Friday, July 29, 2011

Put on your mask: I've found the KEY to Poetry Friday!

Happy Poetry Friday--see my poem and poetry exercise below!  
Today's Poetry Friday is hosted by Kate Coombs at Book Aunt 
thanks, Kate!

I am writing this as we wait in the airport for our return flight from our summer vacation in...Fiji!  The best part of this time away from our real lives was the incredible beauty...and slooooowing down.  No internet. No texting.  No telephone.  No multitasking.  I woke up and made my bed without turning on NPR.  I poured hot water over ground coffee beans without simultaneously calling my mother to see how she was feeling.

I'm embarrassed to say that at first it was hard to have fun, even though, intellectually, I knew that lying on the deck of Bruce Balan's trimaran was fun...snorkeling was fun, being with my family was fun.

It took a few days to wipe the seriousness, the purposefulness, the To-Do list from my brain.  And then, one day, I was there.  I was snorkeling in turquoise water over neon tetras and parrot fish and all the fish you see in those wonder-filled tanks at the pet store. I was hiking to the waterfall slides on a red dirt trail.  I was biting into an orange paw paw (papaya), or a passion fruit, or a soursop (which looks like a prickly green dinosaur egg and tastes heavenly--sort of strawberry-pineapple-sour-citrus-creamy-banana-y.)
A man biting into a yummy soursop.

I devoured a mystery series, gobbling each book like potato chips.  I wrote a poem each day, as always.

So let's keep summer's sense of fun in our writing.  Let's pass it on to our students.  I'm teaching my summer class at UCLA Extension again.  It's the one I call my no-homework-for-the-students-no-homework-for-the-teacher class...but its official title is: The Children's Picture Book Writers' Bag of Tricks: A Six-Week Workshop.  The key to this class is to create writing games and prompts which get these adult students out of their chairs, doing spirited hands-on activities before they settle down to write.

WRITING WORKOUT ~ Here's an ice-breaker writing exercise I use in the first class.

  • Collect keys.  Keys of all kinds—house keys, hotel card keys, skeleton keys, car keys, skate keys (remember those?), boat keys, storage shed keys, jewelry box and diary keys.
  • If you're a teacher and don't have a stash of keys, ask each student to bring in at least one key they are willing to give away.
  • Make sure you bring more keys than there are students in your class so that they have a wide selection.
  • Before the students come into the room, lay out all the keys on a table, then cover them with a cloth.
  • When the students are at their desks, ask them to take out paper and pens or pencils. Then tell them that writers often need to settle down before they write.  I call this “circling the chair” time. Some people might clean out a desk drawer or answer email. Some meditate or exercise or pay bills.  Have your students do this simple breathing exercise:

Close your eyes.  Take a deep breath.  Let it out.  Relax your forehead. Breathe. Relax your eyebrows. Relax your jaw. Relax your neck. Relax your shoulders. Relax your arms. Relax your wrists. Relax each finger. Relax your spine, one vertebrae at a time. Relax your stomach.  Relax your legs. Relax your ankles. Relax your feet. Relax each toe.  Breathe. Slowly come back to awareness.

  • Now, let them come up to the table and choose one key to bring back to their desk.
  • Say: Hold your key in your hand.  Feel its weight.  Look closely at it, turning it over, feeling the edges and ends.  Holding the key in your hands, close your eyes.   Ask this key to tell you its story. What did it open?  An old house?  A treasure chest? The door of a room?  A boat?  A car?  A hotel?  What's inside? Whose key was it? An adult? A child? An animal? Someone who lives under water? Someone from another country? From another planet?
  •  Slowly open your eyes.  Pick up your pen and begin a story or a poem about this key.

Here's a poem I wrote about a key, from the key's point of view.  Myra Cohn Livingston, in her terrific book, Poem-Making, writes:  "This aspect of the dramatic voice is what I think of as mask or persona.  It is a though we put on the face or body of someone or something else and tell about ourselves through our words.  Lilian Moore puts on a mask--or a persona--to write "Message to a Caterpillar." (For an absolutely fabulous post on mask poems with great examples, see Elaine Magliaro's Wild Rose Reader.)

by April Halprin Wayland

I'll give you a clue:
Do you like seafood stew?
From your home do you yearn
to be starboard or stern?

Are your parents concerned
that you always return
to the song of the sea?
Are you searching for me?

With a crew and two sails
and the help of a breeze
we will pass humpback whales
we will sail seven seas!

I will go where I please
I'm the king of all keys—
I'm a sailboat key
come and journey with me!

Note: I emailed Bruce (he's actually uses something called "sailmail") asking if he uses any keys in his trimaran.  I mean, if you think about it, on a windy day why would you need a key?  His wife, Alene, answered, saying, "Yes, we have all kinds of keys on the boat. One to start the diesel engine, one for the outboard, and keys to lock our doors.  Bruce also has keys on his concertina, even!"  Ha ha, Alene.
Bruce on his trimaran, Migration, named after his picture book, 
The Cherry Migration.  Note the cherries.

And one more wonderfu, summery thing: Be sure to enter our latest book giveaway--for Allan Woodrow's debut novel, The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless!  You can make-up your villain name and comment on the interview (URL below) or email your comments by August 3rd.  Details:

poem and trimaran photo (c) 2011 April Halprin Wayland, all rights reserved

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Student Success Story Interview with Author Allan Woodrow and Book Giveaway

Hooray! Today I'm pleased to share a Student Success Story interview with author Allan Woodrow. His path to publication was a relatively short one, but that's due not only to his great writing talent, but to his dedication and discipline. (I think aspiring writers will find his responses especially interesting.) After reading the interview, I hope you'll enter our drawing for an autographed copy of Allan's debut novel, The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless (HarperCollins). And a special note: if you've had trouble posting comments for our previous contests, see below for information on our NEW option for emailing your entry.

For my "summer fun" this year, I treated myself to a self-directed weekend-long writing retreat offered by SCBWI-Illinois. I used my time at Words by the Lake to revise the latest draft of my young adult historical novel set in eighteenth-century Italy.  While there, I had the pleasure of catching up with my former student, Allan Woodrow. Seeing him reminded me that I wanted to interview him to celebrate the release of his humorous middle-grade novel The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless (HarperCollins). Here's a hint of the book's plot: Zachary would do anything to join the Society Of Utterly Rotten, Beastly And Loathsome Lawbreaking Scoundrels, the world's most horrible gang of super villains. So when Zachary hears SOURBALLS is looking for someone to join their nefarious gang, he jumps at the chance. Bwa-ha-ha!

If you read Esther's post about the First Time Authors' Panel at this year's Printers Row Lit Festival, you already know a little about Allan. And here's a bit more from the bio he sent me:

Growing up, Allan Woodrow was cursed with a boring, happy, and loving family, giving him nothing interesting to write about. He resented it for years. Allan eventually harnessed his feelings into his new children’s series, The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless (HarperCollins, ages 7-12) about the world’s most evil kid. Allan is also an advertising writer and Creative Director, and has written for TV and the stage. He currently works at the Chicago Tribune. Learn more at his website, and be sure to also check out his blog.

Following the interview, you'll find instructions for how to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless. And for a good laugh, be sure to watch the book trailer at the end of this post.  

Allan, you were a student in my one-day workshop, “Introduction to Writing for Children and Teens,” back in 2008 (or was it 2009?) What inspired you to sign up for that class?  Do you recall any specific ways the class helped you?

The class was in February or March 2009 and Zachary Ruthless didn’t exist yet, not even as a germ. I decided I wanted to try to write a children’s book (but no idea what the book would be), only a month or two earlier. I was trying to write while also gathering as much information as I could about the process, the industry, and looking for inspiration anywhere I could. It was the first class I took in kid lit writing. I remember absorbing a lot of the basic info, in terms of word length and structure and format, and so on. I still have all the handouts.

In your interview on Cynsations, you talk about your unusually quick route to publication. Can you share a bit about how you landed your agent? You’d already done several  revisions of your manuscript before you began querying. Did your agent or editor ask for more revisions?

Yes, I did all sorts of revisions before I sent it out to the world. Some revisions took a couple of days; some were more severe. My first draft, however, has almost nothing in common with the finished manuscript, except maybe a small handful of jokes and the names of the two main characters.

Even with so many revisions, when I decided to find an agent, I wanted an editorial agent. Since it was my first book, and I didn’t have a lot of industry knowledge, I looked for someone who could give it a critical eye and make my manuscript even better. When I made my list of initial agents, that was one of the requirements.

I ended up with quite a long list – about 60 agents. I picked five to send to first; somewhat randomly, to be honest, but figuring it would be just the first group of many. Fortunately, I received an offer from that initial query and, after a phone call and an offer I was hooked. Regarding edits, I did one more draft with my agent, and then another draft with my editor. Both processes went fairly easily, although my editor’s revisions had more dramatic changes, such as adding a major character who didn’t exist before then, which changed the beginning and ending. However, despite that fairly significant change, I had only that one editorial revision. She loved it and then it was just very minor copyediting (which I guess counts as a revision, but only sort of).

On Cynsations, you also explain that you didn’t have a story idea when you first resolved to write and publish a children’s book. Can you tell us a bit more about the daily writing routine you established: How did you decide what to write about each day? What kinds of things did you write before hitting on the idea for Zachary Ruthless?

I’ve read – and can verify from my own experience – that writing works best when 1. Done every day and 2. Done at the same time every day. They are somewhat related, because ideally you block off a set writing time and keep to it. If it moves around, it’s harder to make it predictable, takes too long to ‘get in the mood’ and becomes easier to blow off. I did not blow off days; I made it a priority. I had/have a full time job, so I put aside the only time I knew I had: after the kids went to bed. They were young, so bedtime was a convenient 8:30. My writing time was exactly one hour, 8:45-9:45 (now, it’s a different time, and ranges from 60-120 minutes/day, but still a predictable time slot).

I was inspired by the Dan Gutman “My Weird School” series, by its humor mostly, and the first thing I wrote was roughly based on a true experience when I was in 1st grade but had a similar bent to his books: a school story written first person centered around a trouble-making boy who didn’t love school. I have girls, so my next book was with girl main characters. But I wasn’t writing for publication yet. I vowed that I would write for at least one year before I submitted anything. I was merely writing to get better. I started Zachary Ruthless a few months after I started writing. Even with only writing an hour a day I got a lot done.

When you finally did come up with Zachary Ruthless, did you envision it as a series from the beginning? Did you create an overall plot plan for the series?

While I wrote the first book I knew the character could be a recurring character with many more books, and as I was finishing it I “saw” a much longer 12-13 book story arc that I was excited about, but kept to myself. My agent wanted to sell it as a series, so she asked me if I had any ideas to expand it — I did! — and she requested a synopsis of the next three books. Nothing was written down, but it was relatively simple for me to jot down those book ideas based on the bigger concept I had (I actually jotted down the next 12 books although I only shared those next three). My story arc has changed, actually, but I do have ideas for the next 8 books should anyone want to see them/should I be lucky enough to have anyone ask me to pursue them. And the story arc is less tight than it was; I could expand or shrink it. At least, I know where all my characters are headed, regardless of how long it takes them to get there (if ever).

You have a full-time job in advertising. Has your advertising writing influenced your children’s writing at all? Is it draining to write all day for work and then come home to write more? Have you been able to continue the daily writing routine that led to Zachary Ruthless?

I've wanted to write books forever, and always told myself I was too exhausted from writing all day to write after hours; it was an easy crutch. But the truth is, once I started actually doing it, it wasn’t draining. Mostly. Sure there are some days when I’m exhausted but I try to fight through them (I don’t always win), but those days are the exception not the rule.

They say most advertising should be written at a 3rd grade vocabulary, so I like to think I’ve been writing for my audience for years! Advertising is about creativity but also about revisions, and being concise. A TV commercial should be between 75-80 words depending on the visuals/concept, for example. So you learn to get to the point and not dance around things, and to cut copy when needed, which is helpful for any writing. Also, you present a script to your boss, who presents it to his boss, and then presents it to the advertising client, who then discusses it with his wife and his kids … you’re constantly revising, and much of the time you get 3rd hand feedback. You learn to read “between the lines,” not just react to every change but try to uncover WHY the change is being requested and come up with solutions that are true to your idea. It has helped a lot in making editorial revisions, or responding to critique group thoughts. If someone has a problem with something, it’s not his or her job to solve it; it’s mine and I’m able to step back and look at my work objectively to find the problem (sometimes its simple; sometimes not). Advertising also helps teach you that it’s a team effort. Advertising is about me writing, the sales team selling, the client accepting. Same thing with books. I’m the writer, but the editor is putting her time into it, the publisher is putting their money down. It’s teamwork. I’m definitely not a ‘my every word is sacred’ prima donna.

Advertising also helps you get a tough skin. I might have to write a dozen completely different TV scripts before one is bought, and I might get strong criticism or rejection from many. I’ve had my writing called “trite and banal” (once, years ago). You learn not to take it personally; so I’m a rejection expert – a good thing to be in this industry!  Advertising is also about deadlines, and meeting them whether or not you’re in the mood to write, which, when I have such limited writing time, is a great trait. I don’t have the luxury of saying “I’ll relax now and write in an hour.” For me, it’s right then, or not until tomorrow. And “until tomorrow” is not acceptable to me. At least, usually.

Has your advertising background influenced your approach to promoting Zachary Ruthless? If so, how? Would you share a bit about some of your marketing activities for the book, such as creating the Evil Bad Guy website?

OK. Sure, you would think that as a life-time marketer and advertising agency writer I’d have a million great promotional ideas. Yep, you’d think that. The fact is, I think the best way to promote middle-grade books is with school visits and, with a  full-time job, that’s difficult. I haven’t done many, although I’ve got a great presentation (should any teachers be reading this blog … hint, hint). Blogs (like right here!) are great, because I can do that on my own time. I thought it was important to have a web presence, so the illustrator of the books, Aaron Blecha, and I wrote and designed the book website, (that URL is an intrinsic part of Book 1); we add a new super villain of the month every month, to keep it fresh. I’m fortunate my publisher (HarperCollins) paired me not only with a great illustrator, but someone I’ve become friends with. My wife, a graphic designer, created my book marks. I have a blog and a personal website as another way for readers, or prospective readers, to find me. I have four books, at least, for Zachary Ruthless coming out. So I‘ve created these things not just for Book 1, but so that as people discover the books they can get more information, and as a way to stay top of mind between books coming out. I also created trailers for the book, and a YouTube page. And an Amazon author page. I guess, as an advertiser, I understand the value of having your name out there, somehow, in as many places as possible. All these things are somewhat easy because I can do it on my time (but NOT on my writing time. Writing time is for book writing and editing. It’s too easy to waste the time on other writing, and I try not to). I don’t want my book to fail and for me to think, “Oh, if only I tried that.”

That said, I haven’t done as much as I should. I’m constantly keeping my eyes open for new opportunities. I’ve yet to say no to any opportunity, but not that many opportunities have found me yet.  I’m hoping more do. I’m still just starting my journey; I hope it is a long one. But I only have so many hours in the day to walk it. Sigh! 

I, too, hope you have a long and successful writing journey, Allan. Thanks so much for sharing your Student Success Story with us today. And Readers, I hope you'll be inspired by Allan's discipline and dedication as you pursue your own writing goals.

Now, as promised, here are the instructions for entering our giveaway contest:
To enter our drawing for an autographed copy of The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless, post a comment to today's blog post giving us your real name and your "personal super villain name alias." Bwa-ha-ha!  Be sure to include an email address (formatted like: teachingauthors at gmail dot com) or a link to an email address. We're also announcing a new option for entering our giveaways: Instead of posting a comment, you can email your comment to  teachingauthors at gmail dot com with "Contest" in the subject line. Entry Deadline is Wednesday, Aug. 3, 11 pm (CST). You must have a U.S. mailing address to win. The winner will be determined using the random number generator at, and announced on August 4.

You can watch the trailer for Zachary Ruthless below. And if you'd like to read more great interviews, head over to the Kidlitosphere roundup at Anastasia Suen's Chapter Book of the Day blog today. Readers there can enter to win a free one-hour college counseling session for their favorite high-schooler.

Good luck and Happy Writing!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer writing goals or "get real!"

     I have to tell you that my initial response to the topic "summer writing goals" was "Summer writing goals? Hahahaha" (to quote Lucy of Peanuts fame.) For me at least, Summer Goals and New Year's Resolutions are the same thing. Only the weather is different.

      Every January I promise to lose weight, work out more, and at least try to read adult fiction. In a good year, I can make it to the neighborhood Super Bowl party, followed by a string of out-of-town school visits. The next thing I know, I'm on a plane, reading a children's book and eating overpriced airport M & M's.

     Each May for the last five years I have told myself that this was the summer I would finish The Novel.  I have worked on this book, for so long, that when I do return school visits, students ask if The Novel is coming out this year. I have to admit that no, I haven't finished, still writing.  I'd leave feeling like A Big Fat Failure who was never going to finish The Novel (or lose weight).

     However, this year was going to be different.

     From the summit of the third week of May, the summer and all of its possibilities shimmered at my feet. For the first time, our family vacation would begin the minute the last school bell rang. For once, my daughter's schedule wasn't studded with out-of-town skating competitions. For the first time in years I wouldn't be running a Young Writers workshop during what always turned out to be the hottest week in summer.
     In short, a free summer. Three empty sparkling months. This would be the summer that. . .

     I stopped short. I was about to make a Summer Goal.  Did I want to do this?

    Like most of you, I have to fit writing around my other obligations, which even pared to the minimum, are still a lot.  Circadian rhythms dictate that I am useless until about 9 am, walking into walls and such.  Left to my natural inclinations I would write all night.  I have to get my daughter up at 6 am. (Schools don't care about my Circadian rhythm.) So writing is shoehorned into the odd bits of time.  It's like the old joke, "How do you eat an elephant?" Answer: "One bite at a time."

    When I took stock at the beginning of this summer, I could see my "bites" had added up. I write out of sequence, and this particular book is divided into three "acts."  There were a few scenes missing from Acts Two and Three, but Act One, was a mere skeleton.  However, in writing backwards, I now knew the characters and setting better than I did when I first began this journey. Could I finish The Novel THIS summer? I have all this time and...

    Then I sat down with my manuscript and realized that not only did Act One need a lot of "fleshing out," but that there were a few bald spots in Acts Two and Three as well. Then I would have to go over the "finished" book to "fine tune" it . . .and discover more holes that needed filling and. . .

    No. I couldn't do it. I couldn't finish The Novel in three months, and more than I could lose ten pounds over a weekend. I thought some more. My writer's group was having a retreat at the end of July (which was this past weekend). Could I finish Act One by the third week of July? That seemed a do-able goal.

    Guess what?  I didn't finish Act One. I almost finished it. This a verse novel, and I know that Act One still needs two more poems, but I know exactly what they are. My critique group agreed, and saved me the trouble of having to revise Act One by showing me where and how to tighten the whole thing up.

     So, revised goal...finished Act One by the end of this month. Another doable goal. That's all I will focus on right now...not future plot holes and revisions to come. I am working on this goal. You will know when I have accomplished it, because you will hear a big old "yee-haw!" coming from Atlanta.

Posted by Mary Ann Rodman   

Friday, July 22, 2011

When Plans Blow Up

A few months back, my summer-to-come looked about the same as the previous ones: teaching two six-week classes with a semester break before and after. Then my classes were canceled.


In addition to having all the time I wanted to write, work in the garden, and jettison some of the detritus in my workspace, I envisioned a glorious three months of camping, canoeing, and riding around on the tandem with my husband, who has his summers off from teaching.

Then he crashed his bicycle, breaking three ribs and his right hip socket. After spending a week in the hospital and undergoing surgery to repair his hip, he's home now, recovering nicely but hampered a bit by the crutches he'll need for three months.

My plans? Revised again. How? Here's what I told myself:

1. Count your blessings.

2. Take stock. Look closely at that To Do list. Decide what’s doable and what’s not really so important, and prioritize the important stuff.

3. Define minimum requirements. Simplify. Lower your standards. Recognize your limits. In other words, do what you can. Work around the edges if you can’t plunge in. I had planned an ambitious monarch butterfly study project that just isn’t going to happen this year. Instead, I hung a mosquito net from the side of the garage, and I’m protecting a few, watching them grow, taking pictures when I can, and hoping to figure out what I want to write about them.

4. Let everything else go. In the long run, a whole lot of effort turns out to be busy work. The garden is thriving without much attention from me. I wish I had taken pictures of the anemones waving in the wind on the top of our front hill. And the peonies! O, the peonies! Now we have day lilies, monarda, and daisies. From across the street, you can’t tell that yellow coneflowers are taking over, crowding out the smaller plants beneath them. I bet they’ll be pretty, too.

5. Take care of yourself. Don’t skip the walk to do the dishes. Write a snippet in a waiting room. And as April says, remember to breathe.

JoAnn Early Macken

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summertime: When the living is easIER...

I know for some folks - for instance, Porgy and Bess, living is truly easy come Summertime. According to George Gershwin, fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.
As for me, though?
Sorry to say, a “Gone Fishin’!” sign isn't hanging on my Writing Room door. 

What I did do June 21, though, was strive to reconnect with the Writer within by living each summer’s day with a bit more ease.

here’s the Lakeshore Park wrought iron bench I continue to claim most afternoons to sit and, drum roll please:  again read for pleasure.

Lakeshore Park’s out my door and across the street.
When it comes to writing, reading was my long-ago First Love. It was reading that made me a Writer, period.
The Writer within me hasn’t joined Jeanne Marie’s family at the Statue of Liberty... yet, but thanks to authors Eric Larson, Jean Thompson, Lee Smith, Jennifer Haigh, Gary Schmidt and John Milliken Thompson, just to name a few, we’ve gone back and forth in time to visit Nazi Germany, Iowa and the Midwest, North Carolina, Boston, Long Island and Richmond, Virginia.

Here’s Seneca Park’s Eli Schulman Playground,

outside my door and two blocks to the right.
Thanks to my newest love - my sweet grandson Gabriel, board book ideas roam my brain’s Hard Drive 24-7, no matter the season.
Watching and listening to children - including Gabriel! - at play this summer, any time of day, the way I long-ago observed my own sweet son, has me once again growing book ideas for little ones.
Ironically, it was a baby and toddler concept book that first brought me to the Children’s Book World.
I find that memory every bit as delicious as the cheesecake manufactured by the park's namesake.

my Muse and I once again walk Lakeshore Park's quarter-mile track daily, thinking about the books we read, marinating the possibilities of my kiddo-sparked ideas, grateful for boasting a Chicago zip code.
A serious foot injury sadly brought my Power Walking to a halt a year ago.
(Honestly, I never even knew what a Podiatrist did! Were someone to mention the condition plantar faciitis, my mind would have turned up Planter’s Mr. Peanut.)
But now I’m back on track, literally and figuratively.
Here’s my view of Lake Michigan when I turn the track to walk east.

Here’s my view of Chicago's skyline when I turn to walk west.

so far,
so good,
as I hang with the Writer within I’ve let be way too long.

My Summer in the City feels like Old Home Week.

Enjoy your summer, vacationing or not!

Esther Hershenhorn
Click here to listen to just a few of my iPod's Summer Songs that keep me dancing at least 8 times round the track.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer Fun

Welcome back from our little "summer blog break."  I don't know about the rest of you, but we took a real vacation -- to the beach and NYC! (Have I mentioned how much I love being married to a teacher?)  We peeked at the Statue of Liberty and got rained on in Central Park and spent a lot of time convincing our daughter that one doesn't drive four hours to the beach to spend the whole time at the hotel pool.

In big news, let me start by announcing the lucky winners of our latest Book Giveaway contest.  Winning copies of Deborah Halvorsen's Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies are Clare (who posted as “anonymous”) and Debbie, an email follower of our blog who won the copy reserved for a blog follower.  Congratulations!

Summer typically being a time to relax and recharge, I decided it was well past time to give myself a writing kick in the butt.  Since graduating from Vermont College ten years ago (yikes!), I've been so busy with kids and work, etc., etc., that my own writing has mostly taken a backseat to other, more obviously pressing pursuits.  And when I do manage to carve out writing time, the process feels very lonely.  So... I decided to enroll in a class in McDaniel College's online certificate program taught by the wonderful editor (and fellow VC alum) Jill Santopolo.  Let me just say -- WOW! 

Like my beloved VC "Hive," my McDaniel classmates are a wonderfully talented, committed, and supportive group.  Jill has been amazing, and this is probably the best thing I've done for myself since I started at Vermont College 13 years ago.  I am so sad that it's going to end next week, and I know I will need to find a way to continue to make myself accountable for producing weekly pages.  On the bright side, many of my classmates live nearby, and I do believe that we are going to find a way to keep cheering one another on.

I also just (today) returned from my first-ever local SCBWI Conference.  It was a two-day, hands-on intensive, and the experience of communing with other local writers was long overdue.  I'm not sure what took me so long, but it's great to be back in the thick of things.

I'm also happy to be noodling on a new novel set in a summer camp.  Wouldn't it be great if it could be summer forever? --Jeanne Marie