Tuesday, November 30, 2010

200th Post Celebration

Last month a friend and I went to a talk given by a woman who had survived the Sierra Leone civil war caused by the black market diamond trade. (Think the movie Blood Diamond and that is exactly how it was for her.)

While she spoke of running for her life, of her parents being shot before her eyes, and of her brother and sister having their legs amputated by a rebel’s machete, I cried with her. While she spoke of how the simple gift of a bar of soap, a book, and a notebook changed her life and the life of her step-sister, I nodded with her. I will never live through what she had to live through (God willing), but I can comprehend the power of sharing what we have. One person at a time. She spoke of how her sister received a humanitarian kit with a notebook, pencils, and paper and how that whole kit blessed the lives of her sister’s entire class. They broke the pencils in half so they could share them, they each got a piece of paper to write on and then would erase everything the next day to use it again. These children valued their education, they risked their lives to walk to school every day and they used up everything they had to make it last. Because it was all they had. The woman talked about receiving a book and how it changed her life as well. Books have a way of doing that, as well all know.

Ever since I heard this woman speak, my mind has been mulling on what one person can do. Specifically, what can I do? I am just one person. I work hard to help one person at a time; I chalk up volunteer hours every week. But it isn’t enough. My heart yearns to do more and I know many of you feel the same way.

So in celebration of my 200th post, I’m offering up to you, my blog friends, a proposal. I need help motivating myself to do more. I need someone to be accountable to. You are who I’m going to be accountable to. Please help me with my Project Give a Book, Give the World.

Here’s the plan:

For every book you give to a child (any child!), I will assemble and send a humanitarian school kit out.

The kits look like this, with hand sewn bags and purchased school supplies. Why have you give books out? Because I want kids to have books this Christmas, and I don’t care who the kid is. It will help us motivate each other and give to children in two different ways, with books and with school supplies.

This contest is based entirely on the honor system. Tell me you gave a child a book, and I’ll give you extra points to enter….

A giveaway for this book:
And this one:
And this one:
And this one:
An eclectic mix of books all by our wonderful blog friends. (Though I wish I could give all my friend’s books this time around. Next run of the project, I guess.)

Other ways to win points?

2 points for following here
2 points for spreading the word about Project Give a Book, Give the World (facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc.)
5 points for each school kit you make yourself and donate here or at another non-profit philanthropy who distributes them (please send pictures to my email on the right—I’d love to post them on the blog)
5 points for each book given to a child, even your own (children 18 and under)
1 point for adding up your points in the comments below as you get them (frequent additions to your points and multiple comments are just fine)

The amount of points to be earned is limitless!

Just please help me do more this holiday. And yes, I am begging. See? Rug burns on my knees.

Our hearts will be forever changed by the kindnesses we show.

This project will be open until December 23rd, 5 pm MST, and is of course open to international friends. As I get the donations, I’ll be assembling the kits and posting pictures and updates on the project’s progress. (If you join me in making kits, I would love to share your pictures as well!)

Now I’ll get off my knees and leave you with these:

"When you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue-you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night-there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book."  ~ Christopher Morley

“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” ~ Edward Everett

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chronicle Book's Happy Haulidays

Have you ever read a Chronicle Book? If you haven’t, then here’s your chance! Chronicle is putting on their annual Happy Haulidays giveaway and one lucky blogger will win $500 worth of books. Even better than that, blog commenters also have a chance to win a $500 pile as well. For a full list of participating blogs (or to participate yourself), go HERE.

Still here? Then let me share other reasons why I love Chronicle, because it’s a publishing house I have always admired. Not only are they constantly giving back to communities, but they pride themselves on publishing really distinctive books. When I see their little glasses on a book binding, I know the book is quality. In fact my favorite research book for Her Ticket to Ride was none other than….
The Beatles Anthology

Then I won Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl on Caroline Rose’s blog. Not only did Chronicle send me my winning copy, they sent me TWO! (You’ll be seeing more about this soon. And by that I mean getting the other copy.)
I love Chronicle! Needless to say I have a wish list of Chronicle Books besides these. A few are:
The Space Between Trees By Katie Williams
Tortilla Sun By Jennifer Cervantes
Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration
Vincent's Colors
How I Stole Johnny Depp’s Alien Girlfriend By Gary Ghislain

Ivy and Bean Boxed Set 2: Books 4, 5, and 6 Boxed set By Annie Barrows, Sophie Blackal

Simple Steps Toward a Healthier Earth By Molly Smith, Tad Carpenter

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder By Mark Cassino, Jon Nelson, Ph.D.

