Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye to 2008...

The clock has run out. I'm three days short of my 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge, and the days in 2008 are, well, gone. Although I may not have won the challenge, I did accomplish my goal, which was to get myself blogging more this month. Why I picked the month of December is beyond me! What a crazy time to start blogging more consistently!
What really did me in was celebrating my wedding anniversary on the 28th and 29th. Who wants to blog when you're away with your husband on an overnight trip, shopping, seeing movies, and eating delicious food at great restaurants? I couldn't very well pull out my laptop and say, "Excuse me, honey, but I just have to write a blog entry in middle of our romantic getaway." Well, I could have, but it might not have stayed a romantic getaway for very long. So, if there's one lesson I've learned through all this, it's that blogging about life is not more important than life (and the people with which you share that life). And that lesson, my friends, is worth more than all the blog entries I could ever write.

May this New Year be filled with many blessings and many more exciting chapters in this book we call life.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Too Much Blogging?

I'm now eight entries into the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge. With only four days left (after today) in 2008, I'm right on the edge. If I don't blog every day from here on out, I lose my own challenge! Stay tuned to see if I can pull it off....

Too Much Blogging = Tumor

Friday, December 26, 2008

Top 10 New Year's Resolutions for Writers

This time of year my thoughts always turn to what I did (or didn't) accomplish in the last year, and how, with a fresh start ahead, I can be more productive in the New Year. While I was pondering my New Year's writing resolutions, I found this great article that sums it up perfectly! If I only get to #1, I'll be doing great! May this New Year hold many opportunities for the writer in you.

Top 10 New Year's Resolutions For Writers
By Joanna Penn

1. Write more. Find the time to invest in your writing. There is a myth of creativity that you need the perfect time and space to create perfect words. But you write about real life, so find time in your real life to write. "Write at the edges of the day" - Toni Morrison, author of "Beloved"

2. Finish the project. One finished book is worth more than 20 just started ones. Make an effort to finish the project this year, whether it is a book, an article, a story for the kids. Complete the project and then sit back and be proud of what you have accomplished.

3. Create an online presence as an author. You have to have a presence on the internet now so that people can find you and your work. You can have a static one page website, or a daily blog, or an author page on Amazon, or a Squidoo lens. The list is endless, but you need something. Learn how you can do this and get it done.

4. Take a course and improve your writing. Kaizen is continuous improvement and this is as important in your writing as it is in the rest of your life. Learning the craft never stops, so take time out to improve your writing skills. Take a course, read a book, or get a mentor.

5. Get out of your comfort zone and try a different form of writing. Have you been cruising along in your genre for too long? If you are a fiction writer, try writing a "How To" article. If you write technical non-fiction, try poetry or dialogue. Do something that scares you in a literary sense. You never know what you'll find!

6. Use your book to create multiple streams of income. A print book is not the way to become a millionaire. Take the time this year to create other streams of income from your book. Record it as an audio and sell it as mp3 files for the iPod. Create a PDF and sell it as an ebook online. Submit it to Kindle and sell as an ebook on Oprah's favourite ebook reader. Break it down into chunks and sell it as an eclass, or as a workbook. Create a spin off book and upsell people so they buy 2 products. Present it as a course and record it on video so you can sell it as a DVD.

7. Connect with other authors and find your community. Web 2.0 is all about social networking and there are multiple sites where you can find people to network with, as well as market to. Try the biggest sites like Facebook and mySpace first, and then branch out into GoodReads, Authors Den, LibraryThing and Squidoo. There are also lots of smaller networking sites at

8. Learn about Publishing 2.0 new technologies and expand your education about writing. If you don't read blogs about writing and you don't use RSS, you need to educate yourself. The internet is packed with information that can help you develop your skills and sell more books, but you need to stay up to speed. Learn how to use Google Reader and start subscribing to interesting blogs.

9. Market your books and yourself as an author. Web 2.0 sites and an internet presence is one way to get started, but you need a continued effort to market your books and yourself as an author. Make a marketing plan early on and stick to it. Include goals such as: Submit an article a month to EzineArticles, Post comments on the top blog in my genre with linkbacks to my website, Spend 1 hour per week surfing blogs and the internet for information about my genre.

10. Enjoy the journey, not just the end result. Remember that writing never stops, neither does marketing nor sales. Don't get carried away with being focussed on making X amount of sales. Remember to look out the window, go for a walk, hug your partner and read trashy fiction for fun in the hammock on a Sunday afternoon. The journey is why we do it, not the end result.

Joanna Penn is Director of The Creative Penn - Writing, self-publishing, print-on-demand, internet sales and marketing...for your book.

Get your FREE e-workbook on becoming an author from:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Frosty the Snowman's Top 6 Writing Tips

I found this gem over on Darcy Pattison's blog, and I just had to share it! Apparently we writers have a lot to learn from Frosty. This is absolutely ingenious!

Frosty the Snowman's Top 6 Writing Tips:

1. Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul,
With a corncob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal.
Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say,
He was made of snow

Extended character descriptions. Don’t be afraid to take time to describe the main character. One the continuum of character descriptions, this one is longer than you’ll find in most children’s picturebooks. But it works because this is a character story.

2. but the children
Know how he came to life one day.
There must have been some magic in that
Old silk hat they found.
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around.

Point of view. Notice the point of view here. The attention is squarely on Frosty, not on the children who found the old silk hat. When you write a story for kids, you don’t always have to put the child as the main character.

