Thursday, January 31, 2013

You Can't Hide Your Emotions from Your Pen

The forces of the cosmos have been itching my britches all month:
     14 days of being sick,
     Two water main breaks (always on the days I really need a shower),
     Car accident (but minor),
     Fell down some steps and bumped my wittle head,
     Loss of two special loved ones...
     all in one gray, bleak, wintery January.

My horoscope predicted it all, always 100% right, because this is the guy who writes it- you can tell he knows his stuff:  
Rick Levine, the "other" man in my life...

Here are some horoscope highlights for the month:
January 9:
You feel as if you're completely in charge today, but this sense of authority is probably more illusion than truth. It's not that your life is running amok; it's just that circumstances can unfold without your expressed permission.
*Though I was surrounded by chaos, this horoscope made me laugh out loud, and a good laugh at oneself is a most miraculous tool. *

January 18:
There is an obvious relationship between how much of your feelings you get out into the open today and the amount of resistance you encounter over the next few weeks. Even if it's difficult, slow down and deal with your emotions.
*I did NOT follow this advice*

January 29:
Attempts to accomplish too many things all at once today could lead to doing a poor job at all of them. Just take care of each problem as it pops up in a calm and collected manner.
No fewer than 43 suckilicious problems popped up this day.  I calmly dealt with each one and optimistically turned to the next day, assuming I was through the rough patch:

January 30:
You manage to keep a smile on your face, even when you encounter difficult situations.  If life seems overwhelming, remember that Saturn the Tester is only giving you a wake-up call.
Saturn, if you were here I would call you a big meanie face, but you aren't and it isn't nice to talk behind people's backs.

January 31
Everything seems to run smoothly today, helping to soothe any lingering tensions. 
Smooth always means smooth, except when it doesn't.  Because today there are no problems and in the void of issue resolution, hugging husbands, and kissing boo boos, I am feeling ALL the emotions of the month with no distractions to help.   

Maybe it's just one of those facts of life: The Mom is always the last to feel.   

As I look at the writings of the month, it turns out I was releasing some of the emotions into my words in ways I didn't understand at the time.   But that's the thing about writing children's books.   You think your book is just about a noodle or a raindrop or a kid who likes to jump in puddles.  But it isn't.  It never is.  It's about dealing with change, about fear, about freedom.  Stories come from somewhere deep inside us, taking our emotions with them.  

Cosmos, I concede January to you, but I get February!

What are your February plans?  Please share them so I can revel in the excitement of what is bound to be a great month. (It can't be worse than January...can it?)

Monday, January 21, 2013

On Giving Germs and Other Things

I'm sneezy, stuffy, slimy sick.
I had to write this post real quick.
by David Lat via
Before the boogies hit my keys,
I'm typing out two poetries.
So I won't give my germs to you,
I'll grab a tissue and Achoo!

This tiny poem was inspired by
The National Day of Service:

Some give money.
Some give time.
Some give thanks.
But all give.

By Lauri C. Meyers, 2013

This cold has had me for a week.   Though it's customary to say I "have a cold," it’s pretty clear who has the upper hand.   Thanks for stopping by, but you better go take a bath in anti-bacterial goo now.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

One Project or Many?

When I started writing I tried to stay focused on one project at a time, which seemed like a good strategy to see the manuscript to completion and get it published as soon as possible! But there are downsides to focusing on one story at a time.

The one project method can mean long periods  of just editing.  I mean I love editing as much as the next writer, but a writer cannot live on editing alone.   Having multiple projects lets you work on whatever interests you the most that day - writing, researching, twittering, or even editing.

Focus can mean lots of waiting - waiting for feedback from your critique group or a response from an editor.   Multiple projects let you be productive and keep flexing your writing muscles.

Though it sounds backwards, focus can be inefficient.  If you research publishers with just one manuscript in mind, then you need to complete the research again for the next story.  If you have a few at hand you may note a good editorial fit for each one during your research.

This is your brain on writing...
(brain by Rodrigo Galindo via
Having multiple projects going creates an "idea web" in your brain which catches juicy tidbits around you.   You see someone get tripped by a dog leash and fall into doggy poo.  Aha! Perfect for your dog walking service book.   Your kid orders five flavors of ice cream and the dopey teenager behind the counter actually puts five scoops on one cone which is now larger than your child.  Voila!  Great for your magic candy shop story. 

Finally, sometimes you just don't have a choice.  You try to focus, but your muse becomes a college roommate on Thursday night convincing you to go out for one drink even though you have never successfully executed the one drink strategy.  Ever. 

