An Out of Town Visit

This past Friday I had my first major out-of-town school visit. My destination? The Genevieve Didion K-8 School in Sacramento. I had so much fun. The parents, teachers, and staff were wonderful, and the students were very attentive and asked great questions.

I gave three presentations by grades: K – 2nd, 3rd – 5th, and 6th – 8th. My first two presentations discussed the historical aspects of the Declaration of Independence. I had a whole new PowerPoint presentation that I had designed just for this visit, and it was fun showing the kids some of the differences between 2011 and 1776.

My last presentation was about the writing journey. I discussed my writing career briefly, then went on to talk about how my book was published, from idea to final publication. The kids had lots of questions about the writing process, and I was also able to share from personal experience how crucial it was to make sure your work is error free.

After my presentations, I was taken to the library where a small luncheon had been prepared in my honor. Sandwiches, salads, snacks, and sweets were spread out for me and the teachers, parents, and staff to enjoy. Later, I was driven back to the airport, where I flew home.

It was a long day for me, but a very enjoyable one. Thanks to everyone at the Genevieve Didion School for their superb hospitality and a truly amazing day!

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.