3. O, Frosty the snowman
Was alive as he could be,
And the children say he could laugh
And play just the same as you and me.
Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.

Language play. This section doesn’t add much to the plot, it’s just pure language play. But this is perfect for the younger audiences, who know that playing around with language is half the fun of reading a story or singing a song. Great onomatopoeia.

4. Frosty the snowman knew
The sun was hot that day,
So he said, “Let’s run and
We’ll have some fun
Now before I melt away.”

Conflict. Every good story needs conflict. And the character’s attitude in the face, well, in the face of certain death, is evident. It’s an attitude of taking joy where you find it and facing the future with courage.

5. Down to the village,
With a broomstick in his hand,
Running here and there all
Around the square saying,
Catch me if you can.
He led them down the streets of town
Right to the traffic cop.
And he only paused a moment when
He heard him holler “Stop!”
For Frosty the snow man
Had to hurry on his way,

Development of the conflict. The traffic cop provides an extra bump of conflict that adds to the story’s development. For picturebooks, it doesn’t have to be much; in fact, it can’t be huge, or you’re writing a novel. This is perfect, just the introduction of an authority figure who yells, “Stop!” but can’t really do anything to stop the breakneck speed of Frosty’s life.

6. But he waved goodbye saying,
“Don’t you cry,
I’ll be back again some day.”
Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Look at Frosty go.
Thumpetty thump thump,
Thumpety thump thump,
Over the hills of snow.

Hope. Children’s stories may end in tragedy, but the best offer a spot of hope. Notice also the nice repetition of the language play that sends the story off with a nice echo.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Birth Announcement

I received a wonderful package in the mail the other day. It wasn't an early Christmas present or a fruit basket, but it was the best kind of present a writer can receive. The package held six copies of an activity book that I had written earlier this year for Warner Press. The finished product! No matter how many times you've received a package like this in the mail or have seen your work in print, the thrill doesn't seem to diminish. Each time is just as exciting as the last. Like giving birth to a second or third child (except a little less painful!), you know what to expect, but you still feel the excitement and thrill of seeing your baby for the first time. I've seen my "babies" in the pages of newspapers, magazines, on greeting card and calendar racks, in Christian bookstore gift departments, and activity book shelves, but never yet in the picture book or novel section of a bookstore. That is my next goal. But, unlike real babies, the process is taking a lot longer than 9 months. Patience is a virtue.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Best Books of '08

When the editors of School Library Journal make a list of the Best Children's Books of 2008, writers--and readers--listen. This isn't just any old magazine, but THE world's largest reviewer of books for young readers.

Here's just a peek at a few of the books they chose -- I plan on checking out some of the ones I haven't already read over Christmas break:


Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury

Mail Harry to the Moon! by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley


Wild Tracks! A Guide to Nature’s Footprints by Jim Arnosky

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson


The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson

My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath

Keeping the Night Watch by Hope Anita Smith

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmastime is here...

Whoa! Where is the month of December going? We're already almost halfway through the month, and in 5 minutes it will be only 10 days until Christmas! I'm not ready! We haven't even watched A Charlie Brown Christmas yet! Can someone please slow things down a bit?

We did do some fun "Christmasy" things this weekend, though. On Friday night, we went to see A Christmas Carol at Madison Park Church of God. This is the first time we've been to see the show, and we were pleasantly surprised! The music, acting, set and costumes were very impressive. On Saturday night, we attended the Anderson Symphony Orchestra's Christmas Concert featuring jazz pianist Lori Mechem. What a great concert! It definitely put us in the mood for Christmas!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Top 10 Gifts for Writers

1. A new laptop. (Santa, please take note.)
2. A digital recorder for interviews. (Not necessary if #3 is purchased)
3. A Livescribe pen that records interviews and transcribes them for you when you download them to your new laptop. (See #1)
4. An idea that publishers can't say "no" to. (Good Luck!)
5. Gift cards for Panera Bread, Starbucks, or other coffee shop hangouts that play jazz and provide great ambiance for writing.
6. Homemade gift certificates for TIME to write. (Especially priceless to a mother of three.)
7. An iPod nano to play cool music that will inspire creativity.
8. An all-expense paid trip to the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles.
9. A beautiful new journal.
10. A good book to read while you're waiting for your muse to kick in.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge

Because I have been so completely delinquent when it comes to blogging on a consistent basis, I am giving myself a "12 Days of Christmas" blogging challenge for the month of December. The challenge is simple: I must blog at least 12 days this month. Anything less, and I'm a loser (OK, no comments on that one, please). Anyone else out there who would like to follow suit is more than welcome to join in the festivities.

I'm back at my old haunt--Panera Bread--tonight for a rare Internet surfing and blogging evening. I used to come here quite regularly to get out of the house and find some peace and quiet (and a bagel or bowl of soup, of course) while I worked on freelance projects. But there's one thing that's missing from the picture of those days gone by -- the freelance projects (I'd even settle for a singular "project" right now). Not that I have been pounding the pavement in search of projects, mind you, but I do fondly remember the day when the projects used to come to me. It was heavenly. Now, I sit staring at my inbox waiting for an e-mail from one of my contacts who's ready to assign a lucrative project. My eyes are getting tired.

Day 1 of the 12 Days of Christmas Blogging Challenge has been completed. Keep in mind, I never said that these had to consecutive days. Just 12 days during the month of December. Stay tuned for Days 2 through 12...