Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Resolutions, and Because it is Inspirational...

It's that time when we reflect on what we've accomplished and think about resolutions for the New Year. Most of us start out with good intentions, but we lose steam along the way and eventually give up. Why is that? Do we set unattainable goals? Do we have unrealistic expectations? Or do we simply not have the self-discipline to stick with something that requires effort?

I have one resolution this year. It's not original. I'm borrowing from Nike. "JUST DO IT!"  My mother used to say, "If you see it and it needs to be done, do it." And you'd better not turn a blind eye. If you did, you'd find yourself with assigned tasks.

And so...

Just write every day -even if it's awful.
Just finish the blasted novel.
Just submit. The worst they can do is say no.
Just exercise. It's good for you -whether you like it or not.
Just eat right. Treat yourself means every now and then, not every meal.
Just prioritize realistically. Understand what's truly important and what can go by the wayside.
Just enjoy the moment. It only comes once.
Just do it. No one else will do it for you.

And finally, because I found it inspirational:


EMBED-Inspiration - Watch more free videos

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A YEAR OF POSSIBILITIES…

I sit here amazed at how fast this year passed. Never has a year blown by as speedy as this one. Sometimes I wish there was a button you could push that would slow life down and allow you to really savor the best parts of it all.

There are a number of things I would have slowed down – my experience at the Chautauqua Writer’s Workshop, for one. I reread my notes regularly, especially those from Patti Gauch’s sessions. What an incredible teacher she is! I hope that someday I will have another opportunity to work on my writing with her guidance. What a lady!

The George Washington Teacher’s Institute was another experience that needed more time. It was a whirlwind of a week, but I learned so much. I’d like to go back to Mount Vernon, not as a student this time, but as a visitor. Then I could spend as much time as I want on the parts that interest me the most.

My week in Fort Meyers with my husband and without the kids was definitely too short! We’ve never been very good about carving out time that’s just ours, but this year we made a point of it. Tuesdays have become “out to dinner” night. Daughter has a ride to and from gymnastics. Son is now an adult. No one needs us, so why not? It was odd at first. It took some getting used to being able to have an uninterrupted conversation, or to talk about something besides gymnastics, video games, movies, pets, and school friends. It’s been good, and we plan to take more kid-less mini-vacations throughout next year.

Next year… I have such high hopes! It hasn’t even begun, yet it feels like it’s going to be a year of opportunities on several fronts. My middle grade novel is nearly ready to begin the submission process, and I’ve several ideas for new novels. I’m applying for an incredible writer’s workshop. It’s a small group –only seven people, but the editor/facilitator is someone I’d love to work with. Hopefully I will be one of the seven who get to attend. 

Those of you who know me well know I love to sing. I’ve had very few opportunities to sing for nearly four years, but in the last six months, I’m suddenly getting requests to come perform again. I’ve got another invitation from a local orchestra for a concert this spring. It’s all fun, and I hope the opportunities keep coming.

Not everything in 2011 looks bright. The possibility is high that I might be a victim of a RIF (reduction in force) from my teaching position come June. The cuts in the budget are state wide, so there won’t be any teaching jobs anywhere else either. But I choose to look at this as another chance to turn lemons into lemonade. I’ll certainly have more time to devote to the creative endeavors in my life. It could be that a job loss is the button I long for that slows life down and allows me the time to savor the moments. I choose to make the most of whatever happens. 

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. May the New Year bring to each of you the opportunities that satisfy your dreams!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Because it is Amazing!

For some reason only half of the picture shows when it plays. If you click on the video itself, you can watch it on YouTube and see the whole picture.

Does anyone know how old this boy is?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'll Think About That Tomorrow...

This time of year is hectic. Parent/teacher conferences, end of quarter responsibilities, gymnastic meet season begins, inservice presentations, and holiday performances (I'm singing three this year) all seem to be scheduled at once. You think I would remember just how much of a catastrophe my house becomes, but every year I'm surprised.

Today is the first day after conferences, and it's also Veteran's Day (Thank you, dear Veterans!), so I'm off work. I was looking forward to a restful, lazy afternoon. I'd made myself promise that I would ignore the mountain of laundry, stacks of mail, and the myriad assortment of misplaced items on every surface. I refused to hunt down every missing sock behind couches, chairs and stacked in piles at the top of the stairs. Stealing socks is a fairly recent event that is a new hobby of my cat, Angel. Today was a day to relax. After all, as Scarlett would say, "I'll think about that tomorrow."

I was doing pretty well with my self-imposed mandate. I ignored the dust bunnies that shimmered in the sunbeam streaming through my open window. I turned a blind eye to the stack of boxes in the corner that needed to be unpacked and put away. And after a few deep breaths, I even kept my cool when I walked into the upstairs bathroom and every towel we own was wet and thrown on the floor. If I was taking a day off, my kids could too. Right?

But then I saw them. FIFTEEN spider nests. There's a cover to an old, whole-house fan on the ceiling at the top of the landing to the stairs. The nests were all along the same wall next to the cover. The creep factor was too much. Out came the vacuum. Out came the orders to the children... To oldest teenager: "Get the towels to the laundry and start a load. Clean the upstairs bath. Rake the leaves on the front lawn to the curb." To younger teenager: "Clean the family room then pick up, vacuum, and dust your room." I tackled the spider webs then decided I needed to mop the ceiling and the walls as well as vacuum and mop the stairs.

My sudden obsession with clean could very well keep me up until midnight. So I decided to enlist the help of FlyLady.net. That's right. FlyLady is a systematic cleaning process for those of us who are overwhelmed, overextended, and overdrawn. She's awesome! And it works. I know, I've used her in the past. Why I drifted away I'll never know. But I'm BACK!

So now that I've put FlyLady's cleaning system in place, I have NO excuses for not getting back into my writing routine. None.

Is it too late to join NaNoWriMo?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Because it Made Me Laugh!

I saw this today and it gave me a chuckle. Thought I'd share!

Monday, October 25, 2010

These are a Few of My Favorite Links...

Writing, writing, writing... I've been doing a lot of that lately. And that's a good thing, although I've not written one word in my WIP this weekend. That tends to happen when I have LOTs of school work hanging over my head. It's that inevitable end-of-the quarter teacher pile-up that includes report cards, back-logged grading, and getting ready for conferences. You notice I'm not working on that right now either.  No, I'll save that for later tonight, because you know, it's not due until tomorrow.

Instead, I'll share a few of my favorite links that I came across this week:


Marcia Hoehne, an Institute of Children's Literature Instructor, has a fabulous October critique giveaway. You can find out the details here!


Anna Staniszewski (say that name 10 times fast!) has posted another installment of "Letter to Myself." This time guest author Alisa Libby offers advice to herself as a writing major in college.


Nathan Bransford blogged "This Week in Publishing 10/22/10" -a list of happenings in the publishing world and more than a few chuckles. My favorites are the Nerd flowchart and the video from Sesame Street with Grover as the Old Spice Guy.  No... I think I like Bookmans Does Book Dominoes best...

National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, begins November 1st and ends November 30th. If you are a glutton for punishment, goal oriented, can stay awake for hours on end, and can silence your inner editor for 30 days, this is the writing challenge for you. The goal is to write 50,000 new words during the month of November. Just to clarify -that would be FIFTY THOUSAND.

Hanna Howard, a Chautauqua friend, has decided to honor NaNoWriMo by posting on her blog EVERY day during the month of November. If today's post on creativity is any indication, it should be well worth your time to visit. Also, take a moment and click on "Story Links." There you'll find three of her short stories (my favorite is "Ruby Riding Hood"). You can find Hanna at "Luna the Typewriter."

