Improving As You Go

The past few days have been a flurry of activity. I was a participant for Literacy Day at  Hidden Trails Elementary School in Chino Hills on Friday, attended the Family Festival of Books in Chino on Sunday where I shared a table with friend and fellow writer Nancy Sanders, and on Monday I gave a short presentation to three different groups of children at Buena Vista Arts-Integrated Magnet School in Montclair. Each event was unique, but educational.

As a writer it is necessary to make appearances to help promote your book, encourage literacy (you want to keep people reading so you can keep writing), and discuss writing as a career. Although each presentation and/or event will be different, I try to be adaptable as well as teachable in the situations I find myself in. I try to take away a tip or tidbit or lesson so that my next appearance or presentation is that much better.

It’s fun to interact with the kids, and it’s great when you talk to teachers and principals who can offer constructive helps to make your interactions more vibrant and relate-able. Improving as you go not only helps you as a presenter, but it makes your visits more memorable to young potential readers.


I’m learning to juggle. Oh, I’m not picking up oranges or circus clubs and trying to alternate 3 of them in the air. I’ve never been able to do that. But I am trying to juggle my writing with research.

It’s not easy. I’m in the midst of some really in-depth studying for a manuscript I will write next month, but I don’t want to burn out because of the intensity of my subject. Then I need to keep on top of some writing projects, but I want to make use of every opportunity to read my research books (you should see the stack I want to go through).

The important thing is to prioritize. Right now my main priority is to find as much information on my topic so I can begin writing the manuscript next month. I found that if I give myself so many hours a day to read, then I can put the books aside without guilt and spend some time writing later in the day. Although it’s not a perfect plan (life has a way of throwing curve balls into any schedule), it’s been working so far. I expect to be finished researching in time.

Juggling takes time to master; but just think of all that can be accomplished once you learn!



A New Year, A New Set of Goals

It’s important as writers to keep setting new goals. They don’t have to be radically diverse like writing your memoirs in a month or memorizing the newest writer’s style manual. But they should be productive to your writing career, like trying to increase your writing time ten minutes each week, or sending out 5 more queries each month.

As dedicated writers, we should be finishing what we start and reworking where we are going. We need to set our sights for the horizon, but once we move forward, we need to reset our focus because the area we have covered has shifted and changed, and there is a new horizon in view.

As we begin this new year, let us seriously look at our writing to see what we have accomplished and determine where we would like to be. There are some great avenues ahead. Where are you going in 2011?

Group Signing

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of being part of Educator Appreciation Week at Borders Books in Yorba Linda, California where I was part of a group book signing. I sat alongside three other first time authors, Suzanne Santillan, Dina Lombardi, and Meagan Barnes.

I had never participated in a group signing before, but I had a great time. It was fun sharing our road-to-publication stories, especially since all of us had unique ones to share. I also enjoyed the conversations since it is sometimes awkward sitting by yourself in a normal solitary signing; but here we talked about all sorts of writing related topics: publishing opportunities, marketing techniques, presentation tips, school visits, blogs, critique groups, etc. It made the time fly by.

Special thanks to Jamie and Kelli of Borders Books for the opportunity. And thanks to Suzanne, Dina, and Meagan for a great afternoon!



Heat Wave

Summer’s supposed to be over, yet we are experiencing an unprecedented heat wave in Southern California with recorded breaking temps and high humidity. We don’t have central air; just ceiling fans and one wall unit air conditioner that we only turn on in the evenings to hopefully cool down the house. This oppressive weather is not conducive to my writing. But with two deadlines looming just two weeks away, I need to make myself work.

I’m normally a morning person anyway, so I find it easy to write first thing when the temps are cool. When the temps start to rise, I try to read some research materials or surf the net. Then, when it becomes too unbearable, I don’t write at all.

I’ll be glad when this heat wave is over. I need to begin planning new projects and to send out some more submissions. In the meantime, ice tea anyone?

To What Degree?

There are many potential writers out there, and published writers, too, for that matter, who feel you must have a degree in English or English Literature in order to become a writer. I wholeheartedly disagree. My own background is in film, where I graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Cinema. Other writers I know studied a variety of different subjects in college or didn’t graduate at all. Even some very famous authors studied medicine or anthropology or science.

