Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year's

I wish each of you a safe and happy New Year's and hope that 2010 is everything you want it to be. I'd love to hear about your writing goals for the coming year. Please share in comments.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Quote of the day

"Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer." 
-- Barbara Kingsolver

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Quote of the day

"There's one thing your writing must have to be any good at all. It must have you. Your soul, your self, your heart, your guts, your voice -- you must be on that page. In the end, you can't make the magic happen for your reader. You can only allow the miracle of 'being one with' to take place. So dare to be yourself. Dare to reveal yourself. Be honest, be open, be true...If you are, everything else will fall into place."
-- Elizabeth Ayres

Monday, December 28, 2009

Quote of the day

"Writing from the heart requires vision, and vision is beyond skill. Vision writers write what they want to write. This means they write about things that have moved them deeply. Such writing is not something that you can learn. For vision is a gift. But if you open your heart wide, the gift will be great."
--Cyn-Young Ahn

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Have a blessed Christmas

I saw this video and just had to share it with my blog readers. I wish each of you a blessed Christmas filled with all the magic you deserve. Peace and love, Buffy 

Quote of the day

"In the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away."
- shing xiong

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Quote of the day

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me."
--Erma Bombeck

Monday, December 21, 2009

Good old Hemingway

"The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof shit detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it."
--Ernest Hemingway, interview in Paris Review, Spring 1958

Do you have a favorite Hemingway book? If so, share in comments and tell us why it is your fav.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

For my friend, Joe Fitzgerald

I said goodbye to one of the most awesome people in my life yesterday – my friend Joe Fitzgerald. There was no way I was going to let a snowstorm keep me from his funeral service. And so my husband, two sons and I made it to the church along with a handful of other people, mostly family. There might have been 20 of us total.

It was an awesome service. Tears trickled down my cheeks when we started to sing Here I Am, Lord. I absolutely adore this song, and my husband knows that when I die I want this hymn to be sung at the service. We also sang Let There Be Peace on Earth, which is totally a Joe song. He always signed his letters and cards: Peace and love, Joe.

After the service, we went to a buffet luncheon that his niece had arranged at a nearby hotel. It turned out that only nine of us could make it to the luncheon and there was enough food to feed 900. So I totally loved what Joe’s niece, Barb, did. She invited a group of contractors who were stranded and hungry to join us. She also invited the waitress’ family, who were waiting outside in the cold for her to get off work, to join us. So it turned out that we shared this delicious luncheon with a bunch of people we didn’t know. And I kept thinking how crazy it was and how good it was and how happy it made me to know that it was what Joe would have done. He was the most generous person I have ever known.

And so, in honor of Joe’s life, I share this hymn with you. Peace and love, Buffy

Quote of the day

"I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all."

--Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977

Friday, December 18, 2009

Still time to enter YA contest

There's still time to enter Delacorte Press Contest for a First Young Adult Novel. Deadline is Dec. 31. Go here for details:

There was no winner this year in the Delacorte Yearling Contest for a First Middle-Grade Novel. According to this post they have decided to discontinue this contest. Bah-humbug!
Good luck to everyone who enters the YA contest. I hope that 2010 is a great year for everyone. If you know of a contest, please let others know by using the comments function. Happy Friday and I hope your weekend is filled with fun.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Best children's books of 2009

Here is the list from Publishers Weekly.
How does PW's list jive with yours?

I wonder...

Virginia Woolf said: As for my next book, I am going to hold myself from writing it till I have it impending in me: grown heavy in my mind like a ripe pear; pendant, gravid, asking to be cut or it will fall.

I wonder...Are you like Virginia? Do you let your stories simmer in your mind or do you start writing and figure it out along the way? Perhaps you do both depending on the story. I'd be interested to know what works for you and why. Please share.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Beginnings and endings

I love beginnings and endings, especially when it comes to food. I could live on appetizers and desserts. So I’m planning a dinner party and I totally knew what the appetizers and desserts would be. But I was stumped on the middle. I ended up taking the easy way out and ordering party trays from Olive Garden (Chicken Marsala and Chicken Parmesan). But this got me thinking about writing. How for me the beginnings are easy and the endings are easy but the middles can be difficult. The ability to keep the middle moving via plot points etc. without allowing it to get weighed down is a challenge.
How about sharing a beginning and an ending of one of your stories? If you don’t have an ending yet, share the beginning. Let’s limit it to NO MORE than 100 words. Together, we can provide a feast of beginnings and endings for all to enjoy. Ask yourself if the beginning and ending make you want to read more. I’ll start.

From the Brain Invaders
The man shook violently. His eyes rolled in their sockets and his body went limp and thudded to the floor. His tongue hung out of his mouth. It looked like it was growing.
I rubbed my eyes. His tongue was growing. It was getting longer and longer. No; not his tongue. It was something else. Some kind of creature. Oh gross! It slithered out of his mouth. It looked like a snake, but different. Maybe an eel.

I was the last one out the door. Before I turned off the lights and closed the door, I glanced back over the room one last time. I can’t be sure, it may have been just a shadow, but I could have sworn I saw something black slither across the floor and into a vent.
Just as I turned around to face the others we heard a motorcycle revving loudly in the distance. And then it was gone.

Now your turn. Can't wait to read all of your beginnings and endings.

Some good writing advice

"When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don't state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things,
With a sort of mental squint."
--Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quote of the day

"Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity."
Christopher Morley (1890 - 1957)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Goodbye Joe Fitzgerald

My heart aches tonight. A dear friend died this afternoon. I rushed to the hospital to say my last good-bye, but I was too late. I missed his last breath by minutes.
Joe Fitzgerald is gone.
And yet he’s not. He lives on in our hearts and minds, and the memories we have soothe our souls.
When I came home from the hospital and told my sons, 20 and 16, about Joe, we all shared Joe stories. Zach and Micah recalled him showing up one Halloween with treats in hand wearing a scary mask. The boys, little at the time, ran to me screaming. Joe had terrified them but made it all better with plastic pumpkins full of sweet treats.
I remember arriving at the funeral home to plan my brother-in-law’s funeral (his wife, my sister, died less than two months later) and being told that an anonymous person had paid the entire bill. It took all but a second to know it was Joe.
This is a man who went to my son’s preschool programs because unlike all of the other kids who had grandparents who could attend, mine had none. So Joe gladly became the grandparent they didn’t have.
Joe was never married, didn’t have any children and yet he had a family bigger than most.
I could go on and on about Joe, but mostly I want to say how blessed I am that he was a part of my family’s life. Pushing 80, he was ready even if the rest of us weren’t. It’s never easy saying goodbye to someone you love. But I’m trying.
And to sign this as Joe always signed everything: Peace and love

A post about Joe:
A post that will soothe your soul:

Quote of the day

"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."
--Toni Morrison

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Quotes from Napoleon Hill

"What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve."

"Before success comes in any man's life he is sure to meet with much temporary defeat and, perhaps, some failures. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and most logical thing to do is to quit. That is exactly what the majority of men do."

"No man is ever whipped, until he quits -- in his own mind."

"Persistence is to the character of man as carbon is to steel."

"The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail."

"Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting."

"What we do not see, what most of us never suspect of existing, is the silent but irresistible power which comes to the rescue of those who fight on in the face of discouragement."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Share your favorite holiday movie

Here's mine:

It’s a Wonderful Life”

Director: Frank Capra
Released: 1946
Length: 130 minutes
Cast: James Stewart (George Bailey), Donna Reed (Mary Hatch Bailey), Lionel Barrymore (Mr. Potter), Thomas Mitchell (Uncle William “Billy” Bailey), Henry Travers (Clarence Oddbody), Beulah Bondi (Ma Bailey), Frank Faylen (taxi driver Ernie Bishop), Ward Bond (Officer Bert), Gloria Grahame (Violet Bick), H.B. Warner (druggist Mr. Gower), Frank Albertson (Sam Wainwright), Todd Karns (Harry Bailey), Samuel S. Hinds (Pa Peter Bailey)
Why it’s my favorite holiday movie: Every year at Christmas,  my husband, sons and I watch this holiday favorite together. It always brings tears to  my eyes. Have you ever thought about what life would be like if you had never been born? This is what businessman George Bailey gets to experience through the help of an angel named Clarence, who after 200 years has yet to earn his wings. George, who considers himself a failure and is contemplating suicide so his family can benefit from a life insurance policy, gets to see what the town he lives in, Bedford Falls, would have been like without him. What George learns is that each one of us makes a difference. He learns that it’s not what we have but how we live our lives each day that counts, and that we often are unaware of the impact our actions have on others.
There are so many great lines in the movie, but  my favorite is when Clarence tells George, “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.” George learns that friends and family make us wealthy beyond our wildest expectations. And that’s what I want  my children to understand. That it’s not materialistic things that make us rich, but the love that comes from family and friends — something that can’t be bought in a store and wrapped in shiny red paper. Just as George discovers, it’s family and friends who embrace us and help us cope with life’s cruelest and darkest moments. And it’s family and friends who rejoice with us as we celebrate God’s incredible blessings. It truly is a wonderful life!

Now your turn. Share in comments. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Perfect Christmas Tree

I wrote this column a couple years ago and thought some of my blog readers would enjoy it.
The perfect Christmas tree. Is there such a thing?
I think so, and I think it’s mine. I think this every year. Some years our tree has been fat and full. Other years it’s been tall and skinny. But always it’s been perfect.
You see, what makes our Christmas tree perfect isn’t its size or shape or smell. It’s not how the needles feel or whether the trunk is straight. What makes it perfect are the ornaments that dangle from its branches.
 My sons have made a good many of them. There’s the construction paper angel  my 13-year-old made in second grade. And the picture ornament  my 17-year-old crafted in preschool. Each year when we hang  my sons’ homemade ornaments,  my heart flutters and I am reminded of all that is good in this world. Time passes much too quickly, and the ornaments are treasures from yesteryears when the most pressing problem was a skinned knee.
Along with these homemade ornaments are those  my mother bought me. Each year I’d find a new one in  my stocking. One year it was Miss Piggy. Another year, Kermit. I looked forward to Christmas morning, eager to see what she had bought. When I hang these decorations, I nearly drown in memories. I want to hug  my mother, tell her how much I love her and need her. But I can’t because she isn’t here. She died many years ago, but not before giving me some special ornaments.
They aren’t ornaments you’d find in a store or some exclusive catalog. She made them with her loving hands, one by one as her death drew near. Cancer made her weak and took away many of the things she enjoyed. But that deadly disease could not destroy her spirit or will to leave part of her behind.
And so she cross-stitched.
Hour after hour.
Day after day.
Month after month.
Until she could no more.
She’d sit in the corner chair with needle and thread creating tiny tapestries of love. Some for each of her five daughters and all of her grandchildren.
I remember thinking at the time how important cross-stitching seemed to her. I think it was her way of giving us something we could hold onto and cherish long after she was gone. Something to share with our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
And so, when I walk through the department stores and see all the “perfect” trees in coordinating colors and trendy themes, I smile. Don’t get me wrong. They’re beautiful. But not as beautiful as mine.
I don’t care that  my Christmas tree is adorned with a mishmash of ornaments. I don’t care that some of them are chipped and that others are cracked or scratched.
What matters most is the love that has gone into each ornament that hangs on  my tree. Riches that warm  my heart and feed  my soul.
Thank you Zach and Micah and  mom for making our family Christmas tree perfect every year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

YA writing contests, Penguin Group (USA) and CreateSpace will hold the third annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. There will be two grand prizes: one for general fiction and one for young adult fiction.  The 2010 competition will also now be open to novels that have previously been self-published. Each winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance. Here's post for details.