If you've ever had a brush with rejection this post by literary agent, Rachelle Gardner, will give you a chuckle.  Rants & Ramblings


Keep writing!
Nora

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Because it Made Me Laugh...

Hello my blogger friends!

I know. I've been playing blogosphere hooky, but it was for a good cause. I've been writing lots, and it feels right. Productivity is a good thing, right?  I'll be blogging again soon. Promise.

In the meantime, here's another "Because it Made Me Laugh..."   I have no idea who these guys are, or whatever possessed them to put this together.  And I'm not saying they're heading for a record deal or anything close to that, but it DID make me laugh!

Keep Writing,
Nora

Monday, July 26, 2010

They Had Me With the Gift Bag... Chautauqua!

I'm HOME!  I wasn't sure I would make it back. Somewhere along the Pennsylvania/Ohio border my van began to hiccup and the engine light came on. Since the temperature light didn't show, I kept driving. Once I reached Columbus, the engine light started blinking, so I stopped and got some advice from a mechanic. He ran a diagnostic and announced that not all pistons were firing. That's not the first time someone has said that to me, although they weren't referring to my van...  He thought I could make it home to Cincinnati, but advised me to drive under the speed limit. I followed his advice -much to the annoyance of every trucker on I-71 South.

How do I explain the Chautauqua Writer's Workshop?

Generous - I was greeted at the Hall of Christ by friendly faces and a Highlight's tote bag full of FREE BOOKS. That alone was enough to make me a happy gal. Every member of the faculty was friendly and helpful. Each person willingly took the time to answer questions. Any question, whether it was about books, writing, or finding the post office. No one ever made me feel that I was keeping them from someplace else they'd rather be.

Fun - Throw roughly 120 creative thinkers together for a week, and how could you not have fun? Especially when there is good food, ice cream and chocolate involved.

HOT - Holy moly was it hot! And humid. I thought I would melt and become one, big puddle of Nora somewhere along the brick road to the Atheneum Hotel. There was no air-conditioning except in the Hall of Christ, and that was to protect the pipe organ. I think the guest rooms at the Atheneum had air, but ceiling fans were the norm everywhere else. Whew!

Thought-Provoking - Every speaker gave me something to chew on. No word was wasted. Each piece of advice was rich.

Friendly - I met some nice people this week. They came from all over the world - Hong Kong, Spain, Thailand, Africa, Canada, and of course, from every corner of the USA.  There are several people I know I'll keep in contact with. You can find two of them at Slushbusters. I'm sure Michelle and Sarah will also blog about their experiences. Hanna is another fun, new friend. You can find her at Luna the Typewriter. Yup. She named her typewriter after the moon.

I'm already packing for another workshop, so it might be another week before I return to the blog. I leave on Friday for George Washington's Mt. Vernon Teachers' Institute for one week of immersion in the life and times of George Washington. It should be interesting, and it will renew my teacher's license.

Before I go, I want to leave you with a list of some of the books the Highlight's presenters used as examples in their workshops. I know my to-be-read list has expanded. Hopefully you can find something helpful here too.

Patti Gauch - Conflict & Tension - turn the page power
*SPEAK, Laurie Halse-Anderson
*THE CHOCOLATE WAR, Robert Cormier
*THE HOBBIT, J. R. R. Tolkien

Patti Gauch - Books Examples With... 
Voice: SAVVY, Ingrid Law
Narrative catch: HIGHWAY CATS,  Janet Taylor Lisle
Transcendent moments: MOCKINGBIRD, Kathryn Erskine

Peter Jacobi - Beginnings 
THE BLACK CLOUD, Fred Hoyle
A SUMMER TO DIE, Lois Lowry
THE HIGH KING, Lloyd Alexander
WIND IN THE WILLOWS, Kenneth Grahame
THE 13 CLOCKS, James Thurber
THE BAD BEGINNING, Lemony Snickett
BACK WHEN WE WERE GROWNUPS, Anne Tyler
FINNEGANS WAKE, James Joyce

Peter Jacobi - Endings
CHILDREN OF SANCHEZ, Oscar Lewis

Kim Griswell - A Sense of Place
THE HIGHEST TIDE, Jim Lynch

Kim Griswell - Mining Your Memories
Emotional Mining: HARRY POTTER, J.K. Rowling
Anecdotes and Events: PERPETUAL CHECK, Rich Wallace
FIREFLY MOUNTAIN, Patricia Thomas
People: THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY of a PART-TIME INDIAN, Sherman Alexie
TELLING TIME: ANGELS, ANCESTORS, AND STORIES, Nancy Willard
Specificity: THINGS INVISIBLE TO SEE, Nancy Willard

Donna Jo Napoli - Tension techniques
THE LOVELY BONES, Alice Sebold
I AM THE CHEESE, Robert Cormier
ZEL, Donna Jo Napoli

Rebecca Kai Dotlich - Creativity
A CELEBRATION OF BEES: ENDLESS OPPORTUNITIES FOR INSPIRING CHILDREN TO WRITE POETRY, Barbara J. Esbensen
DONAVAN'S WORD JAR, Monalisa Degross and Cheryl Hanna
POEMCRAZY: FREEING YOUR LIFE WITH WORDS, Susan Wooldridge
FOOLING WITH WORDS; A CELEBRATION OF POETS AND THEIR CRAFT, Bill Moyers
THE GLASS CASTLE: A MEMOIR, Jeanette Walls
PRINCE OF TIDES, Pat Conroy

Helen Hemphill - Writing for YA
HUNGER GAMES, Suzanne Collins
THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX, Mary Pearson
SHARK GIRL, Kelly L. Bingham
GOING BOVINE, Libba Bray

Patti Gauch - Fantasy
THE BOOK OF THREE, Lloyd Alexander
THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES, Joseph Campbell
THE HOBBIT, J.R.R. Tolkien
HARRY POTTER, J.K. Rowling
WATERSHIP DOWN, Richard Adams
THE WIZARD OF EARTHSEA, Ursula K. Le Guin

There you have it. That should keep you busy. Happy reading!


Thursday, July 15, 2010

July Critique Giveaway...

Marcia Hoehne, an Institute of Children's Literature instructor, is giving away TWO manuscript critiques this month. You can enter to win HERE.

Good luck!

Chautauqua, Writer Stuff, and New Blog Bling!

Chautauqua Writer's Workshop starts Saturday.  Bring it on, I'm ready!

Today I received an email from my workshop mentor, award-winning author, Donna Jo Napoli. She's giving us her written comments on our manuscripts after the Saturday opening banquet so we can have a look before our individual discussions. I've sent in my current WIP, a YA fantasy that is just shy of the half-way finished mark. I'm looking forward to this. I love critique sessions. I always come away feeling like I've had a creative power charge.

I'm hoping to blog my experience while I'm there, but several past attendees have told me not to make promises. The days are full, and when they're over I'll want to crash early. That's what they tell me, but I'm a SERIOUS night owl. Which probably means that come mid-week, I'll crash and burn from the early days. Never fear. I've planned ahead. Yup. I've worked a mid-week power nap into my schedule.  If it turns out you don't hear from me during the week, I DO promise to blog my experience when I return.

I've been blog surfing again, and I'd like to share some of my favorites.

