Mentoring – a gift to writing and writers

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!

Tokyo, Japan – Two upcoming magazine articles I love

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.



Getting Ideas

Sometimes the best thing for your writing is to take a break, give your brain a break, and enjoy something that takes your breath away. That’s why I like running. Fresh approach.


Sydney, Australia Issue, FACES Magazine, Cobblestone Publishing

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.


Livermore Half – here we come

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!

February, 2017, The Greatest Rivers of the World, FACES magazine

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: Land of Extremes, January 2017, FACES Magazine

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, FACES Magazine, September 2016

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.”

Lots of magazine articles

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.”



Children’s Magazine Articles Coming Up

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 cambodia-deforestation-460x259to 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 K9 Cheeto, monitoring the Eugene Marathon, Oregon, 2016

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.


Researching Hard Topics

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.

Faces Magazine Articles: The Changing Role of Women in Kenya, A Kaleidoscope of Food

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 March 2016 FACES magazinelearned 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

Getting Away to Write

I’m a big proponent of getting away to write. I think I do some of my best work IMG_4213when 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 RoseGardenGulch 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!

Deadlines – They work

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!!!!!

Invest in Your Writing – Treat it like you are an athlete

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?

There is nothing more powerful than a kind, positive word

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.

When you are the slowest . . . It’s all about perspective.

I never thought it would happen. Really, I never thought about age. I keep trying new things. But I never thought I would get slower in running. It’s hard to accept.

So when I entered the China Camp Trail Half Marathon, for some reason my 9-ChinaCamp-Baseyoung mind thought, just train and surely you can’t be the slowest. Well, when you don’t train sufficiently, like only once before on this hill/mountain/thigh and calf-busting trail, what do you expect?

Well, I expected I would do well. That’s emotion fooling brain, fooling body. The Half was brutal and a killer. I told all the aid stations to LEAVE. I had a cell phone. I was slow. But they didn’t.  My goals changed from “run” the whole thing, to NOT TRIP and kill yourself, to just finish alive.

The irony is that I finished first in my (female) age group – but I was the only runner. And I finished second to last. Not last. As I watched the 20 and 30 something gazelles blast by me, I could wish and dream — and realize I was really never them anyway and I sort of hated them (okay envied). But I was the only ONE in my age group, so that has to stand for something.

Power on. Keep perspective.

The Ups and Downs of Critiques

I’ve had blistering critiques, start-over critiques, not nice critiques, imagescritiques that called my work “a critique quilt”, critiques by “experts” that obviously didn’t write or buy my category, and more. And then you have a good critique, or even a “great” critique — and you wonder, are they sure? did they read it? are they just being nice? Okay, now what?

It’s a roller coaster of emotions, self confidence, self doubt and more. Sometimes I liken it to an athlete that suffers a severe injury or has a series of horrible games. Can they come back? Do they still have it? Did they ever have it?

The critical key is to pick yourself up and get back on the court or field, or inimages-1 the case of writing, the computer. Learn, get back in shape, and pound the keyboard. And that can be the hardest thing ever. Like any setback, the amazing support of those around, the fair and honest opinion of those you respect, and the never ending faith in your heart that you do it are all that count.

The Power of Asking! Most Incredible Field Visit Ever – Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse Habitat

I’ve been doing research on the marsh habitat and the salt marsh harvest mouse (SMHM) for years for my books. I’ve worked in the marsh pulling ice plants, cleaned the marsh, laid down in the marsh to look up to the sky and run through the marsh probably a thousand times. But never, never have I seen the marsh mouse.

I have just finished another manuscript and needed expert review. I googled experts and found a research study being conducted out of UC Davis. Further digging and I uncovered the professional studies being conducted by a PhD candidate and field scientist. I emailed her and asked if I could ask her some questions and would she read my manuscript.

She said YES. And oh by the way, would I like to go with her into the field when she tags and collars the marsh mouse.

WHAT! SEE THEM FOR REAL? Yes, yes, yes. Well, after being sick, running a race, being out of town, I didn’t think it would work. Then she called and said, “How about tomorrow?” I am so there.

This is one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. I could not stop smiling the WHOLE TIME. The UC Davis PhD Candidate is conducting several field studies through out the Suisun Bay. I met her, donned waders, hat and we sloshed through the marsh checking their custom made traps.


These are special boxes designed to capture the mice. They are checked frequently to monitor and release the mice. House mice and Western Harvest mice are caught and released.



Mice that are captured are measured. SMHM must be a certain length to participate in the study. They are SO CUTE.


Salt Marsh Harvest Mice in this area are recognized by their darkened hair around their face.



See the teeny earring on this salt marsh mouse? It has numbers on the tag so the field scientists may keep track of their study subjects.


This is the tiny radio frequency collar that is placed on the mice to monitor their movements.


Salt Marsh Harvest Mice have grooved teeth. Check it out.


This little sweetheart posed before she received a tag and collar.


Collaring is “sharp” work. Notice those gloves the field scientist is using. Mice are not keen on the collar and will definitely bite!

Star Wars Half Marathon – Just Have Fun, This Goes for Writing too!

Re-assessing goals is something that I sometimes have a hard time doing. I’m pretty achievement-oriented.  But when illness and 10933823_10203040780414665_3900567862602967506_ninjury set my 2 running buddies and me behind, we made the big decision – let’s just run for fun! Let’s stop along the way, see the characters, and enjoy Disneyland! And that’s what we did.  Then we all went for pancakes at the Story Tellers Cafe. We did give some post-race consternation to our  finish times–but we were just so happy to 1) be able to run 2) enjoy the route 3) finish 4) eat an amazing breakfast 5) have healthy walking feet to spend time in Disneyland!

Reassessing goals need to happen — and its the same for writing. Or you will never be happy with what you do — and will miss out on the sites and sounds of the journey.