Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Writer's Block Fix!

Sometimes writing feels like careening blindly down the road to hell. 

And it's not like it's a quick trip, nor is it always obvious you are on the Highway to Hell

Nope, you may actually believe you are on the Candy Land Freeway, but then something happens and suddenly those bright jewel-tone jujube hedges that whip by as you zip along, don't look so tasty. In fact they seem to have melted into black pools of gummy goo, sort of like your thought process. You plod along for a while, stall out a few times as your words become more elusive and harder to pin down. Finally you come to a dead stop when your red licorice expressway decays into a fiery stretch of hot lava.

Your imagination is tapped. The writing has ceased. 
As the Soup Nazi would say - No Words for You! 

This process is repetitive, which is hellish in its own way and makes you wonder about the sanity of writers. Why bother to continue? Simple answer; we'd feel crazier if we stopped.

Sometimes I return after a brief lull in creative creation, with heady anticipation. My characters eager for further adventures, my plot bubbling, as excitement drips from my fingers onto my key board. Ew. That sounds sort of gross and my drippy fingers may be more the result of a broken air conditioner and wackadoo hormones, but I digress. What I was trying to say is my typing skills are maxed to keep pace with the seemingly endless perfect words that explode from my imagination. Trust me. This happens and it is sublime. (Love that word. It is so sublimely sublime.)

Other times, like right this very instant, my words hide from me, just out of reach. I've been nearly wordless for the entire summer, peeps. Writer's Block to the extreme. But I have a plan. This weekend I am off with my writing group, The Anitas, on our annual retreat to Grindstone Provincial Park at Christina Janz' cottage. It has been the solution to my past writing woes, so I am certain  hoping it will be the fix to my current predicament.

How can I be so sure?

There will be zero distractions; no kids, Internet, phone, laundry, wall scrubbing or window washing for me. Stop laughing. There was this one time I washed some windows.  My point is I will be hyper-focused, obsessed even, with stalking those verbs, nouns, prepositions, and conjunctions from their cozy hidey-hole in the back corner of my brain. (I can sense they are chilling out right behind the grey matter that controls my constant cravings for chocolate.)

Crap. Now all I can think about is brownies. And Hershey Kisses. Wait, what if there was a Hershey Kiss brownie? Must Google...

Sweet Mama! There is an entire Hershey Kisses site!

Hershey Kisses Recipes
What was I blogging about? Right. Writing distractions. 
I do believe I have made my point.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Mom's Choice Matters

Mom's Choice Matters!

As many of you are aware, I have been guest posting about Autism Spectrum Disorder on the Mom's Choice Matters Blog for a few months now.

It has been a privilege and honour to work with Terry Doherty the Director of Social Media for the Mom's Choice Awards. She is a true professional and a strong supporter of children facing all sorts of challenges. In addition to her work with Mom's Choice, she is also the Executive Director of The Reading Tub, an online book review site that is a must view for parents looking for great books for their children.

Terry Doherty

Sadly, I have now written my last guest post for Terry as my work with Rebelight Publishing and my upcoming book release of Forever Julia has erased all free time. However, great plans are in the works to continue the "All About Aspergers Syndrome Series" with a new contributor who will make you laugh, cry, and grab a pen and paper to take notes.

Once the official announcement has been made, I will write a quick post to introduce this most marvellous writer.
I know you will enjoy her writing as much as I do!

You can check out Mom's Choice Matters here!

And The Reading Tub here!

These are the links to my "All About Aspergers Syndrome Series":

Aspergers Syndrome and ADHD - Understanding the Difference

Helping Kids with Aspergers Syndrome in the Classroom

Making Friends 101 - Everyone Needs a Friend

Autism and Play Dates - Visiting a Friend's House 

Quote to remember:

"Autism is not a disease. I think of Autism as a different kind of operating system."

– Audrey Lintner, Special Projects Coordinator, Little Pickle Press

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Kill Your Darlings. Check.

