Friday, May 28, 2010


I am (mostly) unplugging until Tuesday.

We close on our new house this morning and I'm spending the long weekend moving in. I'll pop in to your blogs when I get the chance, since I can't possibly make it until Tuesday without a dose of blog love.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Read or Eat?

"The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive."
~ Crow and Weasel, Barry Lopez
(taken from What the Dormouse Said)

Doesn't that quote make you feel good? There are times I think I really would prefer a great book to lunch (but it would be neck and neck with chocolate and a latte)!

We take care of each other's stories - giving freely of our time and skills, our lessons learned and knowledge gained. And our stories care for us - keeping us company when we should be sleeping and driving us on when our eyes cross with fatigue. Ah, the joys of storytelling. I wouldn't trade them for the world!

In what ways does your story take care of you?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thank You

"Development is the sweaty part of writing. This is what separates the writer from the onlooker, the person who is always going to write a novel 'some day' from the one who in fact does. It's wearying. It's dull. It's not nearly as much fun as the research. It is hard. It takes a long time."

~ David Poyer

Most of us have our alpha and beta readers, our CP's, our whatever-you-want-to-call-them readers who provide feedback on our writing. We all know by now that the real work begins once we have completed that first draft. Regardless of our skill, ALL writing needs editing. The key is in choosing the right people to evaluate and critique our work and in how we respond to the feedback that is provided.

"Evaluation should move writers forward, helping them grow by identifying the strengths of the process and the product, as well as those elements or conventions that need to be addressed."
~ Linda Rief

After two years, I am finally ready to query my chapter book.


Elana J.

I have learned that a novel is not a solitary creation. It requires a qualified support group and a great deal of trust. I could not have done it without all of you.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

All Hail the Queen Winners

Yesterday's "All hail the Queen" celebration winners, according to were commenters 16 and 34.

True Random Number Generator 16 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

True Random Number Generator
34 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Which means...

Shannon Whitney Messenger
Tina Lynn

are winners of a $10 Amazon Gift card!

Congratulations!! *throws confetti and blows obnoxious party horn*

And Elana J, you are awesomesauce extraordinaire and we LOVE you!
All Hail the Queen!

Monday, May 24, 2010

All Hail the Queen!

The Queen of Blog Land Scores a Book Deal!

Yeah, yeah, I know I'm a little late to the party. I wanted to post this yesterday, but this is the week we move into our new house (woo-hoo!) and I never got a chance to blog. It's also why I'm so late posting today. But that's not the point!

The point is that our BELOVED Elana Johnson - the query queen, the cheer queen, the "You CAN do hard things!" queen - sold her book!!!!!

Here are the details from Publisher's Marketplace:
Elana Johnson's CONTROL ISSUES, set in a brainwashed society where those gifted with mind control best join the powers that be, but one rebel girl tries to beat them at their own game, to Anica Rissi at Simon Pulse, by Michelle Andelman at Lynn Franklin Associates (NA).
I could not be happier! To CELEBRATE Elana's book deal, I am going to give a $10.00 Amazon gift card to one of today's commenters. I am in the mood to party on her behalf, and a party needs presents! Right? Right!

You must be a follower to win. Now, go leave a comment. And if you haven't already, go give Elana some love!

***(Added) As if she isn't already too awesomesauce for words, Elana is going to match my gift card giveaway! That means we can have TWO winners!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Blog Love

Happy Friday!! I promised I wasn't going to let myself get so far behind on awards - it's too much work. So today I'm passing on some love.

I received this new and beautiful Happy 101 Award from Misadventures in Candyland and from Tina Lynn @ Sweet Niblets. I love both of these wonderful women - love them! Hit the links and become a follower if you aren't already. You'll be "happy 101" that you did!

I'm passing this award to:

Princess Courtney Barr who ALWAYS makes me happy!
Hatshepsut who loves butterflies and all things Egyptian.
Carolyn V. who makes me smile every day with her cheerful personality and emails.
Shannon Whitney Messenger (#1) who is all kinds of happy to me. Love ya!!
Natalie @ The Sound of Rain who JUST GOT ENGAGED!!


This awesome Bodacious Blogging Book Reviewers Award came from the sweet Alexia. If you are a cat person, be sure to check out her Cat Thursday posts!