Also, there's still time to enter Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers Delacorte Press Contest
for a First Young Adult Novel. Manuscripts must be postmarked no later than Dec. 31, 2009. Here are the details:

Good luck to all who enter.

Some sad news

Editor and Publisher and Kirkus Reviews closing. Check link:

Dialogue that made you laugh

How about sharing a snippet of dialogue from something you wrote that made you laugh out loud as you were writing it. I'll start:

From Freaky Frank

“Oh, Nate. Didn’t know that was you. Sounded like a girl.”
“Are you saying I sound like a girl, you punk?”
“Yeah. A little itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny frilly lace girl.”
“Why you Nerd Turd you. I’ll get you good.”
“Something wrong here, Mr. Fratello and Mr. Payne?” Mr. Bugg asked as he approached us in the hall.
Mr. Bugg is as tall as the Empire State building and, with his shiny bald head and bushy caterpillar eyebrows, he looks like an alien. He stood right in front of me and my face was inches from his boogie-smeared smiley face tie. Oh gross!
Nasty Nate looked at me. “Nothing’s wrong, Mr. Bugg, sir. I was just telling Frank what a great job he did in English class reading the part of Romeo.”
“And I was just telling Nate that he should have volunteered to read the part of Juliet because his voice is so high it sounds like a girl’s and he would have done a great job.”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rappaport Agency closes

Saw that the The Rappaport Agency is closing at the end of the year. See the post on Jenny's blog today. I wish her success in all of her endeavors.

Al Pacino's Inspirational Speech

Watch this even if you're not into football. It's about life, about having a dream and pursuing it with everything you have. Never give up.

Highlights 2010 Fiction Contest

You can enter the Highlights 2010 Fiction Contest starting Jan. 1. Three prizes of $1,000 or tuition for the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua. Looking for fiction based on a true story from your family. All entries must be postmarked between Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, 2010.
Check link for details.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Filling a Christmas stocking for readers

One of the best things about Christmas morning is opening the gifts inside my stocking. I always save it for last. As I child, I could count on my mom filling it with some standard stash. There was always a book of Lifesavers and clear toy pops in red and green and yellow (I liked the lamb-shaped ones the best). I could count on a Pez dispenser and a beautiful Hallmark Keepsake ornament. I came to expect these tiny treasures and if ever a year went by and they weren’t there, I would be terribly disappointed. But I also loved the surprises, those things my mom found that added a special something. One year, it was a pink Lindy Star Ring tucked in the toe. Another year it was a Minnie Mouse watch (Her arms were the watch hands). Strange how some memories come rushing back like the tide and drown you in sweetness.

So what does a stocking have to do with writing? Hang with me here. There are certain things that our readers expect from us (like the clear toy pops) but it’s the surprises we tuck within the pages that make our book extra special. My hope is that when readers finish my book, it will be like they finished opening their stocking. They might have found some things they had expected and would have missed had they not been there, but they will have also found plenty of surprises that will hopefully make the book a memorable one (I can still see Minnie's red dress with white polka dots, big yellow hands and the pink leather watch band with the big snaps.) 

So when you write a book, think of it as filling a stocking. What would you put in the stocking for your readers to discover and enjoy? Please share.

Stocking stuffers list:

1. Memorable characters

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Good news to share

I was excited to learn that I placed in the top five in the one-page summary contest conducted by the fabulous editor of the Buried in the Slush Pile blog for my "Brain Invaders" entry (a middle grade mystery/thriller). The contest was fun and it gave me hope that this manuscript will one day be in the hands of a middle-grader and/or reluctant reader. Now I just need to find an agent who believes in my work as much as I do. Anyhow, congratulations to all of the winners and to everyone who entered. Click here for details.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

12 writing gifts for 12 days of Christmas

Let’s come up with 12 writing gifts for the 12 days of Christmas. I’ll start, you add in posts.

Day 1: The gift of voice in your writing.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Some of my Moments that Matter posts

Some of my favorite columns. I hope you enjoy.

Snippet of dialogue

“When girls dress like sluts, do you know what I think?”
“You probably like it,” Annie said.
“Actually, no. I think girls who wear really tight clothes are desperate and insecure. They complain about guys looking at their butts and boobs but what else are we supposed to do when they’re advertising their stash.”
“You’re sick.”
“No, I’m just telling you like it is. Here’s the thing, Annie. Guys don’t like their girlfriends to wear clothing so tight it looks like they’re wrapped in Saran Wrap. And we, or maybe it’s just me, think that girls are much prettier without all that makeup. Why do they put all that crap on their face anyway?”

