Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Hugs and Chocolate

I had you hooked at chocolate didn't I?

No, I'm talking about a group blog called Hugs and Chocolate. This group had me signed up when I saw Tonia Marie Harris and Jamie Raintree were involved. I follow these ladies around the Internet and have enjoyed their contributions to this group blog.

There are several ladies writing for the blog. You can read about the Founders and Co-Founders here. On the about page, Heather L. Reid shares the idea behind the Hugs and Chocolate site. I love this line from her: "I know there are a lot of blogs for writer’s out there, awesome ones, and I hope you’ll make room in your hearts for one more."

If you don't have time for one more blog (or if you do), consider checking out a handful of revision posts I enjoyed from the site: 

Hugs and Chocolate's tag line is "inspiration, information, and motivation." You'll find a variety of posts on the site. I just shared the revision posts since that's been my focus this month.

 Isn't it fun to see a group blog and soak up all the collaboration and good vibes?

Mike Allegra blogs at heylookawriterfellow. He gave me the Versatile Blogger Award. Thank you Mike. He's participating in the 12 x 12 in '12 challenge unofficially since he learned about it too late. He's signed up for the 2013 challenge. Mike has a children's book Sarah Gives Thanks being published in the fall.

Once you visit his site, I think you'll agree he has a memorable photo in his blog's banner. Before you read his About Me page, please read his About You page. Yep. That's your smile for the day.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Free Monday!

Enzo said he wanted to share. Have one.

I shared one of Enzo's birthday cupcakes last week in a tweet after I returned home from a public meeting.

Then, I followed it with this tweet:

Who says government meetings are boring?

In reality, the meeting disappointed me and snuffed my creativity on a couple of weekend projects. I wrote about the meeting. This helped me vent and study issues raised during the public comments.

Turns out there are several meetings scheduled in June. I plan to attend whether anyone cares what I have to say about hydraulic fracturing or not.

As a result, my calendar for June is filling up fast — graphic design classes, jury duty, volunteer at VBS, training for my elected position and community meetings. A day here and there begins to add up. So, I'm freeing Monday by dropping that blog post. I'll continue to post on Thursdays and Fridays. I'll continue to lurk around the web too.

Here in the United States, we are celebrating Memorial Day. It's a day to remember those who have died in our nation's service.

If you are interested in making your own Panda cupcakes, I found the recipe on I changed up the eyes. Enzo and his friends happily ate them.

Is your Monday free today or business as usual?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Perfect Picture Book: I Told You I Can Play!

Ready for the summer? Consider taking a look at the Perfect Picture Book Fridays page to fill up your summer reading list.
Written by Brian Jordan
Illustrations by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

Suitable for: Ages 4 and up

Theme/Topic: Determination, Siblings, Athletics

Opening: When Brian was a little boy, 
he was eager to do everything. 
But he especially loved to play sports. 

Brief Synopsis: Brian likes to play sports, but his older brother and sister didn't like him following them and tells him he's too young. Brian insisted he can play. His abilities are tested in a game one day.

Link to Resources: Sports preschool lesson plans. The Brian Jordan Foundation was formed in 1998 by Brian Jordan both a Major League Baseball and a National Football League player. The foundation's site explains its mission — In every child, there is the potential for excellence. Reading through the foundation site provides plenty of topics about success, failure and how some children need help to improve or thrive.

Why I chose this book: This book came to Enzo via an author visit at my niece's school in Georgia. We've read it several times. It's a little stilted in places, but the message to be determined and focus shines through. The illustration and story holds Enzo's interest. The Brian Jordan Foundation encourages children to "Be Focused. Be Dedicated. Be Determined. And you will be a winner." The story does this too. 

As a writer, I enjoy digging a little deeper into the PPBF books and thinking. Some items make it into the Friday posts like this Cynthia Leitich Smith's interview with the husband and wife illustration team of Jordan's book. Others are just gems to study.

To find more picture books and resources, please visit Susanna Leonard Hill's blog and look for the Perfect Picture Books page.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thankful Thursday: The Memoir Project

The cliché advice I received while living the events of my memoir — "Take it one day at a time" — is also part of my revision strategy. Progress is slow, but I'm taking it one page at a time. 

Continuing with a revision theme this month, I'm sharing a resource for memoirs. I finished my "vomit draft" this year after reading The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life by Marion Roach Smith.

On The Memoir Project Blog, Marion shares News You can Use with examples of short memoir — an op-ed or personal essay. She encourages you to read and study the links. Some links from her site:
My recent favorite The Power Of Memoir. Listen In. This post includes a link to a one-minute radio essay from Dr. G. Thomas Couser "Memoir and Social Change." I like this one, because I saw fiction writers discourage another writer from writing a memoir in an online writer's group discussion. Citing the book-buying market and the writer's first-time status, she was encouraged to write her story as fiction. 

I'm all for being realistic. However, the discussion made me wonder how many books would be published, if we all listened to "the market isn't buying ..." or "no one wants a book from a first-time author" advice? Fiction writers certainly don't. First-time novelists are published. Picture book writers don't. First-time picture book writers are published. Memoir writers don't. First-time memoirists are published. If we all followed this advice, we would only have books from celebrities like Snooki or true-crimes from the headlines memoirs.

I haven't looked back at the writer group's discussion, but I shared that I am writing a memoir using many fiction techniques to craft my story. However, I pointed out — "It's a true story and that's how I'm writing it." Plus, I shared Marion's book and blog as a resource. 

Thanks to Susan Oloier for giving me Kreative Blogger Award. She's a busy writer with a blog, with a collection of essays about growing up in the 1980s My Life as a Misfit and with the recent release of her novel Fractured about miscarriage and marriage. She also had an essay published in February on The Daily Beast about her son Zane, who has Trisomy 18.

I should also say thanks for letting me vent about the "first-time" part. Have you been on any writer rants this week?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dan's Birthday Plan

With all our birthday celebrations last weekend, my plan to work on my story for author Susanna Leonard Hill's contest didn't work out. 

Instead, we visited the zoo twice, ate out and had sweet treats. Tons of family fun. My entry is very drafty, draft, but I promise you won't be disappointed by the other entries. Please visit this talented group of writers for birthday fun. 

Dan’s Birthday Plan

Dan had to stop Christmas. It was the only way his birthday would be normal. Every year, he celebrated Christmas one day and on the next his birthday.

As Mom announced time for dinner, Dan jumped in.

“We can’t have Christmas. If we do, my birthday will be ruined.”

Dan knew the reason for the season, but his Christmas and birthday presents always had a part missing.

“Christmas always splits my birthday,” Dan said. 

“It doesn’t,” Mom said. “That’s your special day. This is another one.”

“Why did I get arrows on Christmas Day and a bow on my birthday?” Dan asked.

“They were two separate gifts,” his sister Sue said. 

“One year, I got multi-colored pencils for Christmas. I had nothing to write on until paper arrived on my birthday,” Dan said.

“You had to sharpen the pencils,” cousin Bobby said reaching for a roll.

“The leather baseball glove,” Dan said.

“What was wrong with that?” Dad asked.

“I couldn’t play catch until my birthday. That’s when you gave me a baseball.”

Grandma put her arms around Dan.

“We don’t need to cancel Christmas or your birthday. We’ll celebrate both with no missing parts — right Mom and Dad?”

His parents agreed and they all sat down to eat.

During the gift exchange, Dan tore the Christmas paper and opened the box to find one tennis shoes.

“Oops,” Mom said. She left and returned with a birthday package. Dan opened the box. He beamed holding the shoes. “A pair of shoes for Christmas!“

“Everything worked out,” Grandma said. “Now are you ready for your birthday?”

“Yes,” Dan said and noticed a jar of jelly in his stocking. “Who knows what I’ll get for my birthday.”

With one shoe, you might look like this. 
When Susanna tossed out this contest, I asked some Facebook friends for birthday disasters. My fifth grade teacher Mr. Worley mentioned how his birthday falls on the day after Christmas and how his presents — bows, arrows and yes even shoes were split. I need to amp up the funny, but I thank Mr. Worley for the idea!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Just Another Morning

Here's my selection for Perfect Picture Book Fridays

Just Another Morning 
Written by Linda Ashman
Illustrated by Claudio Muñoz
Harper Collins Publishers, 2004

Suitable for: Ages 4 and up

Theme/Topic: Adventure, Family, Rhyming Picture Book

The day begins as many do:
I find myself inside a zoo.

I'm cornered by a savage ape —
I growl and make a quick escape.

Brief Synopsis: From the book summary — A little boy imagines that the everyday objects around him are fantastic creatures as he goes about his day.

Link to Resources: Read Write Think offers a Choose Your Own Adventure writing experience. Crayola shows kids how to make a hand-crafted journal for a Passport to Adventure. For discussion, parents could ask their children to talk about items that seem like fantastic creatures in their own home.

Why I chose this book: Linda Ashman sent this book to my son last fall when we won her Twelve Days of Christmas in Colorado book (Thanks again Julie). She wrote to Enzo — "Here's hoping every day is a new adventure!" As he turns 2 on Saturday, I can say that every day is an adventure. And, I often wonder, if he thinks like the little boy in this book.
Enzo using a Crayola stylus to color on the iPad.

To find more picture books and resources, please visit Susanna Leonard Hill's blog and look for the Perfect Picture Books page.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Monday Classroom by Kathryn Magendie

I've mentioned I'm returning to school, right?

Well, you don't have to enroll, translate your quarter hours into semesters, have 20-year-olds tell you are in the wrong place or try to navigate an overwhelming website to get a straight answer to return to the classroom. Just visit Kathryn Magendie's blog Writing from My Mountain Cove on Mondays for writing tips. Her series Monday Classroom is informative and fun.

Kathryn is an author (Tender Graces, Secret Graces, Family Graces, Sweetie and a novella Petey) and the publishing editor of the Rose & Thorn Journal. In my opinion she's a pretty big deal for her writing. Her Monday Classroom series has offered several "pause and consider this" moments during my revision process.

Some of her Monday Classroom posts include:

In addition to her Monday posts, Kathryn takes one for the rest of us with her "I am your personal trainer" series.

No matter what Kat is writing about — I love her Southern voice and the experience she shares on her blog.

Thanks to Lauri Meyers for passing along The Versatile Blogger award. She's an aspiring children's book writer and a 2012 NaPiBoWriWee participant. She explains the dirty girls in her bio. I'm guessing these gals show up in a manuscript or two. I mean they roll in mud puddles and pour chocolate milk on each other.

I'm glad it's almost Friday. How's your week going? I picked up my student ID this week. Instead of senior discounts, I can get a student discount on tattoos and body piercings. Nice.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A smashing treat — a look at Smashwords

A lot of writers are talking about self-publishing these days. The expanding ebook market combined with the ease and affordability of digital publishing makes it easy to dust off the manuscript and hit a publish button. 
Mark Coker at PPWC
During the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in April, I heard Mark Coker, founder, CEO and Chief Author Advocate at Smashwords speak in a session titled Ebook Publishing Best Practices. He founded Smashwords in 2008 "to change the way books are published, marketed and sold." His efforts to get the book he co-wrote with his wife Lesleyann, Boob Tube, inspired him to start Smashwords. 

He's also written The Smashwords Style Guide (how to format an ebook), The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide and The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. Smashwords only publishes digital books. 

Coker shared tips from The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success at the conference. You can download any of his books in a format for your ereader or you can view them online.

Using Smashwords in his words "is fast, free and easy."

Some tips he shared at the conference:
  • Your best marketing tool is a great book. Angels were singing (in my head) when he said this. Amen. 
  • Choose a good pen name. He said initials can be bad. For example is it J.F. Cane, JF Cane or J. F. Cane. How's the search engine going to pick up your name?
  • Create a great cover image — invest in a quality cover, don't mislead readers with the cover, use simple images due to the thumbnail size. To find inexpensive cover designers and book formatters, email You'll get an automated reply with a list. 
  • Publish another great book. Readers want more when they've earned your trust.
  • Maximize your distributions. He encouraged writes to work with all the ebook retailers.
  • Give some of your books for free. He said Smashwords' highest grossing authors offer at least one title for free. 
  • Patience is a virtue. Ebooks are immortal, he said. So, as an author, you don't have to worry about selling out in a set period or having your books removed from the shelf. Books are like a fruit tree. You plant one at each retailer. Get reviews. Copies are sold and the book continues to yield fruit. 
  • Platform building starts yesterday! Platform equals your ability to reach readers. My aha moment when he spoke about platform was his mention of Google Plus — the Facebook like site. Coker said that Google gives preference in its search engines to G+ content. I rarely remember to post my blog on there. I need to do this.
  • Networking — "If you help fellow writers be successful, they may help you."
  • Pinch your pennies — "Expect not to make money" he said. Coker encouraged writers to never borrow money to publish, because they can't control the number of sales. 
For my childrens book writing friends, Smashwords limits the uploaded file to 5 MB. I checked with Coker about the options for picture book writers and illustrators. Picture books are not the company's strength, he wrote in an email. "We do best with straight narrative, or narrative + images."

He provided this link from the Smashwords Style Guide to show how to compress the images so you can reduce the file size of photos.

Smashwords has an extensive FAQ section on the digital publishing process. 

I don't want to get into an argument about the benefits or drawbacks of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. It drains me when either side goes on the attack. Author Anne R. Allen's Blog has a post on this topic: Indie or Traditional Publishing? Don't Take Sides: Take Your Time. She also included a great quote from Coker. 

Where are you in your writing process — ready to publish or are you still in the work-in-progress phase? Have you used Smashwords? What did you think about the process?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Perfect Picture Books: Mouse Paint

Mouse Paint
Written and Illustrated by Ellen Stoll Walsh
Red Wagon Books Harcourt, Inc., 1989

Suitable for: Ages 1 to 3

Theme/Topic: Colors, Exploration, Humor

Once there were three white mice on a white piece of paper.
The cat couldn't find them.

Brief Synopsis: From the summary — Three white mice discover jars of red, blue, and yellow paint and explore the world of color.

Link to resources: A homeschool unit on Ellen Stoll Walsh's books. Three color worksheets and colors recognition practice information and worksheets. Eric VanRaepenbusch's ebook Three Ghost Friends Learn About Colors is a cute way to add another story about color. Three Ghost Friends also has a color craft stick sorting activity. Enzo likes both his Mouse Paint board book and flipping the digital pages of Eric's book.

Why I chose this book: Enzo received this book from his cousins Emmett and Owen in Pocatello, Idaho. We had a fun visit with them last summer. They taught him how to wrestle. Today, the book teaches him how to mix colors. He continues to wrestle.

To find more picture books and resources, please visit Susanna Leonard Hill's blog and look for the Perfect Picture Books page.

A Life in General note — I didn't mention this on Monday's blog, because Tuesday was election day (or the day it was official, because no election took place). I earned a spot on my neighborhood's metro district board of directors. 

Logical question: "So, what will you do Stacy?" Once I finish reading the hundreds of pages I received late Wednesday, I can answer the question. I asked for the material earlier. Sigh. 

I signed up for the position in February for one of three openings, so residents will have a representative on the government board overseeing our taxes, etc. I'll take my oath on Monday.

This week, I also received a jury summons for June. I'm still trying to figure out childcare, my class schedule and volunteer duties at Vacation Bible School. Hubby pointed out that as a student, I can delay service to a future date. I've never done that before. The uncertainty of jury duty — do I report, do I not, do I get selected, do I keep having to report to the courtroom each day — seemed much more exciting before I had to worry about childcare.  Oh, it's not going to be a boring summer!

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Editor Spotlight

210 pages or 70,680 words of the "vomit draft" ready for the red pen.
The revision process is under way for my memoir. During the time I didn't touch the manuscript file, I read many posts on revising your work. I saved some of those to share for my Thankful Thursday posts in May.

Today, I wanted to share links to the Editor Spotlight series by Karen S. Elliott, The Word Shark. Karen offers proofreading, copy editing, and critique services on her blog, but she isn't writing these posts. No. She's paying it forward by highlighting other editors in the series. She's that cool.

This is a note Karen shared at the bottom of one of the Editor Spotlight posts:
I realize that not every editor/proofreader is perfect for every writer. This is why I am presenting the series, Editor Spotlight. If you know an editor or proofreader who would like to participate, ask them to contact me at karenselliott AT midco DOT net. The Editor Spotlight series will be presented throughout the next several months in between my regular blog posts and special theme weeks. – Karen S. Elliott
I've found the posts informative. Here are links to the posts in the series:

My best take away after reading all these posts — get your work in its best shape before you turn it over to an editor. It will save you time, money and maybe a little heartache.

This week, Karen shares a Tribute to Moms — Mothers' Week. These posts have been uplifting, thoughtful and helpful. For writers, you may find the post The magic of home-made chapbooks by Shawn MacKenzie helpful. Happy early Mother's Day to all my mom friends!

How do you edit your work — do you hire an editor, use a critique group or something else?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oh Those High School Dances! Blog Hop

Junior Prom
Kelley Lynn at Between the Bookends and Emily R. King are hosting an "Oh, Those High School Dances! Blog Hop" today.

People are sharing photos and stories from high school dances.

I thought I would put a 2012 spin on my 1988 junior high school prom.

Here's a tweet, if there had been Twitter back then:

Prom date works at flower shop. Can you tell? Dancing night away w/ #friend @BrotherWaylon #verycasual #havingfun

I attended Junior Prom with a friend I met at an FBLA camp — that's Future Business Leaders of America. Oh, I had so much fun traveling around the state of Georgia attending competitions, camps and conferences in high school. It was a great way to get out of the comfort bubble of my small hometown and meet new people. I met my friend and future prom date Brother Waylon (I can't remember why we called him Brother. I did live in the South).

If you need a dose of high school inspiration or maybe a giggle at our outfits, visit the other blogs on the hop.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A to Z Reflection post

Maybe this should be named the Several Things Happened on the Way to the A to Z Challenge.

As I mentioned in my Thankful Thursday post, I'm grateful folks took time to read the memoir posts I wrote for the challenge.

Instead of writing all my posts before the challenge, I wrote them in three batches. My outline for each letter held firm, except for two.

Here's a breakdown of my A to Z month:
  • Visits — I tried to keep up with my regular blogging buddies plus visit A to Z blogs. I visited 85 new blogs from the A to Z sign up list. Participants were asked to visit five a day, so I failed this task. 
  • Reading — I read more in April than I have in several months, so this hampered my blog visits.
  • Conference — I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. This weekend kept me more unplugged than I anticipated, but it was a good thing. 
  • Goals — A personal goal this year was to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows during the break after I typed the end in my memoir manuscript and before I began revisions. I took an almost two-month break from the manuscript, I did not open my file until the day after I finished the Harry Potter book. Then, I printed the first chapter for a revision workshop at the conference.
  • Technical — During April, I had a few glitches on my blog. The source of my streamlined subscription buttons disappeared during the first few days of the month. I fiddled with my email subscription delivery and delayed delivery one day. Then, Blogger changed its format. As I understood it, Blogger wants you to use your G+ (Google Plus) profile. Then, when I commented on other blogs, I received feedback people couldn't find my blog. Anyone want to share how I can comment on a Blogger blog and leave a link to my blog in the comment?
  • Personal — We had house guests, a series of medical tests for Hubby and lots of activities during the month. I also spent time investigating how to return to school to study website design and digital images. Hubby says I'll be like Shirley from the TV show Community. Well, if you read that bio, not everything is the same. I would share my brownie recipe.
  • Connections — I will continue to follow some bloggers I met during the challenge. Other blogs were too specialized in an area that doesn't interest. I was impressed by the variety of topics and themes writers used for the challenge. The diversity was inspiring.
Will I do it next year? I'm not sure. I need to evaluate my time better as I didn't have enough time to properly comment on other blogs. Also, I felt like I was spamming my regular blog followers with all those posts.

I appreciate you taking the time to read my A to Z posts and to comment. Your encouragement, especially on the posts related to my memoir manuscript, helped me as revisions are under way. 

Would you like to try your hand at memoir or a personal essay? Here are two opportunities:

What are you working on today?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Fridays

Some of my Perfect Picture Books from the library.
Today is Perfect Picture Book Friday. I hope you'll stop by Susanna Leonard Hill's blog to check out today's list.

I'm not adding one this week, because all the books I'm reading are recommendations from the Perfect Picture Books list.

Of course, I had to check out the Gluten-Free Cupcakes book.
My other reading time has been filled with cookbooks and diet books. I'm not going on a diet, but most of the books are selling a quick weight loss answer. I've been squeezing these books into my daily routine for more than a month in anticipation of a doctor's recommendation. This week, we were told Hubby may avoid surgery, if we eat a Paleo diet (think cave man) or remove gluten from our diet.

So, we're reading the cookbooks including the ones screaming about weight loss. I'm smiling when someone says, "I would just die if I can't eat bread." And, remain grateful for public libraries where I can check out all these books for free to see if they are something my family can use.

Hope you have a great weekend. What are you reading?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thankful Thursday: This, That and You

Lara Schiffbauer, a note to Karen Elliott and Me 
I'm multi-tasking today. I share this picture of Lara Schiffbauer, our note to Karen Elliott and me at the recent Pikes Peaks Writers Conference for a reason. Karen didn't make it to the conference. We missed her. 

Our connection? We met through a blog and Facebook group. You can find out the name of the blog  at Jennifer Young's Castles in the Sky today. For her Let's Ask series, she asked me to pick two blogs that helped me grow the most during my writer's journey and answer why. 

Speaking of Wish You Were Here — and no I did not plan the sign and this —Robyn Campbell of Putting Pen to Paper won the drawing for a copy of Beth K. Vogt's Christian Romance novel Wish You Were Here. I've sent Robin an email. 

I added some tag bling.

The conference was wonderful. I'm ready to dig into the memoir manuscript after several revision, synopsis and editing workshops. 

I found myself in a bit of social media trouble at the conference after a mangled tweet. I tweeted from a workshop. Someone retweeted, but modified it without noting they had modified my tweet. 

I wanted to meet agent Donald Maass. Instead of a "hey I appreciate all the things you do for writers" comment,  I said that plus — "If you see a tweet from me, I didn't call your point bullshit." Did I mention it was awkward? 

Two writer friends stood a foot away snickering, because they couldn't believe I was explaining this to Donald Maass. Hey, I never know if these big guys read their tweets and at mentions or not. What could be worse than explaining this to his face? Well, if he saw the tweet, actually remembered me and thought, "She was nice to my face, but called my point bullshit." I don't think it mattered to him, but it mattered to me. He kindly listened to my explanation. 

Rember the Dooney & Bourke bag? Well, it met Mark Coker of Smashwords at the airport.
Another fun part of the conference was I volunteered to pick up a faculty member at the airport. I was assigned Mark Coker of Smashwords. While he texted a warning he'd be late, I left my house early to avoid being covered in snot and mashed potatoes. 

My instructions were to make a sign and provide a bottle of water. I stuffed the Dooney & Bourke bag with water, a Kindle, notebooks (I wrote my April 12x12 in 2012 manuscript while waiting for his flight), a few snacks just in case and a sign. I had a normal sign and one with a reference to a line in his Twitter bio: Battler of Squirrels. 

I wimped out on just holding up the Twitter bio sign, because last minute I had an Oh I'm representing the writers conference moment. He liked the Twitter bio sign. 

A key lesson I learned during this airport shuttle: I really need adult time before picking someone up at the airport. I babbled about lots of writerly things, plus my ability to attract police with my speeding.

I'm grateful you followed my memoir posts for the the A to Z Challenge. I can't thank you enough. The challenge, the writer's conference and some real life things left me feeling challenged most of the month. They also made me want to write more. 

So this week, I'm doing the National Picture Book Writing Week Challenge

What are you up to this month? I'd love to hear from you.