I pass this to the following book reviewing blogs:

Jana @ Milk & Cookies who does wonderful reviews of middle grade lit. She's currently having a contest (see sidebar or visit her).
Searching for a Good Read this is a newer blog, run by four wonderful ladies who write excellent reviews.
In Which a Girl Reads - you'll love this one!
Juju @ Tales of Whimsy - I love her new look!
Liz @ Cleverly Inked - one of my favorites!


And I received the other Happy 101 Award recently from the beautiful and talented Elizabeth Mueller. She is becoming well-known for her fabulous artwork.

I pass this award to:

Jonathon Arntson who keeps the whole blogosphere laughing!
Sherrie Solvang @ Write About Now who never fails to entertain or inform.
Carrie Harris - Duh! How could she NOT get a happy award?!
Tahereh @ Grab a Pen - OMG! how I love this chick!
Les Edgerton - a genius, a resource, a new friend

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Where are My Pruning Shears?

"Don't say you were a bit confused and sort of tired and a little depressed and somewhat annoyed. Be tired, Be confused. Be depressed. Be annoyed. Don't hedge your prose with little timidities. Good writing is lean and confident."
~ William Zinsser

In On Writing Well, William Zinsser recommends we prune out small words that qualify how we feel and think and see. Words like:

a bit
a little
sort of
kind of
pretty much
in a very real sense

The list is much longer, of course, but those are a few examples provided by Zinsser of words that "dilute" our effectiveness as writers. Our powers of persuasion are strengthened when we leave out the qualifiers and let our characters simply feel and think and see. He sums up the importance of this trait in our writing nicely.
The larger point here is one of authority. Every little qualifier whittles away some fraction of trust on the part of the reader. He wants a writer who believes in himself and what he is saying. Don't diminish this belief. Don't be kind of bold. Be bold.
It's so easy to fall into the trap of qualifying statements. I see it in the writing of my students all the time. From now on, I will look more closely at my own writing. Now, where did I put those pruning shears?

How about you?
Do you need to sharpen your pruning shears?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Spaces Between the Lines

"I once heard a composer on the radio say that music wasn't notes but the space between them. The same might apply for dialogue. It is the spaces between the lines that bring the dialogue to life."
~Barry lane

Writing dialogue is tricksy. How much should our characters actually say? When are they saying too much? We need to remember that sometimes the most powerful words are the ones that are NOT spoken. One of my favorite quotes about dialogue is another from Barry Lane. He says, "The best dramatic and humorous dialogue thrives on undercurrents, unspoken pauses that tell us everything we need to know about the characters and their situations."

Keeping secrets is part of being human. We keep things from each other. We even try to keep things from ourselves. I know because I am a big-time master of denial. Therefore, what our characters don't say is equally as important - sometimes even more important - than what they do say. What we leave out deepens our conflict, increases suspense, and builds character.
Situations may seem predictable, but the people who act in them are not. The best dialogue proves this. Whether it's a comic scene or a dramatic scene. Good dialogue is always the spaces between the lines, the things left unsaid.
~ Barry Lane

What is your favorite dialogue advice?

Monday, May 17, 2010

No Shortcuts

You have to keep plugging away. We are all growing. There is no shortcut. You have to put time into it to build an audience
~ John Gruber

Need I say more? Happy Monday!

How much time have you put into the dream of getting published?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Start Over

If you've started out in pursuit of your goal
And you've really tried with your heart and your soul,
but somehow things got out of control---

When you've tried your best to do what you should
And you thought this time that you surely would,
But once again, you didn't do good---

When you've tried so hard to yourself to be true
And do the things that you know you should do,
But once again you failed to come through---

When the road to success seemed much too long
And each temptation was oh, so strong
And once again you gave in to wrong---

When you've told your friends what you planned to do
And trusted them to help you through
But soon discovered it's up to you---

When you know you must be physically fit,
But your hope seems gone and you're stuck in a pit
That's not the time for you to quit---

To start again means a victory's been won
And starting over again means a race well run
And starting over again proves it can be done
So don't just sit there---
~ Author Unknown

Never be afraid to start over, because that is where perseverance begins.

