Friday, March 16, 2012

My Dirty Girls Dancing in the Dust

            I refer to my children as the "dirty girls."  I can't turn around for a second without some crazy calamity occurring.  Unfortunately, I have yet to learn this lesson, and I turn around "for one second" too often.  My penalty for loose parenting is an obscene amount of stained laundry, cheeseball-faced children, and frequently wet socks. 
            The girls were on point this week.  I shook out a blanket in the living room to fold it.   The living room has a large bay window which lets in lovely morning sun.  I hear the 4-year-old yell "ooh, sparkles."   I looked to see her dancing in a cloud of sparkles.  Except they weren't sparkles.  They were dust particles glittering in the sun.  Awesome.  Did I mention I also have loose cleaning skills?
            It was a nice day, so we played in the sandbox.  I was on top of my mom game and had them take their shoes off.   Score 1 for Mom.  As usual I turned my back for just a second to pick up sticks.   When I checked back, I found two smiling girls and four shoes filled with sand. Score 2 for the Dirty Girls. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Creative Process

Write.  Edit manuscript for an hour.  Draft query letter.  Edit manuscript for an hour.  Research publishers.   Edit manuscript for an hour.   Come up with something witty to put in cover letter.  Edit manuscript for an hour.   Obsess about which type of envelope to use.   Hold submission in hand for 5 minutes building the bravery to put it in the mail.   Send.   Remember that the writing part is actually fun.  Repeat.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Seussed Anniversary Part 4

Did you know Seuss is properly pronounced "Zoice," not "Soose?"  Seuss was actually Theodore Geisel's middle name which he was given from his Bavarian's mother maiden name.  (Maiden as middle? Me too!)

Anytime you sit down to photographically recap the last 40 years, you are going to have to make some tough choices on whether to publish embarrassing photos.  No matter how hot you looked then, you can't help but laugh at pictures taken during the 70s and 80s.  My parents had a recurring theme of terrible glasses and eccentric hats.   (note - I of course look adorable!)

I hope you enjoyed these excerpts from my parents 40th Anniversary scrapbook.

Some days theyll look good
Some days, well, theyll not.
Lucky for them love
Lives within and not with-out.

Love can be seen
Through any shape glasses.
Love can hide
Under any size hatses.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Seussed Anniversary Part 3

Dr. Seuss' birthday was March 2nd.  What a great day to celebrate reading!

My Mom had an unfortunate run in with a moving truck ramp which left her with a broken ankle. Not one to sit around helpless, she put her 6 month old baby in a box and pulled her around! 

Fox in socks
Fox in box
Baby in socks
Baby in box

When your leg is in a cast,
Pulling a baby in a box is fast.

Charlotte is a gal so tough
A few steps high just wasnt enough.

One more step would be just right-
She lifted the ramp with all her might.

But OUCH with a big clankle,
The truck ramp fell on her ankle.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Seussed Anniversary Part 2

My mom has been hounding me to write a book since I was ten.  I was so proud when she wrote me a thank you note and said the anniversary book I made for my parents 40th Anniversary counted as my first book.

This is written in the style of "The Sleep Book."  The Sleep Book was published 50 years ago in 1962.

The news
Just came in
From the County of Mun
That the marriage
Of Christopher and Dunn
Happened today on
June 30, 1971

This may not seem
Very important, I know.
But it is. So Im bothering
Telling you so.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Seussical Anniversary

In honor of the 75th anniversary of Dr. Seuss' first book And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street (1937),  I thought it would be fun to share some excerpts of the book I wrote for my parents 40th anniversary.   I took a different spin on the anniversary scrapbook.  I "Seussed" their love story!  Enjoy!

What a happy couple
What a beautiful pair
To be celebrating
Their 40th year!

Yes! They have been “they”
For 40 years, Not 35 or 28,
40! Say that is great.

How do they do it, you ask?
How does their love last, last, last?

Perhaps we should take a look
At the pages of this book
To see how they got here
From here to there
From there to here
Love can happen most anywhere.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Love All the Tiny Ideas Too

            The first piece of advice I found when I started my writing journey was to write every day.  Some days a little, some days a lot, but work those writing muscles.  I have been writing down a new idea pretty much every day.   Sometimes I just pop a few words into my ipad reminders.   Sometimes I open a document and write a few words which turn into sentences.   And sentences become paragraphs.   Voila!  A draft!
            Some days an idea strikes me at the grocery store or in the car, and I have to store it in my brain all morning.   I always think I have a winner.  When I finally get home and put pen to paper, I can't even finish a good sentence.  Somewhere between bananas and home the idea has lost its promise.  Nonetheless, the orphaned sentence is tucked into bed right next to the drafts.
            All those little abandoned tidbits are important.  You never know when the magic clue will drop into place to turn a thought into a book.  Today, for example, I walked out of the gym carrying my daughter.  A woman on the sidewalk smiled and said, "What a cute little rosebud you have there."  Little did she know I was looking for a few cute nicknames to complete my book "Two Little Ladybugs."   Bingo! 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The More You Learn... The More You Learn You Screwed Up

     There really isn't anything I love more than spending a Sunday afternoon opening all of my manuscript drafts and changing a format element because I learned something new.   There was the day I realized I needed to put my contact information on the first page (duh!).  The day I added a word count to start the manuscript and an "End" to finish it.  Then there was the day I formatted everything in Courier 10 based on several websites' recommendation.
By Kriss Szkurlatowski via

      Over the last week I have started to establish which writing websites are trustworthy and which are just okay.  The trustworthy ones today all said to use 12 point font.  I was also seeing fonts other than Courier recommended.  Uh-oh.  I swear the first 10 websites I used as formatting resources stated 10 point courier was the best font! 
     As I changed the font size on all my drafts, Moira Allen's discussion of the heated debate on fonts ( helped to satisfy my frustration.  Do editors really even care about font?   
      I did not yet make a change on the font type.  While SCBWI recommends Arial or Times New Roman, I am hesitant to make the switch from Courier.  Even though I really dislike the dated look of Courier (so 1995!) and I loves me some Times New Roman, I may just take the chance for now on Courier.
      Look for more great posts where I screw up!  Wait, what is this about "title in ALL CAPS"... son of a...

UPDATE:  I am fully converted!  12 point font, Times New Roman, 1" margins, word count top right, contact info top left, title centered, author centered 3 lines down from title, story starts 3 lines down from author.  Voila!  Oh, the hardship of the beginning writer who loses hours just figuring out format.

Shopping for a Paper Weight

     I spent some time preparing my first submission.  Once I printed it out on my 20 pound paper it looked, well, pretty blah.  Part of the problem may just be getting reacquainted with Courier font.  It really takes me back to the days of sitting at the kitchen table typing my senior paper on a real typewriter.   I decided I needed better paper.
    I did some research and established a) yes, a nice paper was appropriate, b) card stock was too heavy, and c) neon was not a good idea.

    The helpful fellow at the Staples recommended a fine quality 32 pound paper.   It felt nice.  It was expensive at $17/ 200 sheets.   Here I was blowing my original $10 "try to become a writer" budget on a ream of paper.  
    I printed on my new paper.  It looked hot!  A publisher would have to linger longer over my submission feeling this luxurious paper.   Then, I tried to fold my 3 pages.  This stuff was pretty thick.  I placed the pages in the envelope as gently as a sleeping baby (it was my first submission after all).  Then I sighed.   Was one stamp enough?

    I considered taking the risk or throwing an extra stamp on for good measure.  I couldn't possibly add the uncertainty of the submission getting to the publisher to the already hard to bear 4 month wait time.  A trip to the post office was in order.   65 cents later my first submission was on its way!

    Later that day while researching whether I should have folded my submission, I stumbled on a discussion saying you should not use more than 20 pound paper for manuscripts.   Argh. 
    Well, I guess my next search will be on uses for expensive 32 pound paper.   I have heard origami is a good way to wait for responses.

UPDATE:  20 pound, 96 brightness, multi-purpose paper is the way to go.  Now that all my manuscripts are in Times New Roman, they look okay.  I still lose some sleep wondering if a new printer is in order.  (Possibly sooner than later since my toddler just dropped a few magnets into the back of the printer).  Oh, and, yes, you can fold your submission.  For PBs of less than 5 pages I like to use the 6"x9" envelopes so it's just one fold (65 cents postage). 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Committing to be a Writer

     Thank you to the NJ SCBWI who gracefully pushed me over the cliff to become a member.  I am one of those people who can't look at any decisions as finite.  In my mind each decision causes a reaction that causes another reaction that causes another reaction - much like the latest DirectTV ad "Don't have a Grandson with a Dog Collar."
     I have been casually working on a handful of children's books manuscripts for a few months.  It was just something creative to do in my free time.   I thought if I could publish a mediocre book a year, I could send my children to college!  
     Then my brain started churning.   To have a shot publishing, I should really join SCBWI.   If I become a member, I am not just writing books; I am a writer.  That is a career change.  If I get published, I will need to travel for book signings and school visits.  How will I do that with a child hanging from my leg screaming?   If I have a career, the kids need childcare.  How can I justify paying for childcare to do work I am not getting paid to do?  Forget the kids; am I ready for this commitment?  I had gone from dabbling to saying "I do" in a manner of minutes.
            The thing about writing children's books is you aren't competing against a bunch of dabblers.  You are competing against qualified writers who have made a commitment to be children's books writers as a profession.   Dabbling was only going to get me a stack of rejection letters, and the ability to say "I tried" when things didn't work.  It was time to commit.

Click here for the link for the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators if you are ready to commit. 
SCBWI, Children's Books, Writing Tips

Welcome to my new blog.  I apologize if the url address has misdirected you - 'dirty girls' refers to my children who are always rolling around in a mud puddle and taking chocolate milk baths.  If you are looking for something else, you will have to keep looking.
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