Friday, January 30, 2009

Free Books

One good turn deserves another.

I have one extra copy of each of these books from ICL:

The Giblin Guide to Writing Children's Books by James Cross Giblin
Book Markets for Children's Writers 2009
Searching: A Research Guide for Writers
From Inspiration to Publication
Essentials of English

You can see the descriptions of some of the books here:

If you'd like any of these, just leave a comment specifying which one you want before the end of this month. I'll draw lots on Monday.

Edited to add: All the books have found good homes, folks.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Student Again!

Today, the much awaited box arrived from ICL ... I'm taking the book course! Been meaning to do this for a while, but there never seemed to be a good time. But I'm making a committment. I'm going to trust the process and start fresh.

I have two novels in different stages of progress. The historical YA is 3/4 done and the other is just a messy first draft. My hope is that I will finish this new book that's been rattling in my head for quite some time.

Although I'm good at taking time to study by myself, nothing beats having a teacher hold your hand, and push you when you need it. I find I stretch and grow so much more in a classroom than when I work alone.

So ... wish me luck! I've a lot to juggle. And I'm excited and terrified all at once.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Goals, Chinese New Year, and TV madness

It's almost the end of January. How's everybody doing with their goals? I've heard that it takes a good three weeks to settle into a new pattern. It's true for me.
So far, I've been able to do all the things daily that I wanted to, except on the weekends. I find it difficult to find writing time with everyone at home. I can't get quiet enough to focus. So either I get up early and write or accept that some days are going to be too full. Haven't decided yet.
But it's the beginning of a New Chinese Year ... so you can start anew now, if you've been having trouble keeping up with your goals. I think it's not wise to beat yourself up about not meeting your goals. Better to say, I will try again tomorrow.

I'm so happy that Grace Lin will be coming to our local SCBWI conference. I love her picture books and she has penned charming novels: "The Year of the Dog" and "The Year of the Rat." All the little girls I love will be getting a set of these books for their birthdays this year. They are gems. And I do believe they are somewhat autobiographical. So check them out.

On a completely unrelated topic. I happened to tune in to Michael Medved's show and I thought he was joking when he said our government was postponing the digital TV transition to June. First of all, I am baffled that our govt. is actually giving out coupons to have converters. As though the ability to watch TV is a basic human right. Jeepers creepers. I mean, this has been planned for years, and frankly if people couldn't watch TV for a while, it wouldn't kill them. Again, I cannot believe that with all the things going on in the world, that giving converter box vouchers so that people can watch digitized TV is a national priority.
In all fairness, I admit that I haven't watched TV for the past 20 years, so I don't know what amazing things I'm missing. Yup, I gave it away when I was in graduate school. Two years ago, our 15-year-old computer monitor died and we decided to replace it with a TV monitor. We do like to watch movies and it is nicer to have a bigger screen. My husband turns it on to watch sports at times, but our children never think of turning it on. They haven't been raised on it, and they have cultivated so many other interests. It's been a wonderful thing not to have a TV.
I was shocked to hear that the average American spends 30 hours a week watching TV. That's almost like having a full-time job. Imagine what you could do with all that time. Write a book?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Reading

The ALA winners have been announced.
So many wonderful books, so little time ...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Seven Books

Bish is a sweetie for awarding me this. I don't think of myself as creative (let alone Kreativ) because I've always been in the shadow of my sister who is very artistic, as well as friends like Bish and many other ladies who do amazing things with their hands -- like tat and sew and carve and make beautiful music, none of these which I do well, but enjoy so much.

I suppose I am creative with my writing and in the kitchen (just ask my family all the things we've had to put in the compost :)

I'm to list seven things I love and pass on this award. Since there are too many things I love, like my family, pets, plants, foods, books, music, I decided to focus on seven books that I have loved, that shaped me, that are still helping me to grow.

  1. The Holy Bible. This is by far the most influential Book I've read. It was the first book that I remember my mother reading to us. She read us stories every night from the big Marathi Bible and I remember how beautiful the language was -- very descriptive. It painted a picture of ancient times. I also remember her reading silently, skipping over passages that are probably inappropriate for little girls.

  2. The Diary of Anne Frank. I read this as a young girl and it was my first introduction to the Holocaust. I cried at the end because I couldn't understand man's inhumanity to man. Anne Frank's words resonated with me -- her hope and her ultimate belief that despite everything, people are really good at heart.

  3. Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas. This book is based upon one sentence in the Bible: Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. It was the first adult book I read. I was 12 years old and I suddenly realized what an incredible person my mother was. Here we were, struggling to survive, and yet, she managed to help others who had less. She gave what she could without any expectations of reward.

  4. My Adventures in Two Worlds by A. J. Cronin. I read this autobiography when I was 12 years old. And I knew one day I wanted to be like him -- physician-turned-novelist. By the way, this is a breed of its own. I've read fantastic books by Michael Crichton, Khaled Hosseini, Atul Gawande, all physicians-turned-writers.

  5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I've already spoken about this book recently, but it gave me a moral compass at a time when I was moving away from God and religion.

  6. Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruiff. I read this in college and loved how Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, and many other scientists were brought to life. It reminds me what good nonfiction must be like -- vibrant, with all the elements of a good story.

  7. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. This is the book that probably made me think about writing myself. I was a postdoctoral fellow at Purdue University, studying wheat-virus interactions and I kept putting off reading this book. Every time I picked it up, I was flooded with memories, both good and bad. Eventually I sat down and read this book and the characters have never left me. I bought Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, but didn't do any writing. Soon after, we moved to Washington, and while making the road trip, I discovered I was pregnant. I threw away all the materials I had gathered for research positions here. I became a stay-at-home mom. Then, when I was pregnant with my second baby, I realized that I have stories to share that only I can tell. I dug out the Anne Lamott book, starting writing and taking classes.

Oh, oh, oh, there are so many more. Please go to my favorites page and see what other books I love. These books are like my closest friends. At any time, I can go to a specific page to read exactly what I need to hear.

I'm going to pass this on to these creative people who have entertained and educated me on their blogs: Fiona Bayrock, Laura Salas, Molly Blaisdell, Jolie Stekly, Marcia Hoehne, Christy Lenzi, and Susan Sandmore.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History in the Making

I cannot express how far we've come ... but the video clip from this site says it all. Choose life! Anything is possible when you have the opportunity to live.

God Bless you, President Obama. May He guide you in all the decisions you make.

Thank you, Mr. Bush, for eight years of service to our country. God Bless you. And God Bless America!


Monday, January 19, 2009

A Letter of Rejection

In ATONEMENT by Ian McEwan, there is a lovely rejection letter to Briony (one of the main characters). She is 18 years old, has sent in a novella and it has finally returned months later. Here are some excerpts (in italics):

They begin with the fact that they wouldn't consider publishing a novella by a unknown author, let alone an established one.

That said, we found ourselves (initially against our better judgment, for there is much to do in this office) reading the whole with great interest.

There is much commenting on Briony's use of words, her characters, how well she's captured a specific moment. The first part of the book is an excellent exercise in seeing events through different points of view.

We found Two Figures by a Fountain arrresting enough to read with dedicated attention. I do not say this lightly.

Then come a lot of questions. Lots of what ifs, encouraging her to make a plot out of the observations she's made.

Simply put, you need the backbone of a story.

Ah yes, it's the story that's imporant.

You may feel perfectly satisfied with your pages as they stand, or our reservations may fill you with dismissive anger, or such despair you never want to look at the thing again.

This made me laugh.

We sincerely hope not. Our wish is that you will take our remarks -- which are given with sincere enthusiasm -- as a basis for another draft.

Good advice.

I am thankful today for *good* rejection letters. My husband thinks this is an oxymoron, but the truth is, it's these kinds of letters (I confess mine are not three pages long, usually just 1/2 -1 page) that have pushed me to take my writing further. I still have some manuscripts that I don't know how to implement the advice. But I know something somewhere will click and I'll know exactly how to fix it, and then the comments will make sense.

What's your experience with good rejections?

Calling Beth Bence Reinke

Dear Beth,
If you're reading this, shoot me an email through my website.
Your old address doesn't work and for the life of me, I can't see a link to contact you on your website. I can see you've been a busy bee, writing away. Good for you.
Thankeee, thankeee,

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Fuzzy-Fast Blur

We all loved this book of poems by Laura Purdie Salas. Here's a review by my seven-year-old daughter:
A Fuzzy-Fast Blur is a good book because it has nice poems. My favorite two poems are Say "Yes" and Jumping For Joy.
I liked Say "Yes" because the girl always wants a wild animal instead of a house pet.
I liked Jumping for Joy because it has a picture of a dog catching a Frisbee in mid-air. The words describe exactly how my dog is in the summer.
Here is Jumping for Joy:
tail spinning, whipping,
joy meets toy in mid-air catch:
leap of summer faith.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Rejection Blues

Pockets is one tough magazine to crack. I've entered their annual contest three times and every time my story has placed within the top ten. They hold the manuscript for a year or more, and I always hope that my story will fit in one of the themes they choose, but in the end, they don't accept my stories. Their letters are encouraging, but it's still a disappointment. Does this stop me from submitting to them? Nope. Hope reigns eternal.

A few years back, Mel Boring (then web editor at ICL), asked for some numbers on a writing forum. How many submissions? How many acceptances? Rejections? All I can say is that from the folks who shared, it was clear that the person with the most rejections also got the most acceptances. So keep your work circulating. What isn't right for one publisher will be perfect for another. But if it sits in a pile at home, there is no chance of an acceptance.

Must take my own advice and send my stories out.

What do you do when you get a rejection?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Atlas Shrugged

I prefer not to discuss politics in a public place, but gosh, this article is so good, I just have to share. Thoughts?

Anybody else here who has loved the works of Ayn Rand? Or am I alone here? When I read her books, it was the first time that I was able to articulate and clarify some of my own thoughts about how to live your life. So much of what she says resonates deeply.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Great Critique

I should've posted this before so that more people could sign up if it had slipped their radar. Better late than never, I suppose.

Wed. night, Jan. 14th, I will be critiquing nonfiction manuscripts at the Great Critique offered by our local SCBWI chapter. You can go here and register.

The Great Critique was my first visit to our local SCBWI. Molly and I were already in a critique group together and she kept encouraging me to join SCBWI, but I didn't feel ready because frankly, I didn't feel like a professional writer. Molly persisted and I finally agreed to go with her to the Great Critique.

I brought a picture book manuscript, which was very kindly reviewed by Kathryn O. Galbraith. Her biggest criticism was that it wasn't really a picture book at all, but had flavor of a chapter book. A couple of years later, I was submitting the revised manuscript as a chapter book. I got a few good rejections (more about that in another post), but no takers. I've submitted pieces of it as magazine stories and some of them have been accepted. Ever since that first Great Critique meeting, I've been receiving helpful comments on making my stories better, every year. This year I'll be the one encouraging and helping other writers. It feels like I'm coming full circle.

As a result of that first meeting, I finally joined our local chapter (they call this being a subscriber) and have learned so much from so many of our local authors and visitors. A couple of years later, I felt professional enough to join the parent SCBWI (I am a member). This organization is the only one I know of that is devoted to educating and networking children's authors and illustrators. If you are one -- join it. Don't wait to feel professional like I did. Consider it an investment. SCBWI especially geared toward the beginning writer.

So what are you waiting for? Go join.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Winnie's War, Elvis and Bellybuttons

I first heard about Winnie's War on the Blueboards. I have already read two wonderful young adult novels set in the same period of the flu pandemic: Fever by Laurie Halse Anderson and Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson and it's a fascinating period in history. Winnie's War is geared toward a younger crowd, so I am looking forward to seeing how Jenny Moss deals with it. Plus, it is set in Texas, so I suspect there might be a hurricane involved as well.

And lucky me! I won an Advanced Reader Copy of Winnie's War. Thank you Jenny. It's a lovely birthday present.

That's right, I share a birthday with Elvis! As does Miss Erin. For the longest time, I think until I came to the US at age 14, I thought that Elvis was Indian. Tee hee. That's because my mom told me so. I don't know why she would think that, but it stuck in my head. I even had fantasies about being his daughter, since both my brother and sister told me I was adopted ... from a poor and ugly old woman (I wonder whether this is something that all older siblings say to their younger ones). No matter that I look a lot like them and my parents. So, if I were adopted, who's to say I wasn't Elvis' daughter?

The things kids believe. My mom told me that babies were born from the bellybutton as well.

Ten Honest Things

"Scrap means left over, fragments, discarded material. Many times truth and honesty are discarded material, considered fragments and left over. People like us need to tell it like it is, and let the scraps fall where they will. There are 2 guidelines for receiving this award. One, you are to list 10 honest things about yourself. Make them interesting, even if you have to dig deep. Two, present the award to 7 other bloggers."

My friend Bish awarded me this a while back and I completely forgot about it. Sorry Bish.
  1. I have an excellent memory -- hey, I did finally remember this award.
  2. I stutter and there were times in my life when it was all I could do to literally spit out the words. Thank goodness for writing.
  3. I enjoy writing letters -- have been doing it since I was a wee little girl, thanks to a fractured family.
  4. I am a very good listener -- even strangers tell me their stories without any prompting.
  5. I can curl my tongue into three petals.
  6. I hate eggs unless I prepare them myself. And liver. Oh, brussel sprouts, too, even though they look like cute little baby cabbages.
  7. I love babies -- plants, animals, rocks, you name it -- except perhaps baby cockroaches.
  8. I am curiouser than a cat.
  9. I have read my school books for fun. Still do. Will read my kids' school books as well.
  10. I am still reading picture books.

Many of you have already played, but if you haven't, consider yourself tagged. Let me know so I can read ten honest things about you as well. Thanks, Bish.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Gifts and Goals

In celebration of Epiphany, we received gifts of gold (well, fool's gold), frankinscence and myrrh from our Catholic church. If you recall the Bible story, these were the gifts mentioned that Magi from the East brought to the infant Jesus.
It makes me realize (a small epiphany, if you will) that stories are gifts, not just the stories I write exclusively for my family as proper gifts, but the stories I share more widely. I have been given many gifts. I hope to develop these gifts and use them wisely.
So, to nurture these gifts, I will:
  1. Have one-on-one time with each family member every day.
  2. Pray every day.
  3. Walk every day.
  4. Write every day.
  5. Be kind every day.

This reminds me very much of Jacqui's list. She said that it looks so dull compared to the big changes many people propose, but she rightly concludes that it would be wonderful to do these things every single day. Of course, I agree.

My hope is that with this dailiness I will:

  1. Grow closer to my family.
  2. Grow closer to God.
  3. Be more fit.
  4. Write a novel and a dozen shorts.
  5. Be a better person.

by the end of the year.

Please share what you would like to accomplish this year, writing or otherwise.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Blessings for the New Year

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

Numbers 6:24-26