Have you ever scrapped part or all of what you've written and started over?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Humor is a Frog

I don't "feel the funny". That's what I call my insecurity regarding humor. Many of us don't feel skilled when it comes to writing humorously. I would love to have the humor of Rick Riordan or Janet Evanovich or Judith Byron Schnachner (Skippyjohn Jones author). But I don't.

According to Bruce Ballenger, "You don't have to step on dog droppings to find a situation with comic potential."

Phew! That's a relief, because I don't have a dog. I do have a husband, children, and a truckload of high school students, though. I do have two eyeballs and good listening skills. I do write. Writers are observers and recorders of life, and life is often funny.

In Discovering the Writer Within, we are encouraged to explore writing humorously until we learn to feel more comfortable.
But the self-doubts many of us feel about bringing our humor to the page are just another of our self-critic's ploys to stop us from taking risks. Don't be disappointed if your [writing] seems unlikely to crack a smile, or might even be downright stupid. Don't try to analyze why your attempts sometimes seem to fall flat. 'Humor can be dissected, as a frog can,' wrote essayist E.B. White, 'but the thing dies in the process.' Just laugh at yourself and try again.
Ballenger suggests we begin by starting a humor file. "Clip newspaper articles that make you smile and shake your head and say to yourself, 'Gosh, what a crazy world we live in.' "

How well do you "feel the funny"?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Welcome Signs

"Writers aren't writers because there are bookstores with shelves and magazine racks to hold the fruit of their work. Writers are writers because they write, whether they are published or not."
~ Ballenger and Lane

In addition to my many other books about writing, I've been reading Discovering the Writer Within by Bruce Ballenger and Barry Lane (I'm sure many of you remember how much I love Barry Lane). At the end of the book they remind us that although writing is hard work, it doesn't have to be painful. They say the pain comes from having standards that are too high, too soon in the writing process. In order to help us recognize growth along the way, they provide a list of 10 things that are "welcome signs" of progress.

A Writer's Ten Welcome Signs

1) You are able to write regularly, even when you're not in the mood.

2) If you want to, you are able to write fast without stopping. You can write until your hand hurts.

3) Your "bad" writing doesn't bother you. You know that bad writing often leads to good writing.

4) When you write, you first concentrate on what you want to say, not who might want to read it. Meaning comes before audience.

5) You frequently write about things that confuse you. You learn to like confusion, to seek it out.

6) More and more, you are surprised by what the writing is telling you.

7) You rarely think about style, except to admire it in other writers.

8) In revision, you find yourself throwing good stuff away.

9) You notice things other people miss. You remember them. You write them down.

10) You are able to recognize your good writing. It makes you happy to have written it.

These are all signs of growth as a writer. Welcome them. Ballenger and Lane tell us
Celebrate the progress you've made - even if it seems modest - by going to your favorite restaurant and ordering something really sinful, maybe something with chocolate as thick as a Greenland glacier, or a cheap hot dog smothered with yellow mustard and pickles. Eat it joyfully. Walk calmly and confidently out the door and down the block, then do a little dance on the curb. You're a writer.

Which welcome signs are you most proud of in your writing progress?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

We're All Just Big Old Hens!

I'm like a big old hen. I can't cluck too long about the egg I've just laid because I've got five more inside me pushing to get out.
~ Louis L'Amour

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Punch in the Gut

I've been reading Hooked by Les Edgerton. I've posted about it before, but I read a section recently - about story-worthy problems - that I feel compelled to share.
"Good and worthy story problems derive from the small and the particular and the individual. Not the grandiose. Don't begin a story with the intent of writing about a grand topic, such as freedom for instance."
Yes! This reminds me of Ralph Fletcher's saying, "The bigger the topic, the smaller you write." We can't write a story well if we're trying to focus on ALL of something. We need to narrow the topic until we can make it personal, emotional, powerful. Les Edgerton provides a fabulous example:

...some years ago we had civil strife in this country over states' rights versus federalism and slavery, among other things. We called it the Civil War. ...there were a great many essays and speeches written on both sides about the conflict - even without chat rooms - and most of those are now forgotten except to academics specializing in such knowledge.

What lots more people do remember about this chapter in our history, however, is a little book titled Uncle Tom's Cabin, written by a lady named Harriet Beecher Stowe. This book had a powerful effect on the nation, both the North and the South. Why? Because she focused on one particular, the life of Uncle Tom and the effect of slavery upon him.

