Thursday, March 31, 2011

Smile Break

Ah, desk is piled up from yesterday. Scraps and notes and research abound. Books. Camera. Files. Junk. Need to organize. Need to prioritize. Need...a break. A smile break. Maybe you do, too! Here's one of my favorite quotes that usually generates a bit of a chuckle. Funny thing is, there's some truth in it...

"Many people hear voices when no one is there.
Some of them are called mad and are shut up in
rooms where they stare at the walls all day.
Others are called writers and they do
pretty much the same thing."
                                                                      --Meg Chittenden

Whoops, voices are calling. Back to the madness! And the messy desk.

At the end of the day, is your desk cleared off and ready for a fresh start, or still lost under the pile?

*photo courtesy of

Friday, March 25, 2011

Taking the Time

"In a way--nobody sees a flower--really--it is so small--we haven't time--and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time." --Georgia O'Keefe, Painter

Just a writerly thought about taking time to see as we head into the last weekend in March. And not only for the purpose of aiming to become better writers--but also in our journeys to become better friends. 

What will you take time to do this weekend?

Have a good one.

*This photo was taken last spring at Sycamore Park, Clermont County, Ohio.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Milestone: 100--and Still Counting

A writer has many successes.
Each new word captured.
Each completed sentence. Each rounded paragraph leading into the next.
Each idea that sustains and then develops.
Each character who, like a wayward
adolescent, leaves home and finds a life.
Each new metaphor that, like the exact
error it is, somehow works.
Each new book that ends--and so begins.
Selling the piece is only an exclamation point,
a spot of punctuation.
--Jane Yolen, Take Joy,
A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft
I've made it to 100! Yeaaa...

Not years. At least not yet--ha. But 100 blog posts in 14 months. I didn't know when I started blogging how rewarding the endeavor would be. I just know that, at the beginning, I said I would continue as long as it was fun. And it has been that--and more. So, for even more fun, I tried brainstorming to see if I could come up with 100 words about the blogging experience. The result?

5...10...15...20: Play. Stretch. Push. Accomplish. Go. Try. Press. Breathe. Challenge. Learn. Celebrate. Visualize. Detail. Laugh. Question. Doubt. Experiment. Create. Stumble. Regroup.

25...30...35...40: Research. Quote. Hesitate. Listen. Cheer. Meet. Change. Discuss. Read. Surf. Stir. Hop. Pop. Color. Shift. Glean. Glow. Switch. Leap. Flow.

45...50...55...60: Study. Absorb. Reflect. Draw. Sparkle. Pause. Revisit. Recharge. Re-examine. Replace. Renew. Prioritize. Relate. Release. Connect. Comment. Feel. Fuss. Fritter. Flitter.

65...70...75...80: Associate. Appreciate. Balance. Choose. Convey. Critique. Give. Encourage. Plot. Imagine. Improve. Master. Observe. Persevere. Persist. Practice. Remember. Revise. Risk. Paddle.

85...90...95...100: Sharpen. Wonder. Show. Spread. Begin. End. Suggest. Surprise. Jump. Dedicate. Help. Inspire. Prompt. Tip. Dance. Tweak. Smooth. Offer. Hope. Grow.

There, I did it! And to honor the idea of a 100-post milestone, here are links about 100s you might find interesting:
It's been quite a ride so far. I've gained more, I believe, than I 've given, because of all of the camraderie, exchanges, dialogues, tips and links that have crossed my path since the start. Hats off to you all.

Now--on to the next 100!

What words would you use to describe your blogging journey?

"For me, writing is exploration; and most of the time, I'm surprised where the journey takes me." --Jack Dann

Thursday, March 17, 2011

When the Bags Are Packed

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." --Emilie Buchwald

Thanks to all who participated in my recent poll concerning book titles you would recommend for the upcoming Central Ohio SCBWI conference partnership's with Nationwide Hospital's Reach Out and Read Program (details here). The random drawing has taken place, and when I pack my bags for the conference, I will include these books:

Richard Scarry's Best Storybook Ever!
Thanks Karen, for refreshing my mind on this author. I read his books to my kids when they were little.

Don't Slam the Door, by Dori Chaconas.
Robyn suggested this author, and I am glad to be introduced to what looks like a great children's read.

Mathilda and the Orange Balloon, by Randall de Seve.
What a fun book this must be, judging by the reviews. Elizabeth Varadan suggested this one.

Some of the suggested book titles in the comments of my previous post were familiar to me, others new--and inviting. So inviting, in fact, I will be ordering my own copies--not only these three, but others you suggested--to put on my "grandchildren's" book shelf here at home, or to tuck away for future gifts. So this has been a profitable exercise in many ways. I can't wait to hold the books in my own hands...and then give them away.

Thanks for joining in on the quest to help make more readers!

"Babies are born with the instinct to speak, the way spiders are born with the instinct to spin webs. You don't need to train babies to speak; they just do it. But reading is different." --Steven Pinker

Monday, March 14, 2011

Help Plant Seeds of Success

"It takes MORE than medicine to have a Healthy Child." --Reach Out and Read Program 

Looking ahead, I have a great opportunity coming up next month. The Central and Southern Ohio SCBWI will host its 3rd annual Scarlet and Gray Writers and Illustrators Conference April 16. The theme is Plant the Seeds of Success! I am registered, ready, and raring to go. (And I understand registration is still open if you're interested in going, too.)

The conference promises to be super helpful and fun. Keynote speaker is Mandy Hubbard, Literary Agent with D4EO Literary, and author of Prada and Prejudice and You Wish. Other faculty include Susan Hawk (The Bent Agency), Heather Alexander (Dial Books), and Krista Marino (Delacorte). The slate also offers additional authors and former editors.

But there's more than great workshops, critiques, and rubbing shoulders with fellow writers. The folks--Susan Bradley and others who are working hard to offer another fantastic conference (I got to go last year, too)--are offering a unique partnership in which attendees can participate, the Nationwide Children's Hospital's Reach Out and Read Program.

Nationwide's Mission says, "Reach Out and Read prepares central Ohio's youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together." The focus is given to families living in poverty. During "well-child visits," pediatricians give children ages six months through five years old a new, developmentally-appropriate children's book to take home and keep. Doctors and nurses speak with parents about the importance of reading to their young children aloud every day. And volunteers engage children and their families in literacy and music related activities while in the waiting area.

Sounds pretty cool, doesn't it? Especially to those of us who truly believe in the importance of reading to our children.

Here's the fun part. Conference attendees are encouraged to bring a new children's book to donate to this program. I'm on board, and here's where you can help.

If you were to donate a book, which book would you choose? I'm all ears, and, if you name a title in a comment, I will consider it for my selection. In fact, I'll do a random drawing of book titles, and choose three books whose titles you recommend. It will almost be like you get to attend, too. Well, sort of!

Small though it may be, we can team up together to put books in children's hands--a fantastic opportunity to help young children on the road to reading. I'll just be the delivery person.

Oh, and by the way, if you'd like to read a fantastic post on reading to your children, check out this post from HowlynnTimes: Never Fight Bedtime Again! Foolproof Plan. This is one of the best pieces I've read on the subject. Highlights: 1) Why it's important to read to your children. 2) Guidelines on how to implement the time. 3) Why any excuse not to does not hold water. You'll want to check this out.

And before we're done here, may I also suggest you check out another blog site: Vintage Books My Kid Loves. Blogger Burgin Streetman scours used book stores and other places for children's books for her son, and shares the joy and beauty of rediscovering old favorites with her readers. It's a great place to visit for ideas.

So, if you could go to this conference, what book would you want to donate?

"No adult loves a book the way a child loves a book. They live that book. They absolutely live it, and they will read it five or six times. How many adult books get read that often?" --Sally Derby, Children's Book Author

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blue Birds, New Words

"Every time I see a bluebird, I say, well, hey, all this hard work is all worthwhile."--Ray Briggs

I saw my first bluebird of the year this morning on my walk. What a bright spot on an otherwise dreary day. Take heart--spring is really on its way. The bluebird told me so!

Then I went home, sat down at the computer, and got lost in revisions. My hubby came in at one point and asked if I'd been out of my chair in awhile. That's a problem. Too often I get engrossed and forget to stretch. And I've got a whole series of exercises lined out that I'm "supposed" to do while on the clock. Number one on the list of things to do to try to keep healthy. But that's another subject for another time.

Finally, I surfaced for air just in time to fix supper. Number two on the list: remember to eat. Number three: Don't forget to breathe.

But it's funny. As much work as revisions take, I still enjoy the process. It's getting those first few words down on paper that's the hardest for me. Maybe someone could drop words in my brain like people throw bread crumbs to ducks.

Whoops, wait a minute. That would be so not healthy. Gotta' do my own writing. Find my own healthy habits. Breathe spring's first bluebirds of words onto the blank computer screen, or notebook page, so the season of revisions can follow.

So, which is harder for you--those first words, or revisions?

"Mister Bluebird's on my shoulder,
It's the truth, it's actual, everything is satisfactual.
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay,
Wonderful feeling, wonderful day!"
                                                         --from the film The Song of the South, words by Ray Gilbert

p.s. sorry for the corniness of this post, but I needed an excuse to use this photo, one that I shot a couple of years ago in a city park in California. I've waited all year to use it. But I really did see a bluebird this morning!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How Reading Changes Lives

"You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page
and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." --Paul Sweeney

Do you remember the first book ever that changed your life? Those early years when you graduated from picture books to chapter books, and the whole world opened up?  I don't remember the title of that first book for me, but I do remember it was a mystery, and the cover--showing a drawing of the main character peering into a dark woods and beckoning me to follow--promised intrigue and adventure. I was in the third grade, and my teacher had rewarded me for finishing an assignment by telling me to choose any book I wanted from the bookshelf at the back of the room. 
 I can still feel a sense of importance--me? Read a big kid's book? How exciting!

When did you first feel the call of books?

I'm reading Anna Quindlen's book, How Reading Changed My Life (Ballentine Books, 1998). It's a small book, with only four chapters and an appendix in the back that lists Ms. Quindlen's favorites (e.g. "10 Books That Will Help a Teenager Feel More Human," "The 10 Books I would Save in a Fire," and "10 Modern Novels That Made Me Proud to Be a Writer"), but don't let the size fool you. There's a great bit of wisdom between the pages. For example:

"...there was alway in me, even when I was very small, the sense that I ought to be somewhere else. And wander I did, although, in my everyday life, I had nowhere to go and no imaginable reason on earth why I would want to leave. The buses took to the interstate without me; the trains sped by. So I wandered the world through books. I went to Victorian England in the pages of Middlemarch and A Little Princess, and to Saint Petersburg before the fall of the tsar with Anna Karenina. I went to Tara, and Manderley, and Thornfield Hall, all those great houses, with their high ceilings and high drama, as I read Gone with the Wind, Rebecca, and Jane Eyre.

"...I have clear memories of that sort of life, of lifting the rocks in the creek that trickled through Naylor's Run to search for crayfish, of laying pennies on the tracks of the trolley and running to fetch them, flattened, when the trolley had passed. But at base it was never any good. The best part of me was always at home, within some book that had been laid flat on the table to mark my place, its imaginary people waiting for me to return and bring them to life."

"...In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own. I learned who I was and who I wanted to be, what I might aspire to, and what I might dare to dream about my world and myself."

"...I did not read from a sense of superiority, or advancement, or even learning. I read because I loved it more than any other activity on earth."

The first cardinal rule of being a writer is WRITE. The second is READ. But if we remember the thrill of reading as a child, we will read not because we "have" to--but because we want to. Yes, we'll read in order to wander through the world, bring life to imaginary characters, and learn about the craft of writing while we learn about ourselves. But more than that, we will read because we truly love to.

Only then, I think, will we have fun with writing. Life, energy and a great sense of story will flow across the pages we fill because, first of all, we love to read. It all works together, don't you think?

What book early on lit the fire for you? And how has reading changed your life?