most vivid one was when I was six or seven. It was Easter Sunday and my best friend and I wore pastel dresses and white tights. For some reason we ended up at a farm after church. Perfectly normal, right? We were so busy talking to each other that we didn't realize we stepped into a giant pile of manure. We were covered in it up to our knees! The Farmer had to hose us off. We were pretty mortified.

3.  What would you choose for your last meal?
All the sushi I could eat prepared by my favorite sushi chef, and a large dark chocolate raspberry Godiva milkshake with whipped cream. (I don't do if it were my last meal, I'd splurge.)

4.  Which song do you secretly rock out to and have absolutely no idea why? 
Whatever song happens to be running through my head at the time. Which is currently alternating between the theme songs from 'Monk' and 'True Blood'.

5.  What is something other people do that irritates you like no other? 
Throwing trash on the floor and/or leaving crumbs and sticky stuff everywhere. Sticky stuff is my ultimate pet peeve.

6.  What is something you do that irritates other people like no other?
Forgetting to turn off the light in the bathroom...oopsies.

7.  What is your dream vacation?
I was lucky enough to experience my dream vacation in Tahiti in 2010. You can see some of my photos in the post Storytelling with Pictures. But it would be beyond awesome is to go back there again...maybe even for an extended stay!

8.  What is something that you don't know a lot about but would like to?
I would like to know more about writing nonfiction and poetry.

9.  Which perfume or cologne makes you weak in the knees?
Tuscany for Men

10.  Dogs or cats?
Dogs. Bull Terriers in particular. 

11.  Do you believe in soulmates? Yes.

Questions for the people I tagged:

1. What is your favorite book?
2. If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
3. What technology do you think you will never adopt?
4. What is your favorite comfort food?
5. What was your most embarrassing hairstyle?
6. What was your favorite childhood candy?
7. What is the prettiest city you have ever been to?
8. If you had 10 minutes on a popular TV talk show, what would you talk about?
9. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
10. What is your favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon?
11. Is there such a thing as too much chocolate?

People I Tagged: (5 instead of 11)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Quiet Thoughts in the Night ... A Touch of Sea Glass

There were many presentations from the SCBWI Summer Conference this year that resonated with me, but last night when I couldn't sleep, the one that stood out in my mind was Deborah Underwood's keynote on the "Power of Quiet." After I set aside all the thoughts rummaging around keeping me awake in the first place, I settled into the quiet. (Ok, it's true, I also chanted, 'please let me sleep' several times.) 

My reflection time led me to an idea for a new pb that I am hoping will be my October 12x12 manuscript, in addition to the following thoughts...

Imagine you're on a beach searching for that perfect piece of sea glass. You pick up a jagged piece. It pricks your hand making you bleed, but you try to polish it anyway. After a long, long time, you give up and throw it back in the sand and try again. Maybe one day that piece will be sea glass. You brush your palm against the sand trying to avoid the plentiful spiked pieces sticking out all over, but you can't avoid them; you can only go through them. You dig deeper and only then do you stumble across a smooth stone that feels right in your palm. Sure, it needs some refining, yet it it feels right somehow.

Sometimes, this is what my writing process feels like. Can anyone relate?  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Library Days: Laguna Beach Library

Today, the hubby and I spent the day in Laguna Beach. A cozy breakfast at Heidelburg Cafe followed by a casual stroll and a breezy ride on the free shuttle. I took many deep breaths of salty, fresh-sea air. And then do you know where I wanted to go? The library, of course!

We both brought our laptops and found comfy chairs to lounge in. We had a lovely ocean view. The sunscreeny smell throughout constantly reminded me that the beach was only yards away. We stayed for hours.

I explored the children's book section and found so many amazing picture books to read.

Like these ones.
All the new picture books were displayed here.

