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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: encouragement, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Navigating a Debut Year: Writing Life

                  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers The Name of the Rose The Crimson Petal and the White Crossing to Safety Sophie's World

I first ran this series five months after May B. hit the shelves. With Blue Birds releasing next week (!), it feels like the right time for me to revisit my Writer’s Manifesto — a list of things I’d like to focus on in my public, private, and writing life. 

This is not in any way meant to be preachy or condemning (please notice I’m directing all of this to myself). I have yet to figure everything out and am in many ways a pro at doing the exact opposite of what I know is best. Yet these are ideas I’ve circled back to again and again, things I know will ultimately benefit my career, my friendships, my writing and my life. I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

In my writing life I will…
  • Write the stories that speak to me: I will continue to write what nourishes and interests me first and worry about the market second.
  • Seek guidance, support, and direction when needed: I will ask questions of my agent and editor when I’m unsure or need help. I will go to other writers in the same life phase or those older and wiser when I need assistance.

In my writing life I will not…
  • Lose my love for story, kids, or words: Once you’re published, art becomes commodity. It’s not right or wrong, it just is. I want my motivation and passion to remain firmly in the place it always has been. While there are no guarantees of success in writing this way, their is much joy, and this, in the end, is more important to me.
  • Compare one book against another: I choose not to be paralyzed by comparing my titles to previous books I’ve written. Each deserves to stand alone and has its own merit. The rest of the publishing world has the freedom to compare if they choose. For me to do so is unfair to new stories beginning to form.
  • Despair: If you know me well, you know panic is a part of my writing when I’m drafting something new. I fret that I don’t know how to write or have nothing new to say. But I can’t let that panic lead to despair. Reminding myself that things always start this way keeps things in perspective. Allowing myself to play with language and ideas is much more doable than telling myself I’m writing an entire book. Choosing to nurture rather than berate gives me permission to try.

It’s my hope that holding to what I’ve processed these last few months will keep me grounded, help me grasp the deep satisfaction writing brings, and hold at bay the things that only lead to disappointment.

What about you? What things do you want to uphold in your public, private, and writing lives?

The post Navigating a Debut Year: Writing Life appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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2. Navigating a Debut Year: Public Life

                           All Over But the Shoutin' Wildflowers from Winter: A Novel A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar Circle of Secrets A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke

I first ran this series five months after May B. hit the shelves. With Blue Birds releasing next week (!), it feels like the right time for me to revisit my Writer’s Manifesto — a list of things I’d like to focus on in my public, private, and writing life. 

This is not in any way meant to be preachy or condemning (please notice I’m directing all of this to myself). I have yet to figure everything out and am in many ways a pro at doing the exact opposite of what I know is best. Yet these are ideas I’ve circled back to again and again, things I know will ultimately benefit my career, my friendships, my writing and my life. I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

In my public life I will…
  • Be generous: In my interactions with others and in the way I conduct myself, I’d love to be known as generous. This doesn’t mean committing to every opportunity or request that comes. It means being warm, friendly, and supportive of the writing community and the publishers, teachers, librarians, booksellers and readers who make it all happen.
  • Speak well of fellow writers: Whether I know them personally or not. Whether I like their work or not. These people are my people. This is enough of a reason to speak kindly or not at all.
  • Conduct myself in a becoming way: While I can’t control what others think of me (more on that below), I can choose to present myself in a way I’m proud of, whether that be in person or through social media. I am in no way perfect, believe me, but I strive not to embarrass myself, the children I write for, or the people who publish my writing.
In my public life I won’t…
  • Add to or perpetuate gossip: In just these few months as a debut, I’ve already heard things about fellow authors that have broken my heart. Whether shared maliciously, as some sort of cautionary tale, or just for fun, it’s been more than I need to know. I refuse to participate in keeping the stories going, and I will ask you not share whatever it is you’ve heard about others with me.
  • Disparage others’ books, genres, or talents but will find value in what they create: For much of my life, I’ve been a self-proclaimed book snob. Many writers talk of becoming more and more critical as readers the longer they write. For me, some sort of weird opposite has happened. Because I know first hand of the hard work the writing life demands, I’m learning to appreciate books, topics, and styles I would have ignored years ago. The books I don’t connect with aren’t really my concern: they weren’t written for me. There is an audience for them somewhere.

The post Navigating a Debut Year: Public Life appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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3. how to give your writing shine, volume and manageability

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

You’ve seen the commercials. There’s a woman with limpity blahsville hair. Her shoulders, schlumpy. Her eyes, rolled. She blows a puff of air upward from her lower lip and ruffles her scruffy bangs–the universal breath of disgust. Then, some product whooshes onto the screen. It’s a bottle of glamorous, sexy-smelling hope for hair. Ms. Lackluster snatches the wunderproduct, suds it through her sorry locks and voila! Cue the fans to blow a mane so magnificent as to make Fabio throw in the towel.

What if there was a “product” that could do the same–give shine, volume and manageability–to your writing? Good news! There is. It’s called Critique Group.

Here’s how this amazing product works:

Shine. Nothing will give your writing that dazzling sheen you desire like a robust critique. Your group can help you snip those dry, split ends created by worn or useless verbiage, identify stronger verbs and methodically polish your work.

Volume. Receiving regular feedback on your work helps to fuel your momentum, which hopefully, results in higher word counts and more pages than you may have accumulated as a solo act. So luxurious!

Manageability. Critique groups, regardless of how you arrange them, typically come with a schedule for sharing your work. Knowing you have these deadlines can help you plan, set goals and make the whole writing process more aimful instead of aimless.

You say you don’t have a critique group of your very own? Instead of pulling out your hair, let’s find you a group ASAP.

Consider these ideas for either starting or connecting with an established group:

  • Use social media. Let Facebook friends or Twitter followers know you’d like to join or start a group.
  • Visit discussion boards and search “critique groups” to see who’s seeking. For example, you could start with the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and explore the Resources section.
  • Talk with your local children’s librarian or a writing instructor at your local community college about your desire to form a group. You may learn about others who have expressed the same. If there’s a public bulletin board at the library or community college, post a “Want Ad” there.
  • Go to writing conferences or take writing classes and do a little friendly snooping to find out about the groups of your fellow attendees. Who knows, they may be hoping to add a new member.
  • Ask other writing friends for ideas. Ask how they decided between joining a face-to-face or online group (and the advantages/disadvantages of each), how their group is structured and if they know of a group with an opening. If your friend is groupless, ask about starting a new group of your own.

If you’re already in a group and have more ideas, tips for how to structure or improve a critique group, please share.

Wishing you gorgeous “hair” days ahead!

You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children. ~ Madeleine L’Engle

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4. 100 things I wouldn’t know

In honor of my 100th blog post, I want to share 100 things I wouldn’t know if I’d never become a children’s writer.

Collage by Vicky Lorencen

Collage by Vicky Lorencen

  1. Follow submission guidelines like you are assembling a nuclear warhead. No fudging.
  2. Trends are to be watched, not followed.
  3. Focus on what you’re doing well. Do more of that.
  4. A synopsis is as much for your benefit as it is the editor’s.
  5. Writing is reductive. Writing should be like a sale at the GAP–it should always be 20% off. (Mo Willems)
  6. Waiting for opportunities is fiddle faddle. Create them.
  7. Don’t ask too much of a first chapter. It’s an invitation to the reader and an opportunity to assure her you can be trusted. (Andrew Karre)
  8. Query letters are the most important and least read letter you’ll ever write.
  9. Show a character’s feelings through reactions.
  10. Just about everybody struggles with jealousy. I am jealous of those who don’t.
  11. Picture books are an art form unto themselves.
  12. Query letters need to sound like your real voice, not a superficial marketing pitch.
  13. Joining a critique group can be a game changer.
  14. Having a social media presence is important, but don’t let it infringe on your writing time.
  15. Always send thank you notes.
  16. Scene = Time + Place + One Change (Candace Fleming)
  17. Having beautiful file folders makes revision more funner. More fun, that is.
  18. Do not bother with Goodreads.
  19. Use index cards to map out scenes in a novel.
  20. For novels, ask–what is the job of this chapter?
  21. Facebook can really mess with your head.
  22. Follow-up with queries and submissions. You did the sending after all.
  23. Keep in touch with the editors, agents and participants you meet at conferences.
  24. Small workshops are often more worthwhile than big conferences.
  25. Back up your files and back up your back up files.
  26. Write what you know.
  27. Write what you wish you knew.
  28. Look for the seeds to resolving your story’s conflict within the story itself.
  29. Characters have been alive a long time before they introduced themselves to you.
  30. Writing costs money, time and energy. It’s worth it.
  31. If you feel stuck in your genre of choice, shake things up by writing in a different one.
  32. Everybody wants to quit at some point.
  33. Giving back doubles the investment you’ve made in your own writing.
  34. The journey to publication is not a race.
  35. Take thank you notes with you to conferences so you can thank people right away.
  36. Identifying (and eradicating) your crutch words can help to tighten your writing. Find/replace is your friend.
  37. Print out your entire novel in 8 pt. font, highlight the “solid” parts, then spread it out to see where the plot sags. (Thanks, Darcy Pattison)
  38. One carry-on bag is really all you need.
  39. Characters must undergo an inner and outer journey.
  40. Resist the urge to hide during conferences.
  41. Talk about your dreams and ambitions.
  42. Having a blog is fun work.
  43. You don’t have to start a novel with a big bang. Let the reader get to know the character before the inciting incident.
  44. Flying solo isn’t heroic. It’s nonsense.
  45. In a query letter, use quotes from the book to show character. (Christy Ottaviano)
  46. Your first idea is not unique. Twist it.
  47. Accept critiques with grace.
  48. Give critiques with humility.
  49. An editor’s job is to help clarify what your book is about.
  50. When you read, read like a writer.
  51. Give the same amount of care to world building/setting as you do to creating characters.
  52. A good cup of tea can fix a lot of things.
  53. Progress is the difference between finding time to write and making time to write.
  54. We write to re-write. And then to re-write what we re-wrote.
  55. Editors and agents are people too.
  56. Writing is an act of revelation. (Cynthia Leitich Smith)
  57. Use Find & Replace to weed out those just so very, very, very useless words.
  58. Your family may never grasp that staring off in space in part of the writing process.
  59. Writing will drive you to do otherwise loathsome tasks like cleaning the refrigerator (at your neighbor’s house because you’ve already cleaned yours. Oh, and organized your sock drawer. Twice.)
  60. Writing makes every life experience—from fixing a flat to flying in a helicopter–fodder for future writing.
  61. Disappointment is standard issue.
  62. You can always quit. No one is forcing you to write.
  63. Reading at open mic is a hoot. (I mean this.)
  64. Figure out a way to remember names (for when you go to conferences). You’re a word person. You can do this.
  65. There are two kinds of non-writing people—those who are in awe of you and those who think anyone can be a writer, especially for children. Don’t worry about either kind.
  66. Pretend to be confident. You may be a shy person, but that’s no one’s business but your own.
  67. Rejection sucks.
  68. There are three effective ways to make rejection suck less. I don’t know what those ways are.
  69. Readers bond with characters when we ask them to stretch. (Cynthia Leitich Smith)
  70. When you get stuck, stop. Move on to something new or take a nap. Let your mind wrestle with the knots a while before you go back.
  71. Writing is like wood carving. You go from larger to smaller, so don’t focus on details first.
  72. Most parents only get to name two, three, maybe four or so people. Writers get to name lots of people. Cool.
  73. Characters may push you. Let them.
  74. Grammar matters. At least know the rules before you snap them.
  75. Be respectful to everyone, even (and especially) on social media.
  76. Stories must balance between the specific and the universal.
  77. It’s important not to have a sense of preciousness with your work. (Shaun Tan)
  78. In writing, the author is the third wheel. You’re in the way. No one wants you there. You need to be invisible. (Mo Willems)
  79. Laughing at your own writing is a great feeling, so long as you were intending to be funny.
  80. A main character’s problem must feel organic to the story.Writers cannot emotionally protect themselves. (Coe Booth)
  81. It’s important to love my secondary characters as much as my main characters.
  82. Reinvention is the dark chocolate in the writer’s life. (Jane Yolen)
  83. Secondary characters can’t just exist to serve the main character’s story.
  84. Don’t let details overwhelm or derail a story.
  85. Before you begin drafting a novel, create character sketches by interviewing each character.
  86. Stay out of a character’s head as long as possible. (Andrew Karre)
  87. Invest in your friendships with other writers. It will always, always be worth it.
  88. Pay attention to what kids do, enjoy and worry about now. Some things never change, but not everything.
  89. No one wears a T-shirt with their favorite plot on it. Readers fall in love with characters.
  90. A writer’s validation has to come from what her work means to a reader and not from reviews or awards. (Ed Spicer)
  91. Reliable WiFi and a laptop with a light up keyboard are splendid things.
  92. Create a room in your own in your home (or at least a zone) that’s for writing only.
  93. The feel of book pitch needs to match the tone of the story.
  94. Something as ordinary as weather can be used to impact the mood of a story. [Cue the thunder-clap.]
  95. To learn about my characters, I need to ask where am “I” in my writing. (Coe Booth)
  96. You can write an entire novel without once using a semi-colon.
  97. Ultimately, the purpose of storytelling is to remind us of something ordinary or familiar. (Shaun Tan)
  98. Generally speaking, chocolate will not fill plot holes. But it can’t hurt to try.
  99. Brilliance strikes two seconds after you hit send on a submission.
  100. Everything takes longer than you think it will. Even reading lists.

The list could surely go on, and there is nothing more wonderful than a list, instrument of wondrous hypotyposis. ~ Umberto Eco


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5. Dyslexia and MAY B.

This weekend I’m speaking at the Southwest Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. I’m amazed that three years later, my book is still connecting with readers — especially young people with learning disabilities.

may b 300

Here’s an interview I did a few months ago that ran in the SWIDA newsletter:

What inspired you to choose a girl with dyslexia as your main character?

In order for a book to work, an author must not give their characters what they want (at least not straight away), but must make them face their fears and weaknesses. Without these things, there is no change. Without change, there is no story.

May’s name came to me before her story did. I liked the way May Betterly could become May B. and how “maybe” could speak to her perception of herself (maybe is such a wishy-washy word. It makes me think of mediocre or so-so). I knew early on that May wanted to be a teacher, and decided the most direct way to challenge her would be to make this dream virtually impossible. Pulling her out of school and giving her dyslexia (in an era where this would have been completely misunderstood) fit the bill.

What special challenges did this choice create?

