Inspiring Words

5 01 2015

With everyone choosing a theme word for 2015, I’d love to hear what words inspire you. Words have such power to create our moods and to give us motivation that I’m thrilled that so many people are selecting a special word. Please add your words to this post to give others a much needed boost of inspiration as we begin this New Year.

And speaking of words, I’m a bit late posting this, but Mixed-Up Files blog did a nice holiday video about what words are special to each of us about the holidays. I’m on there, along with a bevy of wonderful middle-grade authors. Some people are serious, others inject humor, but everyone has a favorite memory or holiday. What words represent the winter holidays to you?





Increasing Your Creativity

20 12 2014

Albert Einstein HeadI’ve often heard the Albert Einstein quote, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” But just this week I received an email from Jean Houston, who actually met Einstein in person and was encouraged to read more fairy tales. I’m posting that story and her own inspiring comments (in red italics) here:

When I was eight years old, I attended a school in Manhattan where they felt it would be good for students to meet some of the great elders of the time.
 
One of those elders was Albert Einstein, and one day we were trotted across the river over to Princeton University to his house there. He had a lot of hair and was very sweet.
 
One of my smart-alecky classmates said to him: “Uh, Mr. Einstein, how can we get to be as smart as you?”
 
He said: “Read fairy tales,” which made no sense to us at all.
 
So another smart-alecky kid said: “Mr. Einstein, how can we get to be smarter than you?”
 
He said: “Read more fairy tales!”
 
We, of course, didn’t fully understand him at the time, but what he was actually encouraging us to do was to nurture and grow our imaginations.
 
He understood something that almost all highly creative and successful people do, that the imaginal realm is where the most potent ideas—the ones that can change your life or change the world—are held.
 
And the more you can nurture your imagination by diving into that imaginal realm, the more often that dive will inspire a stream of creativity when you resurface.

I wanted to post the Einstein story along with Jean’s words because at this magical time of year, it’s good to think about creativity. As the days grow darker and the weather gets colder (for many of us, anyway), many of us go into hibernation. Those hibernation periods, although they may seem unproductive, are actually a time for the ground to go fallow in preparation for spring growth.

This also holds true when you’re in a creative slump. Allow time for rest and rejuvenation. And remember that one of the most productive things you can do is to fill your mind with fairy tales.

Indulge yourself this winter by curling up with beautifully written books, soaking up inspiring music, and strolling through gorgeous art collections. Pamper yourself, and you’ll emerge on the other side more creative than ever before.

*Jean Houston‘s a wonderful teacher who inspires many people to reach their full potential, and she’s has upcoming classes for those who might want to challenge their preconceived notions of what’s possible.




Easy Revisions for Your NaNo Novel

4 12 2014

plot chart

Have you finished your NaNo novel or did you get stuck partway through? If your story needs revision, but you have no idea of how to get started, here’s the perfect solution.

Agent Jill Corcoran and “Plot Whisperer” Martha Alderson are offering a novel revision course packaged in video form, so you can watch each lesson at your convenience.Plot Whisperer

I first met Jill and Martha in their online course on editing picture books. A small group of us met each week to get feedback on our manuscripts. By the time the class ended, I’d received a valuable gift: Jill had identified a fatal flaw in my manuscripts, a flaw that no one in my critique groups had noticed. And Martha’s instruction showed me how to fix it.

So I’m indebted to both of them, and I’m happy to introduce a wonderful program they’ve put together to help authors revise their novels.

They’re both here to share about their new program. So take it away, Jill and Martha…

VIDEO SERIES

We offer writers two video series with more in production:
1) PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month

8 videos, 5.5 hours + 3- hands-on exercises

Congratulations! You have written a draft of a novel. You’ve accomplished what many writers merely talk about and dream of doing – you have written an entire story from beginning to end. When you finish celebrating, it’s time to revise: to re-envision and rewrite what you’ve written into a novel that agents, editors and readers will devour.

Writing a great plot involves craft and skill and know-how. Before you undertake a major rewrite, first consider your story from all angles with the help of step-by-step instruction and daily exercises. You know you’re ready to rewrite when you’ve checked all the essentials elements for creating an exciting story with compelling characters and a meaningful plot.

—–//—–

2) How to Write and Sell a Picture Book with a Plot

7 videos explain how to plot, write and sell picture books + provide exercises how to immediately integrate the concepts into your own unique story. Learn about all the different kinds of picture books, examples of character-driven and action-driven picture books, how to develop winning picture book concepts, what the major turning points are in every great picture book plot, writing, voice, character goals and motivation, how to revise, testing your theme and take-away, who to submit to and so much more…

Here’s How the Video Series Work

Each video includes an in-depth look at the specific elements promised and how to consider these essential story principles as you write, revise, rewrite, sell your story.