And kill my darling Tyler I did. 

In my first crack at edits for Great Plains, I merged two beloved characters into one to tighten the protagonist's character arc and strengthen plot lines.


Although difficult to bid adieu, it was the right step to take.

Next up for review; Forever Julia's time line.
Peace of cake, right?

Thursday, 12 June 2014

It's a New Day, Peeps

Been thinking about some pals who are going through some tough times. 
When overwhelmed, I find centering yourself by focusing on what really matters can help you gain control of your thoughts, feelings, and racing emotions.

It's a new day, peeps. Be good to yourself. And each other.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Manitoba Writers' Guild, Rocks!

Sheldon Oberman
The Manitoba Writers' Guild offers many workshops, masterclasses, and information sessions on writing and the publishing industry.

They also offer the highly regarded Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program. Through a submission process the selection committee pairs mentors with apprentices and I was honoured to be selected as an apprentice in 2013.

The experience changed by writing life.

And as if being accepted wasn't enough of a thrill, I was paired with Carolyn Gray, now Executive Director of The Guild. Under Carolyn's gentle guidance, I ditched 14 of my darling chapters, replacing them with better written, faster paced scenes that actually contained plot!

Yes, plot peeps. Every story needs one.

My goal, which I stated with firm conviction and a wavering voice at the "meet and great", was to come out of the program with a submission-ready, young adult manuscript. Carolyn worked tirelessly, always questioning, but never fixing my writing. One word scrawled along the margin was all I needed to reexamine the text;

Motivation? POV? 
or my favourite...

And then came the dreaded, square brackets.

If I found [around any text] it was a recommendation to delete that sentence, phrase, or paragraph. We'd discuss the passage and explore it's importance and 99% of the time, out that bit would come. Carolyn taught me to recognize my bad writing habits and how to write cleaner and tighter, without losing voice. I will always cherish the hours we spent editing and laughing at McNally's Prairie Fire Restaurant as we scoured every word I'd written.

Now, I am proud to say, "our" work has been picked up by
Great Plains Publications

Forever Julia is to launch in spring 2015, all thanks to The Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program and my mentor and dear friend, 
Carolyn Gray.

"Lady Gray"

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Shout out to Chapters St. Vital!

Another successful book signing at Chapters St. Vital, done and complete!

I met all sorts of folks. Avid readers, burgeoning writers from ages 9 to 29, parents looking for books for reluctant readers, and of course grandparents. Again, I was astounded by the numbers of grandparents buying books for their grandchildren.

Most awesome.

Pat, me (chinless), & Christina - "An Anitas Writing Group Selfie"
Throughout the afternoon I was joined by my writing friends, my
parents, and my daughters who came and went, keeping me company and enticing shoppers to buy Spaghetti! My dad in particular had a delightful time speaking to customers and to Joseph, who looked after us throughout the book signing, making us feel like part of the Chapters team.

They say employees are a reflection of the general health and attitude of a business, and if that is so, Chapters must be doing everything right. Every staff member I've dealt with has been enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and a joy to work with.

Three Cheers for Chapters!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Spotlight on Autism Spectrum Disorder

Chapters St. Vital, Winnipeg

This Saturday, April 5th, Chapters St. Vital is hosting a book signing of Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food and Other Life Lessons to help shine a light on Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Come join me from 12:30 – 4:30 as I sign books, chat about ASD, and the need for acceptance for all, regardless of our differences.

I''ll look a lot like this! 

I’ll be set up at the entrance to the mall. 
You won’t be able to miss me. 
(Just look for the blue & green helium balloons.)

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Al Simmons Touched my Book!

"Don't make me sing along...altogether now!"
In the world of children's entertainers, there are few that come close to the comedic antics of Winnipeg's own, Al Simmons.

There's Rafi, Fred Penner, and Jake Chenier, to name a few.
Em with Al Simmons
They are all stupendous and kids go crazy for their shows.

For our family, Al Simmons holds a special place in our hearts. We've taken the girls to his shows at The Children's Festival at the Forks, an icy performance at Festival Du Voyageur, and a mega show at the Centennial Concert Hall where he played with The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

But most recently, our most favourite Al Simmons show occurred right in our own back yard. 

Well, almost.

Reading in Al's presence!

Through the organizing and marketing talents of a great Wildwood Park neighbour Estee Taylor, (who is an amazing puppeteer, artist, and children's entertainer herself), we featured the wild shenanigans of Mr. Simmons just a few weeks ago at our Winter Carnival.

Both kids and adults sang with Al about hats, fishies, and his rock collection. I joined in, my monotone drowned by Al's rich baritone.

Hmm, I'm not sure if he is a baritone, tenor, or base. For sure he's not a soprano. I actually have no clue what I'm talking about.

As a singer, I make a good writer. 

For me, the biggest thrill occurred  when he held my book high above his head and encouraged the audience, filled with my friends and neighbours; my community, to go out and buy Spaghetti!

He said it was a wonderful book! 
His words gave me goosebumps, peeps.

(This copy shall never be sold.)

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Wanna' be a Working Writer?

J.K. Rowlings' Loose Change
I suppose my Artistic Statement can’t simply be:

I want to make bags of cash writing novels, so I can stop working two jobs to pay for food, water, and soccer shoes for my kids. 
I want to be that elusive beast; 
The Working Writer.

After mind bending hours of revision, I believe I have written my Artistic Statement. I also believe it may be too salesy and not enough artsy. And it is not long. In fact, I would deem it short.

I believe this may be a problem.

I am in the midst of drafting my very first literary grant application. It took me less than 3.5 minutes to learn that each granting agency, much like every publisher, requires something a wee bit different. The first needs a 500 word essay. The next, a 252 word Artistic Statement. But most want a Project Proposal. Which makes sense. 

Those holding the money bags need to know why you can't write your book without their moolah. 

For example; if you are planning a research trip to Bali in typhoon season, they need to know the reasons behind your  insanity best laid plans. Like a bookie at the Assiniboia Downs Racetrack, they're hedging their bets that you'll be the next Governor General recipient. (Or at least sell through your first 5,000 book print run.)

...and then off to Bali. Note to self; pack an umbrella.

The Manitoba Arts Council allows for two pages to complete their Project Proposal. Two pages. That seems far too generous. I believe I will need two, possibly three lines. Four lines max, if I use Jokerman 16 point font. (I believe Times New Roman is overrated.)

Gack. I mean, Gack.
Thankfully, I am well prepared for this Grant App Challenge. 
Edie Brickell's jazzy tunes waft through the house, a heaping bowl of peanut M&M's keeps me energized and awake, and my daughters have gone to bed without complaint. 

And yes, I realize that writing this blog post is not helping to complete the actual grant application that I am blogging about. I may need help. And good Karma. And luck. Yes. Wish me luck.

P.S. I have no clue who or what this dude is. I typed in luck and clip art presented me with him. Or her. Whatevs. All I know is, if he's lucky then pass me a toga, a recorder, and large vat of dippy-do hair gel. I'm getting my luck on.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Spaghetti is SUPERB! Book Review by The Reading Tub

Reading Tub Homepage

As an author, you hope your book reaches a wide audience, appealing to a diverse group of readers who like your book enough to recommend it to friends. Word of mouth advertising is the most cost effective and successful marketing tool we have.

When a reader is so moved by your novel (either they loved it or despised it), they often post a book review. This can be a joyous moment for a writer, or one that results in head-to-toe chills.

Recently, I received a totally unexpected and thoroughly delightful review from Terry Doherty, of The Reading Tub. 

Order Spaghetti from Amazon Canada!
Doherty picked up, Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food, at Book Expo America and this is a snippet of what she had to say:

"In a word: superb! By letting Connor tell the story, readers can walk in his shoes and see the world as he does. The author captures a young boy's voice perfectly. Every child knows what interrupting is - and how hard it is to be patient. All of us know what its like to want something NOW and then just grab for it. The story has a happy ending, as it should."

Of course I Happy Danced around the house after reading this 
to the tune of Katy Perry's, ROAR
(It seemed fitting.)

Please follow this link to read her complete review, and to find other books The Reading Tub has reviewed: The Reading Tub Review of Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food.

And if you have yet to check out the FREE Lesson Plans, those can be found here:

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Character Motivation - Young Author's Club

Motivation is key to believable characters.

Why does anyone do what they do? Why do people say what they say or respond the way they respond? 

Why? Why? Why?

The curious mind of a writer spends a lot of time contemplating what is going on in the minds of everyone around them, deeply engrossed in examining human behaviour.

In order to encourage my Young Authors to "think like a writer" I asked these pointed questions this week: 

What MOTIVATES your character? 

What drives your protagonist to keep going when everything is working against them? What is it about them specifically that makes them respond differently than everyone else?
Great plots still need captivating characters.

There were many great responses, many baffled faces, and an agreement that more character sketch work is needed.

I handed out a character sketch someone had completed about their own grandfather and gave them these instructions:

  • Your goal is to make your fictitious character come to life. The reader wants to feel that your protagonist is a real live person, that the characters you've created could be someone they know - a friend, a sibling, even the reader themselves.
  •  Your job is to know your characters - all your characters - as well as this person knows their grandpa, or as well as you know members of your family.

The YA's were ready to get started and left our session with new binders, donated from the school, and two assignments:

  • By next week's meeting a completed characters sketch for their protagonist. It this was done, then one for their antagonist, and if that was completed, then sketches for minor characters.
  • A fully fleshed out plot outline. If that was done, the start of their first chapter. Some of the YAs are already writing the second or third chapters of their novels. 
I did mention they were uber keen, didn't I?

This, peeps, was a good first lesson in writing to a deadline. 

It also showed them the only one who can write their book is themselves. I can only provide resources and encouragement. 
(And candy, because who doesn't like candy?)

Next week I'm sharing tips gleaned from my newest writing resource books:

Itching to read all three. At once.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Author's Club - Rocks!

Most Important Rule - No Laughing at Fellow Authors
Oakenwald School's Author Club is off and those young authors are writing up a storm of zombies, magical worlds, wilderness adventures, and mysterious disappearances.

Yesterday was our second meeting and we gained another writer bringing us to 15 eager young minds.

I told them I named them Writers-in-Training, WITs for short, and they looked less than thrilled by my enthusiastic announcement.

When I slipped and called them authors, many of them responded with surprise and excitement.

"We're authors!" rippled around the library.

They sounded like I gave them the best Christmas present. You know the one; the one you were hoping to get, but didn't dare ask for, because it was a long shot. It was too expensive or too hard to find, or didn't actually exist. I remember asking for a magic book that would let me travel to other worlds when I was about 8 or 9. Apparently Santa was all out that Christmas.

And once you give that perfect gift, you can hardly take it back. Unless you are a Grinch. (Which would suck, with that minuscule heart and all.) But I digress.

I, not a Grinch, quickly trashed my grand plan of a cute acronym because they were right. They know who they are better than I.

They ARE authors.

And they impressed me. Already, without prompting, most came to me with story ideas in hand. Many had begun to write and were through their first chapter.

Together we explored the school and became sensory detectives. What did we see, hear, smell, touch and even taste as we prowled the building?

Nigel Watts' 8 Point Story Arc - Next Week's Lesson
(I provided Smarties for the taste challenge. Who wants middle schoolers licking the hall walls in an attempt to hone their writing craft? Not I. Plus, I'd like to return next week.)

We assembled back in the library and shared our observations, highlighting what I like to call 2nd Level Observations.

