Friday, December 30, 2011

A Writer's Goals

Well, the year is just about over. Time to set new goals as a writer. I seem to have the same goals every year: write and read more, submit manuscripts to publishers, nurture myself as a writer, attend at least one writer’s conference or workshop, value my writer friends, keep the hope up. Of course, I don’t always get all of these done. Each year seems to go by faster than the last one.

The above is what I wrote a couple of years ago, but it still applies. I went over my journal to see if I had really read as much as I had hoped to in 2011. I could have done better, but, oh, well. Some of the books I read were: Moon Over Manifest, Writing as a Sacred Path, Olive’s Ocean, Between Us Baxters, Noah’s Compass, Climbing the Stairs, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, The Help, The Water Seekers, Turtle in Paradise, Between Shades of Gray, Three Quarters Dead, Under the Mesquite, and There is no long distance now: very short stories by Naomi Shihab Nye. Add one more, a nonfiction book which I just read last night: Frances Hodgson Burnett: Beyond the Secret Garden by Angelica Shirley Carpenter and Jean Shirley.

This past year was a pretty good one for me as a writer. I feel truly blessed. I got three book contracts for picture books and McGraw Hill bought subsidiary rights for one of my books. I also was a recipient of the SCBWI/ award for a work-in-progress piece. I hope 2012 will be a great year as well. I wish you a year of inspiration and great writing.

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island … and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.” – Walt Disney

Friday, December 23, 2011

Writers' Retreat

I’ve been reminiscing about a writers' retreat I attended a few years ago in Pennsylvania. It was during this time of year that I had that wonderful experience. During the past few days, I have received emails from across the country from some of my fellow writers who attended the same retreat. We have so many fond memories of our time together in those beautiful, rustic cabins. 

From my journal on one of those days, I wrote: Arrived a little while ago from the Scranton airport. It is cold here, but the sun is out. Remnants of powdered snow linger in patches on the ground and on nearby rocks. I have been assigned to one of the cabins, which is nestled in a wooded area surrounded by tall trees. There’s a tiny porch with a rocking chair. There’s also a pathway that leads down into the woods. 

The Cabins

The leaveless trees stand tall and firm and let the sun filter through. Some dry orange leaves still cling stubbornly to some trees as if not wanting to yield to the coming winter cold. My little cabin creaks as the strong wind pounds the walls. 

The other writers and I are to meet with the editors in the “big house” down the hill. That house is quaint and charming. Across the street is a creek. We shall workshop our manuscripts then. Looking forward to it. 

The Creek

I wish you abundant blessings and happy writing in the coming year. I hope that you too will someday attend a writer’s retreat that will leave you with wonderful memories.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Picture Books

For those of you who write and/or illustrate children’s picture books, here’s an interesting article on the blog from an illustrator’s perspective. Guest blogger, Mélanie Watt, award-winning author/illustrator, writes about the techniques, styles, swing moods and facial expressions she uses for the characters in her books. In her fascinating piece, “From Crayons to Computer-Generated Art,” she writes about how she got started with an art project and a “teacher who sent her mockup to a publisher.” For both illustrators and writers, I believe this is an inspiring article of one author/illustrator’s journey into the world of picture books.  

San Antonio River Walk
Happy Holidays!
“Possibly the greatest role a book can play in the lives of young readers is to assure them that they aren’t alone.” – Richard Peck

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writing Goals

One of the things I look forward to during the holidays is getting together with family for our annual Cookie Exchange Party. We take turns hosting the party each year. At the gathering, we listen to Christmas music, catch up on the latest in family news, eat delightful snacks, and then start the “ritual” of the cookie exchange. The cookie containers get fancier and fancier each year.  Some are so beautifully wrapped, you hate to even open and disturb the elaborate decorations that you know have been created with a lot of love. Over the holidays, I share the dozens of cookies (all different varieties) with neighbors and friends. It’s a tradition I have enjoyed with my family for many, many years now. Do you have a special tradition you treasure during the holidays?

And it’s not too soon to start setting some writing goals for the coming year. In Jody Calkins’ article, “Breaking Down Your Writing Goals and Setting Doable Tasks,” on the Institute of Children’s Literature blog, the key word here is “doable.”  She writes that writing goals down is easy, but achieving them is another thing. (I can vouch for that). In this article, she comes up with a “a different approach to defining your goals.” Step by step, she shows how to break up goals into smaller goals that are “doable” and not so overwhelming. This is an excellent article to read before you start writing out those goals. Wishing you luck with your writing!

"My never-fail secret to getting your book published ... Write it!" -- Sephanie Gordon Tessler

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Procrastination in writing

Do you find yourself with so many time constraints you can’t fit in some writing time? Once in a while we’re all guilty of that. Besides time constraints, might there be other reasons we procrastinate? There’s an article on the Institute of Children’s Literature blog written by Claudette Young, "Procrastination -- Fear's Time Thief," where she suggests that sometimes we make excuses so that we don’t have to tackle the job before us. Is it fear of failure or fear of success? Or is it something else? Whatever the reason, she lists five baby steps to get yourself back on track with your writing. It’s hard to recapture the momentum if you stay away too long. Take a look at the baby steps in the article and see if they help. Happy writing!

Albuquerque 2006
"The greatest children's books are about the journey to wisdom." -- Jane Yolen 

Friday, December 2, 2011

YA Book Author

I feel compelled to brag about this author, Ruta Sepetys, because I met her last summer at the SCBWI-LA conference. We talked for a bit and I bought her book, Between Shades of Gray, and she graciously autographed it. She told me she was one of the “success” stories of SCBWI. Seems she met her agent at one of these annual conferences, and the rest is history. I really enjoyed reading her book and now I see her name all over the place. She’s featured in the December 1, 2011, Publishers Weekly Children’s Bookshelf online newsletter. I am so proud to have met her. I wish her the best of success with her book and the next two that are coming out. I can say, “I knew her when.”

                                                   Lupe Ruiz-Flores and Ruta Sepetys

Here’s the article from PB Children’s Bookshelf: 

Winners' Circle

The French literary magazine LIRE has selected Ruta Sepetys's Between Shades of Gray as "Ce qu'ils n'ont pas pu nous prendre"— Best Novel for Young People 2011. It is the first time the prestigious French prize has been awarded to an American in the children's category. Between Shades of Gray, published here by Philomel and in France by Gallimard Jeunesse, tells the story of Stalin's deportations of Lithuanians to Siberia. Sepetys, the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, told PW in an interview that she was compelled to tell the story after a visit to family in Lithuania in 2005, during which she learned about her own grandfather's story of Siberian deportation and his eventual emigration to America.”

"If a book looks like you worked too hard on it -- go back and work on it some more." -- Betsy Byars