Alice Pope, former editor of Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market, is the new SCBWI blogger. Here are a few things you can find on her blog:

  • Interviewing editors and agents
  • Featuring SCBWI success stories/debut authors and illustrators
  • Highlighting great industry blogs
  • Featuring markets/new markets/new imprints
  • Getting your questions answered by industry experts
  • Reporting on SCBWI news and events
  • Hosting writers stopping by on blog tours
  • Sharing my favorite tweets for children's writers
  • Offering general publishing news
Mike Duran wrote a must-read post about The Craft Of Routine.  He discusses why productivity matters in publishing, and productivity is about mastering a routine. 

Harold Underdown has compiled a supplementary resource for the Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books, 3rd Edition. It includes guides to writing children's books, writers writing about writing, guides addressing a particular genre, topic, or problem, and guides to creativity.

Save the Words made me giggle, AND it's a challenge.

And finally (drumroll).... I've got new blog bling! (That's important, and reason to celebrate)

  Alex Gartner has given me The Versatile Blogger Award (Thanks Alex!). I'm supposed to thank and link back to the person who gave this to me and share 7 things about myself (which I'll do in another post since this one is getting long...).






And Medeia Sharif gave me the Trendy Blog Award (Thank you, Medeia!).  

Both awards require me to pass it along, and I will. But first I need to start packing for Chautauqua! 

Keep Writing,
Nora

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Because It is FUN...

I promise to write a real, writerly-like post before I leave for Chautauqua.  But today, this is how I procrastinate.

Try this. It's fun!   I Write Like...

So far I write like:

James Joyce
Ian Fleming
Ray Bradbury
Chuck Palahniuk
Stephen King

Be sure to share who YOU write like!

Keep writing,
Nora

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Because It Gave Me Chills!!!

I love a good surprise.

Carlos Aponte, a 24-year-old from Puerto Rico, brought down the house during the America's Got Talent 2010, Chicago audition.  Who would have thought that this unassuming, petite man would sport a knock-your-socks-off voice like this!

Fabulous performance, Carlos!


 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Review: HARMONIC FEEDBACK, by Tara Kelly

I don't normally post book reviews. I don't have a degree in literature or journalism, and I usually don't dissect what I read. There's a list of "Books I've Read in 2010" on the sidebar of my blog. If a book is listed, I finished it. If I finished it, I liked it.  I read for interest, escape, or pleasure. Period.

When I ordered Harmonic Feedback, I didn't read the synopsis. Instead, I read the praise from Stephanie Keuhnert, "An impossible-to-put-down, must-read book. Brilliantly written and filled with music, but even more so with emotional truth." And I read the short bio: "Tara Kelly is a one-girl band, writer, filmmaker, video editor, and digital photographer. Harmonic Feedback is her first published book."

I liked that Tara had multiple creative outlets, and I do my best to support debut authors, especially those who frequent VerlaKay's Blueboards. So I purchased the book and began to read. I made it half-way through the first chapter and set it down. The main character had Asperger's Syndrome. I don't read about AS. I live with it, and it's been beyond difficult. Did I mention I read to escape?

I carried Tara's book in my purse for three weeks before pulling it out again. When I did, it was because I was stuck someplace with nothing to do, not because I made a conscious decision to finish the book.  I began reading, read for two hours, came home, and continued reading into the night until it was finished. It was beautiful, it was heartbreaking, and it wasn't about AS. It was about yearning to belong, the pain and joy of relationships with family and friends, and first love. It was Drea trying to understand the gray areas of life when her world was black and white.

Tara Kelly is an incredible talent who writes with an authentic voice. Harmonic Feedback IS brilliantly written and emotionally true. I highly recommend it, and I hope she publishes again soon.

Congratulations, Tara, on a fabulous debut!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Writing and Must Read Resources

School's out!

I've been writing quite a bit this week. It feels good to have uninterrupted time to do so. I'm working towards having a complete 1st draft before leaving for Chautauqua. Wish me luck!

I've read quite a few interesting blog articles lately, and I'd like to share some of my favorites.

For those of you who blog and use social networking to market yourselves, here are two articles you might be interested in reading. The first is from SocialMedia Examiner: 5 Easy Steps to a Winning Social Media Plan.

On the flip side, I found this article about The Hidden Costs of Social Networking posted on Chip's Blog (MacGregor Literary)

This post left me hopeful... How the Intern Reads Your Proposal, by Lauren at BookEnds, LLC - A Literary Agency.

Query Tracker Blog has a terrific post about Providing Better Critiques: Being Detailed in Your Feedback.

Marissa Graff and Martina Boone have a wonderful blog called Adventures in Children's Publishing. Their Pre-submission Checklist is an excellent piece of advice to anyone beginning the submission process.

And finally, Sara B. Larson had Elana Johnson as a guest poster on her blog. The topic: "Finish Strong!!!" Elana includes her "embarrassing stats" on her way to publication. This is a MUST read for any writer who is discouraged about rejections.

Keep Writing!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday Montage

The end of the school year for teachers is a crazy busy time, especially if you travel and have more than one building to close. I have three to shut down this year, and I'm preparing to implement a brand new program for next year. It is a fabulous opportunity for the kids, and I'm excited! Don't tell anyone, but I've got the best job in the district.

I've neglected my blog in May. Sorry! But today I've some things to share. It's a bit of a hodgepodge. No real theme, just some catch up items.

Forty-Seven days until I leave for the Writer's Workshop at Chautauqua (dances with glee in between severe bouts of anxiety).

I'm now on Twitter! That's right, one more writing distraction has been added to my life. You can thank Alex, a former student and current Novel Workshop attendee. He informed me that I needed to join because of the contacts, the information, and the literature chats - specifically #YALitChat, every Wednesday night from 9PM - 10:15 PM. He then proceeded to sign me up, give me a username and password, and emailed the information to me. I asked him if that made us both twits. He laughed, kind of, then forwarded to me a list of Tweet vocabulary. I am now ready for Twitterland, and I promise not to call any fellow tweeters twits.

I am reading a new book called HARMONIC FEEDBACK, by debut author Tara Kelly. You can find out more about her at her website, and on Twitter @AuthorTaraKelly.

Here are some recent posts I've read with terrific writing advice:
Wordiness, Wordiness, Wordiness List
The Ten Best Things You Can Do For Your Manuscript
NaNoReVisMo #1: the electric kool-aid conflict test
Nine Questions & Answers, by Cheryl Klein

Kim Kasch posted a beautiful poem on her blog today: Memorial Day - Let's Take a Minute to Remember

Thanks to author Rena Jones who awarded me the Blogger Buddy Award. (Sorry it took me so long to post). I love this, because it came from Rena, and because I'm a sucker for blog bling...

My garden (aka. the jungle) is calling.  I must attempt to tame at least one area before dinner. The rest of the evening is slated for my WIP.  Have a wonderful and relaxing Memorial Day.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Because It Made Me Think...

I'm amazed at this man's accomplishments. What a difference our mindset and attitudes make!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day, Cool blog post recommendations, and Spellbound

Today is Mother's Day here in America, and for me, it's been a good one. My husband took me out for a brunch buffet at a local restaurant named Riley's. It was wonderful to be able to have an uninterrupted conversation! My daughter spent the night with a friend, but she came home with a big smile on her face and roses in hand. My next door neighbor's little girl arrived with a beautiful purple carnation, and my daughter and son presented me with cards that made me laugh and the DVD of Avatar. I have a terrific couple of kids and a keeper of a husband. Thank you all for making my day the best!

If you are a Sci-fi writer and you're world-building, Jaclyn Dolamore has a great post called 10 Awesome Books for Fantasy World-Building.