There was even a vacant orange couch for me to relax and savor each page. I love exploring libraries in different communities. 1 part research + 1 part writing + 1 part relaxation = One very happy writer.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ripples...One Year Later

Last year I heard the amazing, Bruce Coville speak at my very first SCBWI 2012 Summer Conference. Here are a few quotes from his keynote “Ripples in the Pond: Why What We Do Matters…and Matters…and Continues to Matter”:

"Start ripples throughout the world" and "You cannot know how you’ve affected the world; make ripples anyway."

Powerful words, right? Every time I hear them, I my heart melts.

I threw my tiny rock in the pond in 2010. That's when I attended my first ever writing conference, the Central Coast Writing Conference at Cuesta College. I met Children's Book Author, Merrily Kutner, who told our class that the best thing we could do for our career was to join SCBWI. So I did...

Fast forward to July 2011. My little pebble sat in the pond, stagnant. I longed to make a connection. I gathered up some courage and emailed another local SCBWIer I'd found online and invited her to coffee. I was nervous to meet someone this way, but I took the plunge anyway. We connected instantly. We attended the summer conference as buddies and enjoyed every breathtaking keynote together. One ripple.

A few weeks after the conference, feeling more inspired than ever, I stalked the SCBWI Critique Connections board, anxious to find a critique group in my area. As luck would have it, a new one was forming. One more ripple and then after a SCBWI Schmooze -- two more.

This summer I attended the Summer Conference again. This time I had made a few connections. But it didn't stop there. This year I found my courage. My courage to write. My courage to look inside my heart and will my true self out, the one I'd suppressed for many years.  I spoke with agents and authors who inspired me, hugged me, and nodded my way with eyes filled with a 'way-to-go' like shine. It was magical. I met other writers from across the nation. This time, I can't even count the ripples, and as Bruce said, I can't even imagine what kind of affect they will have on the world. I felt blessed to have attended this year. My true writing voice is ready to ooze out of my fingertips onto the page. I hope to continue sending ripples outward, that all started with a tiny, stationary pebble.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Picture Book Review: A Balloon for Isabel

Sometimes there are books that touch my heart so much, I can't help but review them. A Balloon for Isabel  by Deborah Underwood is one of these books. Here are a few reasons why I love this book.

1) It has a clever, witty plot and is an all around fun read.
2) The main character is an adorable little girl named, Isabel. She also happens to be a porcupine who wants a balloon, and for obvious reasons can't have one. Brilliant.
3) It's filled with vibrant, colorful illustrations.
4) Isabel's best friend is Walter. His Dad owns a candy shop. But what does Walter love? Broccoli, of course. What a wonderfully fun detail.
5) It's filled with ingenious ideas, like the pop-stopper, that will tickle the reader's delight.
I hope I've peeked your interest enough to check out this book. Happy Reading!

(I was fortunate enough to meet the author, the lovely Deborah Underwood, at the LA SCBWI Summer Conference. She is pictured below with goofy ol' me.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

YA Novels: Hooked in Five Sentences or Less

It's late at night. You've just finished a book on your e-reader and are dying for something new to read. But how much time will you give a sample chapter to lure you in?

For me personally, I've found that new late-night reads need to hook me in five sentences or less, that way I can sink my teeth into them right away

I've chosen three excerpts from books I've loved that have 'hooked me in five sentences or less'. I'll tell you why they appealed to me as a READERS and what we can take away as WRITERS.

From The Selection by Kiera Cass

When we got the letter in the post, my mother was ecstatic. She had already decided that all our problems were solved, gone forever. The big hitch in her plan brilliant plan was me.
AS A READER: I'm loving the title, and the fact that there is a mysterious letter. I love mail! I also immediately like this girl.

AS A WRITER: Right away we are hearing the MC's voice and already know of a conflict brewing.

From Between Shade of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
They took me in my nightgown. Thinking back, the signs were there -- family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work.
AS A READER: I can feel that this is a historical novel that sucks you into its time and place right away. I want to know what happens to this girl.

AS A WRITER: The MC's voice, character, and family are introduced right away. You are also informed about into a huge conflict the MC faces.

From Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

"Wait -- did you -- You just yawned!" The vampire's arms, raised over his head in the Classic Dracula pose, dropped to his sides. He pulled his exaggerated white fangs back behind his lips. "What, imminent death isn't exciting enough for you?"
AS A READER: I can't help it. I love paranormal. And I loved this because right away I knew it was different -- it was funny!

AS A WRITER: The writer takes a normal subject and brings her own twist in a humorous way, enticing readers to read more and find out what her 'different' is all about.

What books have you read that have hooked you in five sentences or less?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Muddy Feet Story and a Very Muddy Recipe

Rio with puppy, Aria in the bath
I'm over the moon today. My short story Muddy Feet is the 'Story of the Day' at Knowonder!. This story was inspired by my Mom's red and white English Bull Terrier, Rio (pictured at left). She is a beautiful dog with a gentle, loving disposition. She's also known as the cling wrap dog, a clown, and a mother hen. Check out the story to see what Gina thinks of her dog, Rio.

In honor of Rio's muddy feet I decided to share a recipe for Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Peanut Free Muddy Buddies*. (We have some food intolerances in our house. Can  you tell?)

Enjoy and have a Muddy Day!

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Peanut Free Muddy Buddies*
9 cups corn Chex or Rice Chex
1 cup Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup SunButter
1/4 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar

1. Measure cereal into a large heatproof bowl.
2. Heat SunButter, Chocolate Chips, and Earth Balance in a Microwave Safe bowl for 1 minute on High. Stir. Heat additional 30 seconds + stir cycle until smooth. Stir in vanilla.
3. Pour mixture over cereal. Stir until all cereal is coated. Place mixed cereal into a gallon sized resealable bag.
4. Pour powdered sugar into bag. Seal and shake vigorously.
5. Pour mixture onto waxed paper or aluminum to dry. Store in fridge.

Mmm...this stuff is delicious! Enjoy!

*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or nutritionist. Please make sure to do your own research regarding products or manufacturers (as sometimes they change their ingredients) that may affect your personal food allergies or intolerances.

Friday, July 20, 2012

11 Tips for Maintaining a Daily Writing Habit

This summer I've made a deal with myself -- write something new every morning, Monday-Friday. I can't move on (with submissions, revisions, etc.) until I've written something new. At first it was like scratching nails over a chalkboard. I'd talk myself out of it for at least a dozen different reasons. It's been a few weeks now, and I'm on the daily writing train showing no signs of derailing. I decided to share 11 tips that have helped me so far.

1. Set a schedule and stick to it!

2. Make new writing the first thing you do in your writing time.

3. Avoid Social media and the Internet at all costs.

4. Ignore the little voice in your mind that says "Aw...can't I do this later? Or tomorrow even?

5. Even if you don't feel ready, go to your writing space and open your work in progress.

6. Having more than one work in progress or an idea file comes in handy, just in case you're truly stuck on your main project.

7. If all else fails, write a journal entry.

8. Don't stop until you've reached your allotted time or word count.

9. Reward yourself for a job well done! Some writers allow themselves one jellybean or skittle after every hundred words. Others enjoy a special cup of tea or coffee or a trip to Starbucks. Find out what works for you.

10. Keep a daily writing log to track your progress. Being able to see what you've completed in a week visually is a huge motivator. (A sneaky side note for highly visual folks: You can replace your daily writing desktop icon to one similar to the photo above. That way you know it's a special writing only file.)

11. Sign up for a writing forum to discuss your progress with other writers. It helps knowing others out there have similar goals. Sometimes it's the highlight of my day knowing I can share that I've made my daily writing goal with others.

I hope some of these tips help you maintain a daily writing habit. Happy Writing!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Take Three...

The opening lines of a blog entry a little over a year ago....