Animals Charles Darwin Saw: An Around-the-World Adventure By Sandra Markle, Zina Saunders

Charlotte in London By Joan MacPhail Knight, Melissa Sweet

Spot 7 Toys By KidsLabel

Escape Under the Forever Sky By Eve Yohalem

The Story of the Treasure Seekers By E. Nesbit, Paul O. Zelinsky, H.R. Millar

The Whitby Witches By Robin Jarvis

The Kid Who Named Pluto: And the Stories of Other Extraordinary Young People in Science By Marc McCutcheon, Jon Cannell

The Creative Collection of American Short Stories: Creative Editions By Yan Nascimbene

There you have it! Now… do you have your own Chronicle wish list? Get it posted by December 14th then let Chronicle know you have! Be sure to leave a comment here too, for another chance to win.

 And to my US friends, have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

Next post: My 200th Post Celebration!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The 7 Rules Part III: Rejection

Everyone faces rejection. EVERYONE. The trick is learning how to deal with it. I’m going to put myself out there for censure and admit that I’ve been rejected on fulls nine times by agents this year. To some of you, that might not sound like a lot. To others, you’re likely appalled at the high number and will think there's something seriously wrong with me.

I can't tell you what to think of me, but I can share the seven rules of rejection I've gleaned from my experiences*.

1. Never send anything out until you receive that cue deep within your gut.
I’ve done it. Many of us have. But as your friend, I’m here to tell you DON’T be the one to do it. That’s right—I’m here to call a query intervention. Don’t submit until you are sure you are ready—not when a friend says it’s “good enough,” not when your mother tells you that it’s the editor’s job to fix it up for you. Listen to yourself and your book. You owe it to that book to make it the best it can be. And if you don’t know how to do that, then learn how. (These are all the tough words I tell myself when I’m in the ring—a.k.a. boxing it out with rejection.) Also, once you are ready to submit, research each house/editor/agent thoroughly to make sure your book could be a potential fit.

2. Recognize your writer’s weaknesses as well as your strengths.
Having said number one, I also want to point out you need to be positive. Pat yourself on the back for the things you know you’ve done well. Because you do have strong points whether it be great characterization, a beautiful platform, killer plot, or the perfect writing desk. There’s always something to be hopeful about!
3. You’re allowed one day to grieve the rejection then pick yourself up and work the next day.
Just like a bad break-up, rejection is a huge blow to your confidence. It’s okay that it hurts, but the next thing to do is pick yourself back up and get in the ring again. Before I married my husband, I allowed myself one day to mope over a boyfriend break-up. After that, I forced myself back to work and back to life. I do the same with rejection—I’m down for a day while I massage my hurt feelings with chocolate, long walks, and ice cream then it is back to the drawing board tomorrow.

4. Find the silver lining in the big R.
Not only can rejections have positive things written in them, but rejections can be positive in and of themselves. Much like a marriage, you want to be hitched to the very best person for you and you want to present your very best craft to that person as well. For example, my latest rejection was one of the harshest I’ve yet received. However, it was the most helpful. It opened my eyes to what was specifically wrong with the book and areas I needed to improve as a writer overall. Now I’m working on improving my craft so that I can be the kind of writer I have the potential to be. So, see? That rejection is helping me be a better writer which softened the blow of the rejection. (I didn’t even mope for a day!) To some of you, that won’t sound like a positive thing, but I really do want to be the best I can be and I appreciated her pointing out my weaknesses to help me get to that level. No one had ever been that brave before.

5. Reevaluate the things that matter most.
Writing is very important to us. BUT! It’s not the end all of end all. We have other aspects of our lives—family, friends, jobs, hobbies, etc. Keeping rejection in perspective to the grand scheme of our lives can keep us from feeling the dire, hopelessness some feel with rejection.

6. Remember entertainment is one of the most subjective fields out there.
Just as not all taste buds are the same, so are people’s tastes in books (or any entertainment for that matter). You may like eggplant while another likes parsnips. When you go to the movies with a friend, they may love the movie while you hate it. The same goes for your book. Keep that in mind when you see those three little words, “not for me”. Because truly, the book is probably not something they could fall in love with as you have. (And you really need someone who can eat that eggplant with you every day.)