Writing assignment(s) guide you with step-by-step instruction.

Whether you decide to watch all the videos in a row and then go back and do the exercises or jump right into the 1st video’s exercise, work at your own pace and take more or less time on the step-by-step exercises. The series are designed to fit into even the busiest of schedules. Sign-in and watch video lectures, complete homework assignments, and ask questions in a public forum on a timetable that fits your needs.

Shout Outs:

**The 1st draft you let yourself write any old way. Now revise your story from every angle.

**Can’t seem to #finish your #novel? Ready to give up? Before you do, revise.

**I’m finding the revision process FUN! Did I actually say that? Loving this process, thank you!

**Friends don’t let friends ‪#revise alone.

Let’s introduce you to Jill and Martha now:

Jill Corcoran bio

Jill Corcoran Jill Corcoran is the founder of Jill Corcoran Literary Agency and co-founder of A Path A Publishing.

 

 

Martha Alderson bio

MarthaMartha Alderson, author of The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, is known as “The Plot Whisperer” for the help she offers writers worldwide. She is the founder of PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month and the award-winning blog The Plot Whisperer.

Jill and Martha not only offer these amazing author tools, but also have another service with two levels of Participation (Participants and Observers):

Office Hours

2nd Thursday of every month

9:30-11:30am Pacific

online
Active Participants and Observers

ACTIVE PARTICIPANTS: 8 authors each have 15 minutes to work with the Plot Whisperer Martha Alderson and Literary Agent Jill Corcoran on whatever you want help with. Read part of your manuscript, query, discuss energetic markers, concept, brainstorm plot, characters, etc., and receive feedback you can immediately apply to your work.

Active participants must watch either Plotwrimo: Revise Your Novel in a Month or How to Write & Sell a Picture Book Videos. This gives us a common language and baseline understanding of underlying plot and story concepts for better communication.

Receive a critique of your First Pages, Query, Concept, or get help with your Characters, Where to Start your Story, Crisis, Climax, etc. It is your time…your choice

***OBSERVERS: 15 observer spots. As an observer, you do not participate/read your work, but listen and learn from others during these sessions.

HERE’S WHAT REVIEWERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THESE VIDEOS AND SERVICES:

Reviews of the series:

“Don’t wait until you have a first draft to get the video series. If you have an inkling of a concept, get the video series. The videos will show you how to define your energetic markers. You’ll learn the difference between crisis and climax. The 8 videos constitute a ‘top to toe’ writing course. 
Jill Corcoran & Martha Alderson, thank you for giving me the opportunity to call myself a writer with pride.” ~Dolly D. Napal

“I have been writing, writing, writing, and reading about writing, but I knew I was still missing the mark. How I write and rewrite books will be forever changed for the better. ” ~Wendy McLeon MacKnight
“I felt overwhelmed with my latest revision. I feel like a weight has been lifted and I’m just on day one.”
And after you’ve completed the videos, Jill and Martha also offer a follow-up workshop. They also have a free Facebook group that’s open to everyone, whether or not you’ve taken their courses.

A Path to Publishing Workshops:

We often tailor-make advanced workshops for writers who have watched the series to ask questions and receive feedback on your own individual story.

A Path to Publishing Facebook Group

Everyone is welcome to join A Path to Publishing Facebook group created by Literary Agent Jill Corcoran and Plot Whisperer Martha Alderson as safe, smart, fun alcove for writers and illustrators to share and learn about the craft of writing and the book biz. This is NOT a place to sell your books but a wonderful forum for us all to advance our skills, our creativity, and our dreams plus learn about what Jill and Martha are up to at A PATH TO PUBLISHING.

Be sure to follow along and see what others are saying about these services and how they have helped them! Read individual reviews and more information about how this video series can help you!

December 1 https://www.facebook.com/nordlinger
December 1 http://writingclassesforkids.com
December 1 http://inkandangst.com/
December 1 taffyscandy.blogspot.com
December 1 Rebeccalacko.wordpress.com
December 2 http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com
December 2 http://1st10pages.com
December 2 http://thestorytellersscroll.blogspot.com
December 2 www.katherine-hajer.com
December 3 http://www.jordanrosenfeld.net
December 3 http://robyn-campbell.blogspot.com/
December 3 http://aditebanerjie.com
December 4 lje1.wordpress.com
December 4 http://writtenbymikey.blogspot.com/
December 4 www.PenInHerHand.com
December 5 www.ChristineSang.com
December 5 Susan P
December 5 www.ChristineSang.com

AND NOW, JILL AND MARTHA ARE OFFERING SOME AMAZING PRIZES. SO BE SURE TO ENTER AND SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT THIS EVENT AND THEIR VIDEO SERIES.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And you can stop at each blog to enter more than once. Hope you’re a winner!





Painting on the Canvas of Your Life

21 10 2014

I’ve been reading Panache Desai’s Discovering Your Soul Signature and wanted to share one of the meditations from the book:

Imagine that your life can be portrayed on a canvas….When you look at this canvas, you’ll see see everything that’s been placed there. And most of it doesn’t originate from you…. As you’ve moved on through life, external labels have been superimposed on the canvas…. People have told us who we are, and this fills the canvas too.

Now start pulling off those labels…. Peel away those limitations. Remove all of those different words that are getting in the way of being a blank canvas…. As you do this, experience the freedom (or perhaps the terror) of the blank canvas.

When an artist approaches a blank canvas, all that is possible is a single brushstroke at a time….
What splashes, splatters, or messes did you erase?

Now what will YOU choose to paint?
soul signature

(excerpt taken from p. 179-180, 182)





Feeling Overwhelmed by Life?

2 10 2014

Sometimes when problems pile up, it’s easy to get discouraged. Here’s one family’s refreshing way of teaching their daughter to never quit, never say can’t. It’s amazing what someone with a “can-do” attitude is able to accomplish. After watching this, you’ll never look at your problems in the same way again. And often, life has even greater surprises in store.





Too Much to Do?

5 09 2014

Here’s some great advice to fit the most important things into your days,

 

Some of the best advice ever for becoming successful.





Courting the Muse

20 06 2014

girl in chiffonMany people long to be writers; few follow through. In every writers’ group, you’ll find that often it’s not the most talented writers who get published, but the most persistent. This persistence doesn’t only apply to submitting work, it also applies to showing up at the page. Recently I was pondering this as I signed books at BEA and met CPs and fellow SCBWI members who were also signing. How did we, out of the many writers we know, end up with published books while other more talented friends have yet to achieve publication? It obviously had little to do with talent. The writers I have in mind have plenty of talent. The only secret ingredients I could find were persistence, dedication, and determination.

The published authors I know have one thing in common — they show up at the page. They don’t wait for the muse to strike, they go to her (or him). They write often, usually daily. They’re disciplined. That “D” words sounds so anti-creative, so structured, so boxed in. It seems antithetical to the word all writers dream of: FLOW. heart

Then I ran across this quote by Mary Oliver in A Poetry Handbook and realized she’d put that truth into words. She compared writing to a love affair between the heart and the practical, learned skills of the conscious mind. So many writers wait for the heart, the creativity, the muse to direct their pens, but in truth, the conscious mind must initiate the courtship. As Oliver says:

[The muse] learns quickly what sort of courtship it is going to be, Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself–soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all.

She values this act of being present at the page more highly than technique. And I agree. Only those who prove they are dependable lovers will find their shy, reluctant muse waiting to greet them. How do you court your muse?





What comes first: Happiness or Success?

18 04 2014

Forget me notIn one of my Facebook groups, we were asked what one thing  — if it happened — would make this a GOOD year for us. That was an interesting question, and it really made me think. What I realized, though, was that my year was already better than good. In fact, it was pretty awesome. And I have so many things I’m looking forward to this year.

I’ve also had some fantastic things happen over the past year, things I’ve always wanted have become reality. But the truth is: Every year I’ve lived has been good — awesome, in fact. And each one has been better than the one before it. And I expect they’ll get even better in the future.

Then I saw this TED talk, and I discovered why. Most people think success will make them happy, but according to Shawn Achor, the exact opposite is true. Happiness brings success.

He lists five things that will lead to both happiness and success. Four of them I’m doing regularly, and the fifth one sporadically. Who knew these simple practices could make that much difference in life? But I do agree that they are key to a positive mindset. I have a few more suggestions I could add to his list, but for now, if you aren’t doing these, why not give it a try?

 





Are Your Goals a Piece of Cake?

12 04 2014

As a former cake decorator, I love Dana Carey’s comparison of goals to CAKE! Who wouldn’t want to eat this delicious cake layer by layer?

The Monthly Goalpost for April.





Writing Process Blog Tour

7 04 2014

Module One cover

Texas writer and illustrator Mark Mitchell, known for his wonderful watercolors and many picture books, invited me to join this writing process blog tour. I’ve been lucky to be part of his online class Make your Splashes – Make your Marks. Mark wrote about his own process on his blog.

I’m also fascinated by the history of this blog tour, which spans continents, so I traced my invitation back a few links. Akiko White, the winner of the 2014 Tomie dePaola award for her illustrations made out of cake (yes, they’re awesome and delicious), tagged Mark. And she had been tagged by Australian award-winning author Christopher Cheng, who put together the wonderful PAL slide show for SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and I appreciated the opportunity to participate in that.

Now after that lengthy introduction, I’m ready to answer the questions they posed:

1.) What are you working on?

WANTED: Book 4

WANTED: Book 4

At the moment, I’m finishing two books to turn in to editors this week. I’m working on the final chapters of Grace Avenged, Book 4 in the WANTED series, which will be coming out in December 2014 in the UK. Book 1, Grace and the Guiltless, released in February in the UK. (Books 3 and 4 will be coming out there in May and August.) The series will also release in the US with different covers beginning in August under Capstone’s new Switch Press imprint.

Final edits are also due this week on Cyber Self-Defense, a book I’m cowriting with international cybercrime expert Alexis Moore. That will be coming out in October 2014 from Lyon’s Press.

Cyber Self Defense book cover

October 2014

I’m also editing a picture book to turn in to my agent as well as developing a chapter book series while taking a class with Hillary Homzie and Mira Reisberg. And Alexis Moore and I are working on two more nonfiction books together along with a picture books series.

Of course, all these projects are only the tip of the iceberg. I also have a quite a few other projects in various stages of completion and many more submerged underwater in my subconscious. And that doesn’t count all the books I’m editing for others.

2.) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write in so many different genres that it’s hard to compare my work to others’. I have picture books (fiction and nonfiction), chapter books, middle grade novels, YA novels and nonfiction, NA nonfiction, adult nonfiction and fiction, along with short stories and articles for both children and adults. I’ve also had a few illustration projects and hope to do more of those. I’m in my 3rd year in Hollins University’s Picture Book Writing & Illustrating MFA.

Book 1 ~ US edition

Book 1 ~ US edition

3.) Why do I write what I do?

The main reason I write is because I love to learn and explore new things. I get excited about sharing my knowledge with others, and writing is a wonderful way to do that. When I come across a new idea, I ask: Who would be interested in this? The answer is almost always a different age group, which is why I’ve written for so many age levels.

I also believe that writing is a form of self-discovery; it helps us understand not only ourselves, but also others. It keeps us from taking things for granted, teaches us to look beneath the surface, and reveals the beauty in everything.

Writing also keeps alive the wonder and awe of childhood. To me, there’s something magical about creating new worlds and peopling them with characters I’ve imagined. Children still believe in that magic, so I’m most drawn to writing for them.

4.) How does my writing (or writing with pictures/illustrating) process work?

I used to wait for the muse to strike, but now I’ve learned that if you sit down expecting to write, the words will come. With all my deadlines (5 books in the past 7 months), I don’t have the luxury of waiting for words to come, so right before I go to bed, I read over the notes of what I plan to write the next day or I pose a problem if I’m not sure what should come next. Then I go to sleep and let my mind arrange the words or solve the problem. When I wake up, I write. My best writing is usually done right after waking or late at night (from 1-3 a.m. is my sweet spot).

I’ve trained myself that the minute I sit down to write, my mind is ready. I don’t need rituals or to spend time agonizing over what I should write, I just do it. Not everything that goes down on the page is good writing, but you can’t revise what isn’t there.

I’m halfway between a pantser and a plotter. I need more of an outline for nonfiction, but when I write fiction, my process almost always begins with a vision of a story opening and a dramatic ending. I usually also see key scenes in my head. I jot them down or just remember them. I use those as mile markers along the way. Then when I write, I record whatever scene is most vivid in my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever written a book linearly. I write bits and pieces here and there.

Once I have all the key scenes down, I work on tying them together. I usually dread this part of the process because I always go in thinking I’ll have to put in boring transitions, but almost always my characters surprise me by doing something unexpected, so it ends up being more fun than I anticipated.

Another important piece of my process is running my work by my critique groups. I find letting others read my work and offer their opinions and suggestions greatly improves anything I write.

I’ve tagged three awesome writers who will share their processes on their blogs next Monday:

Joan Holub‘s new trucky, constructiony picture book is Mighty Dads (illustrated by James Dean, creator of Pete the Cat). Her picture book Little Red Writing (illustrated by Melissa Sweet) garnered 3 starred reviews and spots on many Best Of lists. She co-authors 3 series with Suzanne Williams: Goddess Girls, Grimmtastic Girls, and Heroes In Training. Find out more about Joan and all her other fantastic books at her website and on Facebook and Twitter.

Mighty Dads book trailer

 

Judith Tewes resides in small town Alberta and is a commercial writer writing under several pen names. MY SOON-TO-BE SEX LIFE launches with Bloomsbury Spark in June. As Judith Graves she has a recent release cowritten with Dawn Dalton, KILLER’S INSTINCT, a monster-hunter tale with loads of action.

 
 

 

Army wife, author, and new mom Tracy E. Banghart has an MA in Publishing and an obsession with cupcakes. She has written and published three novels for young adults; her latest, SHATTERED VEIL, a sci-fi adventure, just received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and 4.5 stars from IndieReader.

 

shattered veil front