Writing quote

Sure, it's simple writing for kids...Just as simple as raising them.
— Ursula K. LeGuin

Saturday, January 14, 2017

SUBMISSIONS OPEN — REDWOOD WRITERS' FAN FICTION CONTEST

In addition to being a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), I am also a member of the Redwood Writers Club, the largest chapter of the California Writers Club. Since June of last year, I have taken over as the General Contest Chair for the club, overseeing all our contests. In 2017, our contests include Fan Fiction, Screenwriting, and Historical Fiction.

The Fan Fiction contest launched on Jan. 8, and is open for submissions until Feb. 19. Here is contest chair Margie Yee Webb with the details:


Permission to post this video was granted by Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan who says: "Redwood Writers are truly awesome!"
More details can also be accessed at the Redwood Writers Fan Fiction contest page.



Please check back here or at Redwood Writers for upcoming details on the Screenwriting and Historical Fiction contests. 

Happy writing and submitting. We look forward to reading your work!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

NEW YEAR — NEW VISIONS

Happy New Year! Another year, another series of goals—writing or otherwise. Some people like plunging ahead without a specific plan and see where Life takes them. I admire that spontaneity. But for me, I prefer to have a road map. It keeps me organized and it provides a vision of where I want to go and how to get there. Sounds like outlining a novel, right?

For those of you who like road maps and setting your writing goals for the year, try creating a Vision Board. Check out these tips on how to create one: Make a Vision BoardEpreneur, and Pinterest Samples. You can use very simple tools such as a white board or cork board or large poster paper with markers. You can also create them with your normal desktop publishing programs or word processing programs such as Word or Pages then print out and post on your wall.

If you're like me, and love online tools, try creating a Pinterest Vision Board or use Canva. Don't want to create from scratch? Check out Foto Talisman and Betty Vision for vision board templates.
Here's one I created 3 years ago.



However, annual goals, I found out, didn't work that well for me. I have to break them down into daily or even monthly or quarterly tasks. So, I've been using Week Plan to create my goals. What I like about Week Plan is that I can list some longer term goals as well as create daily tasks. I can also assign different roles (which I do with a different color) for writing, personal, Mom tasks etc. so I can keep track of the different goals for different aspects of my life.

The key though, as with writing or anything else, is do what works for you. Most New Year resolutions fail because people create resolutions or try to meet their goals using approaches that simply aren't productive or doable for them.

So, try kicking off your writing with new goals and new visions, but if goal-setting isn't your cup of tea or hampers your writing style or creativity, then by all means, plunge ahead and see where your writing takes you this year!

What goals/visions/plans have worked for you? 





Monday, September 26, 2016

JUMPSTART YOUR WRITING WITH WRITING CONTESTS

   Last month, I talked about the power of conferences to revitalize your writing and boost your muse. Today, the topic will be on how writing contests can do the same thing. Are you feeling stuck on your project? Stumped for story ideas? Hit a creative brick wall? Writing contests can be the jumper cables to your stalled creative engine. And they're fun! Here are a few to get you started:

1. REDWOOD WRITERS PROMPT CONTEST

Write a 1,000 word fictional tale based on this photo prompt:







For Submission guidelines and contest rules, see the flyer below or visit the Redwood Writer's Club website



2. THE WRITER MAGAZINE "THE DARKEST HOUR" SHORT STORY CONTEST

Write a 2,000 word fictional short story using any nuance, definition, or understanding of the word "dark." Enter at The Writer.

3. THE STORY SHARES WRITING CONTEST

Registered users must submit a story between 1,000 and 10,000 words ("Qualifying Story") and designate the story under one of the following categories: 1) Diversity, 2) Historical Fiction, 3) Fantasy, 4) Horror/Suspense or 5) Teens by Teens. For contest info. and submission guidelines, visit Story Shares.

Check out these other lists of writing contests:


Good luck! And may the Muse be with you.



Friday, August 19, 2016

JUMP START YOUR WRITING WITH CONFERENCES AND WEBINARS

With Robyn Murphy infront of our house
rental on the Mendocino Coast.
   I attended the Mendocino Coast Writer's Conference during the first week of August—and came back inspired and refreshed, ready to tackle my writing. Editor Laura Atkins' Young Adult and Middle Grade workshop was fantastic. We had a lovely group of participants who gave specific, constructive yet gentle feedback on each other's manuscripts; I met another Ukiah writer who is interested in joining the SCBWI Mendocino County Meet and Greet; and, as always, I had fun hanging out with my writing buds, Amanda Conran (author of The Lost Celt) and Robyn Murphy.
   Conferences are such a great way to meet people and network with industry professionals, as well as learn more craft techniques (I learned about the "scaffolding" process for outlining your book, and that my novel should be middle grade, not young adult—a huge vision shift). In spite of receiving a partial scholarship to attend this conference, the total costs, including accommodations, can be quite pricey.
At the Hill House with Robyn Murphy and
Amanda Conran
   If time or money doesn't allow you to attend a writing conference right now, there are some good online options. Currently, I'm taking a Novel Master Class with James Patterson. Yes, that James Patterson. At $90, this 36 session webinar is reasonably-priced. You can watch the videos at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home. Of course, what you get out of the webinar depends on what you put into it. I highly recommend doing the "homework" assignments (don't worry, they're not very time consuming) and watching some additional links such as Mr. Patterson critiquing novel loglines submitted by former students. There are different webinars with a "Master": screenwriting with Aaron Sorkin, singing with Christina Aguilar, acting with Dustin Hoffman. Access these webinars at www.masterclass.com, and learn from a Master of the craft!
   And if you write for children, Mira Reisberg and the Children's Book Academy offers a series of wonderful webinars on all aspects of creating children's books, http://www.childrensbookacademy.com.
   Till next time, happy learning—and writing!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

RENEW, REJUVENATE AND REBIRTH YOUR WRITING

   Aaah, Spring! It's the time of rebirth, rejuvenation and renewal. I love this time of year, when the days get longer, the sun smiles down upon us (in California anyway), warm but not blistering hot, birds twitter in the early morning air...and I'm thinking this is as good a time as any for the rebirth and rejuvenation of my blog as well. No, I'm not changing anything drastic, but it's lain dormant for too long. I do want to focus this year on topics that other writers would find more helpful though, so if you have anything you'd like me to explore, research, or post here, let me know. 
   Since Spring can also be a renewal time for our writing, I'd like to start with upcoming writing conferences and workshops. My sister, Shirin Yim Bridges, publisher of Goosebottom Books and Gosling Press wrote this great post about the Power of Conferences on her blog. To add to her list, here are some other workshops, conferences, retreats to jumpstart your writing:

BASIC SCRIVENER FOR WRITERS, Saturday, April 30, 2016, 2 pm. - 4 pm., Walnut Creek, CA. - Join me for this hands-on two hour workshop. I'll walk you through how to get started with this powerful writing tool. Bring your laptops! Register here. You can download a free 30-day trial of Scrivener here

BOOK PASSAGE YOUNG ADULT AND MIDDLE GRADE INTENSIVE WRITING WEEKEND, July 16 - 17, Corte Madera, CA. Participants will have a chance to not only learn and network but to workshop! The panels will cover information for both new and established writers like how to make your query letter stand out, marketing and promotion, developing ideas and how to writer a compelling narrative. There will be many opportunities for faculty and participants to talk, laugh, and exchange ideas in workshops, lunches, and dinner.


SCBWI SUMMER CONFERENCE, July 29 - Aug. 1, Los Angeles, CA.The SCBWI conference is a rare opportunity to meet and network with the most influential group of the key decision makers in children’s publishing. A brilliant array of children’s book authors and illustrators will inspire you with their knowledge and vision, and help you bring your craft to a new level.

MENDOCINO COAST WRITER'S CONFERENCE, August 4 - 7, Mendocino, CA. - Workshops, craft discussions, panels, agent pitch sessions, manuscript consults on the beautiful Mendocino coast. Scholarships are available. Fees and registration here.


PUBLISHING BOOT CAMP, August 7, Mendocino, CA.Shirin Yim Bridges—who leads this popular program internationally—will work closely with writers who want to visualize and plan a publishing strategy. Whether nonfiction, poetry, fiction, or children´s literature, the publishing world is wide-open these days, with more options than ever before. A box lunch is included. Plan to spend the day on-campus and learn the latest about publishing, whether or not you have an agent.


SCBWI GREEN GULCH WRITING RETREAT, Sept. 9 - 11, Mill Valley, CA. Need some time to write away from the distractions of traffic, family demands, and that never-ending pile of laundry? This is a great writing retreat for children's, YA and middle grade writers.


WRITING WORKSHOP OF SAN FRANCISCO, Saturday, Sept. 10, 9 am. - 5 pm., San Francisco, CA. - a one-day "How to Get Published" workshop. Agent pitch sessions and manuscript critiques available. The early bird registration fee of $149 is fairly inexpensive as far as writing workshops go.


PACIFIC COAST CHILDREN'S WRITERS WORKSHOP, Sept. 23 - 25, Santa Cruz, CA. - This intensive seminar offers editor or agent feedback on selected whole-novel manuscripts, including two in-person consults with a mentor, and editor and agent critiques on your polished, opening chapters. Register and apply here. Manuscript critiques are due April 30!


Next week, we'll explore writing grants and awards!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

JOIN ME FOR "CASUAL COFFEE"

Do you live in Mendocino, Lake or Sonoma County? Do you write for kids and teens? Join me at the first ever Mendocino County Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) "Casual Coffee"!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

TAKING THE NANOWRIMO PLUNGE

Okay, I'm taking the plunge! Yep, the NaNoWriMo plunge. If you haven't heard of NaNoWriMo, it's National Novel Writing Month, in which writers attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I've long wanted to try this challenge, but never attempted it because:

a) 50,000 words is daunting
b) The rule is: start from scratch and write 50,000 words without looking back. When NaNoWriMo rolls around every year, I'm always in the middle of projects and don't have something I can "start from scratch"
c) Not looking back? For someone who often starts off with reading and revising the last thing I wrote, this is like telling me to grow two heads.
d) I have three kids, and my writing time is often interrupted. I have gone from a consistent daily writing routine to writing in spurts. NaNoWriMo will require me to write about 1,666 words a day. I'm lucky some days if I can get 200 words in!
d) 50,000 words is daunting

The reason I decided to take the plunge this year is because:

a) There is NO NaNoWriMo police. If I don't finish 50,000 words, I'm not going to get hauled off to jail—or get sent to a writing work camp in Siberia (although that does sound kind of nice—except for the cold). So, what do I have to lose?
b) If I only make 20,000 words, not 50,000, that's 20,000 words more than I have now
c) I have a novel I have started on, but want to completely re-write from scratch
d) It'll give me an excuse for sitting my butt in a chair and churning out words.
e) There is actually a whole writing support community on the NaNoWriMo website. Yes! A whole writing tribe! Along with writing tips, writing events, write-ins in your local region (physical locations where you can actually write with other writers participating in NaNoWriMo).

Okay, so who's taking the plunge with me? If you do, don't forget to tap me as a NaNoWriMo Writing Buddy.




Friday, September 11, 2015

READING BEGINS WITH LEARNING TO READ

   In my last post, I talked about the need for diversity in children's literature. Today, I'm going to back up a step — it doesn't matter much if books have diverse content if children cannot read them. Sept. 8 was International Literacy Day and Grammarly.com has a literacy campaign dedicated to supporting literacy around the world and putting books into the hands of children in need. The following infographic from Grammarly.com shows the staggering statistics — 757 million adults around the world can't read or write; 124 million children or adolescents do not attend school. In the U.S. alone, 32 million adults are illiterate.
   Help fight illiteracy: share this infographic on your blog and Grammarly will donate $10 in your name to one of these three literacy-promoting charities of your choice: 

Reading Is Fundamental
First Book
ProLiteracy


To get the embed code, check out Grammarly's blog post. If you share the infographic, please attribute it to Grammarly with a link to https://www.grammarly.com/plagiarism-checker. Once you've published the graphic on your site, drop Grammarly an email to let them know which charity you've chosen and they'll make the donation on your behalf. 

Literacy Day

   I've joined First Books as an Author in Action. When I receive my personal url from them, I can use it to help promote their cause to get books into the hands of underprivileged children and to help programs and schools serving disadvantaged kids get free books by linking them to First Books.
   The best part of being an author is when I get to read my books to kids and see their faces light up with delight when they hear a story. Every child deserves to experience that.

Monday, September 7, 2015

A BEAUTIFUL QUILT ... DIVERSITY IN CHILDREN'S LITERATURE

  This summer, my family and I traveled to Malaysia and Singapore to visit my parents. For those of you who have never been in that part of the world, it's an absolute sensory delight. Wherever we went, the aromatic intermingling of ethnic foods permeated the air and tantalized our tastebuds — mouthwatering curries, chicken and beef satays (meat grilled on a stick), sweet and sour crab, Roti Canai (pronounced Cha-nai, an Indian fried pancake). A multitude of languages — Hindi, Malay, Cantonese, Mandarin, English, Tagalog — intertwined their different melodies like an orchestra warming up before a performance— scratchy and disorganized, each instrument in different keys, but enticing our ears to the beautiful harmony to come. Our eyes feasted on the reds, oranges and greens of festive saris, the browns and blacks of shapely batik sarongs, the strangely foreign sights and smells of local fruits like the pungent durian, prickly rambutans, and succulent lai-chees. This was diversity in its truest form—raw and fascinating, a small window to a larger world.
   Diversity (or the lack thereof) has been a big topic in children's literature of late. Just about every writing conference features a panel on diversity or at least, a discussion lamenting its under-representation in publishing. So, what is diversity and why is it important? Diversity is defined in the Webster online dictionary as "the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization." 
   The world is made up of different people with different lifestyles, different cultures, traditions. When you can weave them all into one seamless, harmonious society, it's like creating a beautiful quilt — every panel depicting a different scene, or even a different part of the same scene — but pieced together, they make a fascinating, eye-catching whole. And it's crucial that children see themselves as part of that fabric.
    At Back to School night at my daughter's high school last week, the principal announced that for the first time ever, the high school population has reached 50% people of color (mostly Latinos in our community) and 50% white. So, why is it, according to the Cooperative Children's Book Center's (CCBC) statistics, out of approximately 3,500 books received by the CCBC in 2014 (out of approx. 5,000 children's books published in that year), only 66 books were about Latinos and only 59 books were written by a Latino author; 112 books were about Asians or Asian Americans and only 48 books were written by Asian American authors; 179 books were about African Americans with 69 books written by an African American author? The stats are even lower for Native Americans — 15 Native American authors and 36 books about American Indians. For more on the CCBC's findings on diversity in children's literature and how they collect their statistics, click hereHere are a few more interesting articles on the topic:

Why Diversity in Children's Literature Matters by Jacob Hood.
The World of Children's Books is Still Very White by amy Rothschild.

   Online movements such as WeNeedDiverseBooks and Multicultural Children's Book Day have increased the focus on the need for diversity in children's literature. The Society of Children's Book Writers and illustrators (SCBWI) of which I've been a member since 2000, has now taken up this cry. Executive Director Lin Oliver says, "That we have recognized the need for more diversity is a crucial first step. But it's just a first step. We can't sit back and congratulate ourselves when there is so much to be done to implement our goal." Here are some tips Lin offers to support diverse authors and literature, Diversity: What We Can Do About It. The SCBWI also offers a Multicultural Work-In-Progress grant to support multicultural stories and writers.
   There seems to be an encouraging upward trend for more diverse children's literature as well as for authors of color. However, there is still a lot of ground to be made. Recently, a major publisher rejected my multicultural picture book with the comment that it was "too niche." Okay, so there could be other reasons the book wasn't acquired (didn't meet the publisher's editorial needs, wasn't the editor's cup of tea etc.), but until books about people from different races and cultures aren't classified in separate categories: African-American books, multicultural books, or even — God-forbid — niche books, the diversity disparity will never be overcome. As parents, authors, teachers, librarians, booksellers – and yes, publishers — it's our collective responsibility to ensure that diverse stories are not lost in an archaic cataloging system.
   Children everywhere deserve to recognize themselves in the books they read—and find themselves in the fabric of a beautiful quilt.

"OTTO'S RAINY DAY" AT THE FOX CREEK MUNICIPAL LIBRARY

   Roxanne Grumbach of Fox Creek Municipal Library in Alberta, Canada, reads "Otto's Rainy Day" and makes a "rainy day" craft.


Friday, May 29, 2015

PUBLISHING UPDATES ETC.

Wow! Sometimes my intention to take a short hiatus from blogging stretches a lot longer than anticipated. So, just a brief recap of what's happening in my writing world:

1) My picture book story "Lion Dancer" has still not found a publishing home. Grr...It has, however, been revised again for the umpteenth time. It's had one professional edit and has been submitted for another. In the meantime, my agent has submitted it to Charlesbridge Publishing and Scholastic but we have not heard back from either. Publishing can be such an excruciatingly slow process.

2) Speaking of excruciatingly slow processes, a picture book manuscript I wrote about 12 years ago, "The Rock Maiden", has just received an offer from Wisdom Tales Press. It's a re-envisioning of an old Chinese folk tale from Hong Kong, and over the years, I've been told that folk tales are a hard sell, editors are only interested in them for anthologies etc., etc. Sometimes, one has to wait for the right publisher to appear. I found Wisdom Tales Press through the Multicultural Children's Book Day website which I had participated in for the last two years and Wisdom Tales was a sponsor. Exploring their website, I discovered they focused on world cultures and published mainly multicultural stories. It was a perfect fit! They had an online submission process so on a whim, I submitted "The Rock Maiden" and didn't hear back from anyone for almost a year! Imagine my surprise when the President of the publishing house contacted me. The moral of the story is: Never Leave Any Rock (no pun intended) Unturned.

3) I am teaching a basic Scrivener workshop on June 6 for the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) at the Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA. from 1 - 3 pm. The workshop has sold out! I love this program so am looking forward to introducing other writers to it. Even if you're not registered for the workshop but want to come by for a chat or get a book signed, I'll be hanging out on the patio outside of the cafe from 3 - 4 pm.



4)  I attended the SCBWI Novel Intensive on May 16. Very informative and enjoyed the sessions on dialogue and voice, although I found the dialogue session with author Bill Konigsberg more helpful and better structured with participant involvement. In addition to learning about the craft of writing, these workshops also give me the opportunity to study other writers' presentation styles and consider what works well and what doesn't so I can incorporate new approaches to my own presentations and workshops.

If you're a writer of children's books and haven't joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, do so now! You will get support, resources, craft-based workshops, retreats, not to mention camaraderie with your fellow writers. Check out some of their upcoming events in your area here.