Angela Ackerman's blog, The Bookshelf Muse, is another great site to help you make your story come alive for the reader. I visit often to use her emotion thesaurus, setting description thesaurus, and color, texture and shape thesaurus.

And finally, I'm not much of a television watcher, but I do like Britain's Got Talent. There are several really good acts this year, but my favorite so far is a troupe called Spellbound. Youtube has disabled the embedded option, but you can watch by clicking here. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Antagonistic Synopsis!

My synopsis is out to get me.

Chautauqua has given me an assignment: Write a one page synopsis to send with the first 2500 words of my novel. Due June 1st. Okay, I can do this. I know what my novel is about. I've written the premise and turned it into a logline. I've prepared a picture file to help me visualize my settings. I've done character studies and I know my protagonist well. I've written the first six chapters. I thought it was all very clear in my head... until I tried to put it down as a synopsis. That's when I realized there were major issues.

First, my ending is fuzzy. How can I write my story if I don't know where I'm going? Second, I discovered I didn't know my antagonist. So I pulled out the big guns - Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, by Donald Maass.

I don't know if you've ever used this workbook, but it's a fabulous tool. Hard to do, but that's because he makes you dig deep to get to know your characters, their motivations, and plot development. He makes you think about your darlings thoroughly, and the results are well-rounded, believable characters that (hopefully) your readers will love, and a plot that satisfies. Did I mention this was hard?

I spent over two hours this afternoon with my antagonist -getting to know her, defining her desires and goals, working on the world of my novel and how she wants to change it. It was liberating! The ending fell into place - the last piece of the puzzle. I hope, anyway. I've listed the major plot points, and I'm confident I can write the synopsis. Now, if I can only get it down to one page...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Library Bloat and E-Readers

It's true. My personal library is overflowing. The shelves are full both at home and school. I've books stacked on the floor by the bed. The top shelf in my closet is stuffed with beloved novels, and I have myriads of books out on loan to friends and students. I keep telling myself I need to downsize, but I find it hard to say goodbye to such good friends. When it comes to books, I'm a pack-rat.

The problem is my to-be-read list keeps growing, and I've nowhere put new books. I know, I know... go to the library, you say. I've tried that. I end up with monster fines because I forget to return them. Sometimes I forget they're not mine and loan them to a friend. Not a good thing, especially if they lose it. But mostly, I like knowing my favorites are available to read whenever I wish.

I've considered e-readers before, but not for long. I love the feel of a bound book in my hands, pages to turn, no back-lit technology burning holes in my eyes. Books aren't battery dependent or terribly fragile. If you drop one, you simply pick it up and find your page again. Drop an e-reader, and you might lose your library, or at the very least an expensive bookshelf. That's something to consider when you're a klutz like me.

My storage crisis has forced me to reconsider my stance on e-readers. I've started to investigate what's out there. Admittedly, I don't know much about them except the prices are a bit daunting. I need to change my mindset. It's a storage unit that doesn't take up wall and closet space. The books are priced more like a paperback. Most I saw were around $9.99. That's less expensive than a new hardback...

Do you use an e-reader? I'd love to know your pros and cons.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Busy, Busy and New Baby!

I have a crazy busy summer ahead, and I'm really looking forward to it!

I've been preparing for the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. I've finished revising the first 2500 words of my novel, and now I'm working on a one-page synopses. Why are synopsis so hard to write? Getting an estimated 60,000 words down to one page is difficult, but it must be done. It will help the staff decide who my faculty critique partner will be. I should receive a listing of workshops for the week soon. I can't wait to see the choices.

I received more good news last night. I've been awarded another scholarship! This one is to the George Washington Mt. Vernon Teachers Institute. It is a weeklong workshop intensive that explores 18th-century history with top historians. I'll participate in interactive workshops, tours, field trips, and group projects. After the workshop, I'm expected to share what I've learned in a district-sponsored seminar for my colleagues in my home district or state, and I must complete one lesson plan for dissemination to teachers across the nation on the Mount Vernon website. In return, I will receive professional development hours towards renewal of my teachers license - and it's free! Woot! This workshop is two weeks after Chautuaqua and two weeks before school starts again. Might be hectic, but I'm looking forward to it.

And finally, I've a new baby in the house! No, not that kind of baby... This one is an Acer Aspire One 10.1-inch Blue Netbook! Acer Aspire One AOD250-1580 10.1-Inch Blue Netbook - 7.5 Hour Battery Life I've named her Tink, and I love her. I've missed Humphrey (my deceased and ancient Macbook), and I decided it was time to replace him. Tink is small enough to fit in my purse (and my budget). That means I can write anytime, anywhere, and access the internet wherever it is available. She goes to school with me - I write on my lunch break. We've been to the library (cubicles AND internet), Panera and McDonalds (food!). I plan to write at the park this summer and on my back deck at night. I like the freedom to leave the distractions at home. I don't plan to add many bells and whistles to Tink -that would defeat her purpose. But when I need to see multiple documents and internet pages at once, I still have my iMac. My only complaint about Tink is she is a fingerprint magnet, so I ordered a Lotus flower skin for her. Bundle Monster Laptop Notebook Skin Sticker Cover Art Decal - 12" 14" 15" - Fit HP Dell Asus Compaq - Lotus Pond

Fitting for a faerie, don't you think!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Because It is Amazing...

I love this story! Who would have thought an elephant and a dog could become best buddies?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

Time, Compliments and Deadlines

It's amazing to me how a little time, a pat on the back and a deadline can motivate me to get things done.

I write every day, even if I'm exhausted and it's 10 PM (because that's the earliest point in the day I've had time to sit). My rule is I have to write at least one GOOD sentence before bed. Most work days I can knock off up to 800 new words. Today, the first day of spring break, I put down 1100 words before lunch. Most likely, I'll have half that again before my day is done. All because I have some undistracted writing time, someone who says my writing is worth pursuing, and a deadline.

I like to write as soon as I wake. My head is clear and the ideas flow easily. The day's events aren't able to distract me, because they haven't happened yet. I'm focused. I find that if I start my day thinking and working on my WIP it's easier to solve character issues or plot problems. I'm better able to think of ways to raise the stakes for my characters. In short, I'm more productive and it feels less like work.

A compliment can make a huge difference in my writing attitude. I am productive for days after a good word from my writer's group or critique partner (shallow and silly? Maybe...). This scholarship award from Chautauqua is very much the same. It's validation that I'm doing something right, and they are willing to invest their time and money towards my writing education. It's a powerful motivation, and I don't want to disappoint.

I have always worked best with a deadline, but since I'm unpublished, my deadlines are self-imposed. Sometimes that works. Sometimes not. My goal is to have my new WIP complete by July. The hope is I'll have a completed manuscript (albeit rough) to take with me to Chautauqua. That only gives me 13 weeks, so it's definitely fast-drafting (for me).

I've got an entire week free of the day job, and I'm hoping it'll be a productive week. It helps that I love the story I'm writing. The characters are fun, and the plot is an intriguing puzzle to solve -one I want to get right.

How, when and where do you write? Do you have a routine, or do you write when the muse hits you? Just curious...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Chautauqua Bound!

I'm so excited! May I say it again??? EXCITED! I found out on Thursday that I received a scholarship to the Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. (Thank you to Kent Brown and the Scholarship committee!!).

I learned about Chautauqua several years ago from my critique group. Several members had attended and shared their experience during the meeting. They came back thrilled, refreshed, full of ideas, and ready to take on the writing world.

