I just finished the 2018 Nevada Mentor program for children writers. My mentor was author Terri Farley. She was amazing. Two complete reviews of my middle grade novel, The Big Bad Book Club, with sensitive, serious direction and revision guidance. This is an incredible program. I recommend every children’s writer apply to a mentor program. The outstanding feedback and advice from not only your mentor, but all those you meet in the program, will boost your writing competency and knowledge, and provide a huge support team as you go through your next steps to publishing, if that is your goal. Thank you to Regional Advisor Cynthia Mun and the entire Nevada SCBWI team! Plus a shout out to author Heather Petty for her insightful, creative critiquing of queries and synopsis. She is another gift that keeps on giving.
I’ve worked and traveled to Japan for the video game industry. I probably was the first woman to do that!!! So exciting and fun! My Japanese colleague sent me lots of stunning lacquerware, and I got a little hooked on manga. So getting the assignment for these two articles was a great joy to relive the relationships and thrills.
Bento Boxes and Japanese Lacquerware
Manga and Anime Mania
For this issue on People of Peace, I focused on two of the areas I love – running and education and submitted queries on two extraordinary people who have changed the world with their efforts towards peace and human dignity.
Malala Yousafzai: Youngest Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize
Malala Yousafzai has been a forthright advocate of a girl’s right to education in her native Pakistan since she started her blog when she was 11 years old. She spoke out with her father about the necessity of education, while under tremendous threat to her life. At 15, she was shot by the Taliban – a shot heard around the world. After a lengthy recovery she continues her efforts and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Tegla Loroupe — Olympian, Groundbreaking Marathoner & Peace Builder
Tegla has been underestimated her whole life. Her petite stature belies the power within. From a poor village in Kenya, she fought her way to become a leading runner, marathon, Olympian and record breaker. She did not turn her back on her country, but returned to use her stature and recognition to help others and her country for peace. She established Peace marathons and sought ways to bring peace to areas suffering from the effects of violence.
All around the world, people wear plaid. It might be one of the most best-known, well-recognized patterns in the world. The real honor for the pattern goes to Scotland, and the accurate Scottish name is “tartan.” The saying goes, ” All tartans are plaid, but not all plaids are tartans.”
Tartan describes the Scottish woven cloth. Read the article here.
It is a gift to have someone help you along a journey to improve, such as a coach or a counselor. But in writing, a published author who takes you under their wing, gives you critical, helpful commentary on your manuscript and provides guidance on revision is invaluable. The SCBWI Nevada Mentorship
Mentor, author Terri Farley (seated) and mentees l-r, me, Teri Stevens, Kay Inglis
program does exactly that. 12 published writers and illustrators select 2-3 mentees from the many applicants. For 6 months, after an initial meeting reviewing your entire work, the mentor gives you direction and advice to make your work stronger. This is an incredible gift and I am grateful to be in the program. There will be hard work in revising and redrafts, but what a special opportunity to have someone looking over to point me in the write direction!
I received assignments for two articles for the January 2018 issue of FACES Magazine’s Great Cities of the World: Tokyo. The articles are from my heart. I’ve worked in Tokyo on work assignments in the video game industry. There I met a colleague who became a life-long friend and business partner. He and I introduced Talking Mickey Mouse Watches to Japan, among other unique ventures. But most importantly, he enriched my life by showing me the beautiful culture, people, and history of Japan. Over the years, he has given my family innumerable amazing Japanese gifts, including fine Japanese Laquerware, a Battledore, pearls, intricate Japanese cracker tins and more.
The two articles that will appear in January 2018 are Manga and Anime Mania, a look at the incredible worldwide craze of Japanese comics and animation, and Bento Boxes and Japanese Laquerware, a peek into this historic, treasured serving ware for lunches and meals.
My mum and sisters migrated to Australia over 35 years ago, so I’ve been to Australia several times to visit and tour. When it came time to query FACES magazine for the Sydney issue, I asked my neighbor from Melbourne, Australia with two children what she thought would be a good topic — and she said, “Why the Taronga Zoo!” And that is what I pitched. You definitely need more than one day to experience this zoo — in fact, you need to stay overnight in their safari tents! Check out Sleep Overnight and More at the Taronga Zoo!
