Friday, September 24, 2010

Novel Update

Happy Friday!

I'm really excited that fall is upon us.  I'm currently blogging from the Seattle's Best Cafe in my favorite Borders.  I'm watching the Batistas change the signs and posters to the fall specials.  Apparently, everything now comes in pumpkin. 

Of course, if you step outside, you'd think it was the middle of July.  The current temperature is eighty-one degrees.  According to my iPhone, we have another ten degrees to go before reaching the high.

Today is one of those days where I'm feeling exceptionally positive about my current work in progress.  With eighteen chapters and 63,000 words accomplished (not counting the estimated 50,000 words that have been cut and thrown into the junk file), I'm starting to believe more and more in the potential this book might have.  Sure it will need to be cleaned up.  Adjustments will need to be made.  And as much as it will pain me to do so, I imagine if I'm ever fortunate enough to work with a professional editor, I will have to cut some of my favorite parts.  It's just the way the publishing business works.

But in terms of the actual story, I feel good.  It's coming along and unfolding nicely.  And my current readers are enjoying it.  The best compliment is hearing it's entertaining.

But I'm jumping the gun a tad.  First I need to finish.  If all goes as planned, my entire third draft/first shareable draft will be completed by the time the Time Square ball reaches the ground and illuminates the 2011 sign.  From there, I will take a week long sabbatical and not look at a single word I've written.  I will then print it out, go to a very comfortable, quiet, secluded location (a location where I did NOT write any part of the book), and read it all the way through.  I'll take notes in the margins and go back and make my corrections.

Then, I will be printing ten drafts to send to my second round of "critics."  Half of them have been reading draft three as it's ready; the other half will be a fresh pair of eyes.  These ten people come from all different walks of life - parents, teachers, avid readers, high school students, etc.  I'm excited to bring these people on board.  I've selected them all for specific reasons and I value their input.  Once I receive feedback from all of them, I'll have the nightmare of sorting through their notes and figuring out what changes I need to make. 

From there, I'll host a Query Party.  By that, I mean I'm inviting a few people over to help me research agents, find as many successful sample letters as possible, and make my own query letter perfect.  We'll figure out who is the most appropriate for the piece I've created and go from there.  I also have a list of what I consider to be the most helpful blogs for anyone seeking publication.  I definitely plan on digging through these postings to find whatever tips and advice I can.

And then, the heartache will begin.  I'll start querying agents and hope for the best.  But I am absolutely prepared for the rejection letters that will come.  I just hope one day, I'll get that one magical yes.

As I've said before, the process is long, but very exciting.  When I think about what could happen, I get motivated, but also very apprehensive.  I've been talking a lot to a friend from high school, DJ Mike Ryan, who is also writing a book.  We write two entirely different genres and for entirely different audiences; however, the process is exactly the same.  It's great having someone to talk to who is going through the exact same thing I am.  And Mike has a really good handle on the business.  You should check out his page, unless you happen to be someone who is easily offended. 

So, that is my update for now.  I'm getting back to my manuscript.  I'm also in the process of preparing a series of guest bloggers to discuss the writing process and their role in my project.  More details as they unfold.

Have a great weekend, all!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Budget Cuts

Yesterday, I was out writing at one of my usual locations.  It was a fairly productive session, and I was in a great mood.  However, when my brain overloads, I find myself people watching and eavesdropping on the conversations of others.  (Okay, I do this even when my brain isn't overloaded - I can't help myself.)  Hey, you never know when you might find new material, right?!  See, it's all for the sake of the book....

ANYWAY, two recent college graduates were sitting with a manager nearby.  It was there first day of training at their brand new minimum wage job.  I figured they probably looked, searched, and applied all summer, and with seasonal staff going back to school, decided their only option was to resort to an hourly job at the local bookstore.  I felt terrible - believe me! 

I overheard comments like, be sure to punch in..., you get to take a half hour break on your shift..., the employee discount is...., if something comes up it's your job to switch shifts with someone else.....It was the exact same speech I got as a seventeen year-old high school senior starting my first job at a CVS.  These people have degrees!!!

People go to college for a reason.  The reason is not so they can spend, on average, $45,000 dollars to obtain a job requiring only a high school diploma.  And I personally don't think it's fair that people are told it takes time, the economy is bad, you have to get your foot in the door.....

No.  I don't think so.  If someone is qualified and capable, they should not have to jump through hoops and perform a stage show to get a salary and health benefits.  Because if one of the many unemployed recent college graduates in our world happens to, God forbid, contract a serious illness, what are they expected to do?  Sorry, you got sick before you got your foot in the door.  We can't help you, unless you can afford the $150k medical bill.

I found myself getting very angry.  Believe me, being in this situation is far from enjoyable, and some of us have to stay a lot longer than the dates on our original itinerary.

I had to find something to make me laugh at the above described situation.  Thank you, Mamma M. for coming to the rescue.  For anyone who is plagued by unemployment, lay offs, budget cuts, a limited job market, etc. - THIS IS FOR YOU!

Come on, I thought it was funny!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

And the next winner is, PLUS 9/11 Memorial Photos

Congratulations to Alesia, a preschool teacher in Illinois, who was chosen by as the winner of my Back to School Treasure Chest.  Alesia will be receiving an assortment of goodies to use in her classroom worth over $150 in value. 

Thank you to everyone who participated and helped promote this contest online.  I wish I had enough prizes to give you all one, but unfortunately, that is not the case.  However, I have ideas for other contests and giveaways in mind, so be sure to continue checking my blog to find out how you can very easily enter.  If you have any ideas for future contests or prizes I could run, I'd love to hear them as well.

Shifting gears...

On 9/11, I was a college freshman.  It was my third week of classes.  I woke up around 9:30am to get ready for my first class of the day - The Atmosphere with Dr. Yalda.  My friend Lisa would be at the door any second to tell me to move my butt.

I turned on my computer and began reading away messages (what 98% of college students did first every morning).  They were the basics: @ class, @ breakfast, doing homework, writing a paper.  But then I read my friend Melissa's: Oh my god!  The World Trade Centers were hit by planes

My initial thought:  Great!  I already HATE to fly.  Now some pilot probably just had a heart attack, which is very unfortunate, but did he have to have it in the air?  How does a plane crash into two buildings?

I don't know what I was thinking, but I truly believed it was a simple plane crash. 


The rest is history.

My mom sent me a great e-mail that truly took my breath away.  In honor of today and the lives that were lost, I'm inserting it below.  Happy Patriots Day, everyone!

 Have you heard about the trucker who has painted his cab and trailer with the names of all those who lost their lives on 9/11?

The trucker's name is John Holmgren from Shafer, Minn. He has been 'pulled over' numerous times just so the troopers can get their picture taken with the truck.
(scroll down to see the pictures)


Monday, September 6, 2010

Win A Back to School Treasure Chest

Hello, all!

I'm extremely excited to introduce my second blog giveaway.  After the success of my first contest last week, I've been looking forward to hosting a second.  So, why wait?!

With another school year among us, I have designed this contest with teachers in mind.  However, you do not have to be a teacher to enter. 

This is the second consecutive year I am not returning to a classroom (and third consecutive year not returning to a history classroom).  I have mixed emotions - most days, I really don't care. There are a lot of perks to not teaching.  But every once in a while, I'll be part of a conversation, overhear something, or stumble upon a memory that makes me wish I was going back.

As a teacher, I always loved the beginning of a new year.  Anticipating the kids I'd be working with, having an opportunity to revamp things from the year before, and starting with a "clean slate."  Ultimately, I loved thinking about how I was going to improve - what I would do even better than the year before.

I'd start going into work in early August.  I took so much pride in my room - every isolated detail had to be perfect when the kids walked in that first day.  Recently, I found the file with pictures from my old room.  This is what it looked like my last year as a 7th grade social studies teacher:

 Teaching was fun.  I honestly loved my job.  I enjoyed the kids.  I enjoyed coming up with new, creative ways to present information that had never been done before.  And I loved my co-workers.  I had the BEST team.

My Decade Day Bulletin Board
I was trying to think of my favorite moment as a teacher.  I ended up thinking of five.  And since this is my blog, I get to share them all: 

1. The Knighting Ceremony: After completing a series of tasks representing the stages of knighthood, each student was dubbed a knight in a formal accolade.
2. The Holiday Culture Fair: Students boarded a plane and flew around the world to celebrate five different holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, and Chinese New Year.
3. My Black History Unit: When I was ten, I saw a movie on TV called The Ernest Green Story. Years later, I used that same film to teach kids about integration and the right for everyone to receive a free and appropriate public education.
4. Decade Day: I turned my classroom into a 1950s Malt Shop to teach about the decade.  The kids completed a "menu" of questions and celebrated with an ice cream sundae.  They LOVED it!!!
5. Italian Food Day: Seriously, is there a better way to end a unit on the Italian Renaissance than with a gourmet Italian feast? I think not!

Which brings me to my newest contest:

What is your absolute favorite school memory? (As a teacher or a student)

Here's how to enter:

1.  In the comments section below, post an answer to the question stated above.

2.  If you do not have one of the approved accounts accepted by Blogspot (Aim, Live Journal, etc.), select "Name/Url" from the drop down menu.  Type your name (full, first name only, or make up a screen name - I don't care - your choice) and click submit.  If you have a website, you may type that in the URL section, but that is optional.  You can also post anonymously.

3.  Click "post comment."

4.  After doing so, you must fill out and submit the entry form below.  Otherwise, your registration will not be received.

Okay, so what can you win???

This "Teaching is a Work of Heart" Treasure Chest!!!!  It contains over thirty (30) items and has more than $150 in value!  SWEET!!!

Some of the items include:
  • A Handbook for Classroom Instruction that Works (Marazano, et al.)
  • The Essential 55 by Ron Clark
  • Winning Strategies for Classroom Management by Carol Cummings
  • Transparencies (good for copy machines and laser printers)
  • Ten miniature white boards
  • The Book of Magnetic Poetry
  • Electronic Timer
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • CD featuring the classical music of Mozart
  • Inflatable Beach Ball
  • Comprehension Cubes
  • Classroom Management Signs
  • Basketball net with nerf ball (great for review games)
  • Sentence Strips
  • 5 See It, Hear It, STOP IT bracelets and 2 decals (created in memory of Alex Harrison in support of anti-bullying efforts)
  • Tons of stickers and post-it notes
  • Tons of supplies, including highlighters, pencils, glue sticks, and more!
ADDITIONALLY, you can receive extra entries by doing any or all of the following:
  • Advertise this contest on your blog (+5 entries)  
  • Advertise this contest on Facebook (+3 entries) 
  • Advertise or retweet this contest on Twitter (+2 entries)   
  • I'll also add an entry if you become a follower of my twitter feed and/or my blog  
Entries must be received by 11:59 PM on Friday, September 10. At that time, will automatically generate a winner. The winner will be announced on Saturday afternoon.  The prize will be shipped out (or possibly delivered) by the end of the month.

This is a great contest for teachers.  However, if you are not a teacher, you should still enter.  Consider giving the prize to a teacher you know.  Perhaps you have a friend or relative who teaches.  Parents: You could give the prize to your child's teacher, or a teacher from the past you  really enjoyed.  Students: Think about it - is there a better way to get on your teacher's good side then walking in and handing them this awesome collection of goodies.  Think about it...

Thank you in advance for participating. Good luck to everyone!

This contest is now closed.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Writing is stressful.  There is no other way to put it.  You have to worry about the story itself:
  • Is it making sense? 
  • Are my thoughts transferring correctly to the page? 
  • Are my characters developed? 
  • Have I included all the necessary information? 
  • Is my dialogue moving the story forward? 
  • Am I painting a vivid picture in the reader's mind?
  • Are parts of the book dragging?
  • Is the pacing appropriate?
  • Are people going to be interested?
  • ...the list goes on.....
Then there is the actual writing:
  • Grammar
  • Spelling
  • Mechanics
  • Sentence Structure
  • Focus
  • Style
  • Organization
  • Syntax
And don't forget the literary elements:
  • Point of View
  • Similes
  • Metaphors
  • Irony
  • Analogies
  • Symbolism
  • Imagery/Sensory Details
  • Foreshadowing
Then of course, while doing all of the above, I'm always thinking about the prospect of landing an agent, being published, and having all my literary dreams come true, while simultaneously squashing all the negative vibes certain people choose to consistently send my way: it's a long shot, you're waisting your time, you need to be looking for a secure position, it's not going to work out, gobble gobble gobble...

I'll tell ya, it's enough to send you for an extended stay at the finest mental health facility.

Thankfully, I have people looking out for my sanity.  These "de-stressers" were sent to me by a good friend to lighten my mood.  I'll admit, I found them amusing.  It's always good to have a good laugh, even if it occurs at a table in a Borders cafe with people looking at you quizzically.  So, I thought I'd share them here.

Happy Labor Day!  Enjoy the last few hours of summer.  I'm actually looking forward to the fall!

Friday, September 3, 2010

And the winner is.....

Congratulations to "LiliesU2" of Worcester, MA whose entry number was generated by  The winner is receiving a $25.00 gift card that can be used at either On the Border, Maggiano's, Chili's, or Macaroni Grill.

A special thank you to EVERYONE who participated in my first blog contest.  I got twice as many responses as I originally hoped for, and my blog received over 200 hits throughout the duration of the contest.  For my first giveaway, I'm calling it a decent success.

I have not yet decided which book I'm going to read.  There are a lot of outstanding choices, and I have made a list of twelve that I definitely want to tackle at some point.  The good news is, I recently earned $5.00 in Borders Bucks, so whatever I go purchase tomorrow will be cheap!  Always an added bonus!!  I'll keep you posted on what I end up selecting for the long weekend.

Again, thanks so much for your participation and support.  My goal is to make this blog more popular over the next few months, especially as I begin wrapping up the first shareable draft of my manuscript.  Please continue visiting and checking out my posts.

I'm already preparing my next giveaway.  Details will be posted in mid-September.  Teacher's will definitely want to get in for this deal, and the rest of you can put in on behalf of a teacher you know.  Also, if you have any ideas for upcoming contests I could run, I'd love to hear them.  Send me an e-mail or post a comment below.

Everyone enjoy the holiday!