The first is obvious: I am not an expert on dyslexia in the least. At first, I wasn’t sure exactly what her challenge was — anxiety? Fear? A learning disability? Because the book doesn’t spell out exactly what is going on, I thought I could get by with not addressing things: If May and her teachers didn’t know, why would we, as readers, need to?

My editor wasn’t impressed with my line of thinking. She told me (and rightly so!) that if I left readers hanging, they’d feel frustrated. She suggested I weave more clues that pointed toward dyslexia in the text and that I define May’s disability in the author’s note.

This terrified me. I was sure as soon as I used a technical word I’d be claiming some sort of expertise. The more I researched, though, the more I was reminded that dyslexia is not a one-size-fits-all struggle. I tried to convey in the author’s note general similarities those with dyslexia commonly share (issues with fluency, word recognition, and comprehension; the omission of words and anxiety stemming from reading aloud, for example) and techniques that some find helpful (repetition, reading in unison with one or more people). I also had a writing friend who is a literacy expert read the manuscript.

More than once a person has asked me on what authority I’ve written this book. I’ve come to the conclusion I am qualified to tell May’s story because it is one of identity and self-worth — something all of us must face at some point, something that becomes very real to young people as they become aware of their place in this world.

Before you were a writer, you were a classroom teacher. How did working with students with reading disabilities shape your perspective of May B.?

I’m going to turn this question on its head a little. It wasn’t working with students with reading disabilities that shaped my perspective so much as examining my own time in the classroom — my attitudes, my efforts, and if I’m honest, my shortcomings. In forcing myself to sit with this character and her two very different teachers, I found myself reflecting again and again on my teaching. What I learned wasn’t always attractive. It’s easy to love the hard worker, the kid who wants to do well. It’s not so easy to get behind the child who isn’t as winsome. I have to confess there are kids I put more effort into because I enjoyed them more. There are others I didn’t try as hard with, sometimes because I wasn’t qualified, sometimes because I didn’t fully understand their needs. And sometimes I didn’t put as much work in because I didn’t want to.

If I was going to tell the most honest story I could, I couldn’t hide from these unattractive qualities I found in myself. Instead, I needed to mine them to make the story real, to make it work.

Do you have any words of wisdom you would like to offer students with dyslexia?

I hesitate when taking about the traditional ideas behind character development — the need for flaws and weakness — when talking about May Betterly. I don’t ever want children who have learning disabilities to see themselves as flawed or weak. It was very important to me that May not be “cured” of her dyslexia, first, because it’s an untrue way to look at disability, and second because it sends a damaging message, one that says you are only whole without disability.

Part of my reason in writing the book was to examine the concept of worth — how so often who we are becomes based on what others tell us about ourselves or on what we’re able to do. Like May, I think all of us in some way feel we don’t measure up. Struggles, like dyslexia, don’t define us. They are not shameful. They might be seen as “character flaws” in a book (ways a character is made real and relatable), but such real-life struggles never, ever make a person somehow worth less.

Last year I got an email that thanked me for writing May B. It directed me to a blog post that literally took my breath away:

At the end of May B., I am crying. I am crying at the ways she is so strong and capable.

…I feel like Caroline Starr Rose wrote this book in part for me.

It was as if she were writing to encourage me on behalf of all my teachers in and outside of the classroom who for years didn’t see that all the misspelled words and run-ons as a red flag. It was as if she were writing right into the places of my heart where those accusations of being careless and not good enough had settled. And she whispered that like May, I could overcome. I could hope for the good things even when they are hard. Thank you, Caroline. Thank you, May.

I hope readers of all sorts will be able to relate to — and find confidence and courage in — May’s story.

The post Dyslexia and MAY B. appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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6. take the spot your super power quiz

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

In 2013, I was fortunate to receive a critique from the lovely and ever-encouraging YA author Cynthia Leitich Smith. After reviewing the opening chapter of my second middle grade novel, Cyn told me humor was my super power. Me? I have a SUPER power? Well, if I have one, I know for certain you do too.

Maybe your super power is . . .

  • Writing realistic dialogue
  • Riding that fine line between sweet and sentimental
  • Creating rich, other-worldly settings
  • Weaving intricate, suspenseful plots
  • Concocting quirky, but believable characters
  • Being just plain funny
  • None of the above–it’s your own proprietary blend

It’s always easier to pinpoint someone else’s super power, isn’t it. My friend Lisa Wheeler is a whiz with rhyme. Catherine Bieberich and Kelly Barson are able to strike a perfect balance between heart and humor. Jennifer Whistler crafts novels with a highly visual, cinematic quality. Others, like Monica Harris, are grand researchers who cull little-known tidbits from old texts to make even snoresville non-fiction topics intriguing.

What’s the point in knowing your super power? Well, as with a lot of things, it’s empowering to have a “go to”—like that perfected dish you can always whip without worry or that compliment-winning outfit in your closet. You can’t make lemon chicken piccata or wear that same suede jacket every day, but when the time is right, it’s confidence-building to know it’s there when you need it.

You can’t lean on your superpower for everything. (Even Superman had his day job as Clark Kent.) That’s why it’s important to read widely, request critiques, participate in workshops and stretch yourself by writing outside your comfort genre. Because my super power is humor, it’s easy for me to write in silly sound bites and let my characters make clever asides. While being funny can be engaging and amusing, overuse of humor can lapse into what I call “snarkasm.” Chronic quipping distances readers and makes otherwise 3-D characters seem shallow. A clever boy can become what political consultant David Alexrod described as a “congenital smart aleck.” There’s nothing super about that.

So, how about you? What’s your super power? (You may even have more than one!)

Spot Your Super Power Quiz

  1. When someone critique’s my work, the first positive thing I most often hear is:
    1. You’re so ___________________________.
    2. Your writing is ________________________.
  2. I feel most at ease writing ____________________.
  3. If I had to compare my work to someone else’s, it’d have to be:_____________________ and his/her work is known for ____________________________.
  4. Three words I’d use to describe my work:
    1. ___________________________
    2. ___________________________
    3. ___________________________
  5.  Text/call a fellow writer and ask for three words to describe your work:
    1. ___________________________
    2. ___________________________
    3. ___________________________
  6. Is there an overlap between the answers to questions 4 and 5? If so:_______________________.

My super power is:__________________________.

Super! Please use your super powers for good. And remember to pick up your cape from the dry cleaners.

We must be careful with our words – we’re like superheroes and words are like our super powers. Super powers should always be used to help others. ~ Dianna Hardy

 


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7. Gifts: Prophesy to these dry bones

Hi folks, ah, the holidays, and of course, I'm running a little behind. This month I'm offering a little series I called Gifts. This will be short and sweet. There is a story in the Bible in the book of Ezekiel. This my retelling. Here how it starts. The Lord takes Ezekiel to valley of dry bones and asks him if the bones can live.

Ezekiel answers, "Lord only knows."

The Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones.

(We don't prophesy in these days, and I sure do feel left out. The idea of a prophesy is to let someone know what is coming in the future. If you are a writer, you might understand this more than most.)

Back to the story. Ezekiel shouted to those bones."You dead bones, this is the Lord talking and not me -- I'm sending breath in you. And you will come alive. I'll put tendons, and flesh, and skin on you. I'll say it again, I'm putting breath in you, and will be alive. And the whole world will know I am the Lord!"

After that there was a noise. Bones rattled! They snapped together. Then came the tendons, and flesh and the skin. But instead of folks, there was a pile of dead bodies.

The Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy again. "Wind from the four corner of the Earth come into these dead bodies and make them live." And the wind came and a mighty army sprung up, rearing for a fight.

Then the Lord told Ezekiel what it all meant. "Those bones are my people.They have lost hope. They think they are dead.  I'm going to make them alive and I'm going to give them the little corner they are hankering for. Let them know I'm doing this because that's the way I am."

To wrap this up, if you feel like an old pile of dead bones, and you are wondering if you will ever get a chance to snap together and march out there and take your corner.  Remember this story. Wait for the wind.

I will be back next week with another of the Gifts series.

Here is a doodle.  "The sun, Moon, and the stars"




Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. Marie Curie

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8. Focus on Positive

When life throws you down a crooked track, hold close your family, latch onto new friends, throw up your hands and find something to smile about.

IMG_0177

While 2014 was definitely a crooked track for us, I want to close it with a look to the good. Shortly after our diagnosis, I had a friend reach out to me amidst his own health crisis. My advice to him was, “Hear the negative, focus on the positive and know that God has both covered.”

Good advice? I think so – but much easier said than done. This world screams negative. We are bombarded with the bad. The nightly news covers everything wrong with our world first and longest before they throw in one human interest story just before saying good night. (If you missed Kylie on the news, you can watch it HERE)

While sifting through the ruins of this broken world, how do we see what is good? I have seen a lot of things in my 47 years. To borrow the movie title, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have driven a man out of the slum of Port ‘au Prince, Haiti and watched as he was given the keys to his new home. I have been fortunate enough to help put a roof on a hut in Swaziland for a family decimated by HIV. Beauty plucked from ugly, good snatched from bad. Both started with a choice to engage.

Despite my experiences, never in my life have I seen the good side of humanity than from the day Kylie was diagnosed with cancer. The flood of well-wishes, prayers, and support for our family has been as overwhelming as the diagnosis itself. When you hear the words, “Your child has cancer,” the temptation is to curl up in the fetal position, shut out the world and cry. When I was at my weakest, I found an abundance of arms to hold me.

Friends, family, our school and church rallied to our side.

The nurses, doctors, childlife specialists, and staff of the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta became dear partners in this journey. We also found great care at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.

Organizations came alongside to help navigate and let us know we aren’t alone: 1 Million for Anna, Make-A-Wish, Cure Childhood Cancer, The Truth 365, Rally Foundation, Melodic Caring Project, The Jesse Rees Foundation, Along Comes Hope, 3/32 Foundation, Blessed Beauty, Open Hands Overflowing Hearts, Kingdom Kids, Lily’s Run.

We have seen built a network of people who pray faithfully for Kylie. To be totally honest, I admit there are times when I cannot lift a word to heaven. Maybe a grunt, maybe an angry shake of the fist. Without a doubt, I know there are many people praying for my little girl when I can’t. That is incredibly humbling.

Then there is encouragement and love. Kylie gets cards and letters daily. At least a dozen young ladies have donated their hair in Kylie’s honor. People all across the country and literally around the world have been #SmileyForKylie. As of today, 87 countries have done it. Grown men have written it on their bald heads.

Between Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, we have received over 10,000 smiling selfies for Kylie. Unreal. We have gotten them from celebrities, athletes, and Kylie’s beloved Broadway performers. Idina Menzel made a video. Kristin Chenoweth made two pics and talked about her on a radio show. Laura Osnes posted a word of encouragement to her. She got a box of Broadway treats from Hunter Foster. She had pics from 9 out of 12 musicals nominated for Tony Awards, and the cast of her favorite show, Aladdin have reached out to her over and over again. Sometimes we can trace the web that led to the picture, but most of the time we have no idea how they happen – we have no line to these people. It’s just good. And it is out there – making a choice to engage with our little girl in a time when she so desperately needs it. A thank you will never be enough, but all I can offer.

Regardless of your view of the Bible, Philippians 4:8 gives us sage advice:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

I’ll not be able to change everyone’s mind. You can remain a cynic if you choose to. But the things I have experienced in 2014 prove to me that there is good in this world. I choose to think about such things – it is what has kept me going.

In 2015, we look forward to hearing the words: No Evidence of Disease and watching Kylie resume a normal life. That will be something worth throwing up our hands and smiling about.

 

Happy New Year from Portsong, your humble mayor & Kylie


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

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9. Gifts: Hope and a Future

Hi folks,

I'm continuing my series called Gifts.  In the Bible, in the book of Jeremiah, there is a startling prophesy that so resonates with me. A holy people have been sent into exile for seventy years, and they really need to know what is coming to put up with this long exile.

The Lord spoke to his people through Jeremiah.  He sent encouragement. I don't know if you have ever read something that you felt was speaking to your situation and your life.  I feel that about these words in Jeremiah.  This is what I hear.

Your writing life isn't where you want it to be right now, but I am the one who brought you to this place. Don't despair. I want you to keep writing and keep helping other writers. Enjoy any small success that comes your way. And also, the things you learned back you were in the thick of it, I want you to think about those things. Let your creative self prosper and don't complain that you don't have a place to share a voice, that you don't even know how to get there. That's a waste of your time.

Don't keep on taking on projects that aren't your vision. Those things are just wasting your time. You have to keep waiting and that might be for a very long time.  But I've got a plan and I'm going to put your writing life back together. I have plans for you, plans to help you write brilliant stories, plans to give you a hope and a future. Be patient. Wait for it. The good days are ahead. 

Hope this stirs you up like it does me. I hope that here words that speak to your situation and your life. I hope those words help you stay on the path. I am so glad we are journeying together. 


Here is the doodle. 


Here is a quote for your pocket. 

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves. William Shakespeare. 

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10. happy 2nd anniversary to frog on a dime!

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Can’t believe Frog on a Dime is celebrating its second year!

My warmest–gooey in the center–thanks to my followers and to everyone who  commented, gifted me with suggestions, invited friends to hop on over, and most of all, dolloped me with encouragement. My goal was to encourage you, but oftentimes, I’m the recipient and I am so grateful!

If you have ideas future post-ibilities, topics you wish to see covered here or quotes you’d like to pass along, please do.

So excited to be heading into year three with all of you! There’s more encouragement on its way.

Wishing you an outrageously productive, creative, inspired New Year. I mean, the blow your socks off variety. Why not? You deserve it.

Happy, hoppy Holidays from Frog on a Dime!

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. ~ Marcel Proust


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11. diagnosis: chronic “stupbornness”

Art Institute of Chicago, photo by Vicky Lorencen

Art Institute of Chicago, photo by Vicky Lorencen

When you’re stupborn, you’re stupid and stubborn. I know because that’s what I am. At least that’s what I surmise. The lab tests are inconclusive, but a decade of firsthand observation cannot be ignored.

After more than ten years of writing, revising, reading, work-shopping, conference-going, networking, critique-grouping, class-taking, submitting and querying, I am still without a book contract. A smarter, less bull-headed person would have given up by now.

And why not? No one is forcing me into this pursuit. It’s self-inflicted without question. Yet, here I am peering into the shiny, giddy-go-lucky face of a new year and I am trudging ahead. I am not buoyed by hope or spurred by optimism. In fact, I feel quite hopeless. But my chronic stupbornness will not permit me to retreat or resign.

 

 

How about you?

Are you stupborn too?