I was also happily surprised when I received my magazine copies. FACES also reprinted an article I had done earlier, The Dreamtime of Australia’s Aboriginal People.
I’ve been scaling away from full marathons and just doing a bunch of Half’s. So the first Half for 2017 is March 26, 2017 at the Livermore Wine County Marathon – running and wine – works for me.
Then onto the Armed Forces Half Marathon in May at the Todos Santos Naval Weapons Station in Concord (Got our red, white and blue outfit ready to go with patriotic lighted tiara).
And onto the Healdsburg Wine Country Half with an orange and black themed running outfit and tutu.
It’s all about having fun and the outfit now — less on getting any Olympic time!
After writing earlier articles on Cambodia, I learned how the Mekong River is the life and livelihood of millions of Southeast Asians. I received the assignment to write “The Mekong River: Who Owns the Water?” as one of the greatest rivers in the world and examine how the countries along the Mekong all seek to harness its power and resulting wealth for their own use. Dams, climate change, and deforestation along the river all threaten the use, health and access to the water by millions of people, many the poorest in the world.
Morocco is a beautiful, bustling, mystical country. One of the lovely traditions is the making and sharing of sweet Moroccan mint tea. It is a sign of welcome, respect and calm. Read “The Power and Beauty of Moroccan Mint Tea.”
Moroccan life revolves around their Muslim faith and family. The family includes the extended family and decisions are made as a family as a close knit unit. Read “Family Life.“
Cambodia is a new democracy struggling to make its way in the modern world. After years of brutal wars, its resilient people fight to lift themselves to compete and improve the daily lives of their people.
In “Recovering From Wars” I take a close look at how the country is making strides in it efforts to recover from horrific wars and set a new course.
The country still struggles with corruption in the government and corporations. Environmental activist Leng Ouch went undercover to show the world how the forests of Cambodia are being stripped by greedy officials and corporations. Read “Leng Ouch Fights to Save Forests.”
I have been very honored to have received assignments in several issues of FACES magazine for children in 2016 and 2017. I loved writing each article, but haven’t had a chance to post them and hope to soon. Each one brought me into a new journey of learning and talking with new people. Writing is team sport!
September 2016 issue on Cambodia, two articles: “Recovering from Wars” and “Leng Ouch Fights to Save Forests.”
October 2016 issue on The World of Dogs, three articles: “Holiday Just for Dogs”, “Crime Fighting Dogs”, and “Ashes is serious about Her Work.”
January 2017 issue on Morocco: Land of Extremes, two articles: “The Power and Beauty of Moroccan Mint Tea” and “Family Life.”
February 2017 issue on Great Rivers of the World, one article: “The Mekong River: Who Owns the Water.”
Also, coming in April 2017 issue on Sydney, Australia, one article: “Sleep Overnight and More at the Taronga Zoo.”
I am thrilled to receive five more assignments from FACES Magazine. I love writing for the Cricket Media group.
I have two articles in the September 2016 issue on Cambodia. These articles were painful and challenging to write. The first Leng Ouch Fights to Save Forests is an uplifting story about the Goldman Environmental Prize winner, Leng Ouch. But his story is also heartbreaking as he has gone undercover to reveal the horrible corruption and deforestation of Cambodia’s forests. The second article was even harder, Recovering from Wars. This article shows the tremendous spirit, struggle and devotion of the Cambodian people to bring their country into modern times for their children and future generations after the brutality and devastation of wars.
Ashes, Accelerant (Arson) K9 for Mendocino County, CA
William Turner, Homeland Security, with bomb sniffing K9 Cheeto, monitoring the Eugene Marathon, Oregon, 2016
The October issue on DOGS presented a terrific opportunity to shower dogs with recognition and appreciation. Who knew there was a holiday for dogs! In Holiday Just for Dogs learn about Nepal’s day of celebration, food and decorations for all dogs! Crime Fighting Dogs show how dogs’ extraordinary sense of smell makes them critical partners to sniff out bombs, drugs and accelerants used in setting fires. Ashes is Serious About Her Work shows how Ashes is Chief Schoeppner’s partner and friend serving to save lives and fight crime for the Brooktrails Fire Department in Mendocino County and throughout Northern California.
