National Novel Writing Month — a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I must have had one huge cup of coffee before I visited that website. Whatever it was, I was driven to sign up for the challenge.

It looks like it will be fun along with being challenging. I’ll just have to make it clear: No emergencies this month. If mom acts strange, it’s because she wired up on caffeine trying to hit her 2,000-words-a-day goal. And remember, there’s no need to call an ambulance. I’m not attached to the computer chair. It only appears that way.

Really, though, I’m up to the challenge. My idea is brewing in my head. Confidence is rising. And of course my will to achieve this goal will drive me to the finish line.

Check out this link to follow my progress:

The Muse 2007 Online Writer’s Conference

We are almost finished the Muse conference and it has been a blast. I am learning truckloads of information. If there’s any writer out there who missed it this year, I highly recommend you attend next year’s. The boards are great. I’ve interacted with editors and fellow authors. The tips we have all learned from each other are invaluable. I enjoyed it so much, that I’ve already registered for the 2008 conference.

One of my favorites so far is the “Call to Action: The Writer’s Adventure” workshop. I’ve learned so much about myself as a writer and how to defeat the struggles we writers place on ourselves.

One of the things we had to do for the workshop is write in our journals about our adventures. This has been a second blessing for me. I used to write in my journal every night since I was around ten years old. The day I married, I had stopped. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because life changed so much or that I was too tired after a long day. Whatever it was, I hadn’t journaled on a consistent basis since.

The workshop showed me how much I miss it. I forgot what it was like to write my thoughts untill I became drowsey. We’ve had some very tough times, our family. If ever I needed to journal, it was during the past seven years–yet I didn’t.

So I owe it to this workshop that my desire is back. Thank you Beth, for relighting that spark which faded so long ago.

Fall Philly Conference

I was a nervous wreck weeks before. What would it be like? Did I even belong there? Would there be anyone in my household who wouldn’t try to talk me out of going?

I was looking forward to the Fall Philly Conference for months, and it was finally here. It was time to hush those nagging voices- from both – inside and outside of me.

“The conference will be fun and educational,” I responded to my inner critic. “Of course I belong there. “

“I’m going so I can meet and talk to other people in the writing industry and to learn valuable information,” I said in not so many words to family who preferred I stay home with them. “Don’t worry–I’m coming back!”

That statement was true, but I never realized how much I was not going to want to leave. The day flew by. I enjoyed all the seminars. I met many interesting writers and illustrators. It was refreshing to be around people who understood the writing process and everything that it takes to be a successful writer.

I think the most rewarding part of the conference for me was our Keynote Address speaker Laurie Halse Anderson. Her speech comparing the stamina it takes to write a novel to running a marathon was inspirational. She stressed what it took to be successful at what you do and how to manage your time so that you are doing what you set out to do–write!

Maybe it was because some things were similar to what we all go through — family needs us and expects us to put the writing on hold whenever a need arises. I found it energizing that we all go through the same thoughts, doubts and obstacles. So, thanks Laurie, for the inspiration to take control of our careers and reach for the stars.

Thanks SCBWI! I can’t wait for the next one!

School’s Back In Session

The mornings are quiet. The birds are tweeting. There are no arguments between sisters. School’s started again. I’m now free to dedicate more time to my writing without interruptions.

That is until my two–year–old son wakes up and immediately demands my attention. It seems the minute I’m on a roll, he finds chaos for me. I finally start typing more than two words a minute, when my son decides to chase the dog, have a scream-out-the -window contest with our next door neighbor, or sneak upstairs and throw items in the turtle’s aquarium.

With only one child in the house during my writing hours, one might think my schedule is less hectic. Unfortunately, having one toddler in the house seems like having 10 children. So I still find myself exercising my creativity to sneak in my writing. But that’s alright. He’s so happy to see the girls at the end of the day that I get a brief hour to write when they walk in the house.

No matter what, if writing is your life…your dream…make time to include it. Toddlers are a great distraction, but if you write or brainstorm on the floor while they play at Jungle Gym Parent, then you’ve successfully got in some writing time. That time might even give you a bonus: an idea for a story!

Poetry Reading

I recently returned from my first poetry reading. Since I’m a children’s author I’m often out doing something related to children’s books. But when a friend offered to go to the reading with me, I decided it would be nice to try something different.

There were about six people there, but it was an interesting experience. Some people read from poetry books. Others read their own work.

One person stood out above all the rest for me. He read all his own poems and they were spectacular. The rhythm was soft like a calm creek on a spring day. The words were as illustrative as brilliant art in a children’s book. When I listened to him, I felt the poem. I felt what the message was.

The icing on the cake was the way the author performed his readings. He didn’t just write the poem, he became the poem. I left the reading with a desire to pursue more nights like that one.
I learned volumes about poetry that night in just a few short hours.

I’m glad I went. I set out on an adventure and found a hidden treasure.

Out of the Office

I finally spent some time away from my desk. And boy, what an adventure! I went to a store yesterday because I needed a picture frame (for the gifts decribed in the previous post.) I brought a gift card I was recently given. Of course, I made a stop at the library first and left with another 12 picture books.
It takes me a while to browse through the store and I manage to spend every dime on my gift card. I lug two heavy bags to my car and toss them inside. (I didn’t need my key- one of my locks sometimes doesn’t work right.) I closed the door and before I go to the driver’s side, I begin the search for my keys. At that moment I realized that I didn’t remember tossing them in my purse. I looked through pocket after pocket. Each passing minute I become more frantic.

