Giveaway WINNER!

Any one of the six people who commented on my previous post would have been a worthy winner. I knew I couldn’t be impartial, so I printed out each of the comments and enlisted the help of my hubby to pick one out of the (clean) dog bowl.

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And the winning nameCLUCULZWRITER!

Congratulations, Joylene! I’ll be in touch via email to make the arrangements. I hope you’ll enjoy this delightful verse novel as much as I have.

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A Non-review and Giveaway: ROOT BEER CANDY AND OTHER MIRACLES

I don’t often review books because I don’t feel comfortable passing judgment, negative or positive, on someone else’s writing. When I do recommend a book, it’s because I’m particularly enthusiastic about it.

rootbeercandyandothermiracles_websiteI’m enthusiastic about ROOT BEER CANDY AND OTHER MIRACLES, but you’re likely to think I’m biased because the author is my daughter, Shari Green, and that’s not true at all. Despite it being aimed at a middle-grade audience, I’ve read it twice and am likely to read it again. It’s that good. But since you probably still think I’m biased, I’ll just let you read other people’s reviews instead of reviewing it myself…

CM Magazine: “…a light-hearted yet evocative page-turner … Green’s writing is captivatingly visual, with seamless inclusions of figurative language … versatile as independent reading or as an engaging read-aloud.” 

School Library Journal: “Recommend this lovely and poignant novel to middle grade readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories.”

Canadian Children’s Book News: “Writing in verse, Green aptly captures the journey of a girl faced with her first real heartbreak—the likely dissolution of her family. Bailey’s openness to confronting her reality while still believing in the extraordinary adds to her charm, as does her growing realization that heartache affects many others in her life as well.”

 ROOT BEER CANDY AND OTHER MIRACLES is a verse novel but it’s not your typical metered and rhyming children’s book. You don’t think “poetry” as you read, only that the story streams vividly onto the pages, taking you into the Felicity Bay community where Bailey is spending a rather stressful summer.

It will come to pass
that a stranger from the sea
will change
everything.”

“The locals in Felicity Bay shake their heads at the ice cream man’s prophecy. “Crazy old Jasper,” they say. But Bailey isn’t so sure. She’s found something special down at the beach: a driftwood mermaid, a gift washed up from a storm. Could she be the stranger from the sea who has come to change everything? Bailey hopes so. Because this summer, she sure could use a miracle.”

hi-res-dPublished this fall by Pajama Press, RBCAOM is just the most recent of Shari’s successes. In 2010 she won first place in the Writing for YA category of the Surrey International Writers’ contest with her short story, IN LIEU OF A WARDROBE. After that she took some time to work on full length pieces and in October 2014 her YA novel FOLLOWING CHELSEA was published by Evernight Teen. In April 2015 Vine Leaves Press released FALLING FOR ALICE, a collection of five short stories by Shari and four other YA authors in celebration of the 150th anniversary of ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

Since then she’s had a very busy year.

  • September 2015 – TAKE ME TO THE SEA: an ocean-themed colouring book was published.
  • October 2015 – SANDBAGGING, a short story, won Honourable Mention in the SiWC writing contest.
  • January 2016 – CREATIVITEA: another colouring book was published, this one for tea lovers.
  • August 2016 – DOODLE SOUP: a “bit-of-everything” colouring collection was released.
  • October 12, 2016 – ROOT BEER CANDY AND OTHER MIRACLES, her verse novel, was published by Pajama Press.

And, coming up next spring…

dsc00373None of this sounds like bragging, does it? No, of course not, but I admit to being thrilled for all her accomplishments, not the least of which was last month’s Special Achievement Award presented to Shari by the Surrey Board of Trade at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

If you’d like to know more about Shari, you could head for her blog or check out her Bio here.

This brings me to the giveaway (for Canada and the USA only, please). If you would like to have your name put into the puppy bowl (it’ll be clean; I promise!) for the chance to win a paperback copy of ROOT BEER CANDY AND OTHER MIRACLES, all you have to do is leave a comment below. I’ll be drawing the winner’s name at the end of day next Thursday, November 24th (Thanksgiving Day in the USA!), and announcing it here on the blog on Friday the 25th (just one month before Christmas!)  🙂

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Conference Reflections, Past and Present

SiWC15-Ballroom

(Mealtime in the Sheraton Guildford Ballroom)

The Surrey International Writers’ Conference was, as it always is for me, an incredible weekend. So many wonderful people to meet, informative workshops to attend, and inspirational opportunities to absorb. So many books available to buy (I would have liked one of each but settled on four).

Each time I return home and begin reflecting, I say many of the same things here. Perhaps now would be a good time to look back at a few previous years’ blog excerpts…

2008 — Follow the link to see lots of photos and a not-very-poetic list of  Conference afterthoughts, among which you’ll find:

Tired butts
Feverish note taking
Nerve-wracking interviews
Moments of enlightenment
Incredible presenters
Sumptuous food
Purple tights
Exhilaration
Shock Theater script
Daunting dinner table companions
Glimpses of genius
“Glorious Mud”

2010 — “Even if you leave late nights to the partiers, the pace at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference keeps your brain in perpetual motion. Every year I come home emotionally recharged but physically and mentally exhausted. It takes a couple days before my brain kicks into gear again, and I can begin to digest all the nourishment it’s been fed.”

2012 — From morning’s first light to the latest hours of the night, conference coordinator Kathy Chung, her sidekick kc dyer, and their fellow Board and Committee members were everywhere, sometimes white with exhaustion, but still smiling and making sure everyone was having a good conference experience. I don’t know how they did it all, but I know why. Because they believe in the goal that has been the conference mandate for all twenty years: “To inspire, educate and motivate aspiring and experienced writers alike.”

2013 — A reminder from Jim Hines’ keynote speech:
“There are people out there
who need the stories only YOU can write…
Your voice matters.”

2015 — This was my seventh year (I didn’t begin blogging until after the second) and a highlight was discovering DD Shari Green’s short story, SANDBAGGING, won an Honourable Mention in the writing contest, judged by well-known authors Jack Whyte and Diana Gabaldon. (For anyone interested, her story and the other winning stories are available to read here.)

Back in 2010 Shari won top spot in the Writing for YA category of the contest, so this additional award and recognition of her writing ability was very sweet. Of course there was a tiny bit of celebration. Very sedate. Mine was with a decorous glass of Chardonnay; I think Shari’s was a more exotic-sounding Lavender Gimlet!)

Shari-Contest-Award

Now it’s time to harness the renewed enthusiasm and put all the inspiration to work. I have a manuscript I want to read through one last time before sending it out into the world, a critique group to prepare for later this week, and then I’ll start thinking about what I want to work on during November’s upcoming NaNoWriMo writing frenzy.

To use a double negative, there’s never nothing to do when you’re a writer. 🙂

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Everything Writing

This week my life is all about writing. Oh, I write pretty much every day, but there’s a special focus on it right now.

On Tuesday I joined my daughter, Shari Green, for an evening hosted by the Golden Ears Writers in Maple Ridge. She and her fellow authors Denise Jaden and Dawn Ius Dalton took part in a panel-style workshop on ‘Ideas and Imaginings: Finding and developing story ideas and exploring the world of re-tellings and re-imaginings.’ Such great insights and so many good ideas emerged!

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(Denise Jaden, Dawn Ius Dalton and Shari Green)

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Now Shari and I are at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, a long weekend that is always the highlight of our writing year. For our very introverted souls, it’s both exhilarating and daunting to be a part of the hundreds-large crowd of literary peeps — big name authors and writers of all levels of experience, editors, agents, publishers and screenwriters — and be immersed in everything writing for three (very long) days.

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With several dozen workshops and presenters, keynote speeches, book signings and banquets plus all the hobnobbing in between, it provides a huge dose of information and inspiration, boosts our creativity and rejuvenates our writerly souls. It’s also exhausting!

It will be good preparation for November and the annual NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) marathon  — our zany effort to produce 50,000 words in thirty days.

NaNo-2015-Participant-Banner

With it following a week after the conference, we’re always more than ready to creep into our solitary spaces and start prepping for a month of concentrated writing. Then, with the arrival of November, more times than not, we manage to hammer out a rough draft of a complete novel.

So I guarantee you won’t see much of me around here for the next few weeks — there won’t be a lot of musing and mental meandering time — but I’ll pop in with periodic updates. Let me know what you’re up to, too, and I’ll offer encouragement where I can. Any new projects? Are you finishing old ones, revising, mulling, or deep in tearing-your-hair-out frustrations? Let me know. We can console each other. 🙂

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Judging books by their covers…

Do you judge books by their covers? We’re admonished not to, but I have to admit that’s the first thing that attracts my attention when I’m browsing for a new book to buy.

Certain covers instantly catch my attention in either a negative or positive way and I’ll either reach for it, or turn to something else. My hubby says this is true for him, too. Taste is dictated by personal ideals and I know what appeals to me doesn’t necessarily appeal to someone else, but I don’t really understand why. That’s probably the reason I could never make a career out of designing book covers.

Oh, but wait! I DID design one! Now if I could only figure out why I chose certain of its elements perhaps I might better understand why some covers appeal to me and others don’t.

Johnny_Front_CoverThe book, THE ADVENTURES OF JOHNNY AND MR. FREDERICK, was the dream of my aunt, Norma McGuire who had collected the fanciful stories told by her late husband to their three boys, and decided it would be nice to make them available for others to read. I assisted with the editing and a year-long process of querying various Canadian agents and publishers, but then decided the uncertainty of obtaining traditional publication wasn’t worth the indefinite wait. With a son-in-law in the printing business, there was another option — self-publishing.

In this case, it became not-self-self-publishing because it was done by the family as a surprise Christmas gift — and what a surprise it was! — so I couldn’t consult with Norma about any of the decisions she normally would have made herself.

Formatting the interior pages was a straightforward task, but the cover…? All the book’s illustrations were paintings or sketches done by my aunt and there were any number of the story’s whimsical characters who could have been featured… but which to choose?  Copies of the book wouldn’t be on real shelves in bookstores for children to select, but would be available for ordering online or directly from Norma, so it seemed wise to also make the cover appealing to the adults who would buy the book for their children and grandchildren.

Since the stories were about a young boy and an old fisherman and mostly took place on a fishing boat, the fishing theme was a good place to start… except Norma hadn’t created any fishing illustrations that would fit the vertical cover format. That’s when I asked for assistance from my daughter, photographer and fellow writer Shari Green, who lives in an oceanside town. With camera in hand she visited a local marina and shot several photos, one of which instantly caught my attention and became the chosen background.

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Photography by Shari Green

There was an island in the background, and an island also plays a prominent part in the stories. There were colourful elements that could be repeated to make the text child-friendly. Voila! A cover was born. Do I know why it appealled? No, but I trusted my eye and instinct.

Another fellow writer and graphic artist makes a business out of creating covers. One of her e-book covers just won first place in a cover design contest. Maybe I should ask Rachel Elizabeth Cole of Littera Designs for her opinion on what makes a good one.  I think that may be a subject for another post. 🙂

What elements of a book’s cover appeal most to you?

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Now THAT was a conference!

Whooo-eeee! A three-and-one-half day whirlwind just deposited me back at home and my brain is still reeling. So many great people, so much information conveyed, such a lot of encouragement, inspiration and motivation provided… not to mention all the fabulous food consumed!

I promised a conference round up, but I’ve come to the conclusion it’s impossible to condense the following into a few paragraphs:

  • the impact of being among 700 people who love writing as much as you do,
  • the contributions of fifty-five authors, agents, editors and screenwriters at the free ‘Blue Pencil’ and agent interviews,
  • the vast amounts of material they presented during more than seventy workshops,
  • the helpfulness of at least a hundred volunteers, staff and organizers, or
  • the luxury of the conference’s first class hotel setting.

You’ve heard the saying ‘you need to see it to believe it.’ Well, in this case you need to be there to fully appreciate it.

Maybe by Wednesday my brain will be better able to sort through the weekend’s highlights, but at the moment it’s still on Information Overload. For now I think I’ll leave you with a few of my photos and the suggestion that you set aside October 24-27, 2013 and plan to come and see for yourself what makes this conference one of the very best in North America.

[A click on any photo will enlarge it]

Just one-third of the packed Conference hotel ballroom

MC, Carol “Sparkles” Monaghan complete with deelyboppers but minus her wand and feather boa

Agent Donald Maass and Conference Coordinator Kathy Chung

DD Shari Green and author Eileen Cook at the Book Fair

Author Jack Whyte giving his annual rendition of “Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud” (after which he lost his voice)

Author Hallie Ephron at Saturday night’s Book Fair

Editor Nancy Marie Bell (and yes, Joylene, I DID give her your hug!)

SiWC writing contest coordinator and author kc dyer…

… and kc’s infamous “sexy legs” tights

There are more, but they’ll have to wait. The weekend’s lack of sleep has caught up to me and I’m off to dream the maybe-not-so-impossible-anymore dream.

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Fleeting Whispers of Writing Grandeur

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There’s a pair of my husband’s slacks slung over the back of a kitchen chair. They’ve been there for several days, with a frayed knee waiting to be mended.  Navy cotton duck doesn’t talk, so why is there a trace of taunting going on every time I pass by? They know mending isn’t high on my priority list right now, and navy doesn’t wear the accumulating dust all that well.

I really do have good intentions each morning, but the day always disappears into my computer monitor. I suspect my husband has long since resigned himself to finding alternatives in the closet until after I finish my current writing project.

The truth is, I’d rather write than mend any day. In a Writer Unboxed column last spring, author Barbara O’Neal admitted as a girl her fantasy about the life of a professional writer involved “a cottage by the sea in England… a cat on the windowsill and a dog by the fire.”  In a recent interview on Angelina C. Hansen’s blog, daughter Shari Green was asked about her fantasy writing space and she mentioned “a window overlooking the sea.”

Being a writer means escaping into the world of our characters, but that rarely happens in the idealistic settings we visualized in our aspiring-author dreams. More often we’re scooping precious slices of writing time out of our household duties, or while sitting in the car waiting for the school bell to release youngsters, or wiping crumbs and coffee rings from pages during our lunch break in a crowded staff room.

When we’re not scrambling for writing time, we’re probably checking off rejection letters against our submissions spreadsheet, stressing over a possible deal, or wondering if we can possibly make the deadline for the next round of edits. During ulcer-inducing moments we may wonder where our pre-publication fantasies went. Where’s the rewarding lifestyle we dreamed of? What’s the point of all this?

Barbara O’Neal says, “…The biggest rewards are intrinsic.  For the curious, questing, intelligent minds that turn to writing, there is nothing more thrilling than eternally tackling a pursuit that cannot ever be fully mastered.  There is the chortling joy of learning something new, every single book. There is the pleasure of research and world-building and story design; there is detail enough for any geek of any ilk. And there is the bone deep satisfaction of sticking with it, and seeing a row of books against the wall, work that would not exist at all had you not persisted.”

Ah, that’s it exactly! I’m not there yet, but that’s an acceptable reality to work towards.

Did you ever fantasize about what the writer’s life would be like? Did your dreams include delusions of grandeur?

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Photo: Room & Windows by Luigi Diamanti
http://bit.ly/phbP7n 

Roaming Bookstores and Seashores

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Roaming a bookstore is something akin to roaming the seashore for me. There is exhilaration and discovery, the heady smell that is unique to the location. My daughter loves to do both, too, as her blog post and Flickr pictures yesterday attest.

Her enthusiasm for acquiring books reminded me of my recent visit to one of my favourite out-of-town haunts. A few days ago after travelling to my writing group meeting I took the rare opportunity to visit a mega Christian bookstore — Blessings Christian Marketplace.  I was looking for a particular book, which I didn’t find, but I still came home with four others! It just isn’t possible to escape a bookstore with empty hands!

Books by Mary Connealy

As I browsed the shelves it was a delight to discover the books of people I’ve encountered online. It felt a little like running into friends in the crowded city. Or coming upon an eagle “perusing the menu” on the salt washed shore. What are the odds, I often wonder after such encounters.

Seeing the books was a strange sensation… there was a recognition that sparked pride in the authors’ accomplishment. It made me wonder how I will feel the day I see my own title among them, if that day ever comes. At this stage of my writing career I can’t imagine it. But the sight ignited my enthusiasm to continue working towards that day.

The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund

Code Blue by Richard Mabry

Books by James Scott Bell

What emotions do you experience when you visit your bookstore or library, or are you just focused on locating a book?

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Gull photo courtesy of pdphoto.org

Writing Insecurities

 

On Twitter last night I read DD Shari Green’s tweet, “964 words. Some of them don’t suck.

Then on the Writer Unboxed blog I encountered Debbie Ohi’s delightful cartoon…

The cartoon evoked so many comments along the line of, “You must be living in my head!” and “Have you been spying on me?” that a thought stood up and began waving its arms at me… the thought that at some point most writers must feel insecure about their writing.

I know I do. I think I’m a reasonably decent writer, but when I read my work-in-progress I know without a doubt that it’s gosh awful. After I revise, rework, rewrite until my eyes cross, it’s only marginally better, and I despair of ever creating a novel worth reading.

Then along comes a compliment from an unlikely source, and hope stirs a tender sprout that begins to work its way out of my shriveled core. Uncertain. Seeking the light of acceptance, but squinting, just in case it’s looking in the wrong direction. Maybe… just maybe… my story doesn’t completely suck.

That’s the stage I’m at now. How about you? Do writing insecurities ever get you down?

Update: There is also a good post on this topic at K.M. Weiland’s blog: “10 Steps for Working Past the ‘This Stinks’ Blues“.

Unresponsive Brain Cells Don’t Matter, Do They?

Information Overload’ is a reality. I know, because I’m afflicted. Just home from four days at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and my fuzzy brain refuses to offer up coherent words for a timely post of writing inspiration. Not that it doesn’t contain lots of said inspiration. It does. It’s just that the great helpings of it acquired this weekend are nestled away in sluggish grey matter that refuses to release it. I need to go to bed! Hence, a shortened version of my weekend’s highlights:

Awesome Thursday Master Class on ‘Next Level Fiction’ with James Scott Bell

… who had the greatest gelskin for his laptop!

Daughter, Shari Green, winner of the SiWC Writing Contest, YA category.

There’s a brief podcast interview with Shari here.

Hundreds and hundreds of fellow writers, authors, editors, agents, and publishers making connections, attending workshops, sharing good ideas, good news, good fellowship, and good food.

Bottles of wine, late night gatherings, Tweeted directions.

(Of course there is no picture! Would you really expect one?)

A Silent Auction, huge Trade Show, books and bargains galore.

(I wanted one of everything!)

The Saturday evening Book Fair and its author book signings.

The annual rendition of “Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud” by Jack Whyte.

(Just ignore the bottle… a little pre-song fortification.)

There’s tons more, but eyes are glazing over. Have to sleep now.

To be continued….