What is a 2nd Level Observation? 

It is when a writer goes beyond the obvious of what they see, hear, taste, touch or smell and hooks it to another thought, feeling, or memory.

For instance, one young author said when she saw the previous years' class photos hanging in the hall, memories came to her. Memories of teachers and friends, and days gone by. This is 2nd Level Observation and I was thoroughly impressed. Did I mention she is 10 years old. 10, peeps. This is what an author in the making looks like.

I can hardly wait for next week. Already I see we have different skill levels, different story interests, and as important; different levels of writer-self-confidence a.k.a - WSF. (Yes, I made that up. I do love a tidy acronym.)

That is where I am going to pay particular attention, for beyond the writing skill set, successful authors need to "know" they can write. 
That can be a hurdle, which we will overcome together.

Great Resource for Young Authors
(And their instructors.)

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Spies, Secrets, and the SOE: Oh My!

It's been nearly two months since I last blogged. Between Christmas, working three jobs, and my newest middle grade work in progress, I've been all consumed.

But, peeps, I am so excited about my latest novel that I must share some deets with you! Thanks to a fellow "Anita" - Christina Janz (check out her most awesome blog, Dragonfly Dithers) who gave us a quick tutorial on Microsoft Onenote, I can now share some of my character sketches, plot development, and research that is going into my latest book.

Ford and Ellie's Mostly Solved Mysteries: Family of Spies, is loosely based on the mystery of my Grandfather's still sealed World War II records. Few facts are known about his RCAF years. but family legends of spying with William Stephenson, covert flight plans, and code breaking abound. Ford and Ellie, two 12-year-old cousins solve the mystery while retracing their Great-Grandfather's SOE footsteps. It is a current day James Bond meets Spy Kids.

I'd like to introduce to you, the main character, Ford and his cousin Ellie:

These are the kids that have my mind a'whirling, their individual voices clear in my head. 

Now, if only I could get to France for some on the cobblestone ground research...

Friday, 22 November 2013

Spaghetti Goes Global!

Hi there South Korea! 

Stoked that my publisher has sold the foreign rights to a publisher in Korea. Curious to hear what South Korean kids think of Connor and his adventures.

The most coincidental aspect of this deal, is that Winnipeg has a fast growing Korean population. In fact at Linden Meadows School, where I have one of the best jobs in the entire universe, Korean kids make up a large part of our ESL program.

How cool will it be to have one of our students read Connor, in Korean, to me?

Let me tell you, it will be exceedingly cool. 
So cool I may have my first ever public Happy Dance.

(Just don't expect to see it on Youtube.)

Saturday, 2 November 2013

First Chapters' Book Signing a Success!

All set up and ready to sign!
My first Chapters' book signing went off without a hitch!

A huge thank you to Trevor Rushak and Camilla Mozdzen of the St. Vital Centre Chapters store for inviting me and making me feel so very welcome.

I met some incredible people; some who knew all about Aspergers, some with brand new diagnoses in their families, but mostly children or their parents who were chiefly looking for a good book.

My two most favourite moments:

Early in the afternoon a young girl named Riley bought Spaghetti and returned a half hour later to thank me again and give me a hug.

Later parents of a newly diagnosed 19 year old came to my table with a stack of books asking, "Where to begin? How do we help ourselves understand our son and give him the support he needs?"

I directed them to Asperger Manitoba and wrote down the names of my favourite Autism Spectrum Disorder authors: Dr. Tony Attwood, Temple Grandin and Michael John Carley. If you're looking for information, just click on their names and visit their website or Amazon page.

Oh! And I also met some incredible classroom and resource teachers. And so very many stellar grandparents involved in their grandkids' lives. And...the list goes on.

Winnipeg is full of readers, and it was a huge pleasure meeting so many of them last weekend.

The best news of the day though, was being asked to return for Autism Awareness Month!

Looking to purchase a copy of Spaghetti?

Click here: