Monday, May 31, 2010

Writing Prompt Monday: What Is The Meaning Of This?

The dictionary atop your shelf has more than 200,000 words defined. Why don’t you blow off some of the dust on its cover and randomly pick out 10 words?

Don’t look at the meanings; just concentrate on the words. Write down your chosen words on a blank sheet of paper. Now, you’re going to have fun creating meanings for those words.

What do the words make you think of? What do you think should they mean?

(Get other writing prompts at http://www.creativewritingprompts.com/#)

  1. Craven – The leader of the Raven race. A magical being half bird, half man.
  2. Fixation – A mental state in which you can posses someone’s mind.
  3. Hummock – An herb used in potions.
  4. Paradise – An altered reality. Clean. Pure.
  5. Diversely – A deep underwater world.
  6. Brassiere – Leader of the human race.
  7. Astrakhan – Magical kingdom. Place where wizards live.
  8. Postal – Crazy person. Lack of mind.
  9. Superstition – Magically enhanced physical strength.
  10. Unitarian – Human slaves of the unicorns.

Get Up & Get Moving: Week 1

Okay it is time to get in shape after having my baby and sitting on my butt all day writing. I promised you all I would post every Monday about how I am doing to not only help keep me going, but to help get you up and moving as well. You do not have to post your weight in the comments section (unless you’re crazy like me), but I do ask that you share what you did during the week to help get you up and moving. Actual weight on May 31, 2010 188 Goal weight by December 31, 2010 130 Total weight loss planned 58 Instead of me listing everything I have done throughout the week to help lose weight, I am going to post a link to a site I have been using to log my activity level and food each day. The site is totally FREE! You can join me on FitDay.com. Having a log helps you stay on track and really lets you see where you need to make improvements or adjustments to help shed those unwanted pounds. Here’s the link to my overview http://www.fitday.com/fitness/Home.html?_a_Date=1275264000 If you want to befriend me, my profile is VSGrenier.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Interview Friday with Karen McGrath

Karen McGrath is a wife, mother, homeschool advocate, author and an editor for MuseItUp Publishing. A three time cancer survivor, Karen writes short stories and novels in several genres with a core message of hope in overcoming life’s numerous challenges. You can find her in the suburbs and streets of Boston corralling children, socializing with parents and jotting notes madly about imaginary characters, while carrying on real life conversations. No one finds this unusual but her.

Karen, I want to thank you for being my first interview here on The Writing Mama. I know being a parent and writer can be a bit much to swallow on some days. Finding time to write is not the only problem. I find myself sometimes wondering if I am giving my three children enough attention as well. I am sure you have been in my shoes from time to time. So to start here is the first question.

VS: Karen I am sure, before we begin our readers would love to know how many children you have and what ages.

Karen: Thank you so much for having me here on your blog, Virginia. I am delighted and honored to be your first interview. I have three girls. One is 22 and living on her own in the next town over, I love that she is close by. My two still at home are 13 and 15. I began writing seriously in the last ten years, seeking publication only recently, so they have grown up with me writing.

VS: Have you always wanted to be a writer? If so, what hooked you on writing?

Karen: Yes! I started telling stories to family and friends as a child and wrote some of them for school by age 8 or so. I wrote and illustrated a children’s book when I was 12 that my teacher wanted to publish but I was too shy to follow up on her invitation to submit. Writing is like breathing to me. I put it away for a while for other pursuits in college but found myself writing anyway, albeit non-fiction which I have written for years. I came back to my first love, fiction, in 2009. The draw for me is restoring hope. A good story gives you a reason to believe, I think, and I try to do that.

VS: Karen you are a writer and mom, what type of books do you mostly write? Do your children inspire any of them? If so, can you share what part of the storyline, character, etc.

Karen: I write novels in several genres but at the core of each is the message of hope in the face of adversity. My children inspire me by their willingness to trust that everything will eventually work out. They want a happy ending in a story and that compels me to supply. My oldest amazes me by her desire to grow. Her emotional courage is written into my main character in Primordial Sun. My teens are in my Christian YA fantasy. The main character is both of them, bold, sweet, and willing to reach out to others with their gifts.

VS: Besides writing, you are also an editor for MuseItUp Publishing. Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your editorial job?

Karen: I have to schedule my personal writing time daily or it slips away from me and I’m not happy, it’s like not having my water in the morning. My day begins at 6:30 am when I get up and take care of my household. We start school around 7:30 am and I write for an hour or so providing my girls are settled with breakfast and their books. My goal is 15 minutes, if I can write longer, I am thrilled. At 9:00 am, I go through work email and promote on various social networks, then I start editing my current workload for Muse. If my writing is flowing, I will write as much as I can throughout the day in between everything. I carry my pen and notebook and sometimes my laptop wherever we go.

VS: Wow, Karen you sure are busy. You also mentioned in your email that you homeschool your children. Have you found being a writer and editor helps you as a teacher?

Karen: I think it does. Because I am a writer, I value my students’ imagination. More than once, I have put the schoolbooks aside for the day so they can explore their ideas, whether it is drawing characters for their books or writing lyrics and scores. I seize that creative moment that goes beyond the textbooks and give it room to live, whereas otherwise, I might miss it in favor of a worksheet, not that those are not important. Editing helps me teach because I can see the extraneous things that get in the way of what my children are trying to say and help them define it more so they can communicate their ideas the way they envision them.

VS: That is wonderful. I know totally understand helping your children learn to express and communicate their ideas. As a mom, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Karen: Both of my teens are writers so they understand when I’m engrossed at times. I recently went on a writing marathon to get my novel ready for submission. It meant hours above regular work time and weekends as well. My family missed me sorely but they knew it was important to me. I try not to stretch them like that too often and they know when it’s over, Mom will cook again. They are happy now ... sandwiches were getting old! I am careful not to tax them too much; there are definite times it is unbalanced but it works out all right in the long run.