Wow. For me, this example was like a punch in the gut - but in a good way. The first time I read Uncle Tom's Cabin, I was crying at my desk, in front of my students, by the end of chapter three. It's powerful stuff. And Edgerton's right - it's because of her focus on specific people and their lives that we react as strongly as we do. No one has ever made me care about characters more than she did. That book hurt me, which is exactly what she wanted it to do.

By narrowing our story's problem and limiting its focus, we make it more emotionally powerful. Edgerton says it better than I can: "Always get your story down to the level of individuals. We can see individuals. We can't see The Forces of Capitalism vs. The Forces of Communism."

What piece of writing advice/wisdom hit you like a punch in the gut?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Blog Love and the Dashner Winner!!

It's time to give some overdue award thank you's. I have been blessed with some great awards from some even greater blog buddies recently. Time to share the love!

The fabulous Jay Eckert and the beautiful Jana Hutcheson both gave me the Sunshine Blog Award, which is one of my favorites (you all know how I LOVE yellow). It's such a cheerful-looking award!

I pass this award to the following sunny blogs:

T.H. Mafi @ Grab a Pen (OMG! Need I say more?)
Kristi Chestnutt @ Random Daily Thoughts (Her smile is pure sunshine)
Charmaine @ Wagging Tales (Holy cow! This woman is brilliant!)
Courtney @ Southern Princess (Gotta love a happy princess)
Jonathon Arntson @ Jon's Life (You ALWAYS make me smile!)

My bloggy bff Carolyn @ Checkerboard Squares gave me the Happy 101 Award, which goes to blogs that spread the joy.

I pass this award to the following happy places:

~ Tracy @ Forever Endeavor (anyone who loves baseball like she does makes me happy!)
~ Jaydee @ Jaydee Morgan (check out her blog - it's too cool)
~ Theresa @ Substitute teacher's Saga (substitutes deserve all the happiness possible)
~ D.L. Hammons @ Cruising Altitude (because he needs more awards and he always makes me smile)
~ Lindsay @ Adventures in Writing (thanks for your regular comments!)

Next is the awesome Sweet Blog Award, which I've been drooling over for a while now. Charmaine @ Wagging Tales chose to share the cute little bear with me. Yay!

I pass this award to the following sweet blogs:

Milly and Tilly @ Paper Dolls (these darling sisters are too precious for words - go follow them and enjoy their sweet book reviews!)
Leah @ Reading, Writing, Raisin' Boys (she is a sweetheart! Go visit her and say hello.)
Heather @ Heather's Odyssey (Her Moon series sounds awesome!)

@ Milk & Cookies (If you like MG, you MUST follow her blog!!)
Heather Kelly @ Edited to Within an Inch of My Life (oh, the things she does for us - too many to name!)

And then there is the darling Cheree Smith @ Justified Lunacy who gave me the Beautiful Blogger Award.

I pass this award to the following beautiful bloggers:

Roxane @ Peace Garden Writer (If you are not following Roxane, I say with all my heart that you should be. She is one of the most beautiful people I have ever known - inside and out!)
Sharon Mayhew @ Random Thoughts (Her blog is full of beautiful photos and lovely thoughts)
Emily Ann Benedict @ Benedictions (Her blog is all things beautiful!)
Rayna @ Coffee Rings Everywhere (I love her blog and I LOVE its title)
Faith Pray @ Sacred Dirt (Could she have a cooler name?!)

Creepy Query Girl (isn't that the coolest blog name?) gave me the One Lovely Blog Award.

I pass this award to the following lovely blogs:

The Alliterative Allomorph (check out her awesome blog!)
Lydia Kang @ The World is My Oyster (her medical Mondays are amazing)
Candace @ The Misadventures in Candyland ( she is so much fun!)
Roland @ Writing in the Crosshairs (he is one of my new must-reads)
Elaine @ Still Writing (thanks so much for your regular comments!)


According to and the #6, the lucky winner of the signed copy of James Dashner's 13th Reality is...

Jonathon Arntson

email me , Jon! :-)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Defy the Obstacles

“Not to give up under any circumstances should be the motto of our life: I shall try again and again, and I am bound to succeed. There will be obstacles, but I have to defy the obstacles.”

~ Sri Chinmoy

photo source: (

This quote is taped to the top of my computer. It reminds me that my success is up to me.

When I encounter obstacles, I need to go around them or over them or blast right through them. When the road is rough, I need to buy myself a new pair of shoes and keep on walking. When the sun disappears, I need to write by starlight. Again and again and again...

We have to be willing to keep trying, keep believing, until we get there. If we give up, we'll never reach the end of the road - success. I will crawl my way to it if I have to, but I WILL make it! And so will you.

How about you? Are you prepared to keep going and defy the obstacles - no matter what?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

God Bless My Computer

I finally finished scoring assessments yesterday. Woo-hoo! But I missed my blogging buddies.

I realized I have come to rely on your friendship and humor and wisdom and comments. I pray for you nightly and visit you daily. Thanks for being there and for making my life - as a person and as a writer - so much better.

I'll be catching up on all of your blogs, I promise.

God Bless My Computer

Every evening
As I'm laying here in bed
This tiny little prayer
Keeps running through my head

God bless my mom and dad
And bless my little pup
And look out for my brother
When things aren't looking up

And God, there's one more thing
I wish that you could do
Hope you don't mind me asking
But please bless my computer too?

Now I know that it's not normal
To bless a mother board
But just listen for a second
While I explain to you 'My Lord'

You see, that little metal box
Holds more to me than odds and ends
Inside those small compartments
Rest a hundred of my 'BEST FRIENDS'

Some it's true I've never seen
And most I've never met
We've never exchanged hugs
Or shared a meal as yet....

I know for sure they like me
By the kindness that they give
And this little scrap of metal
Is how I travel to where they live

By faith is how I know them
Much the same as I know you
I share in what life brings them
And from that our friendship grew

"PLEASE" Take an extra minute
From your duties up above
To bless this scrap of metal
That is filled with so much love!

~ Author Unknown

I love you guys!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spreading the Awesome!

The queen of awesomesauce herself, Elana Johnson, has organized a blogfest extraordinnaire - Spreading the Awesome! Today is all about books that deserve 10 STARS and the totally awesome authors who wrote them.

Long-time followers of my blog will not be surprised to discover that I chose... JAMES DASHNER!

*giant, fan-girl sigh*

Most of us have read (and loved) The Maze Runner, but before that came a different series - The 13th Reality. I LOVE these books. If you want to know more, go here. I posted all about them once before - yes, they are that good!

Book three in the series was recently released, and my son has already devoured it. I made the ultimate sacrifice of motherly love and let him read it first. I'm nice like that.

For one of today's lucky commenters, James has generously agreed to a SIGNED COPY GIVEAWAY. I'll use to select the winner.

But wait! There's more! The great and wonderful James Dashner also sent a message to share with all of our Spreading the Awesome readers:

Hi guys! So nice to "meet" you. I'm honored to be the chosen author for Shannon's part in the blogfest. I'm one lucky dude to be an author and have the opportunity to connect with my readers. Most people have discovered my writing through The Maze Runner, but more and more are starting to find out about The 13th Reality. I'm so proud and excited and fortunate to have two series going on at the same time - I hope you'll give them a chance. When you do, let me know what you think!!! And happy reading.....

*another big fan-girl sigh*

Okay. I've recovered from my swoon.

I give
The 13th Reality series (and the wonderful James Dashner) TEN STARS!! If you aren't already following his blog, "The Dashner Dude", what’s wrong with you you should be. Go now and show him how quickly we can spread the awesome author love!

Your next stop on the Spreading the Awesome tour should be Casey McCormick – who is featuring Laurie Halse Anderson and Wintergirls. And take a minute to check out the recommended reads list of all of today's featured authors and titles. Enjoy!

James Dashner photo source: (

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Last Lines Blogfest!

The Last Lines Blogfest is hosted by Lilah Pierce. If you aren't familiar with her blog, make sure you pop over and check it out.

These lines were taken from my chapter book, Scott and the Naughty Boy factory. They are the last few lines of chapter 11.

“Well, we can’t have boys running around all the time and beating on each other, can we?” Mr. Little asked. “That would be too wild and unruly. Grown-ups everywhere would call to complain.”

Scott didn’t like that answer, and by their reactions, neither did anyone else. All the nerves in his body began tingling. He could not, would not, do this. Nobody was going to tell him he couldn’t be a ninja!
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