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 up close and personal.

I’ve 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.


Setbacks – Star Wars Half, or not to Half

I’m used to running (and writing) setbacks. 2014 seemed to have its share of them. First, plantar fasciitis, right at the beginning of the 2014 year, for the Tinkerbell Half. But I powered through it, then was out for 3 months, wearing a sleep boot. But all is good. Then I had basil cell carcinoma on my left calf (who has it on their calf?) and that knocked me out for another 2 months. Three inch scar. Honestly. But got back on the running road, training for Star Wars for 1/18/15 in Disneyland. But a pirateous (is that a word? If not, it should be) post holiday respiratory cold is threatening withdrawal from Star Wars. But all is good. My son in law is ready to dawn his Star Wars garb and make the run!

Always keep the big picture in mind: The goal – recover, and keep on running (and writing!!!)

P.S. My costume was going to be a take-off on Star Wars character, Ahsoka99880693-deluxe-adult-ashoka-costume-000. Ah Well.

Great Ending to 2014 and Blast Off for 2015

Our SCBWI Region ended the year with a terrific Faire and Holiday Mixer on Dec. 6th! Over 85 members and non-members joined us to learn all about our region and the opportunities, plus we had the greatest food brought by all! The Oakland Library was a wonderful midpoint location for our celebration. Everyone loved the time to ask questions, meet members and the advisory board (leadership volunteers) for our region, and chat it up with all their colleagues and friends. What a terrific celebration.

Without missing a beat, we launched into 2015 with a YA Bootcamp Intensive to be held on 1/10, which is sold out, and a Creative Retreat in Muir Beach on 2/27 (also sold out), plus our Napa County meeting on 1/31 on “Building Character” with YA Author Katherine Longshore (registration now open). Be sure to check all our programs regularly at https://sfnortheastbay.scbwi.org/events/

See you thereSCBWIann013115!

Our First FREE SCBWI FAIRE on Dec. 6th!

I have gone to many trade shows and managed many in my professional career, along with board meetings, seminars, conferences and more. It dawned on mesnowflkAdScbwi3 that there is no way for SCBWI members to get answers to their questions about the organization — so how about a trade show – where there is a person for each topic area at a table for all the major areas like:

New Members

Critique Groups

PAL (Published & Listed) Members

Member Services


Each County: Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Contra Costa & Alameda

So we are having our first SCBWI FAIRE and Mixer on Dec. 6th, that will do just that! Get answers to all your questions for members and non members. Don’t miss it. It will be a lot of fun! It’s Free.

Register here so we have a head count to plan on food and beverages.


When SCBWI Gets in the Way of Writing


Conference illustration by Jeslyn Cantrell, www.jeslyncantrell.com

It’s true. This can happen. We ran an exhausting Fall Conference and 3 Intensives in October, followed by preparation for our new year’s schedule, training of 2 wonderful new volunteers, looking for a new conference site, preparing for our first ever SCBWI Faire scheduled for Dec. 6th, and preparing for our January and May Intensives. The result, between work and SCBWI, no writing for the past nearly 3 months. It just gets disheartening. But when all seems dark, new inspiration sneaks in. And that new inspiration comes from the wonderful energy of other SCBWI members that offer to happily help. That’s right, happily help. Our new Illustrator Coordinator, Julie Bayless, offered to do an ad for Dec. 6th. Our assistant regional advisor, Keely Parrack, offered to help with even more, and other volunteers came forward to run county programs, welcome new members, and more. The lesson learned. Kindly ask for help. (That’s something that’s a bit hard for me to do.) Graciously accept it. And START WRITING. My sweet Della, in my new chapter book MS, Della Hates Dirt,  is nearly done (I hope.)

Summer Vacations & Della Hates Dirt, Draft 1 & 2

IMG_1362IMG_1398June 26 2014I was very blessed during this summer to take two amazing vacations. Yes, two. I know. But I had the opportunity to visit the Great Barrier Reef with one of my Aussie sisters, and then meet my mother, other sister and niece in Brisbane for some whale watching. Both incredible, once in a lifetime experiences.


Then in late summer, off to Italy, from Florence to Vernazza to Chianti to Rome.
IMG_2325IMG_2305 IMG_2367 IMG_2474

Rome Sicily Rochester April 2008 010 One thing these breaks did, besides visiting some of the most beautiful places in the world, was to help me focus intensely and critically on my writing. (After all, that was an amazing amount of touring.) To just get it done. And be critical and as questioning as my Third Grade Book Club.

So Della told me her story and Drafts 1 and 2 are done. This is a running start. Simultaneously, after skin surgery and plantar fasciitis, I am back to running. All systems are GO.


Tons of Action in SF North & East Bay Region

SCBWI SF NorthEast logoWe have been bubbling over with new SCBWI events, new speakers and lots of new volunteers helping out. Children’s writers and illustrators are the most kind and welcoming crowd. How could we not be? We write for the best audience in the world – CHILDREN.

We have some great meetings coming up with top local speakers on craft and taking your work to the next level. Check out our events calendar, http://sfnortheastbay.scbwi.org/events/ and pick out a meeting that is right for you. Coming up: The JOY of Revision, with Summer Dawn Laurie on June 28th at Corte Madera Town Center Community Room, and July 19th with award-winning author/illustrator/publisher Marissa Moss at Laurel Bookstore, Oakland.

Plus, we are launching our illustrator contest for the 2014 Fall Conference Masthead. Don’t miss out on participating!


FACES 2014 Magazine “ALL EYES ON BRAZIL 2014: Soccer in the Spotlight” – Four new articles

Soccer in the Spotlight FACES Issue May June 2014. Reprinted with permission from Cobblestone PublishingThis incredible issue focuses on the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup. I have four articles in this issue. I am part of an avid soccer family. They gave me ideas for queries to submit to FACES magazine. FACES accepted all three, and asked that I do one more – Could I find academy players to interview? Of course! I never turn down a challenge. Click on each article page below to see the whole article.

When the Cup Comes to Town by Colette Weil Parrinello from FACES Issue Soccer in the Spotlight 2014 Cricket Media published by Cobblestone Publishing. All rights reserved. Used by permission of www.cobblestonepub.com

When the Cup Comes to Town” takes a critical look at what really happens when a country agrees to host the FIFA World Cup. Is it just one big party? Who pays for the party? And what happens when everyone leaves after over a month of celebration and games?

Training the World's Next Stars by Colette Weil Parrinello from FACES Issue Soccer in the Spotlight 2014 Cricket Media published by Cobblestone Publishing. All rights reserved. Used by permission of www.cobblestonepub.comTraining the World’s Next Stars” takes you inside a youth football academy. Many World Cup teams have famous, highly skilled players that were brought up in football academies in Europe and South America. Players were spotted as young as 6 years old by scouts. How do you get into an academy? How much do the players train? What is the United States doing to compete on this powerful international player stage?

Growing Up: in a Football Academy” spotlights three players, Ryan Palmbaum, 14, of Club Atletico Boca Juniors, Buenos Aires, Growing Up in a Football Academy by Colette Weil Parrinello from FACES Issue Soccer in the Spotlight 2014 Cricket Media published by Cobblestone Publishing. All rights reserved. Used by permission of www.cobblestonepub.comArgentina, Issac McGinnis, 14, U.S. Soccer Revolution Empire Development Academy, Rochester, New York, and Tommy Gallina, 14, also with U.S. Soccer Revolution Empire Development Academy. Their schedules are eye-openers.

Top Young Players to Watch by Colette Weil Parrinello from FACES Issue Soccer in the Spotlight 2014 Cricket Media published by Cobblestone Publishing. All rights reserved. Used by permission of www.cobblestonepub.comTop Young Players to Watch” picks just five of the hottest young players. It was hard to choose and everyone has their favorites – so add these player cards to your collection. They are thrilling to watch, and have worked with brilliance for their position on the field.

From FACES Magazine: Soccer in the Spotlight 2014 Cricket Media, Published by Cobblestone Publishing Company, 30 Grove Street, Suite, Peterborough, N.H., 03458. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the publisher. www.cobblestonepub.com

AppleSeeds Magazine Issue: Snakes – Twinkie Tells All

Twinkie Tells All from AppleSeeds Issue Snakes May June 2014. Reprinted with permission from Cobblestone PublishingTwinkie has a lot to say! She’s the most popular snake at the Reptile Zoo in the Prehistoric Pets Store in Fountain Valley, CA. That’s not the only reason she was named the largest albino python by the Guinness World Records 2014. She’s got some real personality and everyone loves her. Sometimes all that love can be overwhelming. Read more by just clicking on the article and see the amazing pictures of the 23 foot long, 356 pound TWINKIE!

Rewrite lesson – “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

I recently re-read the many, many critiques that have been done on one of my chapter book stories over the past 9 years — yes, 9 years. This book has gone through hundreds of iterations. It has been critiqued by chapter, in sections and then I paid (way too much) for an author to do a total edit. A similar vein of comments came to light as I read the progression of critiques. It’s not that I negated the comments from the critiques. On the contrary, I thought I had addressed the comments at each juncture and changed the MS (manuscript). But in photohindsight, perhaps I have been doing the same thing over and over, and hoping for a different result.

I believe in the main character, Rachel Rose, a small marsh mice struggling to survive in her world, and the big animal world.  I am grateful to my critique group for their candid comments, bolstering me, encouraging me, and finally, snapping me out of mediocrity. But as every author will tell you, the key is to never give up. God has graced me with encouragement. I will now have 9 children’s magazine articles published. Not bad. So I trudge forward, trying to change my approach to get an ever better result — and never give up.

Faces Magazine Issue: 2014 Czech Republic

The Change to Freedom cover 2014 ePals Media Published by Cobblestone Publishing. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.The Czech Republic has a history of freedom. But when the Nazi’s marched in, everything changed. Then WWII ended and the Communists took over. But the Czech’s never gave up. In The Change to Freedom, their fight for democracy and freedom will open your eyes to this small country’s fortitude.

Small countries as the Czech Republic don’t have a ton of money for worldwide Its An Honor by Colette Weil Parrinello Faces Issue on Czech Republic. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Cobblestone Publishing Coconsulates. But they do have honorary consulate generals, as Mr. Richard Pivnicka, who are dignitaries that serve without a salary and report to the consulate general. Their work is crucial in helping  Czech citizens and the Czech Republic.  It’s An Honor takes a peek at the work done by the Honorary Consulate General for San Francisco and the greater Bay Area.

Magazine Mania for Writing Fitness

I’ve been submitting queries to children’s magazines as much as I could in 2013. I love doing short, high impact articles. I am very blessTwinkieed to have received 7 assignments in past 2 & 1/2 months. Oh my goodness. A great roll.

Twinkie Tells All – Twinkie, the worlds largest albino python tells her story

FACES Magazine
Czech Republic – From Communism to Capitalism

What is an Honorary Consulate General to the Czech Republic

Growing up in a Football Academy (World Cup Issue)
Top Young Players to Watch in the 2014 FIFA World Cup
When the FIFA World Cup Comes to Town
Youth Football Academies Train World Stars

Magazine writing is great exercise in writing to a deadline and word count (although I frequently go over the word count.) I think it is an excellent way to give your writing a real workout! Not so different from a short, fast run!


Third Grade Book Club Jitters

My critique group suggested I volunteer in a school. So I applied. It’s been a crazy experience. When the assistant principal and teachers saw my interest in helping children read – and I wanted to be with my books’ target audience, 3rd graders, they suggested an idea. They would like to pull out accelerated readers. Would I like to work with them. Sure, I said. But I am not a teacher.

I got some great ideas from my daughter (who teaches middle school) and Keely Parrack (who runs reading programs.) So every week for 1 & 1/2 hours or more I run the Reading Willows 3rd Grade book club. The students feel very special to be pulled out of class for a book club.

I absolutely love them. We’ve finished our first books, Because of Winn Dixie, The Landry News, and The Sign of the Beaver. Now we are starting Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.