Monday, April 13, 2015

Book in A Week? Are They Crazy?!

By Susan J. Berger
I went to a Boot Camp facilitated by April Kihlstrom called Book in a Week. It took place at The California Dreaming Writers Conference.
 There is a workbook for the course on Amazon. Take a look inside at the chapter headings.
 (I strongly suggest buying the paper copy. I didn't.)
I was most impressed with April. She did her first book in a week in fifteen minute snatches between work, and caring for her children, one of whom is special needs. This is the stuff of fairy tales. But she did it. I only 50% believe this is possible for me, but that's how I felt about NaNoWriMo. And I got a published book out of that. And another three first drafts worth revising.

April's workbook contains a series of excellent questions.
Names can set up expectations. How appropriate are your names for the characters?
For each character:
5 fears
5 physical reactions to fear
5 things he does when he is unsure of himself.
5 things that make them feel safe.
5 things he does when feeling safe.

Things April mentioned:
What stories do you tell yourself about you as a writer?
Focus on the good things about yourself and your writing.
Before starting the writing session, do something nice for your self to make your self smile.
After the session, reward yourself.
No editing.
No going back over what's written. (Omigosh! Not sure I can do that.)
No diving into internet research. (WHAT????)

Here's a link to April's Page. Hit page down 8 times to get to her handout at the Austin RWA Conference. Well worth reading.

Why am I doing this? 
I write better under pressure. I have been stuck on the same rewrite for a year. And maybe starting a new book will break me out of my rut. I have an idea for the book. No real plan.
I am aiming for 8,000 words a day. When I do a NaNoWriMo, I do 2,500 a day.

I've taken care of those chores I can anticipate, like writing my blog post for Pen and Ink and for Susan B. James. Taxes done. Bills paid. Will other obstacles appear? Hey this is life. You can't anticipate everything.

Thing is, if I start Book in a Week, I am already a success. The only way to fail is not to try. So I started Thursday April 9th. A friend lent me his house in Ventura. When I finish my stints, I will reward myself with a walk on the beach. I feel so lucky.
I'll let you know how it went. Write on!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Dispatch #36: The Intersection of Politics and Friendship and
What the Hell Does This Have to do with Children’s Literature

by Lupe Fernandez

Let’s find out. We drop in on two high school friends on a road trip.

The quarter-pounder wrap crinkles under L_’s foot as he slams the brake pedal.

J_ braces himself against the Vega dashboard. “Watch it!," he says, "Do you know how to drive?”

“Hey, don’t bug me." L_ says. "I’m looking out for the feds.”

“We haven’t even done it yet," J_ says.

“You never know. We could have spies at school.”

“I didn’t tell anybody. Did you?”

“Who me? I don’t have friends.”

The Vega turns onto Telegraph Avenue. J_ looks at crumpled paper with the address for Draft Counseling Center. He peers out the window, searching the street names for Ward Street.

“There!" J_ says. "Are you sure this is the right place?”

“Hey man," L_ says, "this is Berkeley. Like Power to the People and all that.”

“Bunch of long-haired hippies.”

“You’re either part of the problem or part of the the solution.”

“Did you make that up?”

“I wish. It was the rally cry of the Sixties.”

“This isn’t the Sixties.”

“I missed out.”

J_ jabs his finger at a passing sign. “You missed the street!”

“Aren’t you looking?” L_ hunches over the steering wheel to see better out the dirty windshield.

“I’m looking," J_ says. "You’re driving too fast.”

L_ stops the Vega in the middle of the street. A truck behind him honks. L_ maneuvers a U-turn and then a left turn onto Ward street.

“That’s it.” J_ sees the address of a large two story house with steep eves and a wide porch.

L_ parks three blocks away. The boys walk up Ward Street to the house.

“You sure you want to do this?” J_ chews on his thumb nail.

“I don’t want to die killing people that speak my language," L_ says.

“You speak English.”

“The other language.”

“You can’t speak that one either," J_ says. "You’re flunking your foreign language class.”

“It’s not my war.”

“I’m proud of my country. My sister’s in the Army.”

“Good for her. I got a brother in the Air Force fighting the commies from a PX.”

“It’s not funny.” J_ slows his walk and stares at his brown shoes.

“It only gets funny when the Reds invade Disneyland," L_ puts up his palms as if he's surrendering.

“I’m serious," J_ says.

“I have all my body parts and I want to keep it that way.”

“You want somebody else to fight for your freedom.”

“Freedom to what? Invade other countries? It’s Viet Nam all over again.”

“All you do is criticize." J_ trails behind L_. "You hate school. You hate your family. You don’t care about anything.”

“You’re a rule follower. If they say jump, you jump. If they say fight you fight. If they die, you’ll die.”

L_ stop at a sign reading DC Center with an arrow pointing down a set of chipped steps to a basement entrance. The air smells of hashish and car exhaust.

“I don’t want to go to jail," J_ stops several feet away from L_.

“I don’t want to die," L_ says.

Leaves flicker sunset. A lamp clicks on in the basement window. A flower pot sits on a crack step. Laughter echoes from Telegraph Avenue.

The counselor sips his herb tea, listening to the angry young voices outside his office. There’s a scuffle. The flower pot crashes on the steps. The counselor steps outside and stands at the foot of the steps leading up to the street.

One boy remains.

Are they still friends? Should they be?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Let's Play Review that Blog!

Review that Blog!
by Hilde Garcia

Hello Readers. Well, as promised, here is my review of the top three sites Google took me to when I asked the simple question "quick ideas for writing a blog post."  Remember, about 176 million links showed up, but I am going to focus on the top ten!


Bryan Harris writes a fabulous post about how to write an epic blog in 4 simple steps. For full details, check out his post, but the gist of it is:

What if instead of writing blog posts you only answered questions?

An excerpt from his site:

If my wife asks me “Bryan, why do you think most people never act on their ideas?”

I would answer in less than 5 seconds with at least 3 minutes worth of dialogue.

No prep. No outline. No research.

However, if I were trying to write an article entitled “The 7 Reasons Your Idea Will Never Become A Business”

Gridlock. All dry. Words … are … hard.

There is something fundamentally different with writing about a TOPIC as opposed to answering someone’s specific QUESTION.

So, when you are stuck, try the following steps outlined by Bryan in his post:

Step 1: Don’t write, record

Step 2: Transcribe your audio

Step 3: Pretty it up

Step 4: Write 5 different headlines

Step 5: Publish

He has some great videos and an excellent easy to understand explanation about buffer analytics and how they can help you reach your audience more effectively.

Thanks Bryan.


Darren Browse has an amazing quick list of things that will give you a greaet blog post.  I like how #9 connects with Bryan Harris’ use of buffer analytics.  And I like how he ended this post with his own #15 suggestion- ask your reader questions.

I am personally taking #3 and #4 to heart and am re-promising myself to do #12, #17 and #19 better!  
  1. Tell your story– it is one of the key things that will make your content stand out of the crowd
  2. Share how you feel – it will take your readers to a deeper place and make it more relatable
  3. You’ll never please everyone – the sooner you make peace with this reality, the better!
  4. Write about things that matter to you – passion is infectious and your readers will catch ahold of it. Tell the world something important.
  5. Inform, inspire and interact – aim to do these things every week (read more on this)!
  6. Experiment with different styles of writing – it will help you find your voice
  7. Mix up the length of your postsshort can be sweet but long can be epic!
  8. When an idea strikes – drop everything and capture it!
  9. Do everything you can to understand who is reading your blog – it will make you much more useful to them.
  10. Before you publish – ask what you want your reader to do after reading your post – and edit accordingly. Calls to action are important!
  11. Become hyper aware of problems – and obsessively write posts that solve them.
  12. Put aside time to create quality content – it doesn’t just appear
  13. Put aside time to edit and your posts – it will take them to the next level
  14. Get a life – you’ll be a much more interesting writer if you’ve lived a little
  15. Ask your readers questions – it will make them feel like they belong and you’ll learn a lot from their answers!
  16. Take your readers on a journey – posts that build from one to another can be powerful. Build momentum and create anticipation and you'll hook readers for the long term.
  17. Brainstorm regularly – generating ideas for future posts now can save a lot of pain later and help you keep things rolling. I highly recommend mind mapping.
  18. Not every post needs to go viral – shareable content will help you grow but it may not serve your current readers best.
  19. Write, Write Write – the more you practice, the better you will get
  20. Publish selectively – you don’t need to publish everything you write
What quick blog writing tips would you add?

Thanks Darren, these are great.


Ok, so Neil Patel seems to be as busy as I am, so I checked out his blog to see how he stays afloat. 
For full details, check out his post, but the main points are:

From his post:
You’ll never succeed at content marketing if you can’t create content on a regular basis. In essence, you need to learn how to streamline your content creation.

The good news is it’s not that hard. I’ve figured out how to streamline my content creation process. It works so well that I write eight blog posts a week. I publish three times a week on Quick Sprout, and I guest-post five times a week.

Here’s how I streamline my content creation, and here’s how you can too:

Step #1: Generate a list of potential topics

Time limit: You should spend no more than ten minutes on coming up with content ideas.

Step #2: Create an outline

Time limit: You should spend no more than twenty minutes on creating an outline. If it takes longer than that, you are picking topics that you are not very familiar with.

Step #3: Write

Time limit: You should spend no more than sixty minutes on finishing your post. The writing portion typically takes me forty-five minutes, and then I spend fifteen minutes re-reading and adjusting the post.

Step #4: Proofread, add a picture and schedule

Time limit: You shouldn’t spend any time on this step. Hire someone to do Step #4.

Neil says that "It’s not that hard to streamline your content creation process. You just need to figure out how many times a week (or month) you want to publish content and stick with it.

Once you decide on the frequency of posting, make sure you create a few extra posts in addition to the required number. That way, if something doesn’t work out, you’ll have a few backup posts. Your readers will feel you are consistent even if you drop the ball with your content creation process."

My writing partners keep reminding me that I should use my teacher vacation days to write several posts as back ups so I don't drop the ball, but I can’t find my way out from the grading pile even during vacations!

However, what I did learn is that posting a blog isn't always about what you are interested in, you have to connect with your readers and two of these sites give me really concrete ways in which to do that. I like procedures and a solid process and these bloggers really have created a system that works for them, but has a universal appeal. I know that I for one, am going to try to recreate some of their tips for my own break throughs in the world of blogging.

I will be back soon with more reviews of links that will help you with THE BLOG.

And  a parting question:

What things do you do to generate your weekly blog posts?

See I am already employing number #15! Enquiring minds want to know! 

I dare you to reply.

Monday, March 23, 2015

25 Picture Book First Lines

This week the SCBWI San Fernando Valley Schmooze is focusing on picture books and first lines. I grabbed some favorites from my first line posts and I divided them between prose and rhyming Picture Books. The titles are linked to the books. I have fiddled with the spacing and font and today is one of those times Blogger hates me. So I apologize for the non-uniform look of the titles and links and fonts/. Think of it as Blogger's creativity shining through.
Please tell me your favorite. Want to share your best first line from your own work? Comments welcomed. Happy reading and writing.

Prose first lines

1. Everything was just dandy till that Emily Post book showed up.
Thanks a LOT, Emily Post! by Jennifer Larue Huget, Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger (First book)

Tuesday written and illustrated by David Weisner

3.  In the biggest, brownest muddiest river in all Africa, two crocodiles lay with their heads just above the water. One of the crocodiles was enormous. The other was not so big.
The Enormous Crocodile. Roald Dahl Illustrated by Quentin Blake.

4.  In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines 
Madeline  written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans

 5.  Out in the hottest, dustiest part of town is an orphanage run by a female person nasty enough to scare night into day.
Saving Sweetness by Diane Stanley Illustrated by G. Brian Karas 

6.  Five little puppies dug a hole under the fence and went for a walk in the wide, wide world. 

The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey - Illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren

 7.  My friend Lincoln says you have two dads. That’s right poppa and daddy.

A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager Iluustated by Kristin Blackwood and Mike Blane

9.  Mama love to sing. Her singing was always a happy part of everyday life. But everything changed the day after my seventh birthday.

Floating on Mama’s Song by Laura Lacamara, Illustrated by Yuyi Morales(First book)

 10. I took the moon for a walk last night.
I took the Moon for a walk by Carolyn Curtis, illustrated by Allison Jay.(First book)

11.  Once upon a time Chicken Licken was standing around when a piece of something fell on her head.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka, Iluustrated by Lane Smith. (As best as I can determine, this was his first book. Wow!)
On a cold afternoon, in a cold little town, where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black of soot from chimneys, Annabelle found a box filled with yarn of every color.

ExtraYarn by Mac Barnette. Illustrated by Jon Klassen Extra Yarn is a also Caldecott Honors Book for 2012

12. Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were. Everyone but Mr. Tiger.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild written and illustrated by Peter Brown  2014 Cybil winner.

13.  Whenever the wind lifted off the river, and sent the trees to dancing, I itched to fly a kite.
I’d race to the great Niagara, plumes of mist rising from plunging waters, wind licking at my face.
 A boy like me knew, just knew which day would be perfect for flying kites.
The Kite That Bridged Two Nations by Alexis O'Neil, Illustrated by Terry Widener 2014 Crystal Kite Winner

14.  The Lion is known throughout the animal kingdom as the “King of Beasts.” 
The Great White Shark is the most feared predator in the ocean. 
And the Timberwolf’s howl strikes terror into the hearts of fuzzy woodland creatures everywhere. 
But even SAVAGE CARNIVORES get their feelings hurt.
Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, Illustrated by Dan Santat  

15.  Peter snuggled into Uncle's lap as the carriage clattered through the valleys of Switzerland. Baby Annette slept in Mother's arms, a small pink blossom against a wall of black.
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant. 2015 Caldcott Honor Book

16.  He was born on an island far away where imaginary friends were created."

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, Written and Illustrated by Dan Santat


 Picture Books that Rhyme

1.  Not last night but the night before, three black cats came knocking at the door.

Not Last Night But The Night Before by Colin McNaughton, Illus by Emma Chichester Clark

2.  One morning at the breakfast table, when I read the juice box label, (thinking it was tightly closed), my daddy’s pants got orange-hosed. 
I Always ALWAYS Get My Way by Thad Kranesky, Illus by David Parkins (Thad is a first time picture book author. It was published in 2009) 

When I grow up, I'll live in a tree.
Just my cats, Quentin, Quigley and me.
Growing Up Dreams by Susan J. Berger, Illus by Samantha Bell

4.   Beep Beep. Sheep in a jeep on a hill that’s steep

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw, Illustrated by Margaret Apple (First Book)


5.  In a House on a hill there’s a wild little child not ready to close her eyes.
She burrows in blankets and talks to her toys and listens to lullabies.
Hillside Lullaby by Hope Vestergaard Illustrated by Margie Moore
6.  Many places make a home – a heap of twigs, a honeycomb.
A castle with a tower or two, an aerie with a birds-eye view.
 Castles Caves and Honeycombs by Linda Ashman Illustrated by Lauren Stringer
7.  See the piggy, see the puddle, see the piggy in the middle of the muddy little puddle.
See her dwaddle, see Her diddle, in the muddy muddy middle.
See her waddle, plump and little, in the very merry middle.
The Piggy in the Puddle by Charlotte Pomerantz Illustrated by James Marshall
 8.  In a wee little house in a wee little hole, lived a wee little mouse and a wee little mole.
One Dark Night by Lisa Wheeler Illustrated by Ivan Bated.(This was Lisa Wheeler’s first book. She has written many wonderful books. I wanted to blog the first line of the first one.)

9. Dusk creeps in and day is done.
The last few rays of stubborn sun
Cling to the hilltop, tree and town.
We wish that we could push it down.

 Bats at the Ballgame Written and illustrated by Brian Lies