Writing quote

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


   My ten-minute play, Playing with Knives, has been chosen for the Short+Sweet Festival in Sydney, Australia! They get 1500 submissions a year, and I've submitted to them before, so I feel very honored to have been included this time around. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


  There are no guarantees in the World of Publishing. Not even after you've inked a contract (legally binding in most professions, but in the writing world, anything goes). After carefully (and proudly, I might add) negotiating my publishing contract with Tricycle Press/Random House, I signed it and sent it back with all the appropriate tax forms. That was on a Friday. On Monday, I received a phone call from my editor telling me that Random House had decided to shutter Tricycle Press. It was a big shock for everyone. Didn't they just move to new larger offices back in the Spring? Didn't they have an Open House a month ago? The editors received the news a week before they sadly informed their authors. At the end of January 2011, they'll no longer have a job, and Tricycle Press, publisher of beautiful, eclectic children's books for 18 years, will no longer exist. The writers whose books are coming out in Spring 2011 would still see their books in print. Everyone else was a BIG question mark. All the editors were to submit a package detailing the merits of the books they were handling for Random House's consideration. In the end, out of 36 or so books slated for publication through fall 2011, 2012 and 2013, only 2 or 3 were retained by Random House Children's Books.
   Goldy Luck and the Three Chans was not one of them. So, after three and a half years, three editors, and the excitement of an offer of publication, it's back to square one.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


   I attended the official launch of Goosebottom Books and its new series, The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses at Books, Inc. in San Francisco on Oct. 2. The turn out was decent, but not great by any means, but the books definitely generated much interest for those who were there. Publisher and author, Shirin Yim Bridges, introduced the original thinking girl who inspired the stories of real princesses—my daughter, Tiegan!—and talked about how the concept for the books took shape. A few were disappointed that there was no reading, but the limited time-frame did not allow for that. She signed books and answered questions, while illustrator, Albert Nguyen, drew princesses on demand for girls who attended the event. Boys, on the other hand, made the usual requests for spiderman pictures.
   I ran into an old acquaintance I hadn't seen for 30 years! Okay, the brother of my high school boyfriend, if you must know. And met up again with Susan McCombs, the editor at Tricycle Press who first took my manuscript Goldy Luck and the Three Chans to an editorial meeting. It was nice to chat about the book, royalty contracts, and all things literary. 
   Attendees got to munch on sushi, crackers and cheese, topped off with champagne, wine, and coffee for teetotalers like me. 
   After the event, the family and I went to dinner at Max's cafe next door. It was a very enjoyable evening, and I much admired Shirin's hardwork and efforts in promoting her new business and books.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Publisher & author, Shirin Yim Bridges
I hung out at the Goosebottom Books booth at the Sonoma Book Fair this weekend. It was sweltering hot. Thank God, we had a nice booth location in the shade—right next to Barefoot Books. Naturally, I had to get my kids a book...or two...and spent way too much money on books...again! 

Our booth did attract quite a few passersbys. Albert Nguyen (the illustrator) did a "Draw me a Princess" activity which, naturally, was quite popular with the little girls. My friend and fellow "goose", Gretchen, and I were assigned the task of roaming the book fair and handing out postcards to girls and their parents inviting them to have a "princess" drawn. Interestingly, the activity also attracted a group of tween boys who hovered around until the last of the girls left, then asked Albert to draw them a few "boy" pictures—Spiderman, Ninja Mutant Turtles, to name a few.

Super postcard hander-outer geese,
Natasha Yim and Gretchen Maurer

Illustrator Albert Nguyen drawing a princess
for an attentive "fan"

Towards the end of the day, the rest of the Dastardly Dame ladies (the authors of Goosebottom Books' next series The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Dastardly Dames) showed up, and we trooped off to Cabianca, an Italian restaurant in a picturesque Victorian in downtown Santa Rosa, for a fine Italian meal.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Aah...Green Gulch retreat! I love, no, LOVE this SCBWI writing retreat! It's in this fabulous zen setting—peaceful, quiet, you can hear birds singing in the trees and inhale the wonderful scent of Eucalyptus. I get a lot of writing done here. Over the years, I've written a 10 min. play (which was produced in Ukiah and Los Angeles), worked  on my Young Adult novel (still in progress), and revised two picture books, including Goldy Luck and the Three Chans (soon to be published by Tricycle Press/Random House). 

This time, I'm working on Cixi, the Dragon Empress (the last empress of China) for Goosebottom Books. It's a non-fiction biography for their The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Dastardly Dames series. I've completed the research, and now it's time to pull all the facts together, and write it in such a way that's not a dry, chronology of information—that's the real challenge. I've spent all day writing though, and have made some headway, although it's fairly slow at this point. I think I'll write it chronologically, then figure out how to embellish the interesting details later.

My sister, Shirin Yim Bridges, publisher of Goosebottom Books and my friend, Gretchen Maurer, are also at the retreat. It is inspirational to be all working on the same thing at the same time (books for the Dastardly Dames series). We conducted our own mini-critique group to review each other's work and provide guidance/support. Another big plus at the retreat this time around? Internet access!! When you're writing non-fiction, it makes it so much easier to have that if you need to look up something on the web.

At home, I'm trying to snatch bits and pieces of writing time between running kids to school, fixing lunches, and soccer games, so it's nice to have a chunk of uninterrupted time. Plus, no cooking and cleaning (all vegetarian meals are provided for)—you an't beat that!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Well, I crossed that bridge, and got to the other side. And I survived my first contract negotiation! I did get a higher advance—not as much as I had asked for, but a higher one at any rate; I got to keep some of my subsidiary rights; didn't get royalties on cover price, but two out of three ain't bad! The question for me was: how much back and forth does one do in a contract negotiation? Do you just accept the counter? Or try to negotiate more? I decided that for my first time in this realm, once was good enough, and successfully navigating the negotiations and getting some of what I asked for is a coup d'etat in itself. There's so much else to look forward to—finding the illustrator, final revisions of the manuscript, marketing and publicity (not my forte, but it means the book's out!). So, onwards and forwards!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Okay, I'm going it alone. I sent a query to Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and received no response which means she's either really busy or not interested in representing me. So, after going through agent Kristin Nelson's very informative "Agenting 101" blogs—a must-read for all writers negotiating their own contracts—I've submitted my counter to the publishing terms Joanne Taylor offered me. I've always believed in the motto, "If you don't ask, you don't get"—well, not always. There was a time in my very shy high school years, when I didn't ask for anything—and got left behind in the dust. Let's just say, if you weren't born into the world a really assertive person, becoming a really assertive person is no easy task! It's doable though. I've learned to be a much more assertive person, especially when it comes to marketing my own books and writing—but that's a whole other blog.

Anyway, back to negotiating contracts. It's like standing on the edge of a very steep cliff, and you have to cross the swaying, rickety wooden suspension bridge to get to the other side. Why? That's not important. You could be chased by a tribe of cannibals, searching for hidden treasure, running from your ex-husband, whatever. You just have to get to the other side. Stepping on that rickety wooden bridge is terrifying. Are those wooden planks going to hold? Will you fall through and plunge headlong into the abyss? But if you don't at least make an attempt, you won't get anywhere. 

If you've never negotiated a publishing contract before, how much can/should you ask for? What's reasonable? There's a difference between assertiveness and aggressiveness. One can get you what you want, the other might lose you the contract altogether. There's no simple answer. A lot depends on the relationship you have with your editor, your publishing history (obviously writers with many books under their belts have more clout), and your own personal style.

I can tell you what I did though. I asked for a higher advance, to keep some of the subsidiary rights, and whether I can get royalties based on cover price rather than net price. Stay tuned to find out how that went!

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Got my contract in my inbox today! I now feel legitimate! If I can only decipher the gobbledy gook!! This is where agents come in handy. But I've had contradictory advise on that front.


  1. They can handle all contract negotiations, taking on the "bad guy" role and getting you a better contract while you, the writer, can be the "good guy" and play nicey-nicey with the editor while you both happily revise your masterpiece.
  2. They can represent you on future projects, making submissions and contacting publishing houses on your behalf, thus saving you countless amount of time researching markets.
  3. They can bypass the slush pile.
  4. They probably get faster responses.
  5. Many publishers are closing their doors to unsolicited submissions.

  1. They take 15% of what is usually not a whole lot of pay to begin with.
  2. In children's books, an agent is not a requirement to getting published.
  3. According to Harold Underdown, in Five Reasons Why You Don't Need to get an Agent , not many agents specialize in picture books.
However, just because my first published book and this current one are picture books, and I'm working on a picture book project for Goosebottom Books, doesn't mean I specialize in them either. I have a multicultural Young Adult novel in progress and a couple of middle-grade fiction ideas/manuscripts sitting on the back burner. I'm definitely looking towards completing longer works. Which makes getting an agent more worthwhile.

The question is this: should I get one now? Would having an offer on the table make it easier for me to interest an agent? Agent Kristin Nelson said on her blog that she doesn't just accept a writer because he/she has an offer; she has to love that author's work. So, this reasoning is no guarantee I'll land an agent. At least not in time to negotiate this contract.

Should I go it alone? An editor friend of mine suggested that since I've waited so long and done all the work in getting the contract, I should keep the commission and try to negotiate this myself.

I have been waffling on this issue the past couple of days, doing all the research I can on publishing contract negotiations. Incidentally, anyone in this position MUST check out Kriston Nelson's Agenting 101 series on her blog where she breaks down the terms and terminology, what they mean, what to watch out for, danger signals, and tips for negotiations. It is great! Informative, helpful, and puts the legalese in words you can understand.

I've already spent two whole days on trying to figure out all this contract language and what terms they are actually offering me instead of finishing up the research on my Last Empress of China book. Which is making me lean towards the side of seeking an agent.

However, since I already have a contract, should I save the agent for my YA?

Anyone with comments or suggestions on this can contact me.

In the meantime, I should make a decision by Monday. Will let y'all know.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Woo Hoo! Just got back from vacation and got a voice mail message from Joanne Taylor. She's making me an offer on my picture book! Words cannot describe how jazzed I am. After three and a half years, three editors, multiple story transformations, and a gazillion revisions, I finally have an offer. For all you writers out there, this is a good example of persistence, hard work, and never giving up—it really does pay off.

When I was driving to Sacramento airport (about three hours from my town) at 3 am., on my way to Montana, I was relishing the quiet and solitude while my husband and kids were snoozing in the car when a flash of light streaked across the night sky. A shooting star!, I thought. I'll have to make a wish.

And I did.

Guess what it was?

Yes!!! That Goldy Luck and the Three Chans will be published.

A happy coincidence? Or maybe there's some truth to this old superstition ...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Got an email from Joanne Taylor of Tricycle Press today. Her boss has finally given her the green light to move forward with my picture book. Yay! But because Random House bought out Tricycle's parent company Ten Speed Press last year, they have the final say. So, she's sending an acquisitions package to the New York Director.

Phew! No wonder this business is so slow—there are so many hoops to jump through. 

Thank God, I'm on vacation with my family in Montana and visiting Yellowstone National Park—so much to see and do—so no time to wait by the phone with bated breath!

This huge guy can certainly make you forget about writing for awhile...

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I just finished reading Sterling Seagrave's book, Dragon Lady, the Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China. I really enjoyed it. I have to say it's one of the best biographies I've read with clearly drawn characters and visual descriptions of the time period and the traditions and etiquettes of the Manchu court. He makes a convincing case of why Cixi, the last Empress of China, has been unjustly villified over the years.

For anyone interested in the history of China and biographies, I highly recommend this book. It's quite a tome at 560+ pages, but a fascinating read.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


There are still some openings at the SCBWI Kitteridge Retreat at Green  Gulch Farm in Marin County, north of San Francisco.

Space is still available!

Kittridge Retreat 
Green Gulch Farm
Sept. 17 to 19
Optional SUNDAY night stay on Sept. 20

Creative Get-away Retreat

Green Gulch Farm, Sept. 17  to Sept. 19 (Friday and Saturday nights, departing on Sunday Sept. 20, 2010)
Optional SUNDAY night stay, Sept. 20

The April 2010 retreat sold out, so please register early!

No speakers, no programs, just time to write or draw surrounded by the beautiful scenery of West Marin, plus informal evening readings and critiques. 

Green Gulch Farm is part of the San Francisco Zen Center. The farm is located off of Highway 1 north of the Golden Gate Bridge, in a valley that opens out onto the Pacific Ocean. The accommodations for the retreat are at the Lindisfarne Guest House.
The Guest House is a distinctive octagonal building with twelve rooms on two floors surrounding a 30-foot skylit atrium. The atrium provides a relaxing skylit sitting area where guests often gather to read or sit with a cup of tea by the fire. The building is constructed in a traditional Japanese style and heated with a central wood-burning stove and passive solar system.

The guest rooms are simply, yet comfortably furnished, with large windows opening onto landscaped grounds. Each pair of rooms shares a bathroom and there is a centrally located shower.

Snacks are always available in the guest house kitchen. Vegetarian meals are included in the price of the retreat.
Single rooms, including meals, are $279.  Optional Sunday night, Sept. 20, is $100. There is limited availability for this night. Please check with Margaret before you sign up for it.

Refunds will only be made if a substitute can be found. This retreat is available only to SCBWI members.

Note: The retreat begins at 3 PM Friday, and ends at 1 PM Sunday. The optional Sunday night ends after lunch on Monday.

Directions to Green Gulch Farm: Take Highway 101 to the Highway 1/Stinson Beach exit. Turn left at the Arco station onto Highway 1 (Shoreline Highway). Follow the green signs for Highway 1/Stinson Beach. After 2.5 miles the road forks - bear left towards Muir Beach. Go 2 more miles and you'll see a eucalyptus grove and large sign on the left indicating the driveway, "Zen Center/Green Gulch Farm/Wheelwright Center." 
Questions? E-mail Margaret Speaker Yuan at books4women(at)yahoo.com (replace (at) with @)
 Be sure to check with Margaret before you register for the Optional Sunday night. Availability is limited.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Just got an email from Joanne Taylor. Her boss is still on the fence about my picture book, but they'll be meeting on Aug. 12 to talk about acquisitions. Joanne says, "I'm  doing my best. I promise!" When an editor goes to bat for you or your manuscript, that's half the battle!
Still keeping my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Another Kittridge Writer's Retreat has been scheduled for Green Gulch Farm in Marin County just North of San Francisco for Sept. 17 - 19. It's coming at a good time—two weeks before the Cixi manuscript is due—so, I'll need all the uninterrupted work time I can get to finish writing and polishing the first draft to submit to Goosebottom Books by Oct. 1. 

I love this retreat! It's in the lush, beautiful surroundings of Green Gulch farm where we get three great vegetarian meals served to us, all the coffee and tea we can handle to propel us through a flurry of creativity, cozy accommodations, and the company of other writers with whom we can share our work, publishing successes and woes. 

My sister has also signed up for the retreat, and my friend and fellow writer and co-member of the Ukiah Writers' Salon, Gretchen Maurer, will also be attending. Gretchen is also working on a book for  The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Dastardly Dames. Her project is on Bloody Mary, Mary I of England, so it will be fun and inspiring to be able to discuss and dissect our manuscripts in a supportive and relaxing setting.

Anyone interested in signing up for this retreat, can contact Margaret Speaker Yuan at books4women@yahoo.com. There are only slots for 15 writers, so sign up quickly. It's a retreat you won't forget! However, it's only open to SCBWI members. For more information about joining SCBWI, go to the Society of Childrens' Book Writers and Illustrators website.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


No word from Tricycle Press yet. It's been a month since the manuscript went to acquisitions, and three weeks since I sent the editor an email inquiring about the status of the manuscript. In publishing, there's a fine line between follow-up and stalking. So for now, I'll be busy working on my other projects, and let this sleeping dog lie.

No News is still Good News.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Here are some Query letters Do's and Don'ts from Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency:
  • Research agents
  • Send query ONLY to agents who represent what you write
  • DO NOT query on a book that's not complete
  • DO NOT write every agent you are querying in the TO line
  • DO NOT say that your kids/grandkids/parent/neighbor love your book
  • DON'T say which agents/editors have turned you down and quote their rejections. Even if they are glowing, they're still rejections.
Query Letter Formula:
    1st paragraph—Some agents want you to jump right into the synopsis of your story. Jill prefers to know why you are querying her upfront, so include short, precise and true reasons why you are querying her. This is where researching agents come in.
    2nd (and possibly 3rd) paragraph—write 2 - 10 sentence synopsis of your story. Agents want to know:
  • Title of your manuscript
  • Is it a picture book, middle grade, chapter book, young adult?
  • Genre: fantasy, contemporary, romance, historical 
  • Age of your main character
  • What is your protagonist's problem
  • If important, the setting
    Paragraph about you:
  • Mention any previously published work, include name of publisher and year of publication. Don't mention self-pubished books unless you have sold 10,000 copies or more.
  • Well-known and respected magazines like Highlights or Cricket mags. count. Little known e-zines don't make much difference
  • Mention legitimate awards and honors
  • If you have an MFA, mention it.
  • Include any expertise that relate to your book ie. if you're writing a book on Greece and you're an anthropologist who's worked in Greece etc.
  • Any membership info. such as SCBWI.
    Final paragraph—Keep it simple: "Thank you for your time and consideration."

Martha Alderson's Definition of Plot:
    Plot is a series of scenes deliberately arranged by cause and effect to create Dramatic Action. These scenes are filled with conflict that furthers the Character Emotional Development toward transformation. When the dramatic actions changes the character at depth over time, the story means something or becomes Thematically Significant.

Some important terms:
  • Protagonist—defined by who is changed by the dramatic action
  • Antagonist—Anyone or anything impeding the protagonist reaching his/her goal
  • Goal—something tangible, concrete, measurable
  • Climax—protagonist can do whatever he/she wasn't able to do before. It's the part where the protagonist finally triumphs over the antagonist
The middle, where writers often gets bogged down, is the territory of the antagonist. It's where the protagonist is stopped from reaching his/her goal. This is where you challenge your character and show who your character really is.

Flaws, hates, and fears are good plot builders. If your story drags, put your character in a situation where he is confronted by his flaws, hates and fears.

I have Martha's DVD, Blockbuster Plots, and find it extremely helpful in breaking down the plotting process. She also explains the different plot points in a clear, visual manner using Gennifer Choldenko's middle grade, Al Capone Does my Shirts, as an example.



On July 16, I headed to my alma mater, Dominican University, for the SCBWI Summer Conference. Despite some new buildings and physical reorganization, much of the campus remained the same, and it was wonderful to take a walk through memory lane on Dominican's bucolic grounds. I could only attend one day of this three day conference and retreat, but it was great to re-c0nnect with writing friends, Eve Aldridge, Andrea McAfee, Pat Khan, Louise Hendrikson, and others.

The two speakers, agent Jill Corcoran from the Herman Agency and Martha Alderson, author of Blockbuster Plots, were informative and enlightening. Jill spoke on the do's and don'ts of queries and synopses and the power of Voice. Martha presented her famous breakdown of effective plotting.

Lunch in Calaruega Dining Hall also brought back memories of my college days. I wish I had both the time and the money to have stayed the whole weekend, but my girls had a horse show presentation on July 17 that I didn't want to miss. 

At the end of the day, I received my manuscript critique from Jill Corcoran. On the whole, it was very positive and encouraging. She thought the manuscript sample I submitted was beautifully written, but slow from pages 3 - 10 and suggested I re-work the pacing. She was interested enough in the story that she asked to see the full manuscript when it was done, and gave me her business card. Being the slow writer that I am, I'm really going to have to work hard on establishing a routine of writing a certain amount of pages or words a day to complete the manuscript, even as I'm focusing on my biography of Cixi, the last Empress of China, for Goosebottom books. That manuscript is due on October 1!

Friday, June 25, 2010


My sister, children's book author Shirin Yim Bridges (Ruby's Wish, Chronicle Books, 2002; The Umbrella Queen, Greenwillow Books, 2008) just started a new small press, Goosebottom Books. Goosebottom will be launching its debut series, The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses, this October. The series, for ages 9-13, includes books about Hatshepsut of Egypt, Artemisia of Caria, Sorghaghtani of Mongolia, Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman, Isabella of Castile, and Nur Jahan of India. (For obvious reasons, each book will include a pronunciation guide!) Richly illustrated and narrated with touches of irreverent humor, these books bring to life the stories of real and remarkable princesses who overcame barriers to make a mark in history.

 Shirin wrote all six books in the first series. The Real Princesses books will be available on Amazon.com in September, and in bookstores in October.

Goosebottom has several additional series planned, the second of which will be The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Dastardly Dames. Each book in this 6 book series will be written by a different author. For this project, a call for submissions went out to writers known to Shirin (me included) and consulting editor Amy Novesky, a former editor at Chronicle Books. You'd think, being Shirin's sister that I'd be a shoo-in right? Nope. I had to submit a writing sample just like everyone else. It's all for the best though because Amy Novesky reviewed the manuscripts, so I can be assured that my selection as one of the writers of the second series is based on the merit of my submission, and not on any familial connection. The dastardly dames of the second series include Mary I of England; Marie Antoinette, Austrian-born French Queen; Cixi, the last Empress of China; Agrippina, Roman Empress; Catherine de Medici, Italian-born Queen of France; and Cleopatra VII, the last Pharoah of Egypt. I'll be writing the biography of Cixi, the last Empress of China.

Goosebottom Books does accept unsolicited submissions from new and published writers alike. They are planning two or three more series. Writers wishing to be considered for a future series, can send a writing sample of no more than 1000 words to submissions@goosebottombooks.com. Goosebottom Books is also looking for illustrators. For consistency of artistic styles, one illustrator will be selected to illustrate all the books in a series. Interested illustrators can send a link to their portfolio to shirin.bridges@goosebottombooks.com. You can also follow Goosebottom Books on Facebook.

Currently, Goosebottom Books is planning its book tour (locations to be announced). One definite booking is the Sonoma County Book Festival on Sept. 25. Shirin and I will both be there at the Goosebottom booth, so do stop by and say "hello".

Friday, June 18, 2010


After three and a half years and a million edits, my picture book manuscript, Goldy Luck and the Three Chans, is finally going to an acquisitions meeting at Tricycle Press. I've been working with editor Joanne Taylor who's been wonderfully encouraging and helpful, but it's now up to the publisher. So, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that good news will come my way soon. If this saga ends up positively, it will be a great example of perseverance!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


My friend, Gretchen, called me the other day to inform me that my article, "Dragons Race on Water" about the Dragon Boat Festival, finally appeared in the current (June) issue of Highlights for Children magazine. It's on page 10 for those of you who have this month's issue. I'm waiting for my complimentary copies, but glad to finally see it in print (it's been a long five year wait!)

Other writing notes:

• The play review I wrote for the Ukiah Players Theatre's production of Godspell appeared in the Thurs., June 20, issue of the Ukiah Daily Journal. This weekend, May 27 - 30, is the last weekend to see the play. Tickets can be purchased online.

• My long-suffering picture book manuscript, "Go Dil Lok and the Three Chans" has been sitting with Tricycle Press for 3 years now. It's been through 3 different editors who all have expressed an interest in it. After a 7 months gap of no contact, editor Joanne Taylor contacted me in November to tell me that they've misplaced my manuscript, and would I please send another one. Then in March, she emailed again to say that the publisher wasn't convinced it was the right project for them, but she would like to call me to discuss it. The long and short of that conversation was that the story had too many themes and she suggested keeping it to the basic Goldilocks and the 3 Bears structure. The revisions were emailed back to her 3 weeks ago, but there's been no word yet. I just realized that there's a pattern of 3's here. Maybe that's significant in some way? In either case, it hasn't been outright rejected yet, so there's still a little hope.

• The Pacific Coast Children's Writers Workshop (PCCWW) is now on Facebook and LinkedIn. It's a wonderful workshop for writers of middle grade and young adult novels on the beach in Santa Cruz, CA. with beach front accommodations available at the bucolic Pajaro Dunes resort. This year's event will be on Aug. 20 - 22. The faculty includes literary agent Ted Malawer, Upstart Crow Agency; senior editor Kate Harrison, Dial Book for Young Readers; and editor and publisher Laura Backes, Children's Book Insider. For an early-bird discount, mention you saw the announcement on LinkedIn by May 31 and receive a $25 discount on full enrollment. Other discounts can be located on the PCCWW website. Keep checking back for further discount announcements and information. I'll post them as I get them.

Monday, May 17, 2010


The New Plays Festival was a blast as usual! Ten 10 min. plays by ten different playwrights. Playing with Knives received a good audience response, which is gratifying. The cast included: Justin Briggs as Harvey Crenshaw; Jan Michele as Muriel Crenshaw; Mikael Tadeo as Mugger #1, Tony; and Jake Stoepler as Mugger #2, Marco. They all did a fabulous job! Justin was particularly hilarious in the lead role. I also enjoyed Night Class by Don Samson and Corinna Rogers' Perfect Results. I'll be purchasing the DVD of the productions when it's available, so will post Playing with Knives either here or on my website.

Check back in to watch it.

Friday, May 14, 2010


OPENING NIGHT for Mendocino College's New Plays Festival! My ten minute play, "Playing with Knives", performed earlier this year in Los Angeles by Fire Rose Productions, is in the line-up for the 8th Annual New Plays Festival at Mendocino College. It's always a fun evening of 8 - 10 short plays by different local playwrights. The cast is great, and I'm looking forward to seeing their performances tonight and tomorrow night. Check out the description of the plays on Facebook.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Ahhh...another heavenly writer's retreat at Green Gulch Farm in Marin County. There's nothing like a little Zen-ness to inspire your muse. I worked on Chapter 6 of my Young Adult novel, but really struggled with making certain concepts work. Of course, the bucolic surroundings, gorgeous sunshine, and call of Muir beach just a 20 min. walk away threatened to distract. However, I reached deep and followed author Jane Yolen's advice: Butt In Chair, and by the end of the retreat had finally completed that Chapter and begun the next. What a feeling of accomplishment that is!

The vegetarian food was delicious, as usual, and the opportunity to commiserate with other writers about writing and re-connect with old friends was priceless.

The Kitteridge Writer's Retreat at Green Gulch Farm is open to SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) members only, but is truly worth the drive and the membership. The next retreat at Green Gulch is scheduled for September (date to be announced). If you can't wait that long, North Coast SCBWI is hosting a retreat and workshop at Dominican College in San Rafael, July 15 - 18. The retreat is a no-program, no-pressure writing time for attendees. The workshop features agent Jill Corcoran from the Herman Agency, Martha Alderson, author of Blockbuster Plots, Kathleen Duey, author of Skin Hunger and Sacred Scars, editor Andrea Welch from Beach Lane Books, and for an additional fee, a manuscript critique from one of the faculty.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I mentioned in my last blog that Fire Rose Productions is looking for submissions for their 8th Annual Ten Minute Play contest. For those of you who have thought of writing a play, but found the process a little daunting, the 10 min. play format is a good place to start. Here are some sites I've found with useful information on how to write a 10 min. play:

In addition to Fire Rose Productions, other places that offer 10 min. play festivals where you can submit your play are:

and the Festival of New Plays at Mendocino Community College where I got my start writing Ten Minute plays. Their annual deadline is Feb. 14.

Here's another great writing site that is chock full of useful information and resources:


Look under play submissions, and you'll find a list of places that publish plays, contests, festivals, plus submission guidelines.

Happy Writing!


I just returned from a fun weekend in Los Angeles where my ten minute play, "Playing with Knives" was performed as part of Fire Rose Production's 7th Annual Ten-minute Play Festival. Last year, they had moved the performances to a larger theatre in Santa Monica, but this year, the plays were performed at their home theatre, the Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywood. The 60-seat theatre was so packed that they had to place some throw cushions on the floor to accommodate the overflow. The younger, more supple of the audience members, my brother, Jason, included, gamely gave up their seats to get front-row floor seating. Well, at least Jason's tush was adequately padded!
The festival was divided into two groups (Group A & B) of 6 plays each. Group A performed on Jan. 7, 8 & 9, and Group B, which included "Playing with Knives", performed on Jan. 14, 15, & 16. The top 3 plays in each group (chosen by audience vote) got to perform in the "Best of ..." show on Sunday, Jan. 17. I was honored that "Playing with Knives" was selected as one of 6 for the "Best of ..." show. "Match Point", a very funny play written by Chris Widney, won the Mercer Award this year. Congratulations, Chris!
Thank you to Kaz Matamura, co-founder of the Secret Rose Theatre and Fire Rose Productions, and director of "Playing with Knives", and a talented cast who brought the play to life and made it so much fun: Michael Judson Pratt, Ellen Bienenfeld, Kevin Marshall Pinkney, and Stephen Katz.
Fire Rose Productions is currently seeking submissions for the 8th Annual Ten Minute Play Festival. Deadline for submissions is March 30, 2010. For more information, click here.