Ship Ahoy!

21 06 2011

Hard to believe it’s been so long since I’ve blogged, but a five-book contract with deadlines a month apart has been grueling.

But I just received word that Pirates 
Through the Ages  is on the way. Yay!! Can’t wait to see how it looks. The editor said it turned out terrific, so I’m excited about holding it in my own two hands. Here’s a mock up of the cover.

Looking back, I wondered while I was immersed in it if I’d manage to get it done by the deadline, but I did. Now I’m wondering the same about my latest assignment. What is it about writers that they’ll put themselves under this much pressure and agree to practically impossible deadlines, then slog through long hours day after day to produce a book? What is it about this profession that’s so compelling? It’s obviously not the money. As most writers discover, this isn’t a lucrative profession. So what do we get besides the pleasure and excitement of holding a book in our hands?

The Forgiveness Dilemma

10 05 2011

Talk about conflicting messages. After writing two posts about the benefits of not forgiving people, my Google alerts again misdirected me (or was that a nudge from a higher source?) to a self-help site where the presenter was detailing all the benefits of forgiveness. The speaker used the familiar description of holding a grudge as feeding yourself poison, hoping someone else would die.

So I guess my options seem to be–poison myself or poison them? Hmmm…

Think Spring and Goalsetting

7 03 2011

daffodilsThe crocuses (or are they croci?) have popped their colorful heads above ground, the Bradford pears are budding, and the rhododendron are adding a splash of yellow to the side yard. Next will be daffodils. Then I’ll know for sure spring is here.

And with that, I’m looking back over my New Year’s resolutions. Two months have flown by already. I’m still on track for all of my goals, but I’m not progressing as quickly as I’d envisioned. I discovered something along the way, though. I started putting realistic time estimates beside the items on my to-do list each day.

The first time I tried it, the items on my list for that day added up to 46 hours. No wonder I never got through the list. I was exhausted, discouraged, and mentally berating myself for falling short of my goals. So I’ve eased up on myself a bit. Now I only try to squeeze 32 hours of work into a day. Obviously, this is an ongoing project…

Stimulating Creativity

1 07 2010

Picture by Clare Bloomfield

Whew! Back from ALA and glad to be surrounded by trees and green again. Guess I’m not a city person. I found the heat, humidity, and press of the crowds draining. I suppose many people find the city exhilarating, but if I lived there for any length of time, I’d miss the black sky spangled with stars, the treetops swaying in the breeze, and the laundry-fresh air after a rain.

Quite a contrast to the city, where neon lights pulsed all night, concrete towers hemmed me in and obscured the sky, and rain swirled oily puddles into the gutters and made the air stink of old urine. I admire those who can live amid the clanking, banging, and exhaust fumes and still remain creative. I wonder if the city sparks a different kind of creativity–a pulsating, in-your-face kind of story. Perhaps my writing needs a jolt of that high energy.

What setting stimulates your creativity?

I Survived… I Think

21 04 2010

So, one day after the event, I can look back with equanamity. If you read my public speaking post, you might have gotten the impression I don’t like to speak in front of groups.

That’s partially true. And I’m a procrastinator who avoids thinking about the presentation until the last minute, then…gulp!…realizes that it’s time to go out the door, and I have no time left to prepare. Why do I do that? It means I panic as I rush to pull some thoughts together as I drive to my destination and pray that I’ll come up with an interesting and inspirational topic. Yes, I was asked to talk about myself, but every talk should be structured like a story, with a beginning (inciting incident), middle (rising action), and ending (dramatic conclusion).

Luckily for me, my muse works well under pressure. I came up with several exciting (at least I hoped they were) events in my life and made them steppingstones, using an underlying theme of how I jump into careers, then learn on the job, often after I being forced to change directions by a tragedy or a roadblock. That helped me choose my anecdotes.

But I also like to give each audience a takeaway, something meaningful that they can apply to their own lives. My muse, my creative mind, my subconscious didn’t fail me. It dredged up a wonderful idea–one I’d heard years ago in someone else’s speech that had a powerful effect on my life…

Stay tuned for: Seeing the Other Side

Public Speaking: Worse than Death?

18 04 2010

More people say they fear public speaking more than death. Is that true? And why is it authors get asked to speak in public when their forte is the written word? My post on the subject has been moved to the Susquehanna Writers blog.

Why Do I Fear Rejection?

28 09 2009

Lauren Barnholdt just posted a great link to a blog about rejections. It got me thinking. If I hung my rejection letters side by side, I wonder how much footage they’d take up. But that led me to a different thought. How long would my string of acceptances be?

I’ve written more than 850 articles for magazines, educational publishers, and websites, plus I’ve sold several books. So I’ve had quite a few acceptance letters. Obviously, some letters (or emails) asked me to write more than one article, but still, let’s say I had 400 acceptances. If I multiply that by 8.5″, I have at least 3400″ of acceptances–or about 283′. Hmmm… And I’m guessing I have about 100-150 rejections, which gives me 1275″ of rejections or about 106′.

So why am I scared to send things out? Odds are, I’m much more likely to get an acceptance. But I still dread it.

I spent this past weekend at the SCBWI Carolinas conference, where several people urged me to send out my picture book dummy. I hate to say how long I’ve had that dummy worked up. I’d been dreaming of doing it for years. Back in the early 2000s an editor at a large publishing house expressed an interest in the text. She said she had the perfect illustrator in mind for it. I was thrilled. But before it was contracted, she left publishing. And there went my dream.

I turned back to magazine and educational writing, which blossomed into my career. But that picture book kept nagging at me. I took a picture book illustration class with Robert Quackenbush, and he liked that text and urged me to illustrate it. I was too scared and sure I couldn’t do it justice, so I illustrated a humorous easy reader with cartoons.

Several years later I took another illustration class with Matt Novak. Once again, I was encouraged to illustrate this text. I took the plunge. I spent hours on detailed pastels that my classmates praised. I even received an “A” in the class for my work. So why almost 5 years later is that picture book dummy still sitting in my art cupboard?

I dusted it off this summer and took it to an SCBWI critique group organized by Lauren Patton. Again, I was encouraged to send it off. But this fall it was still sitting in my cupboard. It went with me to the SCBWI Carolinas conference, where once again I heard I needed to send it off. So now I’m trying hard to talk myself into it.

OK, I followed the suggestion in the blog and hung up all my rejection letters. Then I hung up all the acceptances. So now I have to ask myself: if people who have only received rejection letters so far can keep on submitting, why can’t I??

Ooh, better go send it out quickly, before my internal critic can think of any negative replies. Anyone else have this problem?? Or these fears of rejection??