Why the emphasis on the degree in English? Perhaps because some people feel that you must have a command of the English language in order to write. There is some truth to that, but that doesn’t mean you have to be degreed in that subject. If you lack good grammar, take some classes to improve your skills. But a naturally gifted storyteller will know how to string words and sentences and paragraphs together to make a coherent story from beginning to end. The classes will hone your skills, but you must have those God-given gifts inside in the first place for you to work with.

So if you want to be a writer, but don’t have a degree in English with an emphasis on writing, don’t worry. Study those things that interest you, take a few classes to sharpen your writing skills, then write about things you know and love.

Routine Time

My kids started back to school this week. They all have new routines to get used to. Instead of sleeping in, they have to get up early. During the school day, they have to get used to different classes and different teachers. Instead of having leisure afternoons, they have homework. Drop off and pick up times have changed. It’s zoom here and zoom there.

My own routine has changed as well. Not only am I back in the driver seat as head chauffeur to the various school we have to go to, but I have to get back to fitting all my errands into the early morning hours so I can have time to write before my chauffeuring time starts all over again in the afternoon.

It’s nice to be able to sit and write without the extra noise and distractions. Yes, I love it when my kids are around, but I do enjoy the quiet moments when I can let the creative juices flow nonstop.

It’s good to get back into a routine. Sometimes we need that bit of organization to force us to get certain things done. Maybe in a few days my kids will be thinking that, too.

Working Around Summer Deadlines

With my kids home for the summer, and my deadlines still looming, I’ve been trying to juggle between being an attentive mother and a serious writer. It’s  not easy. I don’t want to miss time with my children while they’re home, and I don’t want to blow my reputation of keeping ahead of my deadlines by falling behind, especially since these are paid opportunities. So what do I do?

First, I try to work when the kids are busy. When they’re watching a favorite TV show, or playing one of their video games, or even playing outside, I can work on a rewrite or jot notes for a story. Then I look for opportunities when we have appointments. All my kids had dental appointments this summer, so that added up to 30 minutes of work per child. That could be a whole story, or at least a good outline. Finally, my kids love sleeping in. I love getting up early. That gives me precious minutes where I can research or write.

Of course, there are times when I need to work while they’re not busy. I’m blessed with pretty understanding kids, so as long as I devote some time throughout my day to them, they are a bit forgiving with an hour or two (or sometimes three) where they know I must get something down on paper (a.k.a. word-processor).

When summer comes to a close, I will note all those deadlines I was able to make (ahead of time!) while still spending valuable and quality time with my kids. It just takes creativity in making those spare minutes work.

Mental Notes

My family took a day trip to the beach the other day.  I had intended to do some writing while I sat and relaxed, but I ended up looking, listening, and observing everything. The day was unexpectedly cold and cloudy. The sand was smooth in some areas, grainy in others.  The waves boomed and crashed and hissed, kicking up handfuls of mist as they collided into each other. As the waves grew in intensity, the surge sometimes reached out and swept over sand castles and beach chairs. There were people of all ages, wearing a variety of clothes, with some speaking German or Dutch. All of them seemed to enjoy their time, making the best of the weather and the ominous surf.

Sometimes I think we need to just watch. We need to capture images in our heads so we can draw more vivid word pictures when we write. I’m glad I just didn’t sit and write. I’m glad I took mental notes so I can use them for another day. I already have some ideas in mind.

Finding Answers; Sharing Solutions

Research is vital to any good article, especially one that needs to be substantiated with accurate information. I just finished my research for a story that is due next week. Although I haven’t stopped to add up the number of resources I’ve used as of yet (I will very soon to type up my bibliography), I did refer to many books, articles, and websites.

I really enjoy researching. I guess it’s that hidden detective in me, always pursuing those little clues that will lead to the ultimate solution. And now with the internet, I can visit locations and gather data that I would normally have had to travel many miles to acquire.

Yes, research is fun. But now comes the most challenging part: taking ALL that information and transforming it into an interesting, yet concise story that educates and entertains my young readers. I guess this is why I like writing: I can fulfill that urge to find the answers to my many questions, and then I can turn around and share that knowledge with others. What a wonderful job I have!