7. After the sting, comes the growth.
I mentioned I go right back to work, but if the sting on that same book is still too strong, I work on something else. It’s okay to let a book sit for awhile. In fact, the best medicine for a rejection is having another book to work on. If I’m fired up about another story, the rejection doesn’t hurt nearly as bad. The feeling is better than dating a rebound boyfriend. You’ve got other options—they’re good—and you know it! …Besides, time will heal the pain from the other book and you’ll be able to look at it again. It won’t abandon you like last month’s love affair and instead waits patiently on the shelf for its turn with you.

So… what helps you deal with rejection? How do you know when you’re ready or will be ready to submit?

*Disclaimer: These are rules for my own life. Feel free to take any you find useful, but I encourage you to come up with your own rules and stick to them.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The 7 Rules Part II: Writing Time

Last week I posted my seven rules of blogging. This week I want to share my seven rules of utilizing writing time. Though you writers reading this will not have the same rules I have, I challenge you to write your own out, to stand by them, and keep them close at hand. (If you haven’t already.) A major step in the world taking your writing seriously is for you to take it seriously first. What better way than to create your own guidelines?

1. Spend every day working on a project.
It may not be actual writing, but I work on a manuscript everyday except Sundays. Whether it’s research, outlining, revising, or drafting just get in there and do it. I admire those that can write every day but I can’t—generally that comes in chunks.

2. Schedule a time to write. And hold that time sacred.
People in my life know that I’ll rarely commit to something between 9-11 am. That’s nap time and it’s sacred for writing. Also, the wee hours in the morning (4:30!) are my special creative times and I really try to make that a moment for new words. Not always possible but…

3. Embrace that writing is important for your well-being.

I’ve learned that I need to write new words for my own mental health. If I give myself the space to write, I am a lot nicer person to be around the rest of the day. Many writers recognize this about themselves so they make sure they get writing time in.

4. Create a trigger exercise.
Many writers use a trigger to let their brain know it’s time to write for awhile. Some people have a cup of coffee, do yoga poses, read a few pages out of a favorite book, listen to an inspirational song, and the list goes on. I check my email and then jump into it. Only, this isn’t working so well for me because I get distracted by the internet too easily. So I’m trying to run through a Tai chi form before I sit to write. I’ll let you know how that goes, but my advice is to find something that you will associate with moving into that creative time—something you only relate with writing words.

5. If you’re struggling with making time for writing, design a time log.

You’ll be surprised how much either a) you are writing or b) you will feel accountable simply by writing it down. Here’s what the one I use looks like. (And yeah, I try to look for the good in my writing day too!)

6. Novels have been written in fifteen minute intervals.
Sometimes the only time available is a few minutes here and there. It may not be ideal, but it can be done and I’m always surprised how much I can write in those little minutes while dinner is cooking, kids are bathing, or I’m waiting for a meeting to start.

7. Recognize your time wasters and eliminate them.

Admit what takes time away from writing, evaluate if it’s worth it, and then make changes. For me, I blink and I’ve spent an hour of my writing time on the internet. So I have to force myself to unplug the modem sometimes. (Gasp!) It’s very hard to do! Keep a notebook next to your writing materials and jot down sites you want to visit or things you want to research. After your writing session, allow yourself to look up those sites.

If you have other rules or tips on how to utilize writing time, please share! I’ll end with one of my favorite writing time quotes: “Becoming a writer means being creative enough to find the time and the place in your life for writing.’ -- Heather Sellers

On Friday I’ll post Part III: The 7 Rules of Rejection.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Late for the Logline Fest!

I almost forgot I signed up for Steena’s Logline Blogfest! Sorry to all those who have followed the rules and participated. Here are my late entries (though you can see them on the sidebar as well):

The Many Adventures of Courtesy and Patience (MG Tall-tale):

The year 1911 was a golden year for aeronautics. But living in Maine, twelve-year-old orphans Courtesy and Patience would never have known had not a hot air balloon fallen on their heads. Saving the English pilot, his son, and a curious cargo from two dandy-suited goons named Sneed and Bowser course the orphans on a caper even they could not have imagined.

Jedda Hitler: Traitor to the Party (YA Historical):

Raised, groomed, and set apart, Jedda Hitler was her Fuhrer grandfather’s personal project to prove that even a small girl could be turned into a killing machine. Now at seventeen the grandfather she despised is dead and she’s left with a name and a life she never chose.

Check out the other great entries at CHOCOLATE REALITY. (And for those of you waiting for my next 7 rules, I’m sorry! I’ll post it next week. Promise.)

VERSION 2: Edited 6:00 pm PST

Thanks for all the great advice! I'm going to run a couple new versions by ya'll--do you like them better? (It's okay to say no.... Really.)

Jedda Hitler: Traitor to the Party (YA Historical):
Raised, groomed, and set apart, Jedda Hitler was her Fuhrer grandfather’s personal project to prove that even a young girl could be turned into a killing machine. Now at seventeen, her despised Fuhrer is dead and she’s left with a family torn apart, a country in ruin, and a life she never chose.

The Many Adventures of Courtesy and Patience (MG Tall-tale):
 The convoluted story of two passengers on an Orphan Train, a broken dirigible, an alchemist, a lumberjack with an affinity for jellyfish, and the spies in bowler hats who chase them.

VERSION 3: Edited 9:40 pm PST
(not much has changed, but I am listening to all the advice coming in! thank you so much!)

The Many Adventures of Courtesy and Patience (MG Tall-tale):

The year 1911 was a golden year for aeronautics. But living in Maine, twelve-year-old orphans Courtesy and Patience would never have known had not a hot air balloon fallen on their heads.

Jedda Hitler: Traitor to the Party (YA Historical):
Raised, groomed, and set apart, Jedda Hitler was her Fuhrer grandfather’s personal project to prove that even a small girl could be turned into a killing machine. Now at seventeen the grandfather she despised is dead and she’s left with a name and a life she never chose.

FINAL ANSWER (Ha, ha. Yeah, right!): Edited 11/4 1:00 pm PST

The Many Adventures of Courtesy and Patience (MG Tall-tale):
The year 1911 was a golden year for aeronautics. But living in Maine, twelve-year-old orphans Courtesy and Patience would never have known had not a hot air balloon fallen on their heads.

Jedda Hitler: Traitor to the Party (YA Historical):
Raised apart, Jedda Hitler was her Fuhrer grandfather’s personal project to prove that even a young girl could be turned into a killing machine. Now at seventeen the grandfather she despised is dead and she’s left with a name and a life she never chose.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The 7 Rules: Part I

On August 2008 I started this blog. I didn’t have a clear idea what I wanted it to become, nor did I know how to reach out to others. Since then I’ve come up with rules/mission statements that have helped me keep my blogging time focused and meaningful. Now, everyone’s rules will not be the same, but as you read through mine, I challenge you to think of your own and to stand by them. It will help you from either a) being sucked in too much or b) so overwhelmed you quit.

1. Never spend more time blogging than you do talking to your significant other.
My family comes first. End of story. Specifically, I’ve noticed the more I date my husband, the stronger our relationship becomes. (We’ve been married for 11 years and yeah, I’m just now figuring that out.) Steve and I occasionally need to lavish undivided attention on each other and I don’t want blogging to take that time away.
2. Make every post have a clear purpose.
It may be that a post will only resonate with one person (even if that person is me), but I need to focus the post on the one message for the one who needs it.
3. Keep posts short.
At first I had a real problem with long-winded posts. (Get it? Winded Words?! So pun-ny!) Now I’ve seen the light and when it comes to blogging, less is more. Keep it focused, to the point, and others will be more apt to read it.
4. Participate in the blogging community with the goal of giving back.
Nothing about blogging brings me more joy than helping others. I post my email right up front so that readers know they can contact me anytime they wish. Then there are always the giveaways—(keep your eyes open for my 200th post giveaway, coming very soon)!
5. Writing comes before blogging.
If I let this outlet take the place of the stories in my head then the blog has failed me. I’m a writer reaching out to others interested in writing and reading. If I’m not writing then I’m no longer a writer—I’m a fraud who posts about the writing I’m not really doing.
6. A casual voice brings a friendly atmosphere.
One of the reasons I love LiLa and Elana Johnson’s blogs is because their friendly voices come out in their posts and you feel like you’re just a bunch of girls hanging at a party. I try to find my own brand of casual and convey it here. (At least I hope!)
7. Be yourself and be true to yourself.
At first I tried to make this blog funny, but sometimes my humor can come across as pretentious so I have to be careful. I love to laugh, but I’m not always so good at transferring the funny to paper. Now I simply post what is on my mind, what I’m about, and what I have a passion for. I write my essence here. If nothing else, my readers know my voice is authentic. (Along with this, I have to remind myself not everyone is going to come back again and again just like not everyone is going to become my BFF. We seek out those we resonate with and in some blogs that commonality is not as strong as in others. Besides, real life gets busy.)

So that’s it. The seven rules I repeat when blogging, the rules that keep me here for the long haul.

Q4U: Do YOU have any blogging rules of your own you’d like to share?

Next post: My 7 rules of writing time.