Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ways to Get Inspired by Lee and Low

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I am a big fan of publisher Lee and Low.  Their unique and multi-cultural books inspire and remind me of my purpose as a writer for children.  I especially enjoy receiving their newsletter for authors and illustrators, always full of useful info and tidbits.  Here’s a snippet from last week’s letter which you can read in full by clicking here.

Here are three ways to get inspired as you set new goals for the year ahead:

  1. Read a book in a genre that’s completely different from the genres you usually read.
  2. Read some of the posts in author Nova Ren Suma’s greatTurning Points blog series, where authors answer the question, “What was your turning point as a writer?”
  3. Pick one author or illustrator whose work you’ve admired from afar and reach out to that person. Perhaps she or he may have just the right advice for you!

I Kickstarted My Writing Career with CBW-LA

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I attended a fantastic workshop this past Saturday, organized by the Children’s Book Writers of Los Angeles. “Kickstart Your Writing Career” was led by Nutschell Windsor, CBW-LA’s Founder. In two hours, she led the group in a goal setting, motivational workshop that was productive and informative (Nutschell always provides great handouts that have been researched and well planned).

I came out of the workshop energized and prepared with a plan of attack to achieve my writing goals this year. I have long-term (monthly and yearly) and short-term goals (daily, weekly), and was finally able to come up with some kind of writing schedule based on my life’s daily changing needs.

The next CBW-LA meet up is in February – a critique session, the perfect follow up to a goal setting workshop. If you haven’t checked them out, be sure to look CBW-LA on Meetup and consider joining.

http://www.meetup.com/CBW-LA/

Guest Blogger

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A fellow writer, Nutschell Windsor, keeps a great blog called “The Writing Nut.”  Every Wednesday, she features a guest writer in a post called “The Writer’s Workspace.”  I am featured there today!  Check me out:

http://www.thewritingnut.com/wednesday-writers-workspace/wednesday-writers-workspace-welcomes-stephanie-dreyer/

Synchronicity

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(n): The simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.

I love this word.  Even more, I love to see it in action.  I believe in the power of the Universe to deliver whatever it is we want (the trick is in defining what we want and then asking for it).  So, I hold a lot of weight in synchronicity.  There are signs all around us every day, and when we start to see them and let them guide us, it is truly a gift from the Universe (or so I think!).

Last week was my first week as an official freelance communications writer, giving me more time to focus on my children’s writing.  I changed a steady gig I had with a Client to give me more time and flexibility in my schedule as I delve deeper into freelance writing.  As I started my new working schedule last week, I was very organized with my time and my focus, outlining specific tasks and checking them off as I went.  I even went so far as to map out such a schedule for the month, with a plan to update it every month moving forward.

One of these tasks was to read Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul, recommended to me by a fellow scribbler in The Children’s Book Writers of Los Angeles (http://www.meetup.com/CBW-LA/) several months ago.  It had sat on my bookshelf for a while, but I eagerly pulled it out last week.  As I did, I noticed the author’s name and immediately was hit with a dose of synchronicity.  As part of my new work week, I have given myself 10-15 picture books to read each week.  After reading Tortuga In Trouble (by Ann Whitford Paul) two weeks ago, I checked out several more of her  titles last week because my son and I enjoyed her stories so much.  I didn’t realize that she was also the writer of this picture book resource.

As I read the first few pages of the book, I immediately knew I was in good hands and that I found a worthwhile read in this book – another gem found on my literary life path.  I decided to take the coincidence of events – discovering her children’s books and then picking up her writer’s book in the same week (after sitting on my shelf for months) – as a sign that I am on the right path to my writer’s life.  I see it as reinforcement that I am taking the right steps to become a better children’s writer, and encouragement to keep chugging along.

For what it’s worth, I wanted to share this bit of synchronicity and encourage you to see the signs.  They just might give you the energy boost or motivational charge you need to take that next step on your literary path.

Perfecting Our Craft

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One of the biggest (and most important) takeaways from SCBWI-LA’s Writer’s Day last month was the fact that no matter how good the query or the referral you get to an editor/agent, it won’t help you at all if the work isn’t good.  This is obvious, however, critical.  We must always be working on our craft.  We must be actively finding ways to improve our work.  We can all write, but to write well is the most critical step towards becoming an author. 

Here are a few of the ways I actively work on my craft:

1. Read what I want to write.  I read a lot of picture books.  This is my favorite genre to write.  With every picture book I read, I gain valuable insight into what works and what doesn’t work in dialogue, plot, setting, etc.  I also read chapter books and YA novels, genres I also want to write. 

I get an even more valuable education when I read aloud to my children – chapter books and picture books, especially.  I hear first hand what makes them giggle (or not).  With my eight year-old, we read the same book on our own and then talk about it.  Reading with my kids is one of the best things I do on a daily and weekly basis for my writing.

2. Join a critique group.  I submit my work to an online group.  In return, I critique others’ work in the group.  Being a part of a community that is working towards the same goal is motivating and helps to keep focused.  I also learn a lot from my fellow writers – problem areas to avoid, tactics that work, and themes that inspire.  Of course, I also get trained feedback from a community that is supporting each other to succeed.

3. Take writing classes.  I love UCLA’s extension program, but my schedule has made it difficult to attend a class in years.  I just registered for Anastasia Suen’s Chapter Book course.  I am excited to try an online course, learning at my pace in the comfort of my home.  I think classes are great for many reasons.  Aside from the obvious skills and knowledge you learn in an area you are seeking, you also get the regular discipline of writing weekly, feedback from a published author, and community with other writers.

4. Read books on writing.  I have a stack of these on my bookshelf.  I admit that I have not been as diligent in this area, but I aim to.  There are some great resources out there that can only add to my knowledge and help in some way.  Many books offer exercises and writing prompts that get you writing too. 

Read.  Write.  Critique.  They all add up to perfecting the craft.  What do you do to improve your writing?

Finding Time To Write

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Juggling a part-time job, three kids, volunteer commitments and my writing career is challenging.  We all struggle with finding time to write and work on our writing careers.  It is easy to use lack of time  as an excuse to push our writing to the side.  I have done it often.  But with a few adjustments and change in mindset, I am finding it easier to be a working mom and focus on my passion.

Last month’s issue of Children’s Writer (March 2012) offered some great tips (by Marcie Flinchum Atkins):

– Pack a writing bag: When she’s waiting to pick up the kids, she can read and critique someone else’s writing, edit a piece she’s been working on or brainstorm ideas for a project.  If you keep a bag ready and loaded with whatever you need, you are always ready to go.

I just started packing a bag this past week.  In it, I have my writing journal, pencil/pen, a hard copy of whatever manuscript I am working on, copies of Writers Digest that I need to read, and copies of a children’s magazine that I am researching for queries.

– Share homework: While her kids do homework, Marcie researches markets, competitive titles, topics or reading publications.  I thought this was a great idea and can’t believe I never thought of it! 

– Double-Duty storytime: This is my favorite suggestion.  Use bedtime stories as an opportunity to read the genres you are writing.  This is golden time to learn about the market, while sharing special time with your kids (and passing down your passions of reading and writing).  I am blessed to have an 8, 6 and 3 year-old, making it easy to read picture books, easy reader/chapter books and middle grade novels in an evening.  I find my kids also make comments about the stories we read, which gives me great insight and sometimes ideas about other stories I can write.

Nothing is easy, but with a little creativity, you can find time to work on writing.  I’d love to hear your tips for fitting writing into your daily schedule.

My First Guest Blog

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A fellow writer and blogger, Nutschell Windsor, asked me to be a guest on her Wednesday Writers Workspace column.  I happily accepted and will be featured June 6th!  I am very excited.  This is my first guest post.  She sent me a list of questions to answer and requested some specific pictures to share on the blog.  I really enjoyed the experience and hope to guest blog more.

For a preview of what the column has in store, check out last week’s link on her blog, The Writing Nut: http://www.thewritingnut.com/category/wednesday-writers-workspace/.

This specific column asks the writer about her workspace and how she writes (time of day, place, rituals, etc.).  It’s a peek inside a writer’s creative process, if you will.  Is there anything you’d like to know about my workspace or process?  Send me your questions in the comments section and I’ll be happy to share.

Young Writers Workshop

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I write for children because I hope to inspire or teach something to our future.  Through my words, I aim to make a difference in a little person’s life that may somehow then inspire change that will then impact that child to realize their full potential or make the world a better place.

Inspiring children to write their own stories would be the most fulfilling outcomes of being a children’s author.  The Young Writers Conference does just that.  I discovered this amazing writer’s program for my then 7 year-old daughter this past summer.  She was just a year shy of the 4th grade cut-off, but was able to enroll in the summer camp anyway.  

Since then, I have had the pleasure of meeting with Julie and Rena, founders of the program, and had the great opportunity of auditing a school conference during the year.  It is a fantastic day-long program, put on by the students, that features guest speakers – writers of all genres (authors, song writers, screen writers, journalists, etc.) in workshops meant to get kids writing.  The caliber of speakers is outstanding and inspiring in itself.  The content that the kids take away from the day is priceless.

I have the great honor of presenting a workshop at the end of March at a conference being held in Redondo Beach.  I can’t wait to hear what the kids think of my session.

YWC just went social.  In the coming weeks, they hope to create a network of online resources for kids to explore the power of writing every day, year-round, on a multitude of social media platforms they are already familiar with. Check them out on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Young-Writers-Conference/116968335092730.