I went home that night and looked up Chautauqua, and I found that it was run by the Highlights Foundation. In addition to all of the information about the workshop curriculum and faculty, Highlights posts Writing Tips from various authors/faculty members of recent Chautauqua workshops. They also offer what they call Founders Workshops. These are intimate, focused writing intensives that are usually 4-7 days. My critique partner has attended several of these. She likes the smaller group size. Hers have had 8-12 attendees, and she finds the focus on a particular topic helpful.

Chautauqua's curriculum is more like a buffet. It's a bit overwhelming when I look at all of the topics covered. My email said they would send me a curriculum list in May, and I'd have to choose what I'd like to attend. It's like going to a restaurant when you're super hungry. Everything looks good, and you don't know what you really want. I hope I choose well.

I had lunch yesterday with my friend and critique partner, Kathy. She's attended Chautauqua, and she brought with her a photo album from her visit. I loved hearing her talk about everything - The Athenaeum Hotel, Philosopher's Hall, The Hall of Christ, brick streets, beautiful gardens, and of course, all of the workshops attended and fabulous people she met.

I have high hopes for the experience. A week's immersion in the writer's community sounds like heaven - and work. It's a challenge I'm ready to tackle. I've lots to do while I wait. I've chosen which manuscript I want to work on with my mentor. I'd like to have a completed first draft before I go. I have almost four months to get it done, but that's pretty fast for me. I've only just started the novel. Summer break is coming, so I should have more time to work. Here's hoping!

If you're attending, let me know. I've love to meet you!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Just a Thought...

Today the cafeteria served foot-long hotdogs with sauerkraut. Why on God's green earth you would EVER serve sauerkraut to 400 elementary children, I'll never know. Have mercy on us this afternoon.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

And the Winner Is...

It's time to post the winner of the Truth or Lies contest. First, I want to thank Marcia for tossing this my way. It was quite fun!

Confession time...

1. When I was 15, I found 47 four-leaf clovers in one summer. I still have them. They're pressed in wax paper and stored in a Dr. Suess "Go, Dog Go" book.

This one is a lie. I did find 17 four leaf clovers one summer. They were all in one spot next to a corn field behind my Dad's shop. I stuck them between the pages of a novel I was reading then forgot about them. I found them again several years ago - then promptly lost them.

2. I once fed 35 Texans chili so hot it'd burn a hole in your cheek and make your tongue drop out, but they still added their own habanero peppers that they carried in their pockets; ran into Kris Kristofferson's belt buckle (he's really tall); chatted up with Johnny Cash (he was a true gentleman), and talked to Johnny Paycheck on the phone - all in one day.

True! I spent a couple of summers cooking for the roadies and band members that performed at Timberwolf Theater at Kings Island theme park near Cincinnati. I got to meet some memorable characters. Some of my favorites were - Mick Fleetwood, who showed up in the green room wearing leggings and fringed boots up to his knees. He was traveling with Pat Benetar, who kept her washer in a road case. She wheeled it into the bathroom, hooked it up to the sink, and proceeded to do her laundry all afternoon. Meanwhile, there were lots of ladies with crossed legs... Mark Chestnutt was the warmup band for Clay Walker. Mark kept to himself that day, but Clay was out and about - riding rollercoasters and greeting people all over the park. The Highway Men were my very favorite. The roadies called me 'mam and darlin' all day. I cooked everything they wanted. ;) I really did make the chile hot. My own crew smothered theirs with LOTs of sour cream and cheese. I had to laugh when the road crew asked if I'd be offended if they doctored their chile with their own peppers. They pulled them right out of their pockets! When I answered the production phone for Johnny Paycheck, he wanted to know, "Is Willie there? I'm across the highway with my eight kids and wife, and need to get into the park." I had to tell him Mr. Nelson hadn't arrived yet, but I'd get a manager to see if they could help him. Funny, most of Willie Nelson's road crew looked just like him. All in the family? The best thing about cooking for 10 hours? Getting to watch the concert for free in the wings.

3. I rode the Tilt-A-Whirl 42 times in a row at Coney Island in Cincinnati, because I love my daughter.

Heck no! I did watch my daughter and one of her friends accomplish the feat. The ride's line was empty. They would get off and run right around to get back on. Made me ill watching them.

4. My husband and I were arrested on our first date.

Nope, but my Mom and Dad were. Dad was in the Air Force and stationed at Wright Patt. He and Mom were on a blind date, and Dad ran a stop sign. At that time, the town of Fairborn expected the military to pay their fine on the spot. That way an offender couldn't get transfered out without paying their fine. Dad didn't have the $5 for the ticket, and Mom had to call her sister to come bail him out of jail. She must have forgiven him. Dad proposed two weeks later, and they were married six months after that.

5. I sang a singing saw part in Aram Khachaturian's "Concerto for Piano and Orchestra" with the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. The guy who was supposed to play the saw got sick, and there was no back-up saw player. I was the only one who could sing that high.

Yes. I really did. I got a call from the conductor who said I'd been recommended by the University, and could I please come right away for a quick rehearsal. It was insane. The highest note was the G above high C (two octaves above middle C). The lowest note wasn't low. At all. When I listened to the recording later, it sounded almost like a synthesizer. It was a pretty cool experience.

6. I competed at the Grape Stomp Competition at the Hollister Grape and Fall Festival in Branson, Missouri. It was over a week before my toes were no longer blue.

I've never been to Missouri, but if I go, I'd like to try this.

There you have it! And now for the winner... (drumroll.......) Nikki! She guessed both truths and became a follower. (The drawing was done by my husband. I had nothing to do with it other than getting the right number of votes in for everyone) Congratulations Nikki, and thanks to everyone who played!

Nikki, please contact me at nora.macfarlane@yahoo.com so I can get your gift card to you.

Monday, March 8, 2010

This Too Shall Pass - Rube Goldberg Machine version.

I was working hard on my manuscript (cough) when I came across this video that Christy Lenzi posted today on facebook. It is AWESOME! So I thought I'd share. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Truth and Lies and a $10 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!


I have been fortunate this week to have Marcia Hoehne send me a blog award (Because, you know, it's all about the blog bling!). Thank you, Marcia!

To accept this award I must:
*Thank the person who gave me the award and link to her.
*Add the award to my blog.
*Tell six outrageous lies about myself and One Truth.
*Nominate six creative liars...er, writers, and link to them.
*Let my nominees know they have been nominated.

Just to make this interesting, I'm adding a $10 gift card to Amazon.com as a prize! Like Marcia, I'm a bit of a rebel and plan to change the rules. I'm telling two truths and four lies. Choose your two truths and enter them in one comment. For each truth you guess correctly, your name will be placed in a drawing for the gift card. You have until midnight Friday, March 12th to enter. Winners (and truths) will be announced March 14th.

*For an additional entry, become a follower, and tell me so (or that you already are one) in a second comment.

*For an additional entry, post a link to this contest and then post a comment giving the URL. For the sake of my own organization, if you post a contest link in more than one location, please give each URL in a separate comment. In this category, you can enter as many times as you have cyber-places to post the contest.

Time to unleash the bald-faced-liar creative writer in me. Can you tell? Truth or lie?

1. When I was 15, I found 47 four-leaf clovers in one summer. I still have them. They're pressed in wax paper and stored in a Dr. Suess "Go, Dog Go" book.

2. I once fed 35 Texans chili so hot it'd burn a hole in your cheek and make your tongue drop out, but they still added their own habanero peppers that they carried in their pockets; ran into Kris Kristofferson's belt buckle (he's really tall); chatted up with Johnny Cash (he was a true gentleman), and talked to Johnny Paycheck on the phone - all in one day.

3. I rode the Tilt-A-Whirl 42 times in a row at Coney Island in Cincinnati, because I love my daughter.

4. My husband and I were arrested on our first date.

5. I sang a singing saw part in Aram Khachaturian's "Concerto for Piano and Orchestra" with the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. The guy who was supposed to play the saw got sick, and there was no back-up saw player. I was the only one who could sing that high.

6. I competed at the Grape Stomp Competition at the Hollister Grape and Fall Festival in Branson, Missouri. It was over a week before my toes were no longer blue.


There you have it - 2 truths and 4 lies. Good luck! And now, my creative liar nominees...

1. Rena
2. Christina Farley
3. Carrie Harris
4. Julia Karr
5. Chocolateer
6. Sara McClung

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Refreshing Reminder...

My sister-in-law recently sent this video of Red Skelton's Pledge of Allegiance to me. I'd seen the clip before, but it had been a very long time since I'd watched it. I say the pledge every day at school, and I'm ashamed to say that I don't pay much attention to what it means. I'm usually thinking about the lesson I'm about to teach, or things I must accomplish at work. The pledge has simply become part of the morning routine. It was refreshing to be reminded that what we recite each day is a powerful promise to uphold the freedoms that were so hard won.

I have always loved Red Skelton. I hope you enjoy him too.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What's Your Color IQ?

Thank you, Bish, for the Sunshine Award! I can't wait until my garden has color like this again...

Cindy Pon, author of Silver Phoenix, posted this Color IQ test on facebook. The closer to zero you score, the better your color acuity. I scored 11. What's your score? Good luck!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Silver and Gold

"Make new friends,
But keep the old,
Some are silver and the other gold."


That song is so true. I count myself lucky and blessed to have golden friends that I have kept through the years. Most have moved away, but when we get together, it's as if no time has passed at all. After a "how good to see you again" and a few big hugs, we start in right where we left off. Our kids are a lot bigger, and our conversation topics have changed, but the camaraderie is still strong.

I met with two of my favorite gentlemen in the world this weekend -Mitchell & Greg. We used to sing together, but Mitch moved to the west coast and Greg moved to northeastern Ohio. The distance was too big to keep the group together. Friday we had the opportunity to sing again. It'd been 12 years since we'd done so, but once we worked out a few kinks, it was like old times. It's hard to describe the feeling I get when I sing with them. They truly understand how words, dynamics, rhythm and harmony come together to communicate a message. We've sung together for so long, it's like we think together. Mitchell has moved back to Ohio. Here's hoping it won't be another 12 years before we sing again.

Social networking has made it so much easier to keep up with friends and family. My cousins (literally by the dozens) and I keep up through a Yahoo group and also facebook. It's made a huge difference for me in keeping up with friends and family. I HATE writing letters. Strange, I know, since I do love to write. I just don't care to do it with a pencil.

I've one high school buddy, Michelle, who I've kept up with over the years. She used to drive us to school or to the mall. I've got a fun tin -type picture of the two of us from one of those visits. We're dressed in period dresses with stern looks on our faces. I'm not sure where the picture is. If I find it, I'll post it. We stayed friends through college, and I sang at her wedding. She lives clear out in San Diego, but we still get together once a year for dinner. I always look forward to her visit. This is a picture of us from the last time she visited. That's me on the left, my daughter, and Michelle on the right.


The goofiest friendship I've ever had was with Lora. She was my college buddy. We were both coloratura sopranos in the music department. We both sang the same part and auditioned for all of the same solos and theater roles. We should have been mortal enemies, but instead, we became each other's biggest supporter. We had fun in the weirdest ways. Her apartment building was old and had fabulous hardwood floors and beautifully carved woodwork. It also had amazing acoustics. We would sit across from each other in her dining room and sing in 3rds up the octave as high and loud as we could. The result was funky harmonics that rang in our ears and fits of laughter that followed. I'm sure the neighbors hated us.

Okay, I'm done with Nostalgia Lane. Do you still keep up with your friends?

Friday, February 19, 2010

E-book Caper -- Front Street and namelos

Kent Brown, Executive Director of the Highlights Foundation, sent out this email offering free e-book downloads until April 1st. The message is as follows:

I normally trash any e-mail that includes the word free in it. And I often ignore any that mentions e-book, as I'm not up to date on that technology. But I concocted this experiment and egged on my friend Stephen Roxburgh, who is an early adopter of e-books and things high tech. I got used to seeing him in a rocking chair engrossed in his Kindle. Stephen has been a student of the book in whatever format most of his life and is articulate on the importance and magic of story, independent of platform.

Front Street, founded by Stephen and now part of Boyds Mills Press, has among its recent publications four great novels, which we selected for this experiment. They are characterized by the gentle hand of Stephen Roxburgh and the skills of colleagues he trained and inspired.

The novels are ACCORDING TO KIT by Eugenie Doyle (2ce4), CITY OF CANNIBALS by Ricki Thompson (d35f), THE DOG IN THE WOOD by Monika Schröder (3bd5), and WARRIORS IN THE CROSSFIRE by Nancy Bo Flood (2ac4).

To get your free electronic copies, go to www.namelos.com and locate the book by title or author by browsing or use the "search" option. When you get to the book page, enter the unique code provided for each book (shown in parentheses above) in the box in the lower-left corner of the page (under the list of prices) and click "submit." You will be asked to provide your name and e-mail address and to select the file format you want. You will receive an e-mail with a link that will download the file you selected to your hard drive, from where you can transfer it to your preferred reading device.

The code will allow you to download one file format per title. If you need a file format that is not provided, write directly to Stephen (roxburgh@namelos.com) and he'll provide it.

Frankly, it's an increasing challenge to get attention for novels, particularly first novels.

So, in cooperation with Stephen Roxburgh and his new venture, namelos llc, we are offering for a limited time downloads of the four novels. From now until April Fools' Day, you can put these on your e-reading device without charge. And since we are doing this to get the word out, we would be very happy if you shared the opportunity with your friends.

We want everyone to know about these books.

Boyds Mills Press has the hardback editions in stock, and they are available through all the places you buy books. Namelos llc will be selling the e-book versions of these titles in April and beyond. Almost all other Front Street novels are available now for purchase to download at www.namelos.com.

If you take advantage of this special offer, you can expect namelos to keep you up to date on the books they are offering in e-book format. If that's not to your liking, you will have a chance to opt out.

I cannot answer your technical questions—Stephen can do that—but I'd be happy to hear about your experience with this experiment.

Kent Brown, Executive Director, Highlights Foundation, Inc.
Former Publisher, Boyds Mills Press
KBrown@boydsmillspress.com

Thursday, February 18, 2010

February Critique Giveaway

Hey All,
Marsha Hoehne, an Institute of Children's Literature instructor, is having a February Critique Giveaway. She will critique the first 1000 words of two manuscripts -children's magazine story, chapter book, mid-grade novel, or YA novel. Visit her blog for the details!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Goofin' Around...

I'm goofin' around with my blog design. Please let me know if it gets obnoxious or too hard to read. This one is my daughter's favorite. It works thematically. Mine was a little more subtle...

Update - daughter loves it. Hubbie says it's too busy. Since you are the ones who read it, what are your thoughts? Be honest. I've got a tough skin!

Monday, February 15, 2010

New WIP, Haircicles, and Snow Forts

I've started writing a new novel, and I'm having a blast! This one is YA fantasy. I have a rough outline of the plot and sketches of the major characters. They are quite fun. I have so much trouble to send their way... I have three chapters written so far at 5600 words. The fourth chapter is where the subplots diverge, so I've spent time today mulling things over a bit.

My favorite part of a new novel is the brainstorming. I tend to go over the top when I'm throwing down ideas. Eventually I'll have to rein it all in to make it believable. But for now, if you hear a wild cackle come through your monitor, it's probably me. I've spent today "upping the stakes." Not just for my MC, but for all my characters. It makes a huge difference when I write if I know before hand the "what's in it for me" of everyone involved.

I just got the phone call telling me I have another snow day tomorrow, so I'll have a big block of time to write. Woot!

While I'm glad for the time off, I'm quite tired of snow. We got another 9 inches today. We're expecting another 2 inches by midnight, and another 2-3 inches through the day tomorrow. Today I waited until we had about 7 inches before I decided to shovel the driveway. I had finished the front deck and half the drive when my wonderful neighbor came down my sidewalk with his snowblower. He cleared my walk and my driveway too. When he finished, he shut off the snowblower and said, "I noticed you were icing up." I put my hand in my hair, and he was right! I had icicles all through my hair and didn't know it.

Although I'm feeling weather weary, my daughter is loving it. This evening she dug out an igloo fort in the snow piles around the front deck and the driveway. She made a tunnel that goes all the way through the drift and out the other side. Robb stood by, ready to yank her out by her feet if the ceiling collapsed. What a good dad!

I'll leave you with a few more snow pictures. The quality isn't great. I'm not camera savvy, and somehow the settings have changed. I'm going to have to pull out the manual. Stay warm! Keep writing!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

There's a War in my Basement

There's a war in my basement.

I didn't know it, but it's true. I have four, 12-year-old girls spending the night. They have been non-stop gigglers and outright belly laughers for hours. But in the last hour it suddenly got quiet. My mom radar turned on in a flash. I listened, and listened harder. I was beginning to believe that maybe they had decided to watch a movie or partake in some other civilized endeavor. I was wrong.

The screams, thumps and crashes started without warning. I flew down the stairs to see who was grievously injured - or worse. I was greeted by this:


That would be "The South." This is "The North."


The blur of pink is one of my daughter's friends dodging an "incoming." I must say that I think the North has much better defenses. The South is definitely louder.

I just heard the word "CAKE!" so I think that a cease fire has been called. Time to go feed the troops.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow, Fun, Frustration, and Smiles

We had another snow day today. It's a good thing, because I stayed up into the wee hours of the night reading GRACELING (BTW, excellent read!). I wouldn't have been at my best, I think, if I'd had to get up early and teach...

My daughter (in the green and white) is loving the snow. Here's how she's spending her snow days.




We now have 13 measurable inches in the back yard. I think we're done with the snow for now, at least until Sunday. That means I go back to school tomorrow -just in time for Valentine's parties. We have a scheduled 4-day weekend due to conferences and President's Day. I'm sure tomorrow will be very productive...

My son and I shoveled the driveway again today. We had just finished when my neighbor's daughter tried to back out of her driveway. She got stuck in the ice at the end of the drive with the back half of the van in the road and the front half in the drive. As she struggled to get unstuck, a village snowplow came around the corner, passed my house (filling the driveway again), and stopped before her drive. He was waiting for her to move. He waited, and waited, and waited some more. I kept thinking, "Wouldn't it be nice if he helped." A shovelful of salt behind the wheels of her van would give her a little traction, and off she could go. But no, he got tired of waiting and plowed her into an even more difficult situation. It took five of us to dig her out and get her on the road. In the meantime, the plow comes back around to do the other side of the road, and once again leaves a long swath of deep snow in the MIDDLE of the road. What an idiot! I'm still not sure how he did it. We finally got her unstuck. She went on her way with a grateful thanks, and I went back to my driveway to shovel myself out -again.

My mother has a talent for making me smile. She sent me something cheerful today, and I'd like to share it with you. Be sure to click on the black screen. You might even hold down the mouse and pull it across the screen. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow, More Snow, Writing, and a Good Read

It's snowing here in southwest Ohio. Lots. We don't have as much snow as they do farther north and east, but it's enough. This is what is looks like right now from my back deck, and it's supposed to keep snowing for the next 24 hours.





I'm very tired of gray and snow. This is what I'm looking forward to. It's a nice reminder that the world does have color!



Everything has shut down in Cincinnati and the surrounding communities -which means my kids and I have a snow day! The four best things about snow days?
1. No school for me (says the teacher!)

2. My house gets a deep clean -I love it when my house is picked up, cleaned and things are where they're supposed to be. Not an easy feat with teenagers in the house. It relaxes me, and I find I can enjoy a good book or write without guilt. If there are chores left undone, they inevitably find their way into my thoughts when I'm trying to write. It's best to get them done first.

3. I have lots of time to write, blog and read -I've started writing a new novel, and it's so much fun! I love it when the ideas start flowing and the story is fresh and new. I've written a rough summary and started my setting and character sketches. Last night I finished chapter 2. Today I tackle chapter 3. I'm aiming for 700 - 1000 words on the days I teach, and 1000+ on the days I don't work. I'd like to have the first draft finished by the end of spring break. That would give me all of May and through the summer to revise and get ready for submissions. At least, that's the plan...

4. I can scrap everything and READ! I've had GRACELING, by Kristen Cashore, posted as my current read for a quite a while, but I didn't get an opportunity to start it until this past Sunday. I love it! I've got several hours set aside this evening specifically for GRACELING.

I've a turkey in the oven and a to-do list to tackle. After that, uninterrupted writing time. WOOT!

Monday, January 18, 2010

ALA Awards announced this Morning

FYI: ALA Awards were announced this morning. Here's the link: ALA AWARDS

Congrats to all the winners!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Checking In...

Hey all, I haven't forgotten you! It's the end of the semester, so once again my attention has turned to grade cards, conferences, and written education plans. I'll be back in a week!

Keep Writing!
Nora

Sunday, January 3, 2010

TAGGED!

Bish over at Random Thoughts tagged me just before we left on vacation with a bunch of writerly questions. Bish, forgive me for taking so long to answer! Here goes:

1. What’s the last thing you wrote? What’s the first thing you wrote that you still have? I was all about music and dance when I was younger, so I really only have writing samples from the last six years. The last thing I wrote was a revision of chapter 18.

2. Write poetry? Once. It’s a parody of the Night Before Christmas.

3. Angsty poetry? Nope.

4. Favorite genre of writing? MG and YA Fantasy!!!

5. Most annoying character you’ve ever created? The main character in my first novel was ridiculously perfect. Never wrong. Never in trouble. Things always worked out for her. Not any more. Bring it on!!!

6. Best plot you’ve ever created? I’m rather pleased with my novel that I’m getting ready to submit.

7. Coolest plot twist you’ve ever created? It’s on page 201.

8. How often do you get writer’s block? Not too often. When I do, I either work ahead or go back and revise until the muse returns.

9. Write fan fiction? No, too busy with my own ideas.

10. Do you type or write by hand? Type! I would never write if I had to do it long hand.

11. Do you save everything you write? Yes, because I have found that what looks brilliant one night might seem pretty dull the next. I save every draft on hard drive, flash drive, and internet.

12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you’ve abandoned it? Yes. I’ve got a YA novel that I’d like to get back to once I finish the synopsis for another book.

13. What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written? My current novel!

14. What’s everyone else’s favorite story you’ve written? My critique partners also like my current novel.

15. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama? No, but it’s on the short list.

16. What’s your favorite setting for your characters? I like settings that are in some way unfamiliar to the character, or maybe something new about a familiar environment that causes major problems for the protagonist.

