Wednesday, July 22, 2009

unlike the baby birds...

It's been a while since I posted. And I've been reminded of the fact that, unlike my feathered friends, I cannot fly. Not that I tried (I didn't!). I merely had an up close and personal conversation with my local sidewalk, following an attempt to walk and do something else at the same time. The good news? I yanked the family Klutz Queen crown back from my daughter, AND I have a nifty (although heavy) purple fiberglass cast. How cool? Take a peek!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

From the mouths of babes

My 7 year old was making pretzel art yesterday...chewing designs out of pretzels. Besides the typical glasses, he had things like a ballgown, a duck, etc. I asked him how he did it. He answered, "you just see what it is you want, then get rid of everything else."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I've been feeling annoyed recently, by the ridiculously early morning chirping of the birds. Sure, the early ones get the worms (who wants to eat those slimey things?!), but do they have to get up at 4:30? And when they do, can't they be quieter? I mean, if they have their beaks full of ground-up worms, you'd think that would muffle the sound.

But a few minutes ago, my kids came in saying, "Mommy! We just saw the baby birds in our garage! Their fuzzy little heads poked out, and they were so cute!" To catch you up, birds make a nest year after year in the vent near our garage roof. They can only access it from the outside, so whenever I write, I see purple finches flitter in and out.

THEY LAID EGGS AND THE EGGS HATCHED! I'M AN AUNT! Awww, let the little buggers chirp at 4:30 - they're hungry!

Sometimes all we need to do is change our perspective.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Let's call this Susan Boyle week. The Scottish singer who has YouTube running to catch up to the number of hits from her performance on Britain's Got Talent has been an inspiration to us all. Which one of us wouldn't kill for Simon Cowell's change from smirk to lifted brows? Who among us could stand to see again that talent rises to the top, given perseverance and the right circumstances?

I'm taking a reminder lesson from Susan: put yourself in the right place, keep working your craft, know that a great voice will leave your audience breathless, and wow them.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy Spring! This is not a shameless plug for friends and events, but there are some phenomenal things coming up in these parts. If your writing needs some get-up-and-go, get up and go!

Later today, Laurie Halse Anderson heads to Santa Monica for her Wintergirls book tour (4:30 at the main library, 7:00 at Barnes & Noble). Not only is she an exquisite writer, but she's inspirational, so go if you can. She'll be in Pasadena over the weekend.

April 18th is SCBWI-LA's Writer's Day. Check out the line-up at We've got something for everyone, including that nudge to get you going!

For those of you who asked, the class visit on mask poems was so much fun - the kids were enthusiastic and came up with some fun poems. They especially liked my props...I brought 2 different textured cookies for each of them, so they'd learn about details in writing. Hey, I was scheduled for AN HOUR with 7 year olds. It went by very quickly, and I heard that I was "awesome" -phew!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mask Poems

As I was preparing for my Monday morning stint on mask poems for my son's second grade class, I realized something. I've never (that I can remember) written a mask poem myself. So, I decided if it's good enough for the goose...or is it I should take my own medicine?

I started by reading lots of mask poems. There's a fun picture book anthology called Dirty Laundry, in case you want a good sample. Then I played. I wrote poems as feet, as toes, and oranges on my neighbor's tree. There's something refreshing about stepping outside yourself and writing from a totally different perspective.

Sure, you say, we write from our characters' POVs all the time, but I challenge you to write a mask poem - now, here! - as an inanimate object and tell me it's the same feeling.

So, tune into ALL of your senses, then ready, set, write!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stimulas Package for Writers & Illustrators

The phrase "stimulus package" is being thrown all over the country, creating all kinds of emotions, but many of them at least some degree of relief. It's easy, writing or illustrating by yourself (which is pretty much necessary, unless you are part of a writing team) to get discouraged, to listen too closely to the doom and gloom part of the news, even the publishing industry. You may feel lethargic. You may feel blocked.

Here's a tactic: reduce your negative news time, and create your own stimulus package. How? By getting out and mingling with like-minded creative spirits. Check out your local SCBWI chapter for events. Many of them are even FREE. Here in S. California, we have gobs of things to light your fire. Go to and go to something - anything. Then, newly creatively stimulated, tell your story.

Friday, February 6, 2009

On Critique Groups

I'll shout this from the highest mountain: I LOVE MY CRITIQUE GROUP! Okay, for those of you who are toying with joining or starting a group, you probably already know that it's a good idea to share your work with fellow writers before you send it out into the world. You could wake up, thinking your manuscript is lookin' good and ready to go. When you actually hold it up to a mirror (your fellow loving writers), you scream in horror! Not only is your manuscript having a bad hair day, but there's a rip in a very conspicuous place, a stain from something it sat in without you knowing about it, and a long thread not connected to anything in particular. They will, lovingly, help you figure out how to style the hair, sew the rip, remove the stain, and pull the thread. They will help you get your work lookin' good and ready to go.

Here are just a few of the things I love about my group:

We forge some amazing friendships
We put our work up for scrutiny so it can become what it's meant to be at its highest and best
We laugh
We cry
We remember why we are writers
We remember why we are readers
We become better writers
We become better people
We are humbled
We are re-ignited

For those of you living in the S. California area, check our SCBWI tri-region website for ways to find or start a group and other ways to meet fellow writers and/or get your work critiqued.

Friday, January 30, 2009

What I learned from my dog today

I'm taking a teensy break from manuscript writing to share some dog philosphy:

Follow the people who teach you things. Stick close to the ones you love and respect. When you feel something is wrong, speak up. When you feel silly, it's occasionally okay to toilet paper the house. Find your place in the sun.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

On Hope

This has been a glorious week! Not only did we get a healthy reminder of hope in our pockets if we only stuff our hands in (thank you, President Obama), but I did my yearly interviews of prospective Northwestern students today.

I must say that, based on the young voices I heard today, the state of the union is hopeful! Yes, there were those who were, dare I say it, mediocre in an interview setting. But then, meeting one kid in particular, I was relieved that our future could be placed in not only capable but intelligent, caring, life-passionate, humorous and even charismatic hands. I actually ENJOYED my time with this kid, and we both were sorry to see it end.

I only hope (ah, there it is again) that I can write characters who jump off the page like that, who give readers hope.

It's still a very young year...what are your hopes?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sometimes other people's words say it best. Here's the link to Newbery winner Susan Patron's comments on the value of the Newbery to young readers:,0,5330448.story

All kinds of kids need all kinds of books, so keep writing from your heart.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Pause for Pinter

Happy New Year!

I am SO glad to see 2008 fade into the sunset and give birth to a new year of hope for us all! I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't mention the recent passing of one of my favorite playwrights, Harold Pinter. He was an actor's dream - sparse dialogue with lots of room to fill empty spaces, and to make those spaces become all sorts of things...including increasingly menacing and uncomfortable. I was fortunate to be in more than one Pinter play, starting in high school and on into my life at Northwestern.

The NY Times described Pinter's work as showing "the ominous in the everyday and the noise within silence". Director Peter Hall said "words are weapons that the characters use to discomfort or destroy each other." But my favorite is what Pinter himself said: "One way of looking at speech is to say it is a constant strategem to cover nakedness".

I know that somewhere, he has infiltrated my writer-self. I find it reassuring to think that the page does not always need to be filled up with dialogue, that sometimes pauses and what's going on in the subtext, under the surface, tells us much more. We need to show what our characters are doing, not simply let the reader hear what they're saying, especially when they contradict each other. We can't be afraid to let them be naked on the page.

Perhaps that's why I write some of my books in free verse - the sparseness of poetry lets you say worlds more than if you vomited words onto the page. And when you DO use words, they need to be the absolute best.

Whichever your medium is, choose your words, and your lack of words, carefully...then let your characters have fun filling the spaces!