I’m a researcher from way back. A colleague and I developed the first playtesting methodology for video games while at Atari (Yes, I love Ready Player One by Eric Cline). (And yes, ET tested as a dog, but the powers to be had a launch date and advertising commitment to keep – a stupid decision that hit the landfill.) I’ve developed worldwide consumer playtesting, market forecasts, and primary and secondary research all my business life.
But doing the research for articles on Cambodia for FACES children’s magazine and research for my new children’s chapter book on Native Americans during the Rancho era in California took a toll.
I was reading about two different time periods, but both of deep cruelty, genocide and annihilation. I realized that there was a reason I was doing articles on two very different peoples. Nothing happens by accident.
I am the children’s writer with the responsibility to share the facts in a way that shows the resilience of people’s spirits and cultures, and recovery is hard.
I have been an avid runner for years and am mesmerized by the runners of Kenya. I asked the same questions as many people around the world. Why has this impoverished country had more outstanding runners than any other country in the world? That took me on my research quest to learn about Kenya, the runners, their food, training, desire, poverty and their unique training environment. My path then led me to the government, the role of women in the nation and the behemoth amount of work that women do. I learned this new democratic nation legislated gender equality in 2010. Kenya is the most progressive of African nations as Kenya recognizes the huge and extraordinary contribution women make. If you have chance, take a look at my articles — The Changing Role of Women, and A Kaleidoscope of Food and Drink, FACES Magazine for children, March 2016 on Kenya – A Diverse Land
I’m a big proponent of getting away to write. I think I do some of my best work when I can solely focus on writing and take uninterrupted time to work out snarls and inconsistencies. Perhaps you are the same way. For several years, our SCBWI region has done a creative retreat at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Muir Beach near the Pelican Inn. The wonderful location and kind Green Gulch hosts help make the retreat stress free and productive. So many writers and illustrators love the break from their schedule, kids, parents, duties, jobs, and work the whole weekend on their love – a new piece of literary work for children. The next retreat is in September. See you there!
I was thrilled to get 2 magazine assignments from FACES magazine on Dec. 14th, due on Jan 3rd, 2016. But what a horrific crazy time. The holidays were approaching and I was coordinating 2 – 3 SCBWI events plus we were having 17 people on Christmas Eve, 25 on Christmas Day and flying out to Kauai on Dec. 26 – Jan.5 (totally exhausted.)
But I had prepared detailed outlines for the article queries and extensive reference sourcing for these two articles. I worked day and night to get the articles done by Dec. 23rd so I could enjoy my family, church and holidays.
It goes to show, deadline pressure, motivation and preparation are key to getting the writing done! Now if I would only remember that in my daily writing efforts!!!!!
I find the investment in writing is like developing an athlete. You need to find experts, lay out a training plan, run with others, get advice and help from others, and continue to pace and develop your skills. Writing is like running.
Brett Wright, Associate Editor, Bloomsbury Publishing SCBWI Oktoberfest 2015 Conference
The SCBWI conferences, intensives, meetings. and critique groups are my writing marathon training plan. There is an event for every level of need in your development plan. http://sfnortheastbay.scbwi.org/
For my running, I’m a member of San Francisco Road Runners Club. And it’s only with commitment to both writing and running that I will see improvement.
Why should writing be any different than any other athletic sport?
I attended the SCBWI Los Angeles Conference July 31 – August 3rd. I’ve attended many, many children’s writers conferences, intensives and programs. Perhaps the most outstanding program I’ve attended to date was done by Stephen Fraser, agent with De Chiara Literary Agency — He conducted a middle grade intensive.
He laid out his plan for us – we each were to come out of the session with a salable title, an elevator pitch that was strong, and a first page review for impact. We ran out of time for a synopsis review.
He worked with our group of 25 developed writers, taking time with each person, and asking for suggestions from our colleagues. Each person presented in front of the group. Each person received insight, inspiration, positive incentive and observation. Stephen was not overwhelmed by our questions, but gracious, helpful and directional.
He led by example. May each of us be the same way to one another in our peer critiques and observations. Let us help and inspire one another to exceptional writing, always with a smile and light heartedness.