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1. That Jasper Johnson


Jefferson “Soapy” Smith was an unsavory sort who worked Skagway, Alaska when Jasper passed through.

I can’t wait to introduce  you to Jasper next spring. For now, I’ll give you a peek into the way he thinks. (Coming across this section during edits has encouraged me. It might feel like I don’t know how to write a whole darn book, but this reminds me I don’t have to have it all figured out straight away. I’m responsible for showing up and doing my daily work to the best of my ability.)

Since leaving home I’ve stowed away and tracked down Mel and climbed a mountain and traveled the Yukon on a flimsy raft, and tackled a whole pile of other things I ain’t never done before. Now ain’t the time to start believing I got to have things figured out before I try.

Now, back to work on the editing…

The post That Jasper Johnson originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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2. Top Writing Posts of All Time


After six and half years of blogging, I thought it would be fun to revive some oldies but goodies. The plan is to do this once a month. You can see the first, Top Posts of All Time, here, and the second, My Favorite Posts of all Time, here.

The posts below are consistently clicked most when people come to the blog for writing advice. I hope you enjoy!

(BLUE) BIRD BY (BLUE) BIRD: On Small Writing Goals and Big Change
Writing Contests and Grants: Why You Should Enter
Will Verse Work for Your Story?
There is No Schedule
5 Things I Learned from NaNoWriMo
What’s the Purpose of Your Writing?
Book Mapping My Way Through Blue Birds
Novel Revision Class: Quotes and Links on Revision
Writing Advice for the Long Haul
Running as a Metaphor for Writing

The post Top Writing Posts of All Time originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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3. a fine use for bullets

I hate outlining

I hate outlining

“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.” Right you are E.L. Doctorow. I can’t argue with you.

Up until recently, I’ve been a writing pantser–someone who flies by the seat of her pants like a magic carpet. Weeeeeee!!! It was a fun, exhilarating, spontaneous, surprising, unfettered, chaotic, halting, sputtering, who-knows-how-the-heck-I-got-here way to write.

When I’ve considered a popular alternative, outlining, my skin literally crawled. No kidding. It wriggled clean off muh bones. (See why I can’t outline? I can’t even write without doubling back and making silly asides.) SO, anyway, outlining was not attractive to me. What a time and fun-sucker. Why not just jump in? I wanted to be surprised! At the same time, I liked the idea of pre-planning as a means of making steadier writing progress.

But as a card-carrying AntiOutlineist, I yearned for a way to enjoy the benefits of outlining without actual doing it. There were plenty of alternatives involving Post-it Notes, index cards or oversized sheets of paper, but I wanted something even simpler. It if could involve my adoration for list-making, that would be a bonus. That’s why I chose bullets. Round. Simple. Readily Accessible. Inexhaustible in supply.

Now, my little warm cinnamon crumb cake, you know I mean these kinds of bullets. . .

  • Yes,
  • I
  • knew
  • you
  • would.

When I recently approached an extensive novel revision, I chose bullets to help me compile the sequence of events and actions of my characters. I didn’t write long descriptions of each scene. I wrote just enough to ensure I’d have what I needed when I returned to my list later. As I compiled this list, naturally, I’d identify roadblocks. But then, I could easily scan back to see, and then change, the sequence of events to release that blockage. I was able to think through each character’s actions or responses and their natural consequences. I could think proactively about how to crank up the story’s tension or humor or tenderness.

And now, armed with my bullets (hardy har har), I’ve had an easier time approaching the revision process. Plus, I’ve felt energized and encouraged because the bullets serve as an assurance that it’s going to be okay. Keep going. You know you can work this out. You’ve already untangled your plot and mapped out a path for your characters. And I know they won’t fail to surprise me, so there’s still fun to be had.

E.L. Doctorow is right–we can’t just yack about writing, we need to actually do it. But, before you do, see how you like writing with a batch of bullets by your side. G’head. Give it a shot. (Ouch.)

I’m one of those writers who tends to be really good at making outlines and sticking to them. I’m very good at doing that, but I don’t like it. It sort of takes a lot of the fun out.  ~ Neil Gaiman

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4. My Favorite Posts of All Time

Roy truck

After six and half years of blogging, I thought it would be fun to revive some oldies but goodies. The plan is to do this once a month. You can see the first, Top Posts of All Time, here.

The posts I’m sharing today have struck a deep chord in me. Whether they made me feel like I was part of something important (the Donalyn Miller interview), were an out-of-the-blue email from a reader, or were reflections on the writing process (pretty much everything else), these are the words I want to return to, that feel familiar and right and brave. I hope you enjoy them, too.

The Book Whisperer: An Interview with Donalyn Miller
Plowing, Planting, Hoping, Dreaming
Ode to a Research Notebook
Sometimes You Get an Email That Takes Your Breath Away
Step by Step, Word by Word
The Then and the Now: Reflections Over Chicago
5 Ways I’m Learning to Write Smart and Not Scared

Click through to sign up for my quarterly newsletter and you’ll receive a free printable from my novel, Blue Birds. Enjoy!

The post My Favorite Posts of All Time originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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5. Wisdom from Saving Lucas Biggs

“…What you said, you reminded me so much of Grandpa Joshua. The way you keep faith in people, even though so many awful things have happened to you.”

“That’s because Grandpa  Joshua and I bother to do the math.”

“What math?”

“For every big, bad, attention-getting thing that happens, there are thousands of small good ones, acts that might even seem ordinary but really aren’t, so many that we can forget to notice them or to count them up. But it’s what has always amazed me: not how terrible people can be to each other, but how good, in spite of everything.”


Click through to sign up for my quarterly newsletter and you’ll receive a free printable from my novel, Blue Birds. Enjoy!

The post Wisdom from Saving Lucas Biggs originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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6. Tinker, Breathe, Create, Play


I’ve written often about Valerie Geary around here, my critique partner I met when we both started blogging in 2009. We’ve seen each other through a number of manuscripts, a million emails about the writing life, and one glorious writing retreat that included mid-morning runs, lots of good conversation, and a bottle of wine I received when May B. sold (thanks, Helen Theriot!).

I don’t know how I’d keep chugging away without friends who understand this weird and wonderful process, who encourage me when I need it and let me do the same.

Here’s a recent exchange:

me: I’m tinkering with the new book. Very slowly. Long hand and then some typing. Two and a half hours gave me something like 200 words.

Val: Keep tinkering, friend. No rush, no urgency. Breathe, find small moments to create. These first few steps are so small and feel like they take us nowhere, but they are important to building a book. We’ll take bigger steps later on down the road. For now…play.


The post Tinker, Breathe, Create, Play originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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7. Wholehearted in One Direction


I love all things Gretchen Rubin, writer and podcaster extraordinaire who’s an expert on habits and happiness. She reads extensively and daily shares a Moment of Happiness quote to “remind you to make choices in your ordinary routine that will boost your happiness.” Here’s a recent favorite:

Happiness is essentially a state of going somewhere wholeheartedly, one-directionally, without regret or reservation.
-W.H. Sheldon

Click through to sign up for my quarterly newsletter and you’ll receive a free printable from my novel, Blue Birds. Enjoy!

The post Wholehearted in One Direction originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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8. Classroom Connections: The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jennifer Maschari

The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price
genre: contemporary with magical realism
age range: 8-12
setting: Cincinnati
Jennifer Maschari’s website
discussion guide

Jennifer Maschari’s debut novel is a work-out for the heart. Charlie Price has to make a terrible choice between what has been and what could be, and readers will stick with him every poignant, suspenseful step of the way. Charlie’s journey is more than remarkable. It’s unforgettable.
–Tricia Springstubb, author of Moonpenny Island

What a beautiful book Jen Maschari has written—a brave and big-hearted exploration of the sustaining power of friendship and the infinite treasure of memory our loved ones give us.
— Anne Ursu, author of Breadcrumbs and The Real Boy

Beautifully crafted sentences read almost as if they were poetry…Fans of both fantasy and realistic fiction will appreciate this painful but ultimately triumphant, multilayered novel.
— School Library Journal, starred review

A beautifully written meditation on grief … Reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline”
— Booklist

Please tell us about your book.

My book is a middle grade novel about a boy named Charlie who thinks he is doing okay after the death of his mother. He has Mathletes, he has school, and he has his friends. But then his little sister, Imogen, finds a passageway under her bed to a world very much like their own, with one key difference: Mom is alive. But things are not as they seem. Charlie needs to find out the truth of this alternate world before he loses himself, the true memory of their mother and Imogen, forever.

My book has a little bit of everything: magic, math, hope, and a really great dog named Ruby.

What inspired you to write this story?

There are a lot of things that inspired the writing of Charlie’s story. My father passed away when I was younger so I think a lot of those feelings of loss and sadness and trying to find a new “okay” gave this story roots. I wrote the book that my younger self needed.

I also tutor students in math and used to teach fifth grade science. Charlie’s always been a mathematician to me. It was really interesting to contrast Charlie’s love of math (and its unchanging nature) with his constantly evolving feelings, hopes and understandings. Charlie wants there to be concrete answers, but life doesn’t always give them to you.

What are some interesting things you learned when researching for this book?

I did a lot of interesting research for this book. This research involved both using books and the internet to find answers.

Even though I grew up in Cincinnati where the book takes place, I made sure to look at maps of the area where Charlie lived. This added an extra layer of authenticity to his comings and goings (though I did take a few liberties). Google Maps was a great resource for this. Not only did I get to look at the street layouts but I also could look at pictures of the area. I researched the stars, constellation stories, different mathematical terms, and telescopes. An observatory in Cincinnati plays an interesting role in the story, and I e-mailed with the director to get the floor plans and discuss what could actually be seen by the telescopes. I love learning new things.

What are some special challenges associated with writing magical middle grade?

Defining the rules of magic was certainly a special challenge I had to face in writing this book. In an early draft, all kinds of magical things just happened at different times. I had to take a step back and actually write the rules down so I could refer to them as I was revising. It’s just like in real life. For example, take gravity. We know if we jump up, that we will come back down to earth. It’s what we expect. I had to build in that level of expectation with the magic. If this one thing happens, it causes this magical thing to happen, and I had to be consistent throughout.

What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?

I truly believe that books act as mirrors (reflecting back our own experiences) and windows (allowing us to see into the lives of others). I hope that this book would reach kids who are facing difficult things in their lives – whether it be a death of a loved one or something else entirely – and let them see it’s possible to come out the other side. Books build empathy and allow safe spaces for kids to experience different emotions and situations. I hope that my book allows for that as well.

I think my book also has a lot of opportunities for cross-curricular connections:
-outer space (stars, orbits)
-math (variables, equations, Möbius strip)
-the constellations (stories and history behind them)

Click through to sign up for my quarterly newsletter and you’ll receive a free printable from my novel, Blue Birds. Enjoy!

The post Classroom Connections: The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jennifer Maschari originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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9. Wisdom from How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous

how they choked

I listened to this book on my way to Mosquero and was so taken by its closing lines I checked out the hardcopy to share them with you:

There are so many ways to fail that it’s hard to pick which one is right for you. The possibilities are limitless, and the world is your failure playground. You can fail in ways you won’t even be able to predict. You’ll dive into things you’ll never finish, and finish stuff that stinks. Sometimes you’ll try really hard, and that won’t be enough.

Some people have good intentions, and end up failing anyway…but that’s not true for everyone. There’s no way to succeed at failing either. So fail the best you can: try something new, be brave, make mistakes*.


*This reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s “make glorious and fantastic mistakes,” part of his exhortation to those who wish to make great art.


Click through to sign up for my quarterly newsletter and you’ll receive a free printable from my novel, Blue Birds. Enjoy!


The post Wisdom from How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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10. Writing Links

snowy Sandias

33 Rules of Writing from Some of the Most Brilliant Women in Children’s & YA Literature :: Kate Messner

5 Traits that Foster Publishing Success :: Jody Hedlund

Resistance by Joanna Roddy :: Project Mayehm

Hope for Weary and Discouraged Writers :: Ed Cyzewski

What To Do When Someone Else Wrote Your Book :: Chatting at the Sky

Click through to sign up for my quarterly newsletter and you’ll receive a free printable from my novel, Blue Birds. Enjoy!

The post Writing Links originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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11. how to recognize value

DSC07467My husband likes to watch Prospectors on the Weather Channel. Prospectors  follows real, modern-day diggers of gold and gem stones. I like The Voice, a reality show/singing competition. Recently, I recognized these two shows intersect.

Prospectors endure extreme cold, looming storm fronts and other dangerous conditions to find the prize—a smoky topaz, a ruby, an aquamarine or even gold. Judges on The Voice listen to some lackluster auditions while searching for someone with golden pipes. So, the singers and the smoky topaz are treasures. That’s the obvious comparison, but there’s something more.

DSC07474Were the stones beautiful while still encased in layers of limestone? I would say, yes. It wasn’t the touch of a prospector’s pick or palm that made them precious. And what about the hopefuls who appear on The Voice? It’s certainly not the judge’s ears or their feedback that make those singers amazing. The vocalists were outstanding before they ever walked on stage.

Here’s what I want you to know my fragile little tea cups—you and your writing have intrinsic value before you receive a single word of praise. Think of all of the painters and poets who never received acclaim during their lifetimes. How sad to think they thought of themselves as “almosts” and even failures. You don’t need to have your name on a dust jacket to be a writer of worth. Interested editors or agents are simply recognizing what’s already there—like a prospector uncovering a lump of turquoise or a judge discovering a brilliant performer. Okay, okay, you make a good point. Like the unearthed gemstones or a singer’s vocal range, your work (and gosh, yes, mine) could benefit from a good polishing to bring out its true luster and make it all it could be. But just because something can be improved doesn’t mean it was extraordinary to begin with.

Yes, I can hear the b-b-b-BUT coming. But I waaaaant an agent to love my work. I waaaant an editor to offer me a contract. I waaaaant readers to send me fan mail. Of course you do (and so do I). That kind of validation is wonderful, but remember–your work isn’t valued because it’s recognized. It’s recognized because it’s valuable–regardless. And first and foremost, you have to recognize that for yourself, my little lemon square.

After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world. ~ Philip Pullman

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12. time for a frog on a dime spring giveaway

Oh, that William Shakespeare. He sure knew how to sling a syllable, didn’t he . . .

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

This carol they began that hour,
   With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
How that a life was but a flower
   In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.


In that same silly spirit of spring-inspired giddiness, it’s time for a Frog on a Dime Spring Giveaway.

You can win a glorious froggy gift bucket filled with daily inspiration–Don’t Be Afraid to be Amazing by Andy Offutt Irwin, a packet of my favorite Uniball pens, a stuffy bookmark, treats, and of course, more treats.Frog Bucket

To enter to win this bucket o’ goodies galore, simply tell me the title of the next book you plan to read or offer a word of encouragement. Just plop your comment after this post. (Facebook comments are cool, but they doesn’t count for this contest. My giveaway. My rules. You dig?)

The deadline for entering is Friday, March 25 at Noon. I will draw a name from all of the entries and then whisk the fun-filled prize off to the winner! Easy kneesy, lemon squeezy, huh?

Enter to win!

Enter to win!

Okay, my little glitter jitter bugs, hop to it! Hey, and invite a friend to take a chance too. (Only one entry per, mm-kay?)

Wishing you a can’t-recall-a-lovelier-spring kind of spring!

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen


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13. Subject to Sorrows and Death

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin

For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is— limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself.

He has Himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.
— Dorothy Sayers

The post Subject to Sorrows and Death originally appeared on Caroline Starr Rose

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14. who’s the Frog on a Dime spring giveaway winner?

Finny picked our winner!

Finny picked our winner!


Congratulations to Rajani LaRocca–

Rajani is the winner!

Rajani is the winner!

winner of the Frog on a Dime Spring Giveaway!

Many thanks to everyone who entered.

You shared so many reading suggestions and

words of encouragement. You made me feel like the winner.

Wishing you all a beautiful spring, time to read and reflect–and hopefully some chocolate bunny ears to nibble tomorrow!

Rajani, please send me your address via the Contact Me page and I’ll whisk your froggy goodie bucket off to you this week. Congrats and thanks again for entering!

Come come! Come out!
From bogs old frogs command the dark
and look…the stars.  ~ Kikaku, Japanese haiku

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15. wisdom from whitney of reality TV

Photo and window box by Vicky Lorencen

Photo and window box by Vicky Lorencen

It’s okay. You can admit it. Reality TV is a guilty pleasure for a lot of people, and by people, I mean me, of course. But duh, it’s definitely not a go-to for deep insight. Well, not typically.

This week I caught “My Big Fat Fabulous Life.” Starring Whitney, a young, sassy, dance-loving woman, the show focuses on her challenges and triumphs while living with polycystic ovarian syndrome, which has caused Whitney to gain a dramatic amount of weight.

In this episode, after Whitney performed at the National Museum of Dance, she addressed the audience and said, Don’t wait until you have the confidence to do something that scares you. It’s doing the scary thing that gives you confidence. Maybe that seems simplistic or obvious to you, my Pumpkin Praline Muffin, but it’s borderline brilliant as far as I’m concerned. And sure, while Whitney applied her wisdom to dance, but it doesn’t take much of a leap (or grand jete’) to see how it could work for writers.

I’ve long ascribed to the adage “attitude follows action.” But I’m going to adopt a new one a la Whitney–“confidence follows action.”

And now, for the confession portion of this post –writing picture books scares me. They seem so simple. And maybe they are for you. But me? Hardly! So then, my muse (Edna) keeps dealing me these story ideas she knows I can’t resist. (That chick does not know the meaning of mercy.) Well, I’ve got news for Edna. I’m going to channel my inner Whitney and write my way to confidence. So there!

Ready to make a deposit in your confidence bank? Take action this week. G’head and do what makes your right eye twitch and your palms go clammy. You’re going to be amazing, my Butter Pat! I’m confident of it.

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it. ~ J.M. Barrie


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16. The Adversity of Creation


Rejection educates. Failure teaches. Both hurt. Only distraction comforts. And of these, only distraction can lead to destruction. Rejection and failure can nourish us, but wasted time is a tiny death. What determines whether we will succeed as creators is not how intelligent we are, how talented we are, or how hard we work, but how we respond to the adversity of creation.

How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery

The post The Adversity of Creation appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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17. tips for giving a stellar interview

Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

Because I enjoy eating and living indoors, I have a day job.

I’m in the marketing and communications departments of a regional health system. Part of my job involves media relations. Most weeks, that means interacting with reporters from local television, radio and print media. Recently, we had calls from reporters Cosmo and the Huffington Post, but that was a weird week!

What does all this have to do with you, my little parfait? Well, because I arrange interviews, I also help to prepare the interviewees, many of whom are new to the experience and naturally nervous. Since there may be interviews in your future, I thought why not share these tips with you?

TV interview

  • Practice with a friend. Video your interview. Look for what you’re doing
    Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

    Doodle by Vicky Lorencen

    well and do more of that!

  • Look at the interviewer, not the camera.
  • Bring a copy of your book with you. Don’t assume the interviewer will have one.
  • Don’t wear checks or stripes.
  • See tips for radio interviews.

Radio interview

  • Smile as you speak.
  • Be sure you know how long the interview will be, so you can pace yourself.
  • Ask if you can send questions ahead of time. The interviewer may really appreciate it, and you’ll know what to anticipate and how to prepare.
  • If you can’t send questions ahead, it’s absolutely okay to ask the interviewer the direction of the interview (is it more about your book, about you, about your writing journey, about advice, about your favorite panini–you just never know).
  • Prepare yourself a cheat sheet with answers to anticipated questions, but DO NOT write out every word. Make it more a “grocery list” of prompts. If you create a word for word script, you’ll be too tempted to just read it and you’ll come off sounding stiff even when we all know you are super cool.
  • Have a cup of water handy. (A bottle takes too much time to open.)
  • Thank the interviewer.

Phone interview

  • Use a landline, if available, so you don’t have to worry about your call being dropped mid conversation.
  • Try to be relaxed and conversational. Listeners will respond to your personality, not your perfect diction.
  • See tips for a radio interview.

For any type of interview

It’s easy to get flustered. Make yourself a cheat sheet with basic information so if your mind goes blank, all you have to do is read–

  • The title(s) of your book(s)
  • Web site name and address
  • How readers can can contact you
  • Where your books are available
  • Details about the event or signing you’re promoting (date, time, place, etc.)

And finally . . . 

It’s not uncommon for an interviewer to wrap up an interview with a question like, “Is there anything else you’d like to say?”

Think about using this as an opportunity to promote someone else’s book. David Sedaris does this every time he goes on tour for his own newest book. Isn’t that a beautiful, generous gesture? It’s a delightful chance to pay it forward for an author or illustrator who has been especially supportive of you.

Now, if you have an agent, publicist or your publisher’s marketing team advising you, please listen to them and learn. Use my suggestions when/if they seem useful to you. Most of all, no matter how an interview turns out, remember you, my little blueberry scone, are still one of the coolest, most talented people on ten toes.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

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18. Writing Smart and Not Scared: More Words from Isabel Allende


After I heard Isabel Allende talk at the KiMo Theater, Valerie Geary emailed me her favorite Allende quote about the writing life: “Fear is inevitable, I have to accept that, but I cannot allow it to paralyze me.”

I find it interesting that Allende has only recently learned to “go easily with confidence” when it comes to her writing. “If I sit long enough, it will happen,” she says. She’s twenty-one novels in, but only recently has she realized she has a skill. Now she knows “If given enough time, I can write almost anything.”


Knowing even Isabel Allende lives with the discomfort of creativity gives me courage to keep pressing forward with my own work. Fear can come along for the ride, but must stay in the back seat.

It can’t drive. It’s not allowed to paralyze.

The post Writing Smart and Not Scared: More Words from Isabel Allende appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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19. a may wish in december


Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Before we flop face first into holiday festivities, I want to share a wee present with you, my little wassail bowls. It’s a simple gift of words, wishes really, of all I hope for you this season and the new year through.

A May Wish in December

May your inner child remain your cherished friend.

May you pounce on opportunities before analysis paralyzes you.

May you run out of excuses by January 2.

May your friends’ success refine you into a world class cheerleader.

May you believe praise as easily as you do criticism.

May be you be dauntless, deliberate–and delightful.

May your  eyes rest on your own paper, rather than peeking at others.

May you be unapologetic in your nonsense, whimsy and quirkitude.

May you be deaf to your inner critic, but alert to wise counsel.

May grace be your brand.

May fear be an energizer, not an extinguisher.

May you crave authenticity more than notoriety.

May you knock your own sweet socks off.

If you are a dreamer come in
If you are a dreamer a wisher a liar
A hoper, a pray-er, a magic-bean-buyer
If you’re a pretender com sit by my fire
For we have some flax golden tales to spin
Come in!
Come in! ~ Shel Silverstein

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20. To Beginners and Ever-New Beginnings


There is something beautiful and clarifying and terrifying all at once in being at the beginning… To be a beginner is to be full of hope-filled humility, to be overflowing with eager expectation that is simultaneously held in check by the obvious gap between your aspirations and current abilities. To be a beginner is to be pregnant with dreams but nascent with skill, and then to set about the work of cultivating the life of both.
— Michael Yankoski, The Sacred Year

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21. A Knot in Time: When Life Isn't Going the Way You Expected

by Sally Matheny

When Life Isn't Going the Way You Expected
Are you discouraged because you thought things would be different by now? While many people reflect on their accomplishments of the past year, we also may focus on our unmet goals. How do we avoid disheartenment when life events didn’t go the way we expected?

Perhaps we thought we’d be farther along in our work. Or we wonder why we can’t go back to the way things used to be. We expected barriers in relationships lowered, and our incomes increased. Our physical health, emotional condition, or social status are not anywhere near the levels of what we had hoped. Like the 1970’s singers in the cornfield on The Hee Haw Show we sing, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me…oh!”

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22. #IWSG - Wow it's the January 2016 installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group

Kicking off and getting back into the groove of blogging is the monthly post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group - #IWSG.

A great big round of applause for our co-hosts....

L.G. Keltner
Denise Covey
Sheri Larsen
J.Q. Rose
Chemist Ken
Michelle Wallace

and don't forget to visit the #IWSG participants through their links at....

and be sure to check out the announcement of the anthology winners!

What better way to celebrate #IWSG then with a word of encouragement...

A simple act of giving a few words of encouragement go a long way. When you share your positive words of someone's accomplishments or struggles, watch them stand a wee bit taller when you offer your encouragement. 

Something as simple as saying...

"good job" 

"I'm here for you" 

"I like how you are developing this scene, may I offer a suggestion" 

will often change a person's self-doubt to a positive. Try it, today and everyday and brighten someone's day!

Thanks for visiting and commenting. You have certainly brightened my day! 


Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!

Connect with

Dee and Deb Off They Go Kindergarten First Day Jitters ~ December 2015 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Historical Fiction 1st Place, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Award Honorable Mention Picture Books 6+, New England Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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23. Links to Help You Write Smart and Not Scared


Here are a few posts that tie in perfectly with the writing theme I adopted last year. Let’s keep approaching our work in an intentional, life-giving way — even if it feels counter-productive.

To this my doctor responded, “So basically you use sugar and caffeine to whip yourself into a manic frenzy in order to write a book?” After I nodded grimly at her assessment, she went on, “Well, we either need to figure out how to completely overhaul your writing process or you need to find a new career, because being an author is literally killing you.”

My doctor’s pronouncement was both devastating and a big “duh” moment for me. Rather than give up the career I love, I decided to dedicate myself to creating healthier (and happier) writing habits.
— Beating Deadlines with Healthy Writing Habits by Bree Despain :: Publishing Crawl

If you’re a somewhat neurotic and anxiety prone writer like myself, you probably have a voice inside your head that likes to tell you that you’re not good enough, or your writing isn’t good enough, or that everything you put on a page is crap and you’re never going make your deadline on time (or finish this book, or sell this book, etc.). For me, this voice goes into hyperdrive when I’m on deadline. I start questioning all of my plot choices and second-guessing every word I type. It can be crippling if I don’t either turn it off or change the words that it’s telling me.
Beating Deadlines with Healthy Writing Habits Part 2: Write Happy by Bree Despain :: Fiction University

I now approach writing focused on what could be instead of what I think it should be. Instead of expecting results NOW, I accept that writing is a long journey, where going slow is the norm.
Author Overwhelm: Five Ways You Can Stay Away from Despair :: Children’s Writer’s Guild

But I am learning more and more, especially over the past year, that being nonproductive is actually essential to mindful, intentional living. In fact, being nonproductive is one of the most productive things we can ever do—even if the behavior wars against every inclination in our body.
— The Productivity of Being Non-Productive :: Becoming Minimalist


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24. On Writing in the New Year

one way

This quote isn’t necessarily about the writing life, but it certainly could be. One of the biggest writing lessons I learned last year had to do with mistakes — not avoiding them but working through them. My experience echoes Neil Gaiman’s advice:

I hope that in this year to come you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

Here’s similar advice from Seth Godin.

Don’t be afraid of mistakes. They lead you one step closer to finding the best way.

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25. it’s about to get real real

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

Photo by Vicky Lorencen

My little lemon-scented moist towelettes, you know how I like to keep Frog on a Dime upbeat and encouraging.

Well, this post is intended to be encouraging, but y’all best buckle up because it’s about to get real real. We’re going to talk about depression and suicide.

Yes, seriously.

Hey, hey, hey now. Come back.


This isn’t fun for me either, but it matters because you matter.

(Full transparency: I wrestled with this blog topic for weeks and the more I resisted, the more it insisted.)

So, here we go.

Creative folks in general are known for being angsty. And if we’re pursuing publication, we also ride that Acceptance/Rejection Emo-coaster. But that doesn’t mean all writers or artists are truly depressed. Feeling sad or discouraged periodically only means you’re human. It’s not fun for sure, but it’s not a clinical condition. All the same, many even high functioning, creative people struggle with depression.

True things:

  • Depression is a thief and a liar.
  • Depression thwarts your creativity, pollutes your work and evaporates your energy. It’s not an asset. It’s not your muse.
  • Depression is treatable.
    • If the first treatment you try doesn’t help, seek other options. I mean, if your first “romantic” experience wasn’t mind-blowing or your first taste of Chicago style pizza didn’t blow your socks off,  would you swear off sex or deep dish for the rest of your life? Well, okay then.
    • Depression will limit your ability to recognize choices. You always have choices for making things better–with one exception. (Please see the next bullet point.)
    • Suicide is NEVER an option. Just take it off the table. Do not devote a second to deliberating the topic. There are many choices open to you–some better than others–but you must consider suicide as permanently an out of stock item. Period.
  • You are not your depression. Let me explain it this way: a friend of mine who wore glasses all of her life finally switched to contacts. But then, she felt self-conscious about it. She’d worn glasses for so long, she’d come to think of her glasses as a part of her anatomy, and to have those “removed,” meant she was being fake. What? Uh. Think hard now. Have you ever seen a just-born baby wearing spectacles? That’s silly, you say. Of course not. So, my friend’s glassesless face wasn’t fake–it was her real face. AND you without the weight of depression is the real you. Getting help isn’t cheating, it’s simply a way to get real.

Help is all around you. For starters, consider talking to your primary doctor. She already knows you and could refer you to a counselor in your area. Or talk to a close friend or family member. Open up to your spiritual leader. If this sounds too difficult right now, check out these resources:

If you’ve read this far (and thank you for that) and you’re thinking, I understand this is an important topic, but I’m not dealing with depression: first, be grateful, and two, be aware, you may have depressed people in your life and not recognize it, especially if their symptoms are well-managed and they are high functioning. So, it’s important for all of us to be sensitive about the comments we make. It’s easy to unwittingly harm someone who’s already hurting. We can, instead, be an advocate, a shoulder and a safe place.

Phew. We did it–we had “The Talk.” Thank you for letting me share this with you. I think we deserve a cookie. (And next time, let’s talk about how to incorporate more rainbows and kittens into next novel, okay?)

I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and don’t want anyone else to feel like that. ~ Robin Williams

it’s about to get real real

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