VS: LOL. My family has been through that as well. Karen, I noticed you self-published a cookbook. What gave you the idea to write a cookbook?

Karen: When I was a newlywed, I dreaded Thanksgiving. My first turkey was a disaster. The following year I called my neighbor for directions in a last minute panic, we did not have the internet then. I knew I could not be the only woman nightmaring about salmonella so I wrote a cookbook on how to prepare and organize the whole thing. It’s more prose than a listing of recipes.

VS: Would you ever consider self-publishing a book again? Why or Why not.

Karen: It depends on the piece. If it is better backed by a publishing house, then I will go that route, if not, I will self-publish. My Thanksgiving cookbook is targeted to a finite group of people at a specific time in their lives. I do not think a publisher would pick it up because it has such a limited market. I think self-publishing is a wonderful option, my only drawback in saying that is some may consider self-publishing without using the services of an editor. If you decide to self-publish, you need an editor to help you get the book in tiptop shape for the public. It’s next to impossible to edit your own work completely; I can tell you what my backyard looks like from my kitchen window but my neighbor’s porch gives her a vastly different perspective. Find a good editor, one who will push you to do your best. And remember, the red pen is your friend!

VS: I’m sure you saw the red pen often working on your first novel which is due to release very soon. Can you tell us the name and a bit about your book?

Karen: Primordial Sun, the Heart of the Amazon, is book one in the trilogy. It is a paranormal romance mystery. The protagonist, Kylie Watson, is trying to heal from the unexpected deaths of her missionary parents. She is plagued by nightmares and stalked by a predator; her subconscious is driving her actions and reactions. She returns to the land she rejected as a teen to mourn her parents. There she is thrust into a whirlwind of family secrets, church corruption, international espionage and true love.

VS: Sounds very interesting. Now that your novel is due to come out, do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

Karen: I am working on the second book in the series, Primordial Sun, the Birth of a Nation. It’s in the beginning stages so I don’t have a tag line or synopsis yet. But it is more adventure and romance, of course.

I am also working on a fictionalized historical biography. It’s loosely based on the true story of a New England community torn by domestic violence in the 1940’s. I am hoping it will be a story documentary; at least, that’s what I’m aiming for.

Other works in progress are a YA Christian fantasy, two more novels, a short story collection, my collection of poetry from adolescence and some non-fiction works, including another specialized cookbook.

VS: Karen, you sure do cover all genres of writing. With that in mind what tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?

Karen: I suggest setting aside at least 15 minutes a day to write what you love. You have to make the decision and just do it no matter what, like brushing your teeth. Your children naturally want to do what you are doing. If you have small children, you can have a daily writing party where they make their own books and color them in; that will keep them busy so you can get your 15 minutes in. My girls loved doing that when they were younger. My teens and I did NaNoWriMo last November for school. We had a great time together, that’s how Primordial Sun came about.

Once you have a story that congeals, revise and edit and revise and edit. Find a reader to check it out for you, hire an editor or take advantage of a local writing group or online group to help critique it for you. When you feel ready to submit, research publishers for your genre and follow their guidelines. As an editor, I appreciate writers who submit under our guidelines. It’s just easier all around and shows they respect their work.

Try not to take rejection personally. Keep writing and submitting. Seek help for things you do not understand and partner with other writers who are willing to share.

VS: I couldn’t have said it better myself. As an editor as well, I think it is very important writers do their research before submitting to any publisher. Karen is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?

Karen: You are not alone! I coordinate a homeschool group of parents that I thought I knew fairly well. Imagine my surprise when I mentioned getting published and almost half of the group said they were either working on something or wanted to. Two of them are already published, I had no idea. And several of the children are writing stories. I am so thrilled by this discovery. Some of us are planning to work together to form a small writing group. We will ask some of the older children who don’t write, to care for the younger ones so the mom’s can get in some writing time. You do not have to be a homeschooler to do this, talk to your local librarian. She might like to read to young children for an hour at the library while you and your friends gather to write at a nearby table. There are a lot of possibilities. Also, my boss, Lea Schizas, runs the Muse Online Conference every October. This is ideal for busy moms. It is free and online, no expense and no travel.

VS: I love the Muse Online Conference. I go every year and even present when I have the time to put a workshop together. I think all writers should take advantage of this conference because it’s not only free like you said, but also convenient.

Karen, I want to thank you for taking the time to share with me and my readers about being a writing mama. It has been lots of fun.

Karen: Thank you, Virginia. I wish you continued success and happiness!

To learn more about Karen you can visit her websites:

Blog: http://pandkmcgrath.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667610129&ref=profile

http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Karen-McGrath-Author/128041710541581?ref=ts

Twitter: http://twitter.com/JazzChildBlue

Muse Author Page: http://museituppublishing.com/musepub/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=90&Itemid=82

Muse Online Writer's Conference: http://www.themuseonlinewritersconference.com/

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Call Me Crazy!

After reading some of the comments from today's post I'm thinking I should do a weekly post on how I'm working to lose my weight to help motivate you to join me. (Or help motivated those who don't need to lose but want to get toned.) So starting on Monday, I will not only post my writing prompt, I will also do a post on my weight, my goal weight, and a picture of what I look like now. Let's Get Up and Get Moving Together!

Get Up and Get Moving

Recently I just talked with you all about the “Butt in Chair” theory. As important as it is to sit down everyday to write, you also need to find time to get out of your writing chair. This can be hard to do if you have not only manuscripts to work on, but also, websites, blogs, social site updates, workshops to prepare/do, PR/marketing, etc. However, finding the balance is very important in every writer’s life. This does not mean just finding the time to spend with your children, spouse, friends, or even finding the time to clean your house. You also need to get up and get moving for your health. I would love to tell you the pounds I packed on over the last year were because of my pregnancy. But that would be partly a lie. I had a few extra pounds to lose way before I got pregnant with Sabrina; about 40 to 45 pounds to be exact. My excuse use to be, “Why lose the extra weight when we’re trying to have another baby and I’m going to get fat anyway.” But the truth behind this state really is . . . I was too busy in all my spare time sitting and writing. As great as it was to get all that writing done, I was packing on the pounds along the way. I was also stressing my body out as well, which I did not realize until much later. It is important, as writers, to find time each day not just to write, but also, to relieve stress and get some exercise. Now, I’m not saying join a gym so you can have a six pack. What I am saying is to take along walk outside, do some yard work, take your dog(s) for a walk, do some yoga (in your house with a DVD or join a class), run, walk on a treadmill, but do something. It is not only important for your health and well-being, but for your mental state and creativity. Believe it or not, but sitting in front of a computer, notebook, or whatever you use to write is stressing you out. You might not feel it or notice it, but trust me you are stressed. Your body needs movement and a way to release the stresses of life. Getting exercise is more than being in shape, it is about being stress free. Now days, you will find me walking my neighborhood or walking on my treadmill every day around 5pm. Not just because I want to lose those nasty extra pounds, I have been putting on. I also do it because I feel much more relaxed, stress free, and happy. I feel better about my writing and myself. When I am walking, my mind opens up and my muse comes rushing in. I tend to need my phone close by so I can record all the ideas I get after a nice long walk or good muscle burning run on my treadmill. I’m sure my hubby is also happy to see his wife a bit slimmer, too. So next time you start to feel writer’s block coming on, I want you to think back to this post. Then I want you to think about the last time you got up from your writing chair and did some physical activity. I bet you will be surprised to find out it has been awhile. If it has or if you do not want to wait for writer’s block to take over . . . Then Get Up and Get Moving! You’ll be happy you did.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Article Wednesday: Learn to Achieve Goals You Set

By: TJ Philpott

Far too many people fail to actually achieve goals they have set for themselves. Although reasons vary and circumstances differ the basis for most people's failure often is common one. Setting goals is a process that should be well thought out but it does not stop there. The ability or desire to actually motivate yourself to pursue your goals seems to be a common 'sticking point' for most people. The obstacles that confront most everyone in the successful pursuit of any tangible goals can be narrowed down to three stages. Let's review these stages to see the best way for you to achieve your goals after setting them. Determine 'Your Own' Desires In setting goals for yourself take conscious note that these goals you have elected to pursue are yours. Often times even as adults we find ourselves striving to achieve milestones that others want for us. For instance, the influence of a parent for you to be a doctor or attend their alma mater is a desire of theirs and not yours. This type of influence makes it difficult to realize this is not really yours but one imposed upon you from an influential figure Remember that the best way to achieve your goals is to possess a burning desire to do what it takes in order to reach them. That desire needs to come from within you to supply the necessary passion needed to motivate yourself in order to maintain your pursuit of these goals. Do not expect the wants or desires of others to supply you with the self-motivation you will need to be successful in your pursuits. Your motivation will be its strongest when pursuing YOUR goals and NOT those of others! Be mindful of this! Dreaming is NOT Enough Most goals start as dreams and this is a natural evolution for most anybody. But dreams remain just that until such time as definitive, calculated and measurable action is taken! In order to take action you MUST have a plan. Converting your dreams into a plan or 'roadmap' to guide your pursuit is a very important stage of goal setting. A definitive, calculated and measurable action plan will be needed in order for you to turn your dreams into a reality. This goal setting can and should be done in stages. Each stage or step when completed should bring you that much closer to the results you desire. Actively Pursue Your Goals As we have stated earlier dreams remain just that until action is taken however action is futile without a plan. With a solid plan in place, here is where we actually begin to turn our dream into a reality. This is done by actively completing each step of the plan we carefully have mapped out. If done properly we have set goals that come from our OWN passion and personal desires. This passion should make it easier to motivate yourself to take the necessary action to enact the plan and STICK WITH IT! Unless the proper action is taken all the dreaming and planning that has been done so far is worthless! Your own ability to achieve goals you have set for yourself comes from within. These goals MUST be yours and not someone else's. Furthermore you will need a workable plan that you are motivated enough to pursue in order to realize these goals. By breaking it down into the three stages above should better demonstrate how attainable any goals may be for you, as long as they are realistic and your own.

About The Author

TJ Philpott is an author and Internet entrepreneur based out of North Carolina. For additional money making tips and a free guide that demonstrates how to find both profitable markets and products visit: http://blogbrawn.com

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Butt in Chair Theory: What Does It Mean to Writers?

I think women have a harder time finding time to write vs. men. Maybe I’m wrong, but from my viewpoint I don’t see it. I’m not knocking men and saying they have all the time in the world. I know that is not the case when it comes to their writing. Many male writers have full-time jobs or part-time jobs. So they have to juggle writing around family, work, and a social life. However, most female writers I know not only have jobs outside the home, but a full-time job in the home. So how are we as women supposed to get it all done I ask? There are many ideas out there. Some of which I have shared with you already. But there is one I have not. If you are a writer, chances are you have heard someone at a conference, in a critique group, or some writer get together say, “How I get my writing done is by following the ‘Butt in Chair Theory’. But what does the “But in Chair Theory” really mean. Or better yet, what does it mean to you? Here are what a few fellow women authors on writing boards with me had to say when I posted the question to them in our discussion form: Janet Ann Collins said, “Butt in Chair means we need to sit down and write instead of procrastinating.” Bio: Janet Ann Collins is the author of books for children and used to write feature articles for a newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area, she writes a nostalgia column for the Antique Auction Explorer, and her work has appeared in many other periodicals. She is a retired teacher who lives in the Sierra foothills of Northern California with her husband. www.janetanncollins.com “Applying the ‘Butt to Chair Theory’ is critical for a writer like me with three kids, one husband, a big dog, a very mean cat, a garden, and a full-time job (besides writing). There are many distractions from writing tasks, particularly ones that aren't a lot of fun (like editing). “I make myself sit down everyday and begin with the most urgent item on my to do list (usually an assignment or submission due). Walking around thinking about what to write is great if you have time to think things out, but applying ‘butt to chair’ is the only way to translate all that planning into action. No getting up to throw in a load of laundry, prune the roses, clean up the kitchen, or have a snack. No email, no social networking. “I commit to at least fifteen minutes on the task, which is often enough to get me into a groove and jump start my creative process. Usually, I will look up an hour or two later and be surprised at how much I got done. This approach works since I must split writing time up into several short sessions and can't afford distractions stealing any of those precious minutes,” said Carol Ann Moleti. Bio: Carole Ann Moleti lives in News York City. She writes both fiction and nonfiction with a focus on feminist and political issues, but her first love is science fiction and fantasy because walking through walls is a lot less painful than running into them. http://caroleannmoleti.com or http://caroleannmoleti.blogspot.com Janette Rallison had this to say. “Because it's so easy to fill up my day with the essentials of showering, cleaning, errands, cooking dinner, etc, I've developed a: write first, then do the other stuff attitude. Which is why so often you can find me in my pajamas at 2:00 in the afternoon. But on the bright side, I do have 16 published novels.” "Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To Do List" IRA Young Adults' Choices List 2007 "It's a Mall World After All" IRA Young Adults' Choices List 2008 "How to Take the Ex out of Ex Boyfriend" IRA Young Adults' Choices List 2009 JanetteRallison.com or janette-rallison.blogspot.com “I published my first book when I was in fifth grade, my second book as a senior in high school, and completed my first novel while in college. Many people asked how I found time to write with such a busy schedule. My "Butt in Chair" theory: twenty minutes of writing every day. No matter how jam-packed my day was, I could always find twenty minutes to write -- whether it meant waking up earlier, going to bed later, or skipping my favorite TV show. And those twenty minutes a day really added up. Now that I've graduated college and am making a career as a full-time writer, my twenty minutes has expanded to two hours. But no matter the length of time, the motivation is the same: to be a writer, you must write. Even when you don't feel like writing. As Barbara Kingsolver said, ‘There is no perfect time to write. There's only now.’” Dallas Woodbum emailed me right after my post. Bio: Dallas Woodburn, 22, is the author of two award-winning collections of short stories, a forthcoming novel, and more than 80 articles in publications including Family Circle, Writer's Digest, and The Los Angeles Times. She is also the founder of "Write On! For Literacy," a nonprofit organization that encourages kids and teens to discover confidence, joy, self-expression and connection through reading and writing. Learn more at http://www.writeonbooks.org and http://dallaswoodburn.blogspot.com/ Elysabeth Eldering had this to share. “For me, it is more a mental thing - since I work at home and am on the computer all day listening to doctors, my theory is basically concentrating on getting my lines and clearing out my reserved jobs. Today I have 50 jobs sitting there, some are hand clinic jobs, which aren't too long, and others are my rheumatologist that I work on (in total I have three hand clinic doctors, two of them who have assistants who dictate and one rheumatologist that I am assigned to and some days it is so hard to sit here and work when I have a gazillion things on my mind - like promoting my books, working on my email campaign or upcoming events). So for me, even though physically all day long, my butt is in chair, it's mostly a mental thing - concentrating on the daily grind and putting my other stuff out of mind for more than a few minutes until my regular job is completed (lines met or jobs cleared out).” Bio: Elysabeth Eldering is a traveler from birth. She has traveled with her family due to her father being in the military. She has lived in several states and overseas during her childhood. Ms. Eldering calls South Carolina home these days, with a mindset of "Southern by choice, not by birth." She entered her first writing contest at the age of 41 and took second place for a children's mystery, Train of Clues, which inspired her to take that story and write a series for children with the premise being that each state would be the mystery. Her series has a Jeopardy! (R) like style to it but for guessing the state in the form of a question. Each book concentrates on one state and there are supplemental study guides available which take the series cross curriculum. http://jgdsseries.blogspot.com or http://junior-geography-detective-squad.weebly.com As you can see, they all have very different lives and backgrounds, but one thing they have in common is the love of writing and finding a way to do it. I am not going to tell you I’m a big “Butt in Chair” kinda gal. I tend to get my ideas when away from my writing desk. However, I do have to find the time to sit my butt down for a few minutes a couple times during the day to get my writing done or it would never see the light of day. I guess you could say this is my theory to the saying, “Butt in Chair” However, the person who really helps us writers get the understanding of the “Butt in Chair” theory down and why it is so important is Suzanne Lieurance. I emailed her on what this blog topic was going to be about and here is what she had to say: "Butt in Chair" Advice for Writers By: Suzanne Lieurance I think the "butt in chair" advice was coined by Jane Yolen. To me, she meant that the only way to get something written is to sit down (put your butt in a chair) and write it. You can't just talk about it; you can't keep "planning" to write something. You can't keep waiting for the day when your life is less hectic; the planets are in the proper alignment, or whatever "excuse" you're making for yourself so you don't start writing now. You just have to put your butt in a chair and start, then you have to stay there long enough to get a little writing done. Now...obviously, how do we do that? Well, I've written 22 published books, so over the years, I've learned a few things that work for me. Maybe they'll work for you, too. Tips to Get--and Keep--Your Butt in the Chair 1. The more you know about WHAT you want to write, the easier it will be to write it. At first, the time you spend with your butt in the chair, you should be doing the "prewriting" - the stuff that won't actually end up in your story or article, but its all stuff you need to know in order to write the stuff that WILL end up in your story or article. I find that if I try to start an actual article or story without all this "prewriting" I get stuck early on. Then, if I try to keep going I can't seem to get anywhere, and then procrastination sets in-- BIG TIME. If I do enough prewriting first, though, I don't get stuck (at least not as soon and not as often), so I'm able to keep my butt in the chair longer and I get the writing done. 2. Divide any writing project into smaller projects, so you don't get overwhelmed. Then, all you have to do is keep your butt in the chair for each small project. For example, if I'm working on a novel or a nonfiction book, it can be overwhelming to think of writing an entire book. But, if I set smaller goals for each part of this project, I only have to focus on one part at a time. Eventually, I get the whole book/project completed. The smaller parts of a book project might look like this: a. Interview characters for novel. b. Create an outline for nonfiction book or start creating a story arc for a novel. c. Write opening scene for the novel, or rough in one chapter for a nonfiction book. f. Write just one more scene for the novel or one more chapter of a nonfiction book. 3. Never end a writing day without knowing where to start the next day. If you're working on a novel, don't write everything you know so far and end your writing day there. Stop writing BEFORE you write the next scene that you already have outlined in your head. Save that scene for the next day. It will be much easier to put your butt in the chair the next day if you can sit down and immediately start writing because you already know what you want to write. Many people want to "have written" something. But published authors are the ones who follow the "butt in chair" advice and actually get something written. Good luck! Bio: Suzanne Lieurance is a children's author, freelance writer, and the Working Writer's Coach. Find out more about her Write More, Sell More, Make More Money Than EVER in 2010 Coaching Program and the Children's Writers' Coaching Club if you need additional help following the "butt in chair" advice to reach your publishing goals. Being a full-time mom isn’t easy. Okay, being a parent isn’t easy and trying to write in the middle of it all just adds to the craziness. But if you love to write, you will need to find your “Butt in Chair” theory and why it will work for you. Write it down and post it somewhere you’ll see it. You will be glad you did because you will find your butt in a chair writing what you have been talking and dreaming about writing before you know it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Writing Prompt Monday: Pictures of You

Prompt: A picture is worth more than a blank page. Take out those dusty photo albums. Pick out photo #14. Count however way you like, but make sure you stop at photo #14. Look at the photo for 2-3 minutes. Then for 10 minutes, write all the feelings that photograph made you feel. Don’t censor yourself. Just write.

Finding what fourteenth picture I was going to use was a bit hard. I have stacks of photo albums on my desk right now because my sister and I are putting together a video for our parents’ 25th wedding anniversary. After going through all the albums and of course digital albums on my computer I finally picked the fourteenth picture I would use out of twenty-eight fourteenth pictures. LOL.

While looking at the picture many memories flooded my mind. The first sadness of a young child missing her father and listening to him playing the piano. A sensation of joy overcomes me as I remember when he first saw the father’s day gift my mom and I had gotten him so many years ago. This was before the divorce, which the thought again brings back the sadness so deep in my heart. How I loved hearing my father making up songs for me as a little girl. Hearing him sing songs on love, joy, and just funny little songs to pass the time. My heart is again comforted remembering sitting next to him learning a new cord or him helping me practice my music before piano lessons. Tears slowing stream down my face again from the memory of watching my mother and father playing side-by-side. I can hear them singing together in perfect harmony bring back the memory of the tapes I have tucked away in boxes up in my closet. Then the feelings of grief overcome me when seeing the picture again. There he is in a new home playing on the piano we gave him. A home without my mother or me. The feelings of having to share my father come back to me as anger and jealousy courses through my veins with thoughts of my younger half sister getting to use the piano and not I. Then they are smothered out again by the love and joy my new family gives me. The memories of how my parents have worked to remain friends, how my broken family slowly mended and become a bigger family, with sisters and a brother. How I was able to once again live with my father and stepmother for a time before heading off to college. The love my family gives me everyday because we have moved past the pain. How the piano I gave my father so many years ago still sits in his home, where he plays songs from my past while I sit listening with my younger sisters and brothers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Interview Friday: The Objective

I was thinking today, while out shopping for food, it would be great to have other writing moms and dads share their insights on writing while raising a family. Besides, coming up with new blog ideas weekly and daily is a challenge, so why not share the fun with others. So here is the deal starting next week. I would like to interview fellow writers who have children in the house or did have children in the house while working on a writing project/career. You can either be interviewed by me or do a guest blog about a time when getting an assignment down was a challenge because of your children. I am very open to any suggestions about posts by you here on Fridays. I will only do one person a week so first come first serve. If you are interested in being interviewed or doing a guest, blog post contact me at storiesforchildren@vsgrenier.com. I am really looking forward to getting to know you all better and hear how you have made raising a family and writing work in your life.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Riddle Me This!

They work for Father Time,

But some people hate them

While others love them,

And all writers need them.

What are they?

Do you know the answer? How about taking a guess? No, it is not a clock or timer. Nice try. Nope, if you guessed calendar, oh, you guessed a To-Do List and Schedule. Then you would be totally and completely . . . RIGHT!

One thing I find that works to my advantage is having a To-Do list. It is basically sitting down and looking at all the things I need to do for the day, week, month, and even the whole year. I find having a To- Do list works better for me over a schedule. However, I do have a daily schedule even if I do not keep on track with it all the time.

I am not sure how many of you use both or just one of these to help you as a writer. To be honest, I feel a To-Do list is one of the best tools to help you be a successful writer. If you think about it, you sit down at your desk or open a file on your computer and it shows you all the things you need to get done in order for your manuscript to be mailed out to a publisher or agent. Maybe even both!

To-Do lists break down each thing making the task at hand seem less over-whelming and more manageable. The other thing I love about a To-Do list is if something is not completed the day I had it down, I just move it to the first thing to do the following day and so on. Let’s face it, no matter how hard you try . . . there will always be some kind of work needing to be done. But a To-Do list helps keep is all in perspective. For example, here is what my To-Do list looks like today.

Write blog post about To-Do list and schedules for The Writing Mama.

Link to the SFC blog post “Keeping up with the Neighbors” to all social sites.

Finish uploading SFC back issues to new site.

Get SFC sites ready for upcoming changes and updates.

Now, most of this I have worked on through out my day. Not all of it is done as of yet, but it should be before I head off to bed. However, my daily schedule sometimes does cause a bit of conflict to getting my To-Do list for the day completely done. That is why I have a To-Do list for the week. And here is the reason, my daily schedule:

5:00 am wake up feed Sabrina

7:00 am put Sabrina down for morning nap (You would think this would be a great time to get some writing done, however . . .)

7:15 am get Ashley up and fed.

7:30 am see Dominic off to school, put dog out, and make sure animals are fed

8:00 am get Sabrina and entertain the girls

9:00 am give both girls their bath

9:30 am check emails

10:00 am feed Sabrina

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. My day is booked with taking care of my younger girls while my son, the oldest, is away at school. Thankfully, I do have my hubby here to help a bit. That is until 2:00 pm when he has to get ready for work and is gone until midnight. This is also on a good day. About 1/3 of the time he is gone from noon to midnight. As you can tell, most of what needs to happen at home falls on my shoulders Monday thru Friday. And I still have to find the time to do what I love . . . beyond my family . . . writing!

The one thing to keep in mind about a schedule is it is always changing based on things that need to happen. I look at my schedule kind of how the pirates of the Caribbean look at their Code. “It’s More Like Guidelines.” I don’t think I could have said it better myself.

That is why I have a weekly To-Do list. It will include each thing I want done on a daily basis. I break it up by day based on how much time I know I will have for my writing. Which are normally about three to four things on my weekly list per day. And that means I am really working my butt off to get it all done or the girls are being very cooperative.

The thing I find helpful about my schedule is it helps keep the momentum going so I can reach my writing goals. My To-Do list is my writing goal broken down over manageable time. As much as I hate having to keep a schedule or something close to a schedule, I find if I did not then I would not find the success I do by completing each of my goals as a writer with my To-Do list.

So how do you stay on track with your goals, workload, and time? Do you keep a To-Do list? A calendar? Use a timer so you do not work too long on one thing? I would love to know what works for you.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Article Wednesday: Using Change to Promote Creative Thinking

By: TJ Philpott

Change can be considered an asset that helps promote creative thinking. Life as it is has each of us routinely existing in environments that lack the necessary stimulus to tap into our own creative resources. Consider a picture hanging on the wall in your home. The longer it is there the less it gets notice. After a while, it no longer presents the noticeable change it once did for you and therefore ceases to exist. The same is true for your own thinking process and the creative intelligence contained within. If it is not properly stimulated it will remain dormant. The best way to awaken it is to stimulate it with something new or different. Here are 3 reasons changing your environment will help to stimulate your thinking process and awaken the dormant creative resources within. Work Station Stagnates Your Thinking Let's face it, your workstation is a deliberately contained environment designed to minimize distractions. This also greatly reduces any stimuli that can lead to new ideas. Ironically, by minimizing distractions for the purpose of increasing your productivity this type of work environment actually 'limits' your mind from utilizing its own creative intelligence. If the mind is expected to create new ideas it must be exposed to new things otherwise it will likely remain somewhat dormant. Change of Location Reduces Stress Changing your environment also changes your outlook, which leads to altering the way in which you may think. By maintaining the same surroundings, you can actually experience an increase in the stress you feel. It is natural when sitting at your desk to expect yourself to 'produce' since this is your 'work' station. This results in you unknowingly applying more pressure to yourself. Boredom and depression are also a threat if the situation is not corrected. Any environmental change can 'release' the hold pressure has got on you. This 'breath of fresh air' can re-energize you and completely alter your thinking process. New Environment Triggers New Ideas Less pressure and more stimuli allows your mind to relax and take a new perspective on the way you think. Introducing new surroundings that are less structured can also loosen the reins on a thinking process that has become more regimented. Any change is stimulating especially if the new surroundings are unfamiliar. This will enable you to tap more deeply into your own creative resources. It is quite common for our creative thinking abilities to become stagnated by our own environment. If our surroundings lack stimulation, our thinking process tends to hibernate thereby keeping any creative intelligence buried deep within. The reasons we mentioned above for the importance of change as a stimulus to our creativity serve as a reminder to break the bonds of your routine. To do so expose your mind to the change it needs in order to encourage or promote any new thoughts and ideas.

About The Author

TJ Philpott is an author and Internet entrepreneur based out of North Carolina. To learn more about creating a better environment for creative thinking and to also receive a free instructional manual that teaches valuable niche research techniques simply visit:http://blogbrawn.com

Monday, May 17, 2010

What Will You Be Doing This Summer?

The last weeks of school are right around the corner. Summer is knocking at the door with lazy days and sunny skies. My son could not be happier. Today he announced, “There is only one week and three days left. I cannot wait to sit around all day playing video games, sleeping in, and not taking test.”
If life could only be that easy as his mom. No, I will be spending my summer working on projects I normally do not have the time for during the school months. I think many writers forget summer is not a time for us to take a vacation. Yes, vacations are important, but taking three months off from our writing is not ideal. Summer is the perfect time to maintain, refresh, or jump-start projects. Yes, having all three kids at home does make working a challenge. However, I find this the perfect time for me to work on writing workshop ideas for the New Year. To refresh old workshops I have done for upcoming conferences. Putting together new ideas for school visits, updating old school visit agendas, and researching what other authors do for their school visits. This is also a great time to update my websites. All three of them along with my two blogs and many social sites. It is important to stay on top of your content. You want to keep your marketing face fresh and new looking even if you do not have a new book out. By working over the summer on new ways to make old content new, you keep your foot in the door come the new school year. Think about it . . . most children’s authors do not make their money from selling books. No, most children’s authors make their money from school visits, doing workshops, and speaking engagements. So what are you going to do this summer? Sit around by the pool drinking iced tea or working on some new content to keep your marketing face fresh?

Writing Prompt Monday: The Challenge

The idea is too basically express yourself on paper, learn how to use your five senses, or build upon an idea. Think back to when you were in school, it used to only take your teacher saying, “Write a paragraph or one page composition on any subject you want.” This was all it used to take to get those creative juices flowing, but what about now?

If you are like me and most writers I know, you have most likely experience the dreaded word “Writer’s Block” from time to time. Getting past this wide-eyed, blank page stare can be hard, and the flashing cursor does not help matters. What is a writer to do? Well it does not matter if you are a New York Best-selling author or an aspiring author, we all need a little creative boost from time to time and that is where my Writing Prompt Monday comes in.

In my search for a writing prompt for this week, I came across a great site called Creative Writing Prompts. They have over 300 writing prompts to get your creative juices flowing. Most writers like to do a writing prompt every day before they set to work. I don’t really have the time with kids in the house. Nor do I find myself out of ideas on a daily bases. However, I do like to do a writing prompt once a week just to get my mind working for the tasks and goals I set in the upcoming days. So what is my challenge? To write something every week using Creative Writing Prompts. This means I will be writing something for 346 Mondays from their prompts alone. Can I do it? I do not know, but I am sure going to try and who knows . . . maybe a few great story ideas will come of it or articles.

But before I get started on this Monday’s writing prompt I want to share with you why writing prompts are so important to a writer.

Writing prompts are a great way to get your mind focus before working on your writing projects. They are also a great way for aspiring writers to come up with story, article, poem, or blogging ideas. When using writing prompts you do not always have to use the exact statement, scene, or suggestion. The idea behind writing prompts is to get the wheels turning in your mind, to get your fingers flexible for those long hours of typing, and to just have a bit of fun so “Writer’s Block” does not set in.

When doing writing prompts, you should not worry about brushing up on your grammar, spelling, punctuation, or anything else you will find in textbooks about writing. This is a time for you to just sit and write whatever comes to mind because of the prompt.

So let’s get started, this weeks writing prompt from Creative Writing Prompts: Close your eyes briefly. Think of one object that’s in the room and focus on it. Without opening your eyes, recall as much detail as you can about it. After 3 minutes or so, open your eyes and write about that objects without looking at it.

Note: You are welcome to post your writings here in the comments section. Please keep them to 750 words max if you do.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jotting Down This and That

The other day I was reading through my Twitter posts and came across a posting about one of the people I follow forgetting what blog post idea she had earlier that day. In her tweet, she said a comic strip gave her this really great idea. Problem was she could not remember which comic and what idea.

I am sure you all have experienced this same thing. If not . . . boy are you lucky.

After reading this tweet, my mind-starting coming up with this blog post about jotting down notes, ideas, and parts of stories. However, I did not write these ideas down. Nope. By the time I was ready with my word file up, Ashley needed me. Of course she did and if it wasn’t her . . . I’m sure it would have been Sabrina.

One thing I have learned being a writing mama is you never have the time or right moment to jot down the things going through you head; especially if it has to do with your writing. Okay, maybe this only happens to me, but I highly doubt it.

By the time I did sit down to start writing this blog idea, hours had gone by. No, actually almost two whole days had gone by. I know what you are thinking, “Wow. She has a great memory.” Wrong again! But I am not going to tell you what I did just yet to remember what I wanted to say in this blog. First, I’m going to share a few ideas about how others remember what their muse is wanting to share with the world.

I read once many years ago author Anne Rice would write her story ideas, scenes, etc on her bedroom walls. No joke. I really wish I could remember where I read this, but I don’t. See bad memory. Anyway, the article or interview talked about how many of Anne’s stories came to her in her sleep, but instead of writing things down in a notebook . . . she would write on her walls.

As much as this idea appeals to my inner child, I am sure my hubby would not be too happy seeing our bedroom walls covered in my thoughts, ideas, scenes, and dialog between my characters. Of course, if I was a New York Best-selling author . . . he might not say anything. I’ll have to let you know once that happens.

But for those of you who are like me and think maybe the walls of the house are not the best place for writing ideas, you can follow in the footsteps of fellow author Claudette Hegel. She once told me during Back-to-School month how she likes to stock up on all her writing supplies. One of her favorite items is . . . you guest it . . . spiral notebooks. She is able to buy dozens for very little money at this time of year and has an endless supply for her thoughts, notes, ideas, and what not through the year.

I know not all writers are fond of the notebook idea. They can be troublesome to carry around all the time for the just in case moment. Heck, half the time I can’t remember where I put some of my ideas for a story in the darn thing. However, I do use notebooks for some of my writing, but not all of it; and no, I do not write on my office walls either. Plus, you cannot carry walls around with you to write on like Anne Rice either.

One option over the notebook or writing on the walls is the sticky note. A couple of author friends of mine love this system for their ideas. But personally, I would be afraid I would lose one or one of my kids might find it to be the perfect piece of paper for their artwork. I have already seen my computer paper become works of art before my eyes one too many times.

What I find works best for me is voice recordings. I not only have the option of recording repeatedly my ideas, but I do not have to worry about my kids turning my notes into works of art. The other thing I find great about voice recordings is I can record anywhere and at anytime.

I don’t know about you, but most of my ideas come to me when I’m in the shower, feeding Sabrina, giving Ashley a bath, making dinner, or driving in the car to name a few. Places you just cannot stop and write down what is going through your head.

If you do not have a voice recorder, think again. I use my phone. It has a voice recorder built right in to its features. I am pretty sure yours does too. And another thing to keep in mind is if you like to do interviews for your writing; you don’t have to worry about taking notes on what the person is saying anymore. Just pop out your phone, find the voice recorder feature, and hit start. Now you can just chat during that interview and write it all down later when you have the time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Reflections of Mother’s Day

I hope all you writing mamas had a wonderful Mother’s Day. I wish I could share with all of you some wonderful moments from this Mother’s Day, but I cannot. What I thought was going to be a wonderful day ended up in complete disaster.

I guess the first sign it was going to be one of those days was when the girls starting waking up about every couple of hours. If it wasn’t Sabrina whimpering (our new baby) it was our five-year-old, Ashley crying out because of growing pains in her legs. To top it all off, Sabrina decided getting up at 6:00 am was a great idea and not going back to sleep until noon.

But I did not let the sleepless night get to me. No, I just pushed forward and started my day at 6:00 am. After getting the whole family up and out the door, we headed to a church meeting. I was really looking forward to the speakers and hearing some music to lift my spirits. However, I was met with total resentences from our fourteen-year-old son. On any other day, I would have chalked it up to him just being a teen, but for some reason I was shocked. Maybe because it was Mother’s Day and after all I did bring him into this world. But that did not stop him from pointing out all my faults as a mother while the speakers read poems and talks about why mothers are wonderful.

You can imagine how I must have been feeling. I felt I had let my children down. My writing was effecting how they saw me. But then my five-year-old put her hand on mine and said, “Mommy, I love you. You’re the best mommy ever. Don’t be sad. I want you to be happy.” I could feel the tears sting my eyes wanting to pour out. I looked down at my little baby and all I saw was total trust and love.

I again felt good about my choices until my hubby was about to drag our son out of the building for acting up. I, being the wonderful mom I thought I was, tried to calm both of them down. Which only led to my hubby pointing out, “Now our son thinks he can get away with acting like a real jerk in public because you’re afraid of me causing a scene by dragging him out.” I again felt like the worst mom and now wife.

The thing is . . . even though my Mother’s Day did not turn out the way I wanted it to; I know have a great scene in which I can use in a book. So I may not always be the best mom. But if I was, I would not have any material to use in my writings either. I guess you can say my fourteen-year-old without knowing it still gave me a Mother’s Day present . . . even if it was not the one I was looking for.

Looking back on yesterday I realized I still have a lot to learn about being a writing mama. Finding the balance is not always easy. My son only reminded me of that. I worked most of his young life and now as a teen he does not understand I am trying to make up for all the lost time. It’s nice to be home raising my children and doing what I love . . . writing, but my kids don’t always see it that way. Sometimes the muse strikes and I want to sit down and write, but my five-year-old decides it is time for me to play Candyland with her instead. Or maybe my son needs help with his science project. And now, I have a new baby who is also cutting into their time.

The other thing I realized is sometimes I am not always patient. I tend to blow a fuse when I don’t get done the things I wanted. The thing I need to remember is my work will always be there waiting for me, but my children will not. One day they will be adults, grown-up and out in the world. The reality is my son will be heading out to college in four years. My daughters won’t be far behind. Gone will be the days their little hands will wrap around mine and they will say, “Mommy, I love you. You’re the best mommy ever. Don’t be sad. I want you to be happy.”

Writing Prompt: Back from the Future

A knock at the door catches you off-guard. Upon answering it, you're greeted by a man who says he's from the future—and he can prove it. More important, he says he has information that will save your life. Rules: Anyone can post a piece (850 words or fewer) here in the comments section. I will post my piece here as well. All responses must be posted by midnight on Sunday, May 16th MST. Note: This writing prompt comes from Writer's Digest

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Little R-n-R

There is nothing like a bit of peace and quiet to focus on your writing. After a busy day of grocery shopping, picking up the house, and getting my hair cut . . . I never thought I would find the time to sit down today at my computer. But I did get the time and I am happy to say I just finished putting together the 41st issue of SFC Newsletter for Writers. It is hard to believe this little newsletter (voted one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writer’s Digest 2009) is going into its fourth year of publication. SFC Newsletter for Writers (http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/SFCNewsletterforWriters.aspx) is the first publication I started after taking my writing course at The Institute of Children’s Literature (ICL) in 2005. From there I started Stories for Children Magazine (http://storiesforchildrenmagazine.org) and finally the parent company Stories for Children Publishing, LLC. Besides this blog, SFC Newsletter for Writers is also helping me get back into the swing of writing. Even though it is only monthly; sitting down, writing, and editing my newsletter helps get my mind back on track in the writing world. I don’t always write the articles inside, but I do have to write my little opening and do research on the articles I publish, which are all tips for writers. This month I found some of them very motivating and helpful in getting myself back in the writing chair. However, with little ones running around, I do find it hard to hold on to my muse. That’s what brings me back to my title of this blog post, A Little R-n-R. As a writing mama, it’s not only about finding time to sit down and write. It is also about having the right mood in which to write. Every writer has a different way to find their muse, but I’m sure it’s not having your fourteen year old and five year old fighting over the TV. Or having your newborn crying because it is time to eat. So how do you find the right setting and mood to get your muse to come out? Well that all depends on your circumstance. I am lucky enough to have family living close by. There is nothing better in this world to children than Grandma and Grandpa. I find if I need a little down time, picking up the phone and calling my mom to have the kids spend the night is just the answer. However, you may not have that luxury. So what are you to do? Maybe get hubby to take the kids out for some ice cream or go see a movie. If you have some close friends with children around the same age as yours, maybe they will be willing to take them for an hour or two. Of course, if you have a new baby like me, you will not be able to send them off. But that does not mean naptime or an hour after they go down to bed you should not set the right mood for your muse to come out. Trust me when I say it is hard choosing between catching some Zzzzz’s or writing when only Sabrina is home with me, but I find I sleep much better if I get in a few minutes or hour of writing time. If I don’t, then my dreams become a story fighting to get out of my mind. Waking me up with images and ideas wanting to be expressed on the page. I tend to toss and turn, fighting my muse to catch those Zzzz’s . . . when I know just writing down a few lines, paragraphs will only help me sleep easier. So tonight, my muse won. I sent the two oldest off to my mother’s house. Sabrina is down for the night and here I am writing. Enjoying the quiet sounds of the night. Getting my newsletter ready for editing and sharing with you my thoughts and progress. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but for now, my muse is ready to share what it has been dreaming about while I’ve been busy being a mom.