17. How many writing projects are you working on right now? Three. One that’s ready to submit, one that I’m getting ready to fast-draft, and one that’s percolating. I’m keeping an idea file for that one.

18. Have you ever won award for your writing? No.

19. What are your five favorite words? Chocolate, iridescent, pumpernickel, calamitous, payday…

20. What character have you created that is most like yourself? I don’t know. I think they all have a few of my qualitites -good and bad.

21. Where do you get your ideas for your characters? I’m a people watcher!

22. Do you ever write based on your dreams? No, I never remember my dreams.

23. Do you favor happy endings? Not necessarily. I like a satisfying conclusion to a story, problem solved and all that, but I don’t require everything to work out perfectly for the protagonist.

24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write? Yes, and it really gets in my way. I actually put a towel over the monitor once so I couldn’t think about it.

25. Does music help you write? Absolutely not. Read this post.

26. Quote something you’ve written. Whatever pops in your head. I like this description from a chapter in my novel:

It was that bad. The first day was miserable. They traveled no farther than fifty feet into the swamp when the number of mosquitoes multiplied exponentially. Although the bloodsuckers never landed to take a bite, Felisa’s stinky repellent saw to that, they whizzed and whined in annoying masses around Charley’s face and ears. She longed to voice her opinion about the sanity of traveling through the swamp, but the fear of inhaling mosquitoes by the dozens helped her keep complaints to herself.


And now I tag Brenda - who's been M.I.A. We've missed you! And Chocolateer, who has been angsting about her writing.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Jungle Adventure

My daughter and I decided to live dangerously today and shop in the Jungle.

A mere 15 minutes north of my home in Fairfield, Ohio is a place called Jungle Jim's International Market. It's an incredible grocery shopping experience, and yes, it's dangerous. If I don't walk in the door with a specific list of items, I can easily rack up a $300+ grocery bill. Why? Because everything you can think of is in that store. Everything. I try not to go unless I need something I know I can't get anywhere else.

Need a 10 pound prickly fruit from Thailand? They've got it. Got a hankering for sugar cane - still in the cane? It's there. Need dried sardines for that Asian dish you want to make? Yup. They've got that too. The sardines made my daughter laugh. They were in large plastic see-through bags. They still had their eyes, and the drying process made their ribs stick out.

The first thing we saw was fresh sushi from the onsite cooking school. Beautiful presentations, but I don't think I could eat it. The olive bar and salsa bar is located near the cheese shoppe. They have over 1200 kinds of hard to find cheeses from countries all over the world. They purchase huge wheels of cheese. It's quite a sight.

Right next to the cheese shoppe is the wine cellar with more than 12,000 wine labels from around the world. They have tasting events and an annual International Wine Festival too.

One of the things I like about their deli department is the huge selection of meats that are free of antibiotics, gluten, casein and growth hormones. My family and I have food allergies and preservative allergies. Cooking for everyone can sometimes be a challenge. There are things I'd rather not see in the deli too. Like the whole hog's head at the end of the meat counter, the purple cow's tongue, and the pig's intestines. Ew -to each their own.

The produce department is one full acre. Nuf said.

The absolute most dangerous part of the entire trip is the trek through the bakery. It's a full-line bakery. They make every kind of product you can imagine, and the SMELL is heavenly! The cakes and pastries are beautiful. They bake all kinds of old world breads. Daughter and I made it out of there with a fresh baguette for our spaghetti dinner tonight, and a bacon-cheddar pretzel roll that never made it home...

Daughter's favorite part of the trip is the 1000 gallon tank of live fish, lobsters, and crabs. Love seafood? Live, fresh, smoked, canned, frozen, dried... it's there.

My favorite part of the market is the back half of the store. It's divided into regions including Asia, Europe, Africa, and South America. They have over 50,000 imported grocery items from more than 75 countries and regions around the world. It reminded me somewhat of our recent trip to Disney World (a future blog topic), because in every isle you traveled a different language was spoken. The International Market is one of the reasons Daughter and I went to Jungle Jim's. She has a school project about Denmark, and she needed an item to share. I was a little worried when we got to the Scandinavian section. It was mostly full of Swedish products, but we did find something from Denmark. A fish sauce.

I love going to Jungle Jim's, and I almost always find whatever I need. If you come to the Cincinnati area, you should check it out. It's worth the visit!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Resolution Time and Book list

New Year's tradition requires reflection upon the good intentions of last year's resolutions and the making of new goals. I was a bit leery of revisiting last year's resolutions, especially since I couldn't remember what they were. I had to look them up (shame)... so, here goes:

1) I will write six days a week - no excuses. (No excuses! Hahahahahahahaha! I did manage to write 4-5 days a week.)

2) I will continually seek to improve my writing skills by writing, attending a monthly critique group, attending at least one writer's conference, reading lots of MG and YA literature, and reading books on the craft of writing. (Success! I did all of these, and I attended three writer's conferences - all well worth the cost)

3) I will actively seek agent representation (I did this at the beginning of the year and received some helpful feedback from several agents- no offers though. So I quit submitting and began rewriting. I'm ready to submit again)

4) I will write a synopsis for a sequel to the book I just finished writing. (Nope - but I started on it just before Christmas. It's first on the list this year)

5) I will finish writing the MG novel I began during NaNoWriMo. (No. I'm not even interested in it anymore!)


MY 2010 LIST OF WRITING RESOLUTIONS

1) I will minimize writing distractions.
*I'm thinking about getting a netbook so I can go work in a library cubical or a coffee shop. They're pretty affordable these days. Trying to write at the house is difficult. There are too many interruptions, and I feel guilty writing when I "should" be cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, etc. Funny... I never feel guilty about spending time on facebook or Verlakay.

2) I WILL SUBMIT MY WORK!
It does no good to write and leave it sit on the shelf...

3) I will actively seek agent representation (again).
I suppose this is goal number 2 restated.

4) I will become more organized in the way I approach writing a Novel.
I mean this! I wrote the last novel by the seat of my pants. I had the plot in my head, and I believe it came together the way it should, but I think the process would go so much faster if I made my right brain listen to my left brain and outline first. I'm going to let the left brain file first, and then the right brain can pile it on!

That's it. I'm keeping it simple this year. I wish all of you the best 2010 has to offer! Happy New Year!


BOOKS I'VE READ IN 2009
The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening, L.J. Smith
Blue Moon, Alyson Noel
The Demon King, Cinda Williams Chima
Sarah Bishop, Scott O'Dell
Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater
Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
The Demon's Lexicon, Sarah Rees Brennon
Evermore, Alyson Noel
Bewitching Season, Marissa Doyle
The Amulet of Samarkand, Jonathan Stroud
The Lightening Thief, Rick Riorden
Shift, Charlotte Agell
Save the Cat!, Blake Snyder
Austenland, Shannon Hale
The Last Olympian, Rick Riodan
Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary, Brandon Mull
Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Demigod Files, Rick Riordan
Fragile Eternity, Melissa Marr
What the Dickens, Gregory Maguire
The Edge Chronicles: Beyond the Deep Woods, Stewart/Riddell
The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan
City of Glass, Cassandra Clare
Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village, Laura Amy Schlitz
Catherine Called Birdy, Karen Cushman
The Midwife's Apprentice, Karen Cushman
The Book of Time, Guillaume Prevost
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
City of Ashes, Cassandra Clare
City of Bones, Cassandra Clare
The People of Sparks, Jeanne DuPrau
The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau
Gregor and the Code of Claw, Suzanne Collins

2008 BOOK LIST