Archive for April 2010

Down Time

April 25, 2010

Some weeks life holds no surprises.  This past week has been like that.  Routine is good, though too much of it might make life and/or us boring.

I wouldn’t say boring fit as a descriptive for last week.  I’d prefer restful.  It allowed my an opportunity to get caught up of many tasks that I’ve had to put off because other more pressing issues popped up at the last minute.

A week without many errands or appointments allowed me more time to fully immerse myself with my revisions.  Because the weather was spring-perfect earlier in the week, I even got some much needed weeding done in the garden.

I had more time to allow my muse to roam about in that creative part of my brain and hit upon two potential story lines for future books.

Better yet, I was able to do this at a more leisurely pace without the stress of a deadline, self-imposed or not, breathing fire at my back.

Of course, I didn’t find time to clean a cupboard or a drawer, organize a closet, or put winter clothes away.  Good thing, too, since yesterday and today have been more winter-like.  Back to sweats and sweaters and socks.  So long sandals until who knows when.

Having quiet weeks where I can roam the creative crevices of my mind, organize pieces of my personal and writing lives, enjoy moments with friends instead of worrying about what must be done—well, I see that as a gift.

Perhaps we owe ourselves the gifts of some down time.  What do you think?

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April Tidbits

April 17, 2010

Lots of happenings this past week.

Black Ribbon Affair Romantic Suspense Finalist

First of all, I received this very impressive logo for my book Black Ribbon Affair’s finagling in the Write Touch Readers Award contest.  Wisconsin Romance Writers of America sponsors this contest and readers, not writers or industry professionals, are the judges of who finals and wins. Isn’t that what most writers want?  Readers who love the stories they tell?

Sure, we may love writing and we would likely do it anyway for so many reasons. But…getting validated by the readers of our work is a priceless gift we receive.  I will treasure this final much like I suspect Meryl Streep treasures all her award nominations, even if she doesn’t win the statuette.

Then on Friday this past week my first column was printed in the Kenosha News OP/ED page.  I had no idea how it would be received, but I’ve been very pleased with the comments it has generated.

This is opinion writing, much like blog posting, but opinions can be ignored by others.  What was also so special about this “first time” was my hubby reinforced his pride in what I do.  He came home with a lovely bouquet of flowers, all greens and soft yellows like the landscape surrounding us in April.  He bought a card and wrote his tender thoughts.  Of course, that’s a keeper.  And then a lovely bottle of Sauvignon Blanc which we tipped to my accomplishing yet another step in this new career I’m pursuing.

Finally, this week, I finally took the plunge into the Facebook world.  Still trying to figure it out, but it’s another way to get my work out into the larger world.  If you have a Facebook account, look me up.  🙂

Finally, this week Dixie Carter died.  I read a fantastic article about her in our local paper.  The article was written by Connie Schultz, a nationally syndicated columnist.  Schultz writes we could all use a friend such as one of the characters Dixie was well-known for portraying: Julia Sugarbaker in Designing Women.  In my view Dixie Carter then epitomizes what I hold dear in my life and my writing—friends, family and characters.  Dixie stood up for what she believed in.  So did Julia.  I hope I can do as well in my life and with my characters.

Here are two favorites.  They are truly treasures and say so much about character, about life, about women and men, about families.   Either or both will make you smile, laugh–all guaranteed to get you through another week of April.

And have a great week. 🙂

Career Day & Great News

April 11, 2010

Let's Begin

I promised last week I’d tell you about my experiences with Career Day at the middle school.  Quick background: my nephew’s wife teaches English there and the school sets aside one day in the spring for Career exploration.  Students range in age from 12-14 years old, though most of the students I spoke to were 13.

So imagine this: groups of 15 – 18 students, twenty-five minute sessions with about ten minutes between sessions.  I had four sessions.  The date: April 1st, the last hours before spring break and the second day of 80 degree temps, gentle spring breezes and bright blue cloudless skies.  Sure, the students wanted to be IN class, listening to career options. 🙂

When I entered the building and was directed to the library, I was amazed at how many other career professionals were there.  Among the 30 participants was a judge complete with robe and gavel, a sheriff’s deputy, police officer, K-9 dog and handler, firefighters with turnout gear, members of the army, navy, air force and Marines; technical writer, graphic designer, web designer, lawyer, hair stylist, electrician, plumber, carpenter with tool boxes and many others.  I had my AlphaSmart, my Kindle, and a PowerPoint presentation, and a stack of index cards. 😦

The principal welcomed us and then each of us was taken to our room by a student guide.  That’s when I realized I’d be competing not only with the weather and the half-day-before-vacation anticipation, but the K-9 contingent was doing their thing in the next class room.  And that “thing” included different types of barking.

What did I have going for me as I explained about being a writer?  Well, my niece told me all the students who had signed up for my sections had finished a unit on writers and elements of a novel.  Most of them wanted to meet and ask questions of “a real live writer.”  Whew, now if I could only live up to their expectations.

Doing Research

I utilized this information to develop the day in the life of a writer and all the elements it takes to get a book into the hands of a reader.  I know it could have taken weeks to cover everything but I hit the high lights, and involved the groups into what I called ‘help the writer do research.’  Those students really responded and I learned so much about that age group in today’s society. (“That’s where those index cards functioned and what treasures those cards hold!) They willingly answered my questions and asked me great ones.

Two young men I won’t forget.  As they saw each other entering the classroom, they did this greeting with the hands that was so unique.  Well, I asked the about it and asked if they’d teach me.  They did and then they asked if I’d put that in a book.  You bet I will.  They made up a name calling it the Davontae Wave.

I also will never forget the young girl who walked in so excited you could tell she was holding back a scream.  All her friends gathered round and one asked, “Did you make the squad?”  “Yes,” was the answer accompanied by much jumping up and down and hugging.  Some things never change.  She’d made some team.

I will never forget the interest those young students gave to me, nor will I forget their exuberance.  I was exhausted but wouldn’t hesitate to do so again.

Have any of you done something like this and gotten a far better reception than you thought likely? And what did you learn from it?

Also, I learned this week that Black Ribbon Affair has finaled in the Write Touch Readers’ Award contest.  This is the first final for my book and I love the fact that readers are the judges.  The winners will be announced on May 15th.

Bowls & Books

April 3, 2010

Soup's On

This past week buzzed with activity for me.  Not that I’m not always busy.  But two very different and new activities for me filled two days, one right after the other.

On Wednesday late afternoon I participated in the Bowls and Books fundraising event for the ongoing restoration of our local community theater building.  Area restaurants donated different soups which were judged by the eaters.  Bragging rights for the next year is one of restaurants best rewards.  Also the event lures new customers to a restaurant in the future.  The community theater group gets funds to continue their work rehabbing the gorgeous theater, and local authors get the chance to do a meet and greet as well as the possibility of selling books.

Amazing soups, appetizers and dessert as well as meeting potential readers?  How could I not agree to do so? 🙂 Seemed like a win-win situation for all of us.

The three hours went very well: For the group putting on the event, for the participating restaurants with fantastic soups, appetizers and desserts, and for the authors.  While I talked with many potential readers and sold books to some, the memory of two readers will stay with me.

Writing takes characters

One was a young man (13 years) who stopped by my table because he was attracted to my book cover.  I was intrigued by his shirt (as you can see from the photo; its slogan tied into the last few posts on characters).  We talked about the book and writing. He mentioned he wanted to be a writer.  Then he left to get his soup.  He came back about 20 minutes later and asked “What’s the most important trait for someone who wants to write?”

I thought a moment, answered, and then he asked another question and another—all on elements of how I plot, do research, use characters, set goals etc.  Each time I answered, he left, then returned to ask another one.  His questions were incisive and well thought out.   I’ll never forget him or his questions.  He asked to take a photo of me so he could tape it to his computer.  “For inspiration,” he said.

He didn’t buy a book.  I told him the book was aimed for an older audience.  “Oh, I get it.  I’d enjoy it more in a few years.”  I nodded.  “That’s what you mean when you mentioned to always think about who you are trying to reach.”

Wow.  His teachers must consider him a gift in the classroom.  I know I would have. 🙂

I agreed and wished him all the luck in the world.  Imagine what this marvelous young man will be like in ten years!  I expect he will have already done some writing and gotten it published in student magazines and school newsletters.  He’s already pursuing the dream.

The second person I’ll always remember was a man there with his girlfriend.  They  were both attracted to my book because of the cover.  (Got to love that great Wild Rose Art department) They skimmed the laminated article I had on my table about my first book signing last fall.  They also asked a lot of questions about the book.  From their questions I inferred they were avid readers.  After several minutes they entered the area where the soups were but not before the man told me he would buy the book before he left.

I didn’t see him again and at the end of our time, I started packing up.  Just as I reached the exit door, the man came running up to me.  “Please tell me you didn’t sell all your books!” were his first words.  I shook my head.  “Great, I was afraid I’d missed my chance.  Can you please sell me one now?”

Well, you know my answer to that one.  Pleased as punch I walked back in, signed the book, talked to him a bit more, and took his money.  He told me he’d email from my website to let me know how he liked it.

I’d say those three hours were well-spent.  Everyone who stopped asked great questions about writing and my book and others I’m working on.  Not all bought a book, but I think they might remember my name and buy the next time I encounter them.  On so many levels, those hours were productive.  Next week I’ll post about doing Career Day at a middle school in my hometown.  It too was an awesome experience, one I’ll be happy to do again.  What have been your awesome experiences lately?

If you are celebrating Easter or Passover, may your holiday be blessed and spent with family.