Concentrating with COVID-19

I believe that every person is overwhelmed in one way or another, worrying and protecting against COVID-19. It is hard to go through the day without grieving for another person, city, county or nation. The drastic changes that many have gone through and are going through have changed their lives in ways we can’t imagine. The deck has reshuffled and the dealer is the virus.

As a writer, I am used to solitude in my work. I join organizations to improve my craft and commune with those who understand the demands and challenges of writing. Solitude pinned with distress and worry makes it hard to focus. But it is that focus that will get one through the distress and worry.

I pray for all to be safe, healthy and keep putting one foot forward to see a better day. As a community working together, we will get there. Focus on what you do, carry your day with hope, and trust that it will improve – and it will. Just perhaps not in the way we want.

Revision Vision

I am very fortunate to have had 3 excellent critiques and detailed recommendations for a “Down Deep Revision/Rewrite” of my middle grade novel. After a period of manuscript grief and depression (and felt I needed the holidays to rejuvenate), I looked into the abyss of rewrite, and highlighted and summarized the crucial recommendations. My critique group is my light – they continue to provide ongoing insight, support and candid observations. The conference critiques and agent notes have been excellent. Outstanding craft books: Deep Point of View and Showing and Telling in Fiction by Marcy Kennedy. And of course, the ubiquitous, Save the Cat. The process continues . . .

Revision and the Holidays

Writing during the holidays is the hardest. I’ve decided that’s because there are so many more excuses. So much to do, family, baking, making cards, decorating, eating, drinking, entertaining – it goes on and on. I have to force myself to look at my writing. And why is it that the hardest stuff needs to be done during the holidays – like a completely new draft of my MG? Was it because I procrastinated, or read more craft books for insight? All a big yes. But when I finally sit in the chair and concentrate, I know my writing will take a turn for the better. Maybe that’s part of the magic of the holidays. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

“Internet Ocean” (c) Ask Science Magazine, Oct. 2019 Cricket Media

This is my first article in Ask magazine and probably one of the hardest articles to write. To me, getting information on our computers seems like magic. But learning about the cables the size of a hose on the ocean floor that get the information to our computers is equally incredible. Enjoy Internet Ocean.

Six Minutes to Uncover a Memory

At the August 2019 Los Angeles SCBWI Conference for children’s writers and illustrators, award-winning author Meg Medina shared a terrific writing tip she uses to draw on her history. She takes 6 minutes every morning to write about a specific childhood memory.

So I set my timer and wrote. What a great way to uncover and reveal the time, feelings, sights, and sounds of a specific memory. Meg said you might use it in your writing (she has) or not. Either way, you have a collection of memories, just for you–and maybe for use in your work.

SCBWI LA Conference Tips!

This has to be one of the biggest gatherings of children’s writers, authors, illustrators, editors, art directors, interested friends and more.

Given it’s size, here are a few tips from my frequent attendance:

Bring your water and coffee mug – save on trash.

Pick your sessions carefully based on topic for your work needs, or who is a likely that you will want to submit to afterwards.

Have business cards, ready to exchange. No one really uses them but it refreshes your memory on who you met. Make notes on the back of the card if you need follow-up or make notes on your phone with date and time.

Bring snacks. You might get caught up chatting with a new friend, old friend, or industry luminary, and miss a meal or break.

Bring battery backup for your phone in case your phone chews up a lot of juice or you don’t get back to your room or an outlet all day.

Put a star by the most important points you hear during the sessions. At the end, make a list of the stars and speakers.

Prioritize your stars and to-do’s at the end of the conference or THE FIRST DAY you get back.

Make subject files when you get home and slot your notes/computer print outs into subject files, i.e. queries, writing a series, plot, bookstore signing, school visits, reference books. When you need to have reference material to perk up your brain and writing on a key issue, you will have it ready to go, verses rifling through the folder tonnage from conferences, trying to remember where you saw some crucial bit of advice.

Keep a smile and an open, positive attitude. Don’t talk about how depressed you are about how long you’ve been writing on a draft or how many rejections. Stay upbeat. No one wants to be with a downer. Don’t be depressed by the writer who wrote one draft and was picked up by an agent through a chat. Or by the writer who submitted to five agents over one month and had four offers. It happens rarely.

Regional Writer Conferences Verses National Conferences

When examining the needs to improve your craft, the investment in conferences, intensives, retreats, and local workshops become important tools in career development. What stage are you in your work? Beginner (know nothing about the industry) Pre-published (been writing and need to deepen your knowledge of craft in characters, plot, dialogue, querying, submitting, etc.) Advanced Pre-published (had professional critiques, attended seminars and conferences, and are submitting manuscripts to agents and editors) or Published. Each stage requires different support and direction. A writer’s budget only has so much for education and you need to be very clear about your goals and writing education objectives.

Regional Conferences
These are typically smaller conferences (200 people and under) within a commute distance of where you live, perhaps put on by a nonprofit such as a university or SCBWI and done by volunteers, or another writing organization or group, or perhaps a for profit entity of professional writers, or literary agency. Pay close attention to the speakers, the topics, the ability to get a personal critique on your work, and the accessibility of speakers in casual events. Often at regional events, you have the ability to interact more closely with the conference organizers, the speakers, your colleagues and others that can provide guidance. Being one writer among two hundred writers for community and conversation can be better than one writer among twelve hundred writers.

National Conferences
These conferences are large, over a few days, and can be overwhelming, but the selection of speakers and topics are far greater than a regional conference. National conferences are also 5 – 15 times more costly as you may incur travel, food, hotel, and other expenses. At these conferences you have the opportunity to participate in focused topic sessions with a smaller group (25-50) for an additional fee, which provides you with an in-depth study of a specific craft topic for a half day or full day. Additionally, a critique at these conferences potentially exposes you to a broader range of editors, agents, published authors, and publishers. It’s best to come with a community such as members of your critique group or your local SCBWI chapter colleagues or associate with a community event held at the conference so you don’t walk the conference halls alone (unless you prefer that). Associating with others gives you the chance to share notes from workshops you were unable to attend (as no workshop recordings are sold or shared). Large conferences provide you with an overall market and trends update, plus you can observe the writing and author styles that appeal to you to follow.

Both types of conferences are helpful in your growth as a writer. Remember to plan your conference objectives, stick to them, and be sure to identify at least three take-aways from the conference that you will act on immediately in your work. Otherwise you’ll just end up with a stack of conference folders and an empty wallet.

My Latest Writing Resources

I started my professional career in market research, consumer research, and statistics. As I moved through executive marketing positions, I’ve been ever-reliant on my library, new resources and new strategies. So for children’s writing, I’m passing along the outstanding Dreyer’s English, An Utterly Correct Guide of Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer (I listened on audio and then had to buy the book for everyday writing reference. He’s hilarious.) And also Story Genius by Lisa Cron. Happy Writing.

Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style Cover Image
Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) Cover Image

The Maldives and Their Fight Against Rising Seas, FACES magazine, April 2019

Island nations such as the Maldives live with the stark reality that their countries will be under water from climate change. This is not fifty years out. It’s now. These island nations have limited choices—relocate or elevate. The Maldives are taking immediate action, and calling on other nations to help. Read more in my FACES magazine article, The Maldives and Their Fight Against Rising Seas.

The Huli People of Papua New Guinea: From Isolation to Theft of Their Natural Resources

The Huli people have tribal customs from thousands of years. When the Europeans “discovered” them in the 1940’s, life changed. And not all for the good, nor that benefited the Huli. “Modernization” has brought broken contracts, theft of land and resources, guns, and violence to protect what is theirs. FACES Magazine, March 2019 issue, INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF THE WORLD, The Huli People of Papua New Guinea: From Isolation to Theft of Their Natural Resources.

Children’s Magazine Writing – Such a love!

I’ve written for health care and other industry trade magazines for years. When I decided to write children’s literature, it took a while for me to discover children’s magazines as something to try. But I love it! I’ve done over 27 articles so far. It gives me license to research and dig deeply into subjects that take me all over the world of topics. It also puts me on a strict deadline. I like that. I’m one of those people that likes checklists, deadlines, spreadsheets, and project mapping. Not everyone enjoys doing that. But if you want to get a taste of writing for kids, definitely check out children’s magazines and their submission guidelines. Try your hand at submitting a detailed query. You might get hooked!



Change at SCBWI and More Time to Write

After 12 years of running the San Francisco North and East Bay Region, first as Assistant Regional Advisor and then as Co-Regional Advisor, I stepped down on 9/1/18.  Our region is a tremendous success, with over 30 programs a year, and twenty enthusiastic dedicated regional team members. I look back and I’ve done over 200 programs, Intensives and Conferences, hosted over 225 speakers, managed geographical and membership growth, and survived some crazy bumps in the road. I structured the region so there are meetings touching nearly every county in our area. So, it is a joy to turn a thriving region over to two new people.

The friends I have made and the knowledge I have gained by developing programs and attending many other SCBWI programs are invaluable. I look forward to the time now to continue to improve my craft and relax at meetings to absorb even more.  I thank everyone I have worked with for their time, creative ideas and gracious help.

Mentoring is a gift

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.

FACES Magazine, Great Cities of the World: Tokyo, 1/18 — Two articles: Bento Boxes and Japanese Lacquerware, and Manga and Anime Mania

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


“People of Peace” Faces Magazine, April 2018 — Malala Yousafzai and Tegla Loroupe

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.

Tartan, Not Just Plaid – The Scottish Heritage of the World Famous Weave

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.

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.