You are? Oh, bless your heart. You need a cookie and a nap. But first, I’ve culled these quotes to encourage you:

There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me. ~  Jane Austen

I promise I shall never give up, and that I’ll die yelling and laughing, and that until then I’ll rush around this world I insist is holy and pull at everyone’s lapel and make them confess to me and to all. ~ Jack Kerouac

It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed. ~ Albert Einstein

Happy New Year, my dear, sweet, stupid, stubborn friends. (And yes, yes, certainly, warm wishes to my smart friends too.)

Let’s show 2015 what we’re made of!


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12. Wisdom from A GATHERING OF DAYS

a gathering of days

Once I would have wished for that: never to grow old. But now I know that to stay young always is also not to change. And that is what life’s all about — changes going on every minute, and you never know when something begins where it’s going to take you.

So one thing I want to say about life is don’t be scared and don’t hang back, and most of all, don’t waste it.

The post Wisdom from A GATHERING OF DAYS appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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13. To Drive The Cold Winter Away by Tess Berry-Hart

It's still winter! The bone-shaking chill of a new January with its winds, ice storms, broken healthy resolutions and humourless deadlines (tax payments, school applications, etc) can make even the bravest of us want to curl up in a cave next to a blazing fire and hibernate until spring arrives.

And to some of us who suffer from depression (episodes of persistent sadness or low mood, marked loss of interest and pleasure) either constant or intermittent, winter can be one of the hardest times. Depression being a multi-headed hydra ranging from many states of unipolar to bipolar, I'm not suggesting that there is one single type of depression; for instance not all of us are affected by the winter or weather, while some people who don't even have depression in the clinical sense might be experiencing a mild case of the winter blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Creativity is like a fire that we can stoke to drive away the cold winter (whether physical or psychological, internal or external). So I'm deep in my cave trying to work out ways that I can stoke my creativity without resorting to biscuits!

Bibliotherapy's been around for a while now, and is the literary prescription of books and poems against a range of "modern ailments" - including depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. A form of guided self-help, it's not exactly a new idea - the ancient Greeks spoke of "catharsis" - the process of purification or cleansing, in which the observer of a work of theatre could purge themselves of emotions such as pity and fear through watching and identifying with the characters in a play. All of us in the modern world can attest to the feeling of connection and joy when an author so precisely describes a state that we are ourselves experiencing, and the nail-biting, cliff-hanging state of knowing exactly what our heroine or hero is going through. We root for him or her because s/he represents ourselves battling our own demons in an idealised meta-state.

But how does bibliotherapy work? According to the various proponents, it helps perpetuate a shift in thinking, so that things are not so inflexible (black and white thinking, for all you cognitive-behavioural depressives out there!) which is crucial to tackling depression. Being able to gain distance and perspective by viewing problems through the lens of fictional characters means that in real life our fixed thought-patterns which contribute to our problems can start to become unpicked.

And of course, identification isn't the only joy to be found in books; good old-fashioned escapism is surely the reason why many of us read so avidly. A new world, a new family, a new life, perhaps even new biology or physics, takes us away momentarily from the mundane world so we can return refreshed, hopefully to see our lives with new eyes.

I've obviously been self-medicating for a long time, but I always called it comfort-reading. By comfort-reading I mean a well-known book that you can plunge into at will like a warm bath or a pair of slippers. At school when I was anxious about exams or bullies I would find solace in re-reading the heroic adventures of Biggles or the magical quest of Lord of the Rings; at university it was in the dreamy memories of Brideshead and the vicissitudes of Billy Liar or Lucky Jim. When I started my first office jobs I would read 1984 or Brave New World (odd choices for comfort-reads but I think it was to remind myself that things could actually be worse!) but when I started writing my own books, I ...er ... stopped reading for some years. I think my tiny little brain could only take so much exercise!

I started comfort-reading again when we first had our children; during long and frequently painful breast-feeding sessions my husband would read my childhood favourites Charlotte's Web and Danny the Champion Of The World to me as distraction and encouragement. And these days my prospective comfort list numbers hundreds of books; for me, reading is re-reading.

So what could I take to bolster myself against the winter chill? I've written myself a prescription but I'd be interested in hearing yours!

1) A dose of James Herriot's short animal stories, to be administered when needed (they are nice and short so you're not left hanging after a few pages) or chapters from Jerome K Jerome's Three Men In A Boat, or virtually anything by PG Wodehouse;

2) A daily dose of half an hour "joy-writing" - half an hour in the morning when I can sit down and let ideas spill out onto the page. (If it ends up with me writing about what happened last night then so be it. It can often lead to something more ...)

3) A small creative project on the horizon, easily identifiable and manageable, that I can look forward to; in this case getting a small group of actors together to read through a new draft of a play that I've written (there'll be a blog post on this soon so stay tuned!)

4) Connection with others - I'm a member of a local book group, which not only makes me keep on top of what new books are coming out, but also participating in the joy of discussion; there's nothing more frustrating than reading a good book only to realise that nobody you know has read it!)

So I think that's enough to start barricading myself up against the January snows!

But what about you? What kind of comfort-reads do you enjoy to drive the cold winter away?


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14. The Gift of Friendship

Today is the last day you can receive this beautiful print if you pre-order Blue Birds. Details below.

girls and pearls

My husband’s first pastorate out of seminary was in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington DC. He was a youth pastor and I was a teacher, and we were still pretty new to town. One Sunday a young couple visited our church. I casually chatted with them — a British fellow with the name Steve Martin (isn’t that fun?) and his lovely American wife, Jamie. And in those few moments I had one of those weird experiences I’d only had once before: I knew immediately that Jamie and I would become very good friends.

It was a strange feeling with no real basis, other than an underlining conviction we had clicked in a meaningful way. Almost fifteen years have passed since that Sunday. We’ve lived apart for eleven of them. But the fledgling friendship that started that day has been one of my life’s dearest gifts.

One spring Jamie came to visit us in Michigan. As the two of us wandered through an antique shop, she handed me a worn school primer she’d found on a shelf. Maybe it will be helpful for that new book idea you have, she said. It ended up being key. On the day May B. came into the world, Jamie wrote something that to this day makes me cry.

As I struggled with writing Blue Birds, Jamie was the one to tell me good work is often hard work. Each time I’d email about how difficult it all was, she’d remind me the writing was hard because it was important.

This time last year I was deep in the midst of second-round edits and desperate to connect with Alis and Kimi in a meaningful way. So I started wearing a strand of pearls. Everyday. With sweats and dressy clothes and everything in between. Unless I was sleeping or exercising, the pearls were there. My Blue Birds girls share a pearl necklace (you can see Alis wearing it on the cover). Wearing pearls was a constant reminder of their friendship, a way to meet them beyond my writing sessions, to carry them with me to the grocery store, while walking the dog, into life’s small, quiet moments.

It was during this time I found this treasure in my mailbox. A gift from Jamie (who knew nothing about the pearls). And that’s when I knew with certainty exactly who this book was for.

20150106_143442

If we’re lucky, we find friends in this world who love us as we are and bring out our best selves. I hope that’s what I’ve captured in Alis and Kimi’s relationship. It’s what Jamie Martin has given me.

BB PDF pic for blog postsThis post is part of a week-long celebration in honor of  Blue Birds. I’m giving away a downloadable PDF of this beautiful Blue Birds quote (created by Annie Barnett of Be Small Studios) for anyone who pre-orders the book from January 12-19. Simply click through to order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, IndieBound, or Powell’s, then email a copy of your receipt to caroline@carolinestarrrose.com by Monday, January 19.

Join the Celebration!

An Interview with Caroline Starr Rose, author of Blue Birds :: From the Mixed Up Files…

What I’m Reading: Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose :: Views from a Window Seat

Blue Birds :: Augusta Scattergood

Blue Birds Interview with Caroline Starr Rose :: Reflections on the Teche

Book Review: Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose :: Book Covers

 

 

 

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15. Wisdom from Ralph Waldo Emerson

DSC_0627

Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt, crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, for tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

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16. you just never know

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

At the close of the SCBWI – Michigan conference on Mackinac Island, book reviewer, blogger and first grade teacher extraordinaire Ed Spicer (I know cheers will erupt at the mention of his name!) shared about one of his students. Brycen struggled with reading. He simply could not decipher those black squiggles on the page. That is, until he found a book that unlocked the magic for him. The title of the book isn’t significant to Brycen’s story. It was well reviewed and nicely illustrated, but it was not a groundbreaker or a bestseller. That didn’t matter to Brycen. He simply loved that book, and it loved him back by patiently waiting for him to decode it word-by-word until he could read it with ease. By reading it over and over and over, that story gave him the confidence to select more titles.

He’s such a book lover now that, well, why don’t I let Brycen tell you . . .

Ed Spicer shared Brycen’s story to remind authors and would-be authors that our stories make a difference regardless of critical acclaim or popularity. We may never know how one of our stories set up camp in a child’s heart and made a forever home there. And that’s okay. We just need to make the best stories we know how and trust they’ll find the hearts that need them, hearts like Brycen’s.

Feeling small or discouraged today? Keep crafting your stories with love and care. Because you just never know.

There’s so much more to a book than just the reading. ~ Maurice Sendak


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17. super interview & super book giveaway

It’s my treat to welcome children’s book author and illustrator Deb Pilutti. Deb and I recently traveled to and from the SCBWI fall conference on Mackinac Island. The many miles spent on Michigan highways gave me a chance to get to know Deb better. She’s a peach. (Well, not literally. But that would make her literary abilities all the more extraordinary, now wouldn’t it?) I know you’re going to enjoy getting to know her as much as I did. And so, my Frog on a Dime friends, meet my friend Deb Pilutti . . .

Deb Pilutti

Deb Pilutti

So, Deb, when did you know you wanted to become a children’s writer?

Let’s just say I was a little dense, so it took me awhile. The signs were there. When I was younger, I loved reading more than anything. A blank book was my most prized possession. I once had Leo Lionni as a design instructor in a college workshop and I was giddy to meet him because Little Blue and Little Yellow was one of my favorite books as a child. But still, I never saw writing and illustrating for children as an option. It wasn’t until I realized I was hoarding my own children’s books, and not sharing that it was something I wanted to do.

What is it about writing for children that appeals to you versus writing for adults?

Being silly.

What’s the most encouraging thing anyone has ever said to you related to your work?

Early on, I submitted a manuscript to an editor. She said it wasn’t right for her, but that she liked the illustrations and thought that I was a good writer and invited me to submit to her again. I was not very confident about my writing at that point, so it was exactly what needed to hear.

What advise would you give to someone who has been pursuing publication for a long time, with close calls, but no contracts?

Of course, I would say to keep trying. The fact that the person has come close means that they are on the right track. But I would also recommend doing something a little different to push yourself even more. It could be devoting more time to writing, or attend a conference or workshop or online class. A few years ago, this was the case for me. I decided to spend more time writing, which meant turning down some freelance opportunities. I also spent a couple of weekends at a writing retreat with some friends.

By Deb Pilutti Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt

By Deb Pilutti
Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt

What would you like to share about your NEW book–details! details!

Ten Rules of Being a Superhero is published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt is a story  about the day in the life of a Lava Boy and his superhero toy, Captain Magma.

Lava Boy is making up the rules as he and Captain Magma go along – always in the spirit of superhero play. The rules are about being super from a child’s perspective, as in “Rule No. 2: Saving the Day is messy. But everyone understands,” or “Rule No. 5: Sometimes, Superheroes make a lot of noise.” At times, the action on the page is at odds with the rule.

I had so much fun making this book! And plenty of practice too, as I have spent an incredible amount of hours (A LOT) discussing the merits of various superhero powers with my children over the years. I particularly liked painting the spreads with Lava Boy’s toys in various states of distress. I am drawn to awkward, retro toys.

And for the super-super serious portion of our interview—let’s say your moral compass went missing. What make/model of car would you steal and why?

An old Ford pick up truck from the early 60s. And while my moral compass is missing, I’d nab a really great pair of vintage cowboy boots to go with it.

Good answer! Let’s try another one–on the assumption we could find a phone booth somewhere (a museum perhaps), who is the children’s author or illustrator you’d most like to be trapped inside with?

Maira Kalman. First of all, she seems like an incredibly interesting person and I would love to chat with her. She finds beauty and poignancy in the absurd, and I think she would find it in the phone booth. Plus, I would hope we would laugh a lot.

Feeling brave? How about naming three things we’d be surprised to learn about you.

I can only think of odd things – oh well. I talk to myself a lot. I have a collection of Star Trek figurines on my desk and I have an irrational aversion to using a salad fork.

Hey, I didn’t know you were a Trekkie. Thank you so much for stopping by, Deb. Best wishes to you on your super new book!

_____________________________________________

Want to WIN YOUR VERY OWN COPY of Ten Rules of Being of Superhero?

Between now and Noon on Friday, October 24, leave a comment and answer this question–Who is your superhero?

_____________________________________________
//

Deb Pilutti feels lucky to have a job where reading, playing with toys and
watching cartoons is considered “research”. She lives in Ann Arbor,
Michigan with her husband,two kids and one nervous border collie. Deb has
worked as a graphic designer and illustrator, creating toys and products
for children and is the author and illustrator of TEN RULES OF BEING A
SUPERHERO (Ottaviano/Holt) and BEAR AND SQUIRREL ARE FRIENDS (Simon &
Schuster), which will be published in 2015. Additionally, she illustrated
THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN MICHIGAN and wrote THE CITY KID AND THE
SUBURB KID (both with Sterling).

 

And now, in honor of our special guest,  and in keeping with my quote-closing tradition, we’ll close with one of Deb’s favorite quotes . . .

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. ~ Pablo Picasso

 

 


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18. jump to the moon with hazel mitchell (and enter her book giveaway!)

Written by  JaNay Brown-Wood and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell/Charlesbridge Publishing/ISBN 978-1-934133-57-6, Ages 6-9

Written by JaNay Brown-Wood and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell/Charlesbridge Publishing/ISBN 978-1-934133-57-6, Ages 6-9

Who isn’t mesmerized by the moon? Little Imani’s lunar fascinations go beyond enchantment to obsession as she wills herself to touch the moon. In doing so, she would prove her worth to all of the naysayers in her Maasai village who literally look down on her. Inspired by her mother’s tales of Maasai mythology, not only does Imani accomplish the feat, she proves to herself that “a challenge is only impossible until someone accomplishes it.” Imani is quite a someone.

Frog on a Dime is pleased to host the illustrator of IMANI’S MOON–the adorable Hazel Mitchell.

Hazel Mitchell is originally from England and now lives and works in Maine. When she wasn’t riding horses as a youngster she was drawing them. After attending art college in the UK, she spent several years in the Royal Navy and then worked as a graphic designer. Now she’s doing what she always dreamed of – creating books for children. Don’t you love it when dreams come true?

Welcome, welcome, Hazel. I’m excited to talk about your new book, written by JaNay Brown-Wood. What first attracted you to IMANI’S MOON? I loved the story and the fantastical elements. I also liked the idea of the setting in Africa and drawing a Maasai child! It was quite a challenge.

And now that it’s finished, what do you love most about Imani’s story? That it’s a book! (That’s always surprising.) I do love the way the colours and textures came out. Great job by Charlesbridge Publishing!

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the need for greater diversity in children’s books. How do you think IMANI’S MOON helps to fill that gap? I think IMANI’S MOON is a great book to add to the diversity bookshelf. Imani is in her own environment. This is not a case of forcing a child of color into a story for the sake of diversity. She’s just Imani–in her culture with her trials and tribulations–just like any other child.

Hazel and her beloved friend Toby

Hazel and her beloved friend Toby

People outside children’s publishing or those new to the industry are often surprised (even alarmed) to learn that authors and illustrators do not often collaborate on a book. Can you talk about that? When I was a newbie I didn’t realize authors and illustrators worked separately either. At first, I thought the writer might feel cheated. And some do, I think. But the more you work in the industry, the more wisdom you acquire. We have editors and art directors for a reason. Having a little distance between the author and the illustrator is good. And the input from an art director and editor can be crucial. If there’s an issue with artwork, I’ve found that they’ll refer to the author when needed. It’s a team situation. Without the freedom to create, the illustrator can feel frustrated and then the art might not be as good as it could be. You can feel boxed in. The writer has his or her vision, and the illustrator needs to be able to have their vision as well.  A picture book is a collaboration; it cannot work without each part of the whole. That’s when the magic happens!

And we can see that magic in IMANI’S MOON, Hazel. It’s so lovely. Now, since Frog on a Dime exists to offer encouragement, could you tell us about what or who encourages you? Right. Oh, so many. First, all the books that I have read along the way and learned from. You can’t read enough. My peers – those I have met so far on the journey. It can be a lonesome profession and like minds are crucial to help you along. And those I have met who are further along the path and have been kind enough to mentor me. Going to conferences and workshops has been a great source of knowledge and inspiration.

Here’s your chance to be encouraging, Hazel. What’s one thing a writer or illustrator could do today to improve their craft? Create SOMETHING!!!

Love that! And what do you do when you’re “stuck” as you’re trying to create something? Make a cup of tea. Do something mindless (chores!). Work on something else. Read a book. Have a bubble bath. Talk to another creative.

I love those ideas, Hazel. I’m a big believer in the inspirational power of tea myself. Before you go, I’m curious to know what’s on the horizon for you. I have a busy year upcoming with three books I’ve illustrated – ANIMALLY from Kane Miller, WHERE DO FAIRIES GO IN WINTER? from Down East, KENYA’S ART from Charlesbridge and in 2016 by debut as author-illustrator TOBY from Candlewick Press.

How exciting! Thank you so much for visiting Frog on a Dime, Hazel. It’s been a delight getting to know you.

You can learn more about Hazel when you visit HazelMitchell.com. You’re welcome to purchase IMANI’S MOON directly from Charlesbridge.

__________________________________________

Enter a drawing to win your very own copy of IMANI’S MOON.

All you have to do is leave a comment about why you love picture books! It’s that simple.

The drawing will take place at Noon on Friday, November 7, so don’t dilly dally!

__________________________________________

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

And now, we’ll close with one of Hazel’s favorite quotes . . .

We are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. ~  Oscar Wilde

 

 


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19. 4 perks of sitting at the kid’s table

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

It’s nearing Thanksgiving and my brain is shifting into stuffing-mashed-potatoes-and-pumpkin-pie (a la mode) mode. I’m recalling those big family gatherings where the grown-ups sat one table and the kids at another. The kid’s table was typically of the folding variety on hiatus from the front closet. It was set with the B-list china and plastic cups instead of stemware. But that was okay. You were with your cousins or sibs—away from the cheek-pinching, bum-patting relatives—and there was pie. Life was good.

When I ventured into children’s writing half an ice age ago, I didn’t know I was sitting at the “kid’s table.” I plunked myself down with such enthusiasm, I’m sure I toppled a glass or two. But everybody was new to me and nice to me. I couldn’t tell the adults from the kids.

Since then, in meltdownable moments, I’ve pushed my chair away from the table a few times, surmising I’d be wise to walk away, but something—typically someone—pushed me back to the table, shoved a fresh crayon in my hand and insisted I keep on writing. And I did.

But as the years stack up like so many pie plates, I’ve begun to feel like that cousin you see only once a year. Everybody is so shocked by how big she is. She’s actually in junior high now, for turkey’s sake, but still she’s sat at the kid’s table. That’s how I feel. I have OCS (over-grown cousin syndrome (don’t bother looking it up—it hasn’t made it into the DSM yet)).

And as I’ve grown as a writer and more than outgrown my little chair, I’ve watched as some of my dearest tablemates pick up their plates, glasses and silverware and one-by-one excuse themselves to go sit at the grown-up table. I’ve felt happy for them. Absolutely. Their dream of getting an agent and a publishing contract came true. Their name would be next to the word “by” on the cover of an actual book.  And, no point in denying it, I’ve swallowed hard and pushed back tears too (sometimes unsuccessfully).

Being at the kid’s table isn’t as fun as it once was. But you know what? As long as I’m here, for as long as I’m here, I figure I may as well make the best of it.

Here are 4 perks of sitting at the kid’s table:

  1. No kitchen timer—expectations are a lot lower when you’re pre-published. No deadlines. No reviews. No line edits. It’s just you and your muse.
  2. Always new guests at the table—and if you’ve been at the table awhile, you’ll have something to share with the new kids about which “menu items” to avoid, which funny looking “veggies” are actually good for you and which “pie crust” is just a little too flaky.
  3. Loads of time to load your plate—this tour of duty at the kid’s table offers opportunities to grow, listen, network, take classes on craft, join a critique group, establish an online platform, eat pie, eat pie (did I say that already?)
  4. Room to master your manners—like any business, publishing has its own etiquette. Sitting at the kid’s table gives you time to learn which fork to use and where to put your elbows before you move up the grown up’s table.

You bet your drumstick I want to move to the grown-up’s table, but until I do, there’s pie here and friends, and at least four perks. I can wait my turn. (But I would appreciate a bigger chair.)

And just because I like you, here’s a pre-Thanksgiving treat from The Onion.


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20. A Podcast with Brilliant Business Moms

caroline-starr-rose-author-on-getting-published-cover-podcast

It was so, so lovely to talk a few weeks ago with Sarah and Beth Anne of Brilliant Business Moms. They sought me out after reading this guest post at Modern Mrs. Darcy. Here are a few of the things you can expect in the podcast:

01:15 – Roald Dahl, the Oregon Trail, and My Journey
04:24 – The Most Honest Thing I’ve Ever Written
07:48 – What about Mr. Chapman?
09:59 – The Apprentice Stage
13:34 – Maniacal Optimism
16:54 – Why a Traditional Publisher?
19:29 – How to Get Published
22:50 – Finding an Agent
24:59 – Advice for Apprentice Authors
29:31 – Does a Web Presence Matter?
31:02 – A Day in the Life
34:34 – How Much Does an Author Make?
38:56 – Resources for Aspiring Authors
44:30 – What My Boys Think About Having an Author for a Mom

The podcast is live! Click through to have a listen.

 

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21. encouragement is like hot buttered toast (gluten-free, of course)

Last week I sent the opening pages of my third middle grade novel to my critique group. My accompanying email read:

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Here are the first measly, tender baby words of my new middle grade novel. Now, I will be completely transparent and say I’m really looking for encouragement here, but not the fake kind where you’re just making stuff up to make me feel good. I want you to be honest, but mostly focus on what’s going right (if anything no matter how small), so I can do more of that. You will be welcome to be much, much tougher once I’m further along.

Thank you so much for taking the time to look at my new baby. Remember to support her head, and for Gerber’s sake, keep your dang thumb away from that soft spot on her head would ya? (And I apologize in advance if she smells like poopy.)

Is it just me? You’ve been there, right? I was so vulnerable and needy (one of my all-time favorite states of being for sure). I knew my critique group would be fair and kind, but I was not prepared for the first comments I got back.

I got dark chocolate covered, name in neon lights, to Neptune and back, crazy ENCOURAGEMENT!!!

How did that make me feel?

Hopeful!

Energized!

Confident to push ahead!

As I see it, encouragement is more than good cheer or offering support. It’s fortifying a friend who is afraid–afraid to act, afraid to take a risk, afraid to speak up or afraid to ask. In other words, encouragement provides courage (See there? It’s right in the word itself. How ’bout that?) And that’s what my group gave me.

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Encouragement is like . . .

  • Jumping through the sprinkler on an August scorcher.
  • Finding $20 tucked in your wallet.
  • Scoring a gorgeous pair of shoes (at 75% off).
  • Savoring a well-timed cup of tea (with a scone, of course).
  • Receiving an unexpected hug (or a wink).
  • Admiring December’s first snow.

Encouragement makes your soul say, ahhhhhh. You feel full, different, better and ready to take the next step. Little wonder Frog on a Dime‘s primary goal is to provide encouragement to writers.

Who’s been your biggest encourager lately? Who will you encourage today?

Remember, man does not live on bread alone: sometimes he needs a little buttering up. ~  John C. Maxwell


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22. 4 simple ways to keep writing over the holidays

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

No, my little sugar plums, I haven’t been sampling the “enriched” eggnog. There really are at least four simple ways to keep putting one snowshoe in front of the other (writing-wise) through the holiday season.

Now, I know some of you actually first-drafted an entire novel in November (HUZZAH!), but instead of taking a well-deserved break, why not keep that keyboard humming? And if you’re like me, and didn’t exactly knock out an entire book last month, maybe you’ll want to try these ideas to keep your writing muscles from going fudgy and flabby.

To keep writing a part of the holiday season without turning into a stark raving nutty fruitcake:

  1. Have a way to capture thoughts/quotes/ideas with you at all times. Time spent with friends and relatives over the holidays can be golden opportunities for writers. Jot down details, mannerisms, expressions, dynamics, kid’s questions–in an inconspicuous way, of course! These notes will make fabulous fodder to kick-start your January writing.
  2. Use the time doing semi-mindless tasks, such as gift wrapping, cookie baking or waiting for wee ones to finish pageant practice, to think about your writing. Ponder how to make a character’s personality fresher or concoct a new barrier to put in his path. You could untangle a knotty plot problem while you untangle the Christmas tree lights. Or use your noodle to dream up the perfect title or a character’s name.
  3. Give yourself the gift of 30 minutes three times a week to write. If you have a day job, you could use your lunch hour. It’s not really so much about word count as it is maintaining forward momentum. It’ll make it a lot easier to charge ahead in January. And while we’re on the subject, try idea number four.
  4. Compile a list of writing goals for the New Year. Go for realistic and specific. Say adios to the grandiose.

DSC02577Sound like too much? Just try one or two of the ideas. Or come up with your own (and please share!)

Oh, and remember to write yourself a thank you note. You’re so amazing!

One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself. ~ Lucille Ball

 


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23. Creativity and Routine: DAILY RITUALS

Daily Rituals

Ludwig van Beethoven poured water over his hands while humming scales. Jonathan Edwards pinned bits of paper to his clothing to remember ideas while horseback riding. Anthony Trollope paid a groom five extra pounds a year to bring him coffee each morning at 5:30.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work is a collection of dozens of vignettes about “writers, composers, painters, choreographers, playwrights, sculptors, filmmakers, poets, philosophers and scientists on how they create.” I found it impossible to put down. Just when I thought I discovered a pattern to these artists’ daily practices (early morning work and no day job, for example) new structures began to emerge (the night-time only artist and those who held other occupations).

As someone who has sometimes struggled to find a rhythm to my writing, I found this glimpse into others’ lives both inspiring and familiar. While there were differences in each daily ritual, some habits were repeated in most creative processes*:

structure
solitude
simplicity
exercise

Structure allowed Trollope to “tutor his mind” and write for three hours before going to work at the Post Office. Gustave Flaubert believed being “regular and orderly in your life [allows you to be] violent and original in your work.” In other words, when the structure is established, you are freed to focus on what counts.

Solitude and simplicity seem to function hand in hand. Time alone, free of distraction is necessary to create. This means a narrowing or stripping away of extraneous things gives a creative the space to work. Some artists deliberately would forgo social commitments or would choose a hermit-like existence. Others would make room for community but keep those hours separate from the work. “What you need to do is clear all distraction,” Anne Rice says. “That’s the bottom line.”

I was surprised how many artists engaged in daily exercise — calisthenics, swimming, and the like — long, long before this was considered the ideal. Walking long distances was by far the exercise of choice, serving as both a break from the work and sometimes a new way to view it. Those walks I take with the dog when I’m feeling stuck? I’m in good company.

This book has inspired me to think again about how I might best keep my days simple and distraction free. In the midst of my daily solitude it has made me feel a part of something bigger than myself. I’m carrying the creative torch like those before me and those who will come after — important work indeed!

Does ritual play into your creative process?

 

*I’m focusing on the positive here. Many artists relied on various vices to (supposedly) bring out their best work. A few, like George Sand, felt “the work of the imagination is exciting enough…Whether you are secluded in your study or performing on the planks of a stage, you must be in total possession of yourself.”

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24. Today I Will: Facing Discouragement Head On

Great achievement goes through, not around, discouragement. Is there a roadblock in my way, keeping me from something I want to achieve? Am I discouraged? I understand now that discouragement often precedes achievement. Instead of retreating from the roadblock or seeking a way around it, I will boldly punch a hole through it and continue toward my goal. 
— Jerry Spinelli (Today I Will: A Year of Quotes, Notes, and Promises to Myself)

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25. On Writing

Old Town roadrunner

And . . . what if the worst happens? What if you are never published? The market seems to grow more difficult and more idiosyncratic every year. Even so, you will have been doing, all along, the work that feeds your soul, that makes you a larger, more generous person, and, more concretely, is guaranteed to keep improving your writing.

If publication eludes you forever, you will still have created a gift for yourself and for those who care about you.

— Marion Dane Bauer

Read the rest at Marion’s blog, from the post called A Letter From a Reader.

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