Out of the ashes rose a phoenix...wait scratch that, a raven. When I was thirteen years old I began my love affair with dark, paranormal fiction (back then I think the whole section of the bookstore I was drawn to was simply called "Horror." One of my favorites was Of Saints and Shadows by Christopher Golden. Some vampires in the story could transform into animals. This inspired me to write a novel about a young shape-shifter on a quest. I called it Ravyn's Quest. I began typing the story on my tiny Mac Classic. I actually made 3/4 of the way through the manuscript before I realized I didn't know how the story would end. I sent my character on this treacherous journey only to realize I didn't know what she was going to do when she got to where she was going. I always thought in the back of my mind, some day I'll finish it.

And I did take it back out last year. I started over, from the very beginning. This time I'd make sure there were actually characters in the book and that her quest actually had a purpose to it. I thought I liked what I had, but then about 8000 words in, I got stuck. Bogged down by the research of it all. And what did I do? I put it away again. For another year!

In the mean time, I took some much needed time to educate myself at writer's conferences and read, read, read. One very helpful book has been Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Rennie Browne, recommended to me by Stefanie von Borstel at Full Circle Literary.

I finally had the urge to take out my manuscript again last week. I blew off the dust and read through it. I deleted the entire preface and half of the word count, so essentially I started over -- AGAIN!

I'm loving it now. It'll take plenty of encouragement, nourishment, love, and dark chocolate, but this time, I think I'll make it to the end. I've found what's most important -- Ravyn's voice. (And it sure helps that she has a supporting cast now)

What are your current works in progress? Do you have that one project or idea in a back cabinet somewhere just screaming to be written?

My word count so far: 

12200 / 50000

(First time I've made it over 10,000 words with this project. Yay!)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Creating a Writing Nook

Where do you complete your writing? Do you have a zen-like place with the sounds of a gentle trickling fountain nearby?  Perhaps there's a vanilla scented candle burning and Enya playing in the background? I think that's how I pictured it would be before I started writing seriously,  but in reality my writing corner has consisted of this...

A saggy spot in the corner of a 30+ year old couch.  I must say some of my brightest ideas were penned (actually typed) from this very corner.  While it is homey and comfortable it doesn't exactly inspire me to write in a professional and focused manner.  So this summer I made it my mission to create a "Writer's Nook."  Here's what I have so far:
A Writing desk -- complete with Lap Top,'Works in Progress Files to the Left, photo of the hubby, and desk calendar to keep me on track.
My tiny personal library of children's books and writing books.  I hope to keep my collection growing at all times!
A little cubby box for my library books.  I hope to get new books every week (or at least every two weeks.)

I think it so, so important for a writer to have his/her own writer's nook.  It  serves as a constant reminder that our writing is important enough to deserve its own space in our lives.  Mine is very basic right now, but I look forward to jazzing it up more and more as I move forward.  My first goal is to use it every day! (Except maybe Sunday.)

Do you have a writing nook?  Where is your favorite place to write?  If anyone would like to send pictures and a quote I'd be happy to post it here at The Sunflower Scribe.  =)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Update on the journey

Here is a blurb from my first ever Sunflower Scribe Blog Post:

In June 2010, inspiration struck. My first children’s book main character, Iris the Colorful Spider was born. The manuscript is written and now I am learning more about the editing and publishing process. The journey has just begun and I have finally found my focus. I want to be a Writer. I have come to terms with the fact that this may be a process that is years in the making but, I am up for it! Carpe Diem! I hope you enjoy the ride! I know I will.

So how am I doing in my journey now you ask?

Well, let's see...

I've written 12 new picture book manuscripts, several short stories, and 1 1/2 chapter book manuscripts.  
I've submitted and received many rejections (heartbreaking!) as well as a handful of acceptances!  My acceptance rate right now is 9.5% (I've always liked thinking in percentages!)

But really that's not the point....  
Do I still love writing? Yes! 
Have I improved at it? Yes! 
Do I still have a whole lot to learn? Yes, and I always will.
Have I met wonderfully awesome fellow writers who share the same dreams of publishing their stories?  Yes!

Each year my life experiences help to shape who I become as a Writer and where I turn to for inspiration.  It's as much a part of me now as drinking water daily.  That is what the journey is all about.  Where are you in your writing journey? Or perhaps another type of journey altogether?