They weren’t in my purse.

“Ok, calm down,” I tell myself and decide to search my bags.

Not there.

Surely, I thought, I left them at the checkout counter when I put everything down. Wait… did I even have them in my hands at the check-out? Oh, no. Panic sets in full force when I return to the counter and the cashier says nothing was left there.

So begins my hour-long search through every department that I’ve been to. I start with customer service to see if anyone found them. NO. That would be too easy. After I while I decide to find a pay phone to call my husband and let him know why I won’t be home for a while. I needed the pay phone because my cell phone was at home sitting on my desk. Very helpful, don’t you think?

I go back in the store and search, and search, and search some more. I can’t remember how many times I visited each department. I made my third trip to customer service and they said someone just dropped off the keys. WHEW!!

By now it’s 6:30 and the family has already eaten. I drive by a food and ice cream restaurant. I decided to treat myself for getting through a crazy situation. I’m seated at 6:40. It takes a while for someone to take my order – but didn’t seem like a crazy wait.
The young guy waiter approaches me and asks have I been waiting long –nobody told him about my table. He tops off the visit with a friendly soft grin.

I tell him not to worry about it – it wasn’t that long, really. Throughout the meal, he continued to check to see how everything was ( above and beyond the usual occasional checks most waiters/waitresses do). Each time, flashing that same bright grin. When it came time to order desert, he offers me a free one.

“Really?” I asked. He was quite sure, so I accepted. This led to the biggest grin I’ve seen the whole night. When I get the cheque, I notice that the dessert isn’t even on it. (Isn’t there a promotion code or something for things like that lol?)

Anyway, just the thought that someone expected me to be as young as the waiter was, more than made up for my lost key adventure. If I had just went home and pouted instead of treating myself, I wouldn’t have encountered that silver lining of the day. To be fair and show my appreciation, I included the cost of the desert in my tip. So what would have been a 2 or 3 dollar tip turned into an $8.00 tip. But that’s okay. After all, there was some ice cream in it for me.

An Unexpected Gift

What is one of the more memorable gifts you’ve been given on your birthday? Maybe it’s that car you always wanted, or those books you wanted, but never bought? Recently, for me it came from a special group of friends.

My fist children’s publication was “Shivering Sally and the Scary Sounds.” When it was published in Stories for Children Magazine, I was very excited. The illustrator did a fantastic job. I was thrilled at how well she captured my story’s characters and setting.

As my birthday crawled near, my friends arranged a special birthday present. They created a package that contained a message and something special from each of them. That was special and memorable enough. The final touch, however, was a print of the illustration for “Shivering Sally.” I fell in love with the picture when I first saw it in Stories for Children, and now I had a real print of it from the illustrator.

It takes some creative friends to come up with and pull off such a wonderful idea. Over the weekend, if I’m not engulfed in the new Harry Potter book, I plan to frame the print. Then I will make a collage out of the special items everyone sent. Both pieces will be inspirational decorations at my desk.

When your birthday comes around, whether it’s tomorrow or 8 months from now, I wish you a memorable one.

A Humbling Experience

I was just visiting Kevin Scott Collier’s blog and was immediately humbled:

There are photographs of him sitting on the floor, working on his illustrations, but completely accessible to his son. One photograph has his son hanging on his back while he’s illustrating his latest project.

The pictures are inspiring to me. I work on my writing at home amongst my three children. I know how distracting it can be. If I need a little encouragement after breaking up an argument over play dough, I’m going to visit his blog and take another look at those pictures. If an artist can draw with a child on his back, I think I can work among a few distractions.

Another OUAT Acceptance

Yesterday I recveived another acceptance from Once Upon a Time Magazine! If I weren’t so tired from taking the kids to the huge Barnes & Noble bookstore, I would have been bouncing around the livingroom.

I quickly signed the contract and completed some other business the editor wanted. Any OUAT readers out there, I can’t wait to share my articles with you. Theres’s another one I have submitted about the break up of a critique group I was in. I’m wondering how that one will turn out. It’s not exactly an uplifting situation, but it does suggest ways to cope when something like that does happen.

I’m still waitingfor word on a picture book that I wrote. I should be hearing soon from the publishing company. Keep your fingers crossed!

A Heavenly Book

Right now I am reading a book called 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper and Cecil Murphey. I’m only in the first few chapters, but it inspired me enough to write about what I have read. It is a book based on Don Piper’s experience of going through a car crash, being pronounced dead and his experience in the afterlife.

With such experiences there’s always a rigid rift. There are adamant believers and there are adamant critics. Personally, I believe Don experienced what he said he did. Believing is always difficult if you haven’t personally seen the item in question. But, don’t we all do that when we believe in God. We haven’t seen Him, but we know He’s there and we know Jesus taught us the way to Heaven. He himself said “Happy are those who have not seen, and still believe.”

Whether Don’s experience was real or a dream or even complete fiction is really beside the point. His book means different things to different people. For some, it’s a comfort for those facing death in the near future. For others it’s a reassurance that their miscarried baby is in a splendid place surround by an abundant love. Still, others who were non-believers in God were so touched by the book that they were motivated to start a relationship with God.
Some critics say that the book is wrong, but I say what’s wrong with spreading a little hope?