Have a snippet of dialogue from a WIP to share? Please do in comments.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New agent joins Bent Agency

Jenny Bent announced on her blog today that Susan Hawk has joined the agency. She represents young adult and middle grade fiction. For more details, check
Good luck Jenny and Susan. I hope all of your publishing endeavors are successful. 

What are your three wishes?

Suppose you ran into a literary genie and she granted you three writing-related wishes, what would they be? You cannot choose getting published. Sorry, I needed to make it somewhat difficult. But you can choose things like tenacity to pursue your writing dreams or the strength to handle rejections or a manuscript free of spelling and grammatical errors. So what would your wishes be? Anyone?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Quote of the day

"If you would be a writer, first be a reader. Only through the assimilation of ideas, thoughts and philosophies can one begin to focus his own ideas, thoughts and philosophies."

--Allan W. Eckert

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Quote of the day

"However great a man's natural talent may be, the act of writing cannot be learned all at once."

--Jean Jacques Rousseau

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Quote of the day

"If a book is not alive in the writer's mind, it is as dead as year-old horse-shit."

--Stephen King

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Black Friday tale

 I stopped at a store (I won’t mention the name but it’s one of my favs) on my way to work this morning, thinking that I could dash in, grab what I wanted, and dash out. WRONG! Wasn’t going to happen. The store was an absolute zoo. The lines were crazy and the people were crazy and I was crazy for even thinking this was a good idea.
So I left without anything except for the bruise I got when I tried to maneuver around a moving mass of madness and ran into a shelf. Ugh! But it got me thinking how writing can be this way. We think it’s going to be easy but it ends up being damn difficult. There are obstacles to overcome, we spend what seems like eternity waiting for news (good or bad) and even when we get what we want, we wonder if the reader will even like it.
BUT, despite the difficulty and the obstacles and the wait times and the doubts we keep on writing because we have dreams. And a life without dreams is no life at all. So, I guess at lunch I’ll go back to the store and see if what I want is still there. If it is, great. If not, onward to the next great chapter in my life. (Smiles)

Quote of the day

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."
--Mark Twain

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Thanksgiving wish

Today is Thanksgiving, a time to gather with loved ones. And yet, I can’t help but remember all of the loved ones I’ve lost, the holidays we’ve shared when we thought that tomorrows were forever. Holidays are difficult when you’ve said as many goodbyes as I have. But I am thankful that each loved one was a part of my life. They’ve touched it in ways they will never know and helped shape the person I’ve become. So today, when I gather with family and friends, I will say thank you for all the important people in my life, past and present, who made my world better by being a part of it. I wish each of you a blessed day full of love and fellowship and fun. Peace be with you, B.

Quote of the day

"Becoming the reader is the essence of becoming a writer."
--John O'Hara

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quote of the day

"Start early and work hard. A writer's apprenticeship usually involves writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he's almost ready to begin. That takes a while."

--David Eddings

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Quote of the day

"Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the most. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out the window."
--William Faulkner

Monday, November 23, 2009

Quote of the day

"When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away even if it's only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time."
--Kurt Vonnegut

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Writing is like riding a rollercoaster

Writing is like riding a rollercoaster. There are highs and lows, twists and turns and seconds when you wonder why you ever wanted to ride such a stomach-churning, headache-inducing, heart-pumping mass of mean steel. I mean, the ride’s not forgiving and there certainly seems to be more downs than ups. But here’s the thing. We’re on this ride together. I’m sitting right beside you (in the front seat) and we’re going to ride this damn rollercoaster until we can’t ride it anymore. So, are you with me? I know that it seems intimidating, but guess what, we can handle the metal monster because we are writers. So let’s board this baby and go for the ride of our lives. Hang on!

Another great contest to check out

This one's for YA writers. Good luck to everyone:)

Quote of the day

"You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like."
--Phyllis A. Whitney

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Quote of the day

"Write what you care about and understand. Writers should never try to outguess the marketplace in search of a salable idea; the simple truth is that all good books will eventually find a publisher if the writer tries hard enough, and a central secret to writing a good book is to write one that people like you will enjoy."
--Richard North Patterson

Thursday, November 19, 2009

You're invited to a blog carnival

Check out Rachel Zurakowski's blog carnival.

You know you're a writer when:

  • You talk about your characters as if they were real people.
  • You know what PB, MG, YA, MSS, MS, WIP, MC, etc. mean
Let's keep adding to this list. Anyone?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quote of the day

For my fellow writers who struggle each day wondering why. Don't give up.

"Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it.  Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before."  ~Jacob A. Riis

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quote of the day

"It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt

What are you thankful for?

Using the first letters in your name, write what you are thankful for. Share in posts.

I’m thankful for:

Brothers and sisters in Christ

U.S. service men and women



Yummy food to eat

Monday, November 16, 2009

Check out this contest

Wander over to Buried in the Slush Pile and check out this one page summary contest. And good luck to all who enter.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Writing a Thanksgiving story together

New exercise. Let’s write a short story together. I’ll start and you add via comment posts. Each person must pick up from the last comment posted to add to the story. Let’s do something with Thanksgiving.

Becca and JR grabbed the slimy wishbone.
“I know what you’re going to wish for,” JR said.
“Do not.”
“Do too.”
“Mom, JR's breathing his stinky breath on me. Tell him to stop it.”
“James Robert,” Mama said.
“But my breath's not stinky. She’s just mad because I know what she’s going to wish for.”
“OK you two. When I say go, go. Ready?"
Becca and JR nodded.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Crazy day that ended with a Rolo

So I was totally thinkin’ about my day. It was crazy. Started out by going to a doctor’s appointment and learning that I was a week early. Ugh! Too long to wait so I went to work. But I was perturbed because I had planned my entire morning around this one event, which turned out to be a non-event. Got me thinkin’ about life and how sometimes the things we plan end up being turned upside down and inside out.

Writing is like that sometimes. We start down one path with our characters and suddenly they’re in our heads leading us in a different direction. Just try to ignore them. Not gonna happen. They’ll haunt you and torture you until you listen.

But, and here’s the point of my mumble jumble (hey, it’s late), sometimes the best things happen when the things we had planned fall through. It’s like wanting a Hershey chocolate Kiss and getting a Rolo instead and discovering the creamy caramel center of the Rolo is heaven on your tongue (oh how I love Rolos).


Be willing to adapt. Be willing to go along for the ride. Listen to your characters. Trust them. You never know where you’ll end up and there might just be a Rolo at the end.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Writing dialogue is sooo much fun:)

I love writing dialogue. It’s so much fun. I just wrote this in the story I'm currently working on and it made me laugh big time.

“Oh. My. God.” Petra blurted out as soon as she saw Annie at lunch. “Did you hear? Did you hear about Jess Gross? She really is gross.”
“What happened?” Annie asked, playing dumb.
“Well, I heard Chad Hoover, he’s the catcher on the baseball team, tell Scott Martin, he plays first base, in math class that Jess picked her nose and wiped it on his shirt. He was totally grossed out. I mean, I would be, too. What was she thinkin’? You know what this means, don’t you?”
“Jess is off the A-List. Not that I care. I mean, she was the mastermind behind the granny pants incident. Remember that?”
“How could I forget.”
“Yeah, you and everyone else. But maybe now they’ll talk about Jess instead. After Chad told Scott about Jess, they started callin’ her Boogie Boobs. Cause you know she has big boobs, which I think they like, but now that boogie deal sort of scratches that out.”
 Petra went on and on recounting all of the incidents that Jess and the other Sisters bullied and made fun of others. The boogie incident had clearly made her day.
“And another thing. Did you know The Sisters have rules?”
“Like what?”
“Like they’re not allowed to wear jeans, even on gym days.”
“That’s just plain weird.”
“Yeah, I know. But they have this whole list of rules that they all have to follow.”
“How do you know?”
“Well, Jen's locker (she's the blonde with the mole like Cindy Crawford) is near mine, right? And one day I saw Jen and another girl, I forget her name, but she’s also a sister, yell at another sister because she wore jeans. They were designer jeans, but that didn’t matter. They told her that she had to follow the rules or she was out. Like how stupid is that?”
“Pretty stupid. So what happened?”
“They snubbed her the rest of the day. Wouldn't let her eat lunch with them. Haven’t seen her in jeans since.”

Want to share a snippet of dialogue from your WIP? Please do in posts.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The ABC's of the Writing Business

Let’s have some fun. Can you help me think of something that has to do with writing or editing or publishing for each letter of the alphabet? Do as many as you want, but keep the order. If the list is at D, don’t jump ahead to P. Put your addition(s) in comments and when we finish the entire alphabet, I will pull it together and put it in one post. Do as many as you like.
Be creative. Think outside the box. Have fun. And keep it relatively short. We don’t want essays for each letter. Good luck and thanks for helping. I'll start it.

Anticipation is what writers, agents, editors and publishers feel as they await word on their work. (Note: often followed by depression when work gets thumbs down.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Some moments last forever

Wendy sat on the pew, her husband’s coffin a few feet away. She was dying, not of a broken heart or colon cancer like Brad, but from lung cancer. With her sons by her side, she sat as bravely as she could, battling the pain in her purple-reddish leg, which was now the size of an elephant’s. If the blood clot in the leg traveled through the bloodstream to her lungs or heart, she could die. 
    Right then. 
    Right there – in the church filled with family and friends.
    Sobs filled the cavernous sanctuary. Whispers hung in the air:
    Poor soul.
    He was so young. 
    Pity her and the boys.
    So unfair.
    In less than two months, Wendy was gone.
    Strange how some moments last a lifetime. 
    Do you have any moments like this?

Writing contests

Check out these writing contests. And good luck to all of you.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Some of my writing tweets

Here are some of the tweets I've posted on Twitter about writing. If you don't follow me on Twitter, please do @Buffy_Andrews. Hope you enjoy these.

· Writing is that thing we do that keeps us sane.
· I wonder if in Heaven everyone will love what I write. Because, well, down here I'm not having too much luck.
· Cutting manuscript is like pulling your hair out. Man it hurts.
· Writing is literary magic that turns ideas and thoughts and characters into something tangible.
· Writing is that thing that gives us peace.
· Writing allows me to be someone I'm not.
· When I write, I dream.
· Revising reminds us that our writing can always be better. Strive for the best.
· Writers must be the biggest believers.
· Me to characters: talk to me people.
· Writing is like opening an unexpected gift. It surprises us and makes us smile. I love unexpected gifts
· Sometimes the writing just comes and we're like, oh yeah. Gotta love when that happens.
· Writing can be agony and joy and every emotion in between.
· Revising is like surgery. Cut. Cut. Snip. Snip. Cut. Snip. Cut. OUCH! All better.
· I am so over you, Rejection. You can't get to me like that anymore. I won't let you squash my hopes and dreams. (Slams door) So there!
· Why is writing sometimes like trying to get gum out of your hair? Ouch! It's a mess & hurts. Sometimes you just have to cut it out. So there.
· Writing is like making rich delicious chocolate for our minds to savor and enjoy.
· Writing is like wallpapering. You work to get it up and looking perfect, hope it sticks and that others enjoy it.
· Writing is like peeling an orange. You pick away at the shell until you get to the delicious fruit inside. And then enjoy it.
· Writing is like opening a treasure chest -- you never know what you will find.
· Writing that inspires us is like getting candy as a kid - a delightful treat:)
· I'm in love with writing, but sometimes I swear it hates me. Doesn't want to cooperate. Can be stubborn and downright nasty. Listen up, U!
· Good editors are priceless.
· Writing is the key that unlocks the stories battling in our brains to get out.
· If I write as well as I golf, I'm in trouble!
· Writing is our medicine. It makes us feel better.
· Writing is like eating dessert -- you can never get enough of it.
· Writing sweetens our day and makes life so much richer.
· Writing is a mental massage that soothes our soul in ways nothing else ever could.
· Writing is as natural and essential as breathing.
· Never thought I'd write "fart" in a middle-grade query letter, or "pimple" for that matter. But what the heck. This book is fun.

A great reminder for each of us

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Don't give up. EVER!

Thought for the Day No. 4

I looked out the window and noticed the naked tree, its gnarly branches scratching the gray sky. It seems like only yesterday it was dressed in a green leafy drape accented with white silky fringes. I miss that green number already. I know that there is a time for every season, and that I need to embrace each one, valuing it for the gifts it brings. But it’s hard for me to find beauty in dying things. I think perhaps it’s because I’ve experience so much death in my life. Sometimes the sadness is so heavy that I crumble from all the weight. And then I remember my mother and the strength she showed as she battled cancer. She never stopped thinking of her daughters, even as she took her last breath. I know the green leaves and silky fringes will return to cover the tree when it’s time. And I’ve come to realize that although my mother is gone, my sisters and I are the leaves and fringes that keep her beauty alive during every season.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chat acronyms link

Ever wonder what BBIAB or YW meant in an e-mail, text or tweet? Here's a great resource for chat acronyms. By the way, BBIAB is Be back in a bit and YW is You're welcome.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Do you struggle sometimes when you write?

Sometimes, when I sit down to write it just pours out of me. Other times, it’s a struggle. Why is this? Does this happen to you? If so, how do you handle the times you struggle? I’d be interested in any tips you could give. Thanks:)

"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." --E.L. Doctorow

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thought for the day No. 3

When my sons were young, I’d sing made-up songs to them. Well, it wasn’t really singing, more like squeaking and squawking. But I tried. I really tried. I remember this one song, perhaps because it plucked my heartstrings. The chorus went something like this: My, how times flies, how it really, really flies. My little babe is now a little boy. As they grew, “boy” became “young man.” I don’t sing that song anymore, but sometimes I want to. Sometimes, I wish I could cuddle them in the rocker, their head against my heart, and softly sing that sweet song. But they’re 20 and 16 now, much too old to sit on my lap and rock away the hours just because.
Time really does fly and before you know it the little hand you held is the big hand helping you.
Don’t wish away todays for tomorrows. Todays fade fast enough.

Salute to Dr. Seuss

Some quotes of his:
  • "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose."
  • "Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you."
  • "Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way." 
  • "And will you succeed? Yes indeed, yes indeed! Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed."
  • "Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple." 
  • "If you never did, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good."
I have always loved Dr. Seuss. His books were full of wisdom and just plain fun to read. What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book and why is it your favorite? 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why do you write what you write?

Sometimes, I’m really tired of being a grown-up (Actually, make that most of the time). Why do we spend our childhood wishing to grow up and our adulthood wishing to be younger? Maybe that’s why I love writing for children. It allows me to be a kid again.

Why do you write what you write? I’ve always been curious about this. There are some people who write something and I read it and I would never have imagined them writing that particular piece. It’s not that the piece is bad, it’s just not what I pictured them writing. Whether it’s middle grade or young adult, fiction or non-fiction, why do you write what you write? I’m looking for the audience you feel most comfortable writing for, the genre and the reasons.

Please share:)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

YA novel discovery contest

Hey fellow writers, this sounds like a great opportunity. Serendipity Literary Agency, in collaboration with Sourcebooks and Gotham Writers' Workshop, is hosting its first Young Adult Novel Discovery Competition. Get all the details here. And good luck!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fun on the stairs

Really cool:) Imagine if we could make more things fun.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hearing voices

Here’s a fun exercise. Rewrite the following sentence in a different voice. I will do two to start us off. Let’s have fun with this.
Starter sentence: I cannot believe you expect me to help you after what you’ve done.
My first voice: Freakin’ unbelievable! You’re crazy, dude, if you think I’m going to help you with anything after that screw-up.
My second voice: Oh. My. Gawd. Like you can’t be serious. Like you really think I’m going to help you after what you did. Like give me a break. Really.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thought for the day No. 2

Life is too short to:
Wish away today.
Stay angry.
Put dreams off.
Hold back on love.
Not forgive.
Say there’s always tomorrow, because tomorrows turn into yesterdays and yesterdays into years and then we look back on our lives and think, where did the time go? It went while we were waiting for it to come.
What would you add to this list?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sometimes we need to be pushed

I think this is a beautiful video. A friend shared it with me (Thanks Jenny). It reminded me of a discussion I had with my son recently. As parents, it's easy for us to hold our child's hand. It's the letting go part that's hard. But we push because we love them and we let them fail because we love them. Like the eagle, we know that in order for them to fly they need to find their wings.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thought for the day No. 1

I picked my son up after he took the PSAT. It was raw and raining and dreary and damp. To say that I was miserable is an understatement. When I blurted out what I thought of the wacky weather and dumpy day, he told me how much he enjoyed this kind of weather and why. I love how we all look at things differently. It makes the world an exciting place. Imagine if we all felt the same way about everything. B-O-R-I-N-G. It reminded me that we should embrace our differences instead of trying to convert others to think and feel the way we think they should. After all, it’s the differences among us that when woven into the fabric of life creates richness in texture and color not found when all of the threads are the same.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Confessions of an obsessaholic No. 13: Hootsuite

I’m in love with HootSuite. What’s hot about Hoot? Glad you asked. HootSuite allows Twitter users to manage multiple Twitter profiles (I have seven) from one easy-to-use interface. You guys know how I love being able to organize and plan things. Hoot allows me to do this. I can send tweets, retweet, schedule tweets, direct message, and set up searches (and believe me I have many) for all kinds of things.

For example, I have my personal accounts (@Buffy_Andrews, @Grandma_Dorothy), my work related accounts (@Ydrbooks, @Smartmamapa; @Flipside, @YDR, @Letseatpa). I can tweet from one account and then retweet that tweet from other accounts all without having to log out and in.

I also love the ability to search for specific things. For example, I have a tab set up for Writing, under which are numerous columns each for a separate search that has to do with writing (ie. #pubtips, #Yalitchat; #Litchat; #Kidlitchat, etc.).

I have a tab for brands (with columns of different brands I follow, like Harley Davidson), a tab for people (separated by group, such as work friends, publishing friends, etc.), a tab for sports, fun stuff, publishing, news media and journalism all of which have their own columns for very specific searches.

As I said, I’m in love with this application because it allows me to organize and compartmentalize and keep everything in order. Just another example of my crazy self, I know.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A special card

I have a card from one of my best friends that I keep by my laptop. There is a picture of two young girls on the front, one with her arm around the other.

The card reads:
(Front) I’m here for you – to hold your hand, offers words of hope, and when those don’t work…
(Inside) to binge on chocolate, or share a gallon of ice cream – whatever it takes.

Whenever I get a rejection or am feeling low or the words are just not coming easily to me, I read this card and it makes me smile and remember that the most important things in life are family and friends.

First paragraph challenge

Check out Nathan Bransford's First Paragraph Challenge. Details here:

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Getting feedback from kids

So my managing editor’s daughter, who is way cool, was in the office today. She has read some of my middle-grade manuscripts and is a big fan. I’ve loved talking to her about what she liked about the different manuscripts. One of the things she liked was how the chapters ended with cliff hangers and she just had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. So that was cool. My young nephew also read these manuscripts and said the same thing. Maybe I should pull together a little reader advisory council comprised of kids in the appropriate age range to send my manuscripts and get feedback. What do you think? Don’t they do that with new toys and stuff? Bring kids in and have them “test” the toys and provide feedback? I know when a syndicate rep brings comics for me to consider buying for the newspaper, I send them to numerous people to get feedback (graphic artists, reporters, copy editors, etc.). I also bring them home for my son, a comics fan, to read. And I have to say that this has worked pretty well. There have been times when everyone has said, “You must get this comic,” and I have and it’s a big hit. So, why not a reader advisory council? Could be a lot of fun. Has anyone ever done this? If so, how has it worked?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall means...

Crisp apples
Toothy jack-o-lanterns
Patchy scarecrows
Friendly Caspers and Wanda Witches traipsing through the neighborhood
Chocolaty treats
Vibrant mums
Shorter days and longer nights
Colder days and even colder nights
Visits from Jack Frost
What else? Please add to the list.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Passing the peace

Whenever we pass peace in church, I feel so blessed to be part of a wonderful church family. It surprises me sometimes the love found in handshakes and hugs. We just don’t stay in our seats and shake the hands of those around us. We get out of our pews and walk up and down the aisle greeting as many brothers and sisters in Christ as we can. There’s Bert, who I’ve known forever. And Sarah Jane and Dawn. And Wendy and Rick and Dave. And Mary Ann and Lauren and Jeane. Just too many friends to count. It makes me smile and feel warm and loved. I thank God for a congregation full of wonderful caring people. I wish that everyone could feel this way. Anyway, thanks for letting me ramble.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

YA Contest alert

Hey fellow writers, here's a YA novel contest from Delacorte Press Books, with a starting postmark deadline of Oct. 1, 2009 and a deadline of Dec. 31, 2009. Good luck to everyone!

Friday, September 25, 2009

I hate goodbyes

I hate goodbyes. Truth is, I’ve had far too many of them in my life. Mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, numerous friends and relatives.
Sometimes, I feel as if I’ve spent a lifetime saying goodbye.
So instead of saying goodbye, maybe we should say, “See you later.” It focuses on what will be instead of what has passed. There’s hope in that. And peace. And, I don't know about you, but in this crazy world we live in, I need all of the peace I can get.
So, see ya later:)

We can't control every moment

It’s always a treat to hear from readers. Skip Fengfish, a minister in Orlando, Fla., read the following article on the Web. Skip is the brother of Randi White, who I wrote about. We had a great e-mail exchange. I’m continually amazed that folks, like Skip, find my work on the Web and care enough to share their thoughts. It’s great knowing that something I wrote a couple years ago continues to touch and inspire others. So thanks, Skip, for getting in touch.
In memory of Randi, here’s the column again:

It was an unlikely place to share her faith, but that’s what Randi did. We were at a friend’s party, sitting on the couch, margaritas in hand. The music was loud. People were laughing and dancing. And Randi talked about her love for the Lord.
I’m not even sure how we got on the subject, but somehow we did. Maybe she sensed that I was struggling with my faith and needed to hear what she had to say. I remember telling her how envious I was of her relationship with God and how I must be a terrible person for feeling that way. “Why couldn’t I feel the way she did?” I thought.
And in her sisterly way, she told me that I wasn’t the one in control. That God hadn’t abandoned me even though at times I felt like he had. All this party chaos was erupting around us, but for those few moments, on that sofa, in that room, we were in the eye of the storm — just Randi, me and Christ. It’s a moment I will never forget.
Several months later, Randi White got sick and died. That horrible disease, cancer, took her away from all of us much too soon. She was only 48. She left behind her loving husband, Rick; children Jessica, Josh, Richie and Philip; an incredibly warm family; and too many friends to even think about counting.
We were all searching for answers and asking why. Why had someone who was doing so much good in the world and making a difference in other people’s lives have to die? I was overwhelmed with grief. And I was angry at God for, once again, allowing someone I loved to die. But then I remembered the conversation on the couch, the last real conversation we had before she died. I couldn’t help but think that we were supposed to end up on that couch, having that conversation, experiencing that moment.
I’ve been trying to follow Randi’s advice. It’s not always easy, but I’m trying.
I miss you, Randi. Thank you for a moment I will never forget.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Some writing tweets

Here are some of my writing tweets. Enjoy. And please share any you have.
· Writing is like opening an unexpected gift. It surprises us and makes us smile. I love unexpected gifts:)
· Sometimes the writing just comes and we're like, oh yeah. Gotta love when that happens.
· Writing can be agony and joy and every emotion in between.
· Revising is like surgery. Cut. Cut. Snip. Snip. Cut. Snip. Cut. OUCH! All better.
· I am so over you, Rejection. You can't get to me like that anymore. I won't let you squash my hopes and dreams. (Slams door) So there!
· Why is writing sometimes like trying to get gum out of your hair? Ouch! It's a mess & hurts. Sometimes you just have to cut it out. So there.
· Writing is like making rich delicious chocolate for our minds to savor and enjoy.
· Writing is like peeling an orange. You pick away at the shell until you get to the delicious fruit inside. And then enjoy it.
· Writing is like opening a treasure chest -- you never know what you will find.
· Writing that inspires us is like getting candy as a kid - a delightful treat:)
· I'm in love with writing, but sometimes I swear it hates me. Doesn't want to cooperate. Can be stubborn and downright nasty. Listen up, U!
· Writing is the key that unlocks the stories battling in our brains to get out.
· If I write as well as I golf, I'm in trouble!
· Writing is like eating dessert -- you can never get enough of it.
· Writing sweetens our day and makes life so much richer.
· Letters make so much more sense to me than numbers. I guess that's why I'm a writer:)
· Writing is a mental massage that soothes our soul in ways nothing else ever could.
· Writing is as natural and essential as breathing.
· I think that following your passion is a gift you give yourself. I hope that you are giving yourself this gift.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Catching Fire: Peeta or Gale?

I absolutely loved Catching Fire, but I am torn more than ever between Peeta and Gale. I've really come to love Peeta in this second book. And I think that Katniss loves both of them, but maybe in different ways. What do you think? Whose camp are you in?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What would you tell yourself?

I love the words to Braid Paisley’s “Letter to Me”

If I could write a letter to me and send it back in time to myself at 17, here are some things I’d say:

Acne doesn’t last forever.
It’s OK to fail, as long as you learn from your failures.
Sometimes you have to lose.
Watch your speed limit on North Hills Road.
Study for the chemistry exam instead of going skiing with your boyfriend.
Who cares about a silly pageant anyway?
Keep playing the violin.
Don’t go parking on that dark country road. The cop shows up.
You will survive the breakup and your life won’t end, in fact, it turns out pretty great.
Tell your mom and dad every day that you love them. And Wendy, too.
Apologize to your dad for keeping him up pacing the kitchen floor at night, worrying until you come home.
Don’t hog the bed and give your little sister some room. She’ll never forget how mean you were.
Don’t worry so much.
Tell your teachers how much they inspire you.
Mom and Dad really do know what they're talking about.
Be a better daughter, sister and friend.

I could go on and on, but how about you? What are some things you would tell yourself? I’m sure it’s way different for guys, too. Waiting to hear from you guys.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My box has become a gift

This occurred to me yesterday. Think it has possibilities?

Annie's Gift

It started like an ordinary day, sunshine sneaking through the cracks in the blinds and spilling into the bedroom and the whiff of bacon snaking through the quiet house.
It started like an ordinary day, but it was anything but ordinary.
And it all started with an unexpected gift.
.. .. ..

Annie rolled over and hugged her stuffed lion, which was missing a brown eye and some of its tan fur. The lion was a present for her fourth birthday and every night for the past ten years she had slept with it. Well, except for when she stayed overnight at a friend’s house. She didn’t want the other girls to think she was a baby, so she left Charlotte at home. That’s what she named him – Charlotte after her mother who had died shortly after giving Annie the lion.
She named everything Charlotte. Every doll was Charlotte and every stuffed animal was Charlotte and every goldfish she ever won at the fair was Charlotte. Her dad, Will, figured it was Annie’s way of keeping her mother close. Charlotte had told Annie that the lion would give her courage. All Annie had to do was squeeