Writing quote

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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


  If you're in and around Willits this weekend, stop on by the library for a reading of Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas and a fun panda craft! Saturday, Aug. 2, 11:00 am. Also, come check out Scripted: An Evening of Short Plays at the Willits Community Theatre. My ten-minute play, "Offing the Witness" is receiving its Mendocino County premiere! Performances are Friday, Aug. 1, 8 pm., Saturday, Aug. 2, 8 pm., and Sunday, Aug. 3, 2 pm.

Monday, July 21, 2014


   For the second year, the Redwood Writers Club has collaborated with Copperfield's Books in Montgomery Village Santa Rosa, to host an evening of readings by local authors through the month of July. This Tuesday, July 22, 6:30 pm. will be Hot Summer Nights — Children's and Young Adult Authors. Redwood Writers Club members Charles Markee will read from his middle grade novel, Otherworld Tales 2: Demon Invasion, Jeanne Jusaitis will present Lilah Dill and the Magic Kit, Sandy Baker unveils Howie's Hungabird Dilemmaand I, of course, will read Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas. Readings will be followed by a Q and A with the authors, so come on down to Copperfield's Books, enjoy some story time and refreshments, and participate in a lively discussion on what it takes to publish a children's book!
   I'm also offering a "Bring a Friend, Tell a Friend" special: bring a friend to the event or tell a friend who comes to the event, and get a 10% discount off Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas! See the coupon below. If you want to print it and bring it to the event, right-click (Windows) or control-click (Mac) and select "Save to Downloads", then print from there.
   Hope to see you at Copperfield's Books!

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Mira Reisberg, Literary Agent
Hummingbird Literary
     Do you have a Young Adult (ages 13 - 18) or Middle Grade Story (ages 9 - 12) in progress? Want to get it in front of a literary agent? I am once again chairing the Redwood Writers' Club Writing Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction Contest this year, and boy, do we have some fabulous prizes for you, including a chance to win the Grand Prize of a 10-page manuscript critique by agent Mira Reisberg of Hummingbird Literary. And cash ain't bad either. The 1st place winner gets $100, 2nd place receives $50, and 3rd place gets $25. Look for more information in the next Redwood Writers newsletter and the upcoming contest flyer (which will be posted soon). 

   In the meantime, here are the contest guidelines:
  • The contest is open to residents of Sonoma, Napa, Marin, Solano, Lake and Mendocino counties.
  • Submit up to 10 pages of a Young Adult or Middle Grade story. Anything after 10 pages will not be read. It can be a short story or chapter excerpts from a novel in progress. If submitting chapters from a novel, send in only the first 10 pages of the novel (not 10 pages of Chapter 3 or the middle of the novel). This is important, because a reader must be hooked within the first 10 pages in order to be enticed to read on.
  • Work must be previously unpublished. 
  • Only one submission per person.
  • Format: 12 point font, Times New Roman, double spaced. First page —  please note your category: Young Adult or Middle Grade. Center your title half way down, then begin story. Please number your pages.
  • DO NOT put the author’s name or contact information on the manuscript.
  • Contest fees: $8 for members, $12 for non-members.
  • Submit payment and upload manuscript (Word doc. or docx only) on the Redwood Writer's website. 
  • Follow submission guidelines carefully. Manuscripts will be disregarded if the guidelines are not followed.
  • Contest Deadline: Oct. 15, 9 pm.
  • Awards will be handed out at the Redwood Writers' Club meeting on Dec. 14.
If you have any further questions about submission guidelines or the contest, please email me. We are looking forward to reading your best work. So, submit, submit, submit!

And now, for our wonderful judges:

Shirin Yim Bridges has made the successful transition from author (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, HarperCollins, Chronicle Books) to award-winning editor and publisher. In addition to being the Head Goose of Goosebottom Books, Shirin is currently editing four middle grade novels, and consulting on the development of another two. She recently spoke to the Australian Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in July, and has given workshops and seminars on writing and publishing for the Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference, the Book Passage Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference, the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, Stanford University, San Francisco State University, Illinois State University, Dominican University, and the College of San Mateo.

Laura Atkins is an independent children’s book editor with twenty years of editorial experience. She worked at Children’s Book Press, Orchard Books, and Lee and Low Books, helping to produce winners of the Coretta Scott King Award and American Library Association Notable Book selections, amongst others. More recently, she was a lecturer at the National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature in London. She currently edits for Cassava Republic Press in Nigeria, provides editorial services to self-publishers and aspiring and published writers and illustrators, and offers writing workshops. She is based in Berkeley, California, where she lives with her seven-year-old daughter.

Independent book editor and writing coach Susan Lyn McCombs has an MFA in Creative Writing and edits books for children and adults. She began working with middle-grade and young-adult manuscripts over eight years ago at Tricycle Speed Press. Currently, she works with individual writers to develop and tighten their manuscripts and edits for KO Kids Productions, Goosebottom Books, Andrews McMeel, Zoozil, and Callisto Media.  As a writing coach, Susan motivates authors, helping them to tap into their excitement for writing, find the meaning within their stories, and uncover their best storytelling/writing skills.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


   Sunday, July 13, is Redwood Writers' Club's annual Author Launch. 20 authors will have 5 mins. to read excerpts from their new books. It's a wonderful way to celebrate the new releases and writing successes of the club's members. Author launches, in general, can be exciting, yet nerve racking events. Will enough people show up? Will you have enough food? Will the venue have ordered enough books? The great thing about an author launch in a club like Redwood Writers is that you have other people you can share the launch with, a very supportive crowd, and a built in audience. Plus, all the planning is done for you. All you have to do is show up! All the more reason members should relish and appreciate this opportunity Redwood Writers offers their members.

   If you don't belong to a writing club and are preparing for an upcoming Author Launch, here are 5 tips for a successful Author Launch:

  1. Good communication—make sure both you and the event organizer confirm important details such as time and date, length of event, decorations (are there any limitations?), food and drinks (what does the venue supply, what do you need to bring?), number of books to order (are they ordering through their distributor or are you bringing books and selling them on consignment?)
  2. Think in themes—for decorations and food. Is your book about space? Maybe you can have posters, photographs and decorations of outer space, planets, or aliens (if your story involves one.) I attended a book launch for a children's ghost book, Horrible Hauntings (Goosebottom Books, 2012), and food items included sandwiches made to look like cut-off fingers, a punch of eyeballs (lychees and I can't remember what they used for the pupil, but it was really fun). At one book event for Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas, I brought turnip cakes (featured in the book) and fortune cookies. For Sacajawea of the Shoshone, I served buffalo sausage. Themed food can be a lot of fun preparing and serving, but if it stresses you out even more, just keep it simple: cookies and lemonade and juice are always a great hit, especially with kids.
  3. Presentation—will you read from your book? Show a power point? Have activities? A lot of it depends on the kind of book you have, who your audience is, time constraints, and your comfort level. I've done straight readings, a combination of excerpt reading and discussion of the writing process, power point presentations. I've given out raffle tickets for a chance to win a free book, taught a craft related to the book. The launch program varies with each book. But one thing that is consistent is the Q and A which is a great way to connect with your audience and for them to find out what went into writing and publishing your book.
  4. Have copies of your books on hand. If you're lucky, the bookstore or event venue will sell out of your books and you'll need extras. However, I've heard of events where the organizer had forgotten to order the writer's books. So, it's always better to be safe than sorry. Don't forget to offer to sign a few unsold copies. It's a great marketing tool for bookstores to display books signed by the author, but they're also books that can't be returned, giving you a few more sales.
  5. Have fun! You've toiled for what seems like eons on your book, and now you're sending your baby out into the world. That, in itself, is a tremendous feat! So, celebrate and allow yourself to be acknowledged for a job well done.

I'll be reading Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas, at the Redwood Writers' Author Launch. For this meeting only, all meeting fees are waived, so if you're interested in checking out the club, come join us at the Flamingo Resort and Spa in Santa Rosa, Empire Room, this Sunday, July 13. See you there!

Thursday, July 3, 2014


     I'm unveiling a whole new design — and a new title — for my blog! If you've visited my blog before, let me know what you think of the new look.
     Last weekend, I was one of two featured readers at the Redwood Writers' Club's Open Mic Reading at Gaia's Garden in Santa Rosa. I read Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas and shared excerpts from Cixi, The Dragon Empress and Sacajawea of the Shoshone. After the featured readings, those who wanted to read at open mic. could sign up and readings were conducted in order. I decided to read from the opening chapter of my middle grade novel in progress which I have never shared publicly before, so I was a little nervous. But it was a great way to gauge the audience's reaction, and hear how the language sounds when read out loud.
     I have never been to this open mic. reading before and I was delighted by the variety of the stories (many works in progress) and the bravery of the readers. Speaking, or reading, in public is the greatest fear of most writers, yet it is expected of those of us who have books to promote. Now, writing isn't all about selling and promoting your books, but if you've put several years of toil, sweat, and tears into your project, you can't let it die on the vines. 
     There is no other way to get used to public reading than to read in public, and open mic events are a good way to get some practice. I won't pretend it's not scary to put yourself out there at first, so start small. Here are 5 ways to prepare yourself for a positive public speaking experience.
  1. Start with more intimate settings. Invite a small group of friends and family to gather in your living room, then slowly branch out (when you're more comfortable) to reading at larger, more public venues. To gain confidence, I began reading my children's books at my kids' play date groups, then Kids' Club at the local health club,  then my daughter's pre-school class, gradually moving up to library visits, author visits in individual classrooms, and finally to auditorium-style school visits.
  2. Do a few dry runs in front of the mirror or in front of family. Practice slowing down your reading. We all tend to read too fast when we're nervous. You want your audience to hear you loud and clear, especially if they're kids. 
  3. If you're reading longer works, like novels, and you're reading excerpts from different parts of the book, mark them clearly so you can find the passages quickly. Alternately, you can type your reading passages on sheets of paper in LARGE font for easier reading and read from there instead of from the book.
  4. Don't just look straight at the book or paper when you're reading. Take the time to make eye contact with your audience once in awhile. This one takes a little practice, but the purpose of doing a reading is to connect with that audience.
  5. After your reading, open it up to Q & A -- this is another great chance to connect with your audience.
I promise you, public reading does get easier and less nerve-racking the more you do it. So, Happy Reading and Connecting!

Garden, Santa Rosa, CA., June 28, 2014