Let's just jot down this one idea, your muse entices.  While we're here, how about a few sentences?   Then a whole story spills right out of your fingertips.  And sometimes that new idea is more exciting than the other.  It's not that your first idea stinks (though that's certainly possible), it's that you are fatigued with it.  You need a little distance in the relationship so your heart can grow fonder. 

The main downside of the multiple project approach is your brain feeling like a cave of fluttering bats about to explode - but hey, everything has side effects.

What's your approach?

Monday, January 14, 2013

What Did You Do at Work Today?

"Hi, honey, how was your day?"

I used to answer, "I read 137 emails about nothing, nodded abstractly in a bunch of meetings, made a killer multi-colored spreadsheet, ate chicken fingers at my desk then tried to airspray the breading out of my keyboard,  ..."

Fast forward to today.   "Hey, babe, whad'ya do today?" 

I answer, "I studied the sounds downy woodpeckers make, which includes a "whinnying call" if you were wondering.   I practiced speaking squirrel: "kuk, kuk, chitter, tail flash!"  I laugh hysterically then remember my husband doesn't speak squirrel fluently and didn't get the punch line.  

"I crawled to the kitchen to make lunch, because I couldn't find the right words to describe an anteater hunting ants.  Then, I hocked a few loogies into the sink to try to create the sound a giant would make when he stepped on a pointed-hat-wearing elf.   Oh, frookberries!"

I was too far down the potty humor
path on this post to resist this pic.
(Goker Can Yilmaz via
"What's wrong?"  he says.

"I was so busy, I didn't even get to my Google search for digestive sounds." My shoulders fall as I stir the taco meat on the stove. 

"Fart, stinker, poot, toot, burp," he says.  I stir faster and steal a glance at the kitchen table.  "Growling, rumble in my bung hole, bowel explosions."

"Let me grab some paper!" I yell.  I write furiously with my right hand and try to stir with my left (which is similar to rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time.)

"Gastric gurgles, sphincter shutting, crackling acidic assault..."

"Who needs Google with you around!"  I smile serving my potty-vocabulary-expert-spouse some counter-clockwise stirred tacos.  "I hope these don't cause any bowel explosions tonight."

Writing is fabulous, but the "research" for children's books really makes the job worth it. 

What have you been researching lately?

P.S.  Thanks to Athena Hernandez for publishing this post in Aspiring Authors Daily!

Friday, January 11, 2013

It's a Secret: I Like to Rhyme

I like to rhyme.

There I said it.

I've read all those fancy pants writerly books that said don't rhyme, rhyming picture books don't sell, rhyming is the quickest path to the devil (I don't remember which book said that, but I do recall having to have the house blessed after reading it)...

Well, here's what I know:
Even Rhymezone can't handle orange.
(slice by Michal Zacharzewski, SXC)

1. Rhyming makes me happy
2. I enjoy reading rhyming picture books to my children.
3. Some rhyming picture books sell, because I've read a few hundred.
4. Rhyming is not illegal.  I can rhyme anywhere I want.  Any time I want. With anyone I please. 

(Unreasonably long sidebar:  When I lived in Detroit I lived on high alert of running into Eminem at the Meijer store and having to bust rhymes with him.  It was almost as bad as my current fear of walking into a taping of the Real Housewives of New Jersey dressed in yoga pants and yelling at my children.)

That said, I understand rhyming rules have been created to protect us novice rhymers.  Those in power don't want to be responsible because some new writer gets horribly stuck in inverted speech (they all still feel guilty about what happened to Yoda).  I empathize with the rule makers who don't want to be called "enablers" for letting lazy writers get away with "near rhymes." 

I submit to those rules, because rhyming stimulates a part of my brain prose can't access.   So even if I can't publish in rhyme, I sure as heck (or there I am going to the devil again) am going to keep practicing rhyme. 

So go ahead and tell me your fancy pants rules about not rhyming in picture books, and I will say to them:  I think, therefore I rhyme.

Or maybe:
I'd love to bust some dope rhymes
With Eminem by the limes.

Or even:
You think I'm mentally stable?
Watch me flip this frickin' table!
("Today's rhyme brought to you by the letters N and J")

Do you secretly rhyme, but not want to admit it publicly?  It's okay to tell me in the comments; all rhymers are welcome here.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Booty, Booty, Booty! I Got Writing Booty!

I'm doing the booty dance!  Booty, booty, boot-y!  Hey!  Booty, booty, boot-y!  Hey!

No, that's not a Snooki dance.   (You are cut off from MTV for awhile, BTW.)  

It's the dance pirates do when they find treasure.   Even the most fearsome pirate who stumbles upon a hidden chest on a desert island is sure to catch a serious case of all-night-dance-party-fever!   (cue disco ball)  Between you and me, I think this supports the belief pirates are cowards, because you don't have to be very brave to shake what your momma stole for you when there's no one around (which is often the case on a desert island.)

(chest by lockstockb via
Anyhow, I made out like a bandit, or pirate as it were, this Christmas.  I got:

A Motherload of Writing Books

A Gift Certificate to Barnes and Noble for a Motherload of Writing Books

A New Bookshelf which holds a Motherload of Books.   When we set sail to the East Coast, I scuppered my book collection overboard and became a loyal library card holder.  But, arrr, a writer needs a bookshelf.

Handsome Journals  Including one with color-coded sections!  Aye, I wet me britches a little when I opened that gift. 

"Just Write" Tote for Books and Journals  Avast!  I see you eyeing my booty you scallywag stepchild son of a manatee!  Avert ye eyes!

Net, I am very blessed, I will be reading every night for a century, and I love pirates.  

But pray tell, what writing booty hath ye received? 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My First Year Writing (A 2012 Recap)

After creating my 2013 Action Plan, I briskly walked into the kitchen, grabbed a brown paper bag, and took many deep breaths.  I seemed busy in 2012, but apparently I wasn't doing anything because I had a million things ahead of me in 2013.  A hundred deep breaths and two marshmallow snowmen later I decided to look at my 2012 activities for perspective.
By Maxime Perron Caissy via

If you can you bare with a little self-indulgent recap, here's what kept me busy in 2012.  (Thanks to my friend Romelle Broas for providing a great format, which I copy here with shameless abandon.)


  • Said "I think I'll write a picture book." 
  • Said "I think I'll submit this book somewhere," realized I didn't know how to do that, stressed over font and paper and envelopes and formats, and finally submitted a couple manuscripts (which weren't ready of course because I didn't know what I was doing. Whoopsy.)
  • Joined SCBWI after emailing with the NJ Region Advisor Kathy who basically told me I had to.  She was right.
  • Started my blog, even though I didn't really understand what one did with a blog.  
  • Learned about blogging with Robert Lee Brewer's Platform-A-Day Challenge.  Created a social media web: Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook Page, Linkedin, Google+, Goodreads, RedRoom, even though I didn't see why they were important.  (amazingly these are all like second nature to me now!)
  • Received my first blog award, the Liebster Award.  Also received the Very Inspring Blogger Award and the Versatile Blogger Award throughout the year. 
  • Wrote a picture book (draft) a day for seven days with Paula Yoo's NaPiBoWriWee (National Picture Book Writing Week), nearly causing me a nervous breakdown.
  • Jumped up and down for 4 ½ minutes upon learning I was accepted into the Yellow Brick Road critique group. 

  • Joined the writers from the April Platform-a-Day Challenge in founding Wordsmith Studio, complete with Facebook Page, Website and #wschat twitter chats.   

  • My piece "Copernica" was selected for critique by Agent Sean McCarthey on Kathy Temean's blog Writing & Illustrating.

  • Hit a lot of red lights in Cynthea Liu's Red Light Green Light (RLGL) contest, but received very helpful feedback and supported needy puppies in the process.
  • My piece "The Wheel" was selected for a critique from Sarah Cloots on Kathy Temean's blog Writing & Illustrating 
  • Enjoyed the critiques and community during the WriteonCon online conference. 
  • Found inspiration in Susanna Hill's Short & Sweets and was a finalist in the Summer Send-Off Contest. 

  • Attended Brooklyn Book Festival and introduced myself as "sort of a writer type person who is trying to write children's books" even though I had rehearsed "I am a writer" all morning.
  • Two local critique groups started - one at the library (but at a bad time for me) and one at a coffee shop which serves sick coffee creations which you have to substitute for a meal.  I'm still in the later.
  • Won Christie Wright Wild's Summer Lucky Clover Picture Book Contest. 

  • Sent a manuscript to Rate Your Story - an awesome free service which gives your manuscript a rating and a brief critique. 
  • Found inspiration in Susanna Hill's Short & Sweets and received an Honorable Mention in her Halloween Contest. 
  • Participated in my 1st PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) and got to meet the host Tara Lazar at my first conference - the NJ SCBWI Fall Craft Weekend (and met many other amazing writers.) 
  • Ended the year with 58 blog followers and more email followers who comment and bring so much joy to my writing life.  
Throughout the year I read eight books on writing for children, read a wheelbarrow full of picture books, wrote many PB drafts, and amassed a respectable collection of rejection letters.  I learned the writing community is amazing and supportive, with a special thanks to each of you for how much you have taught me this year in your comments and blogs!  

Hopefully some new writers will stumble upon this post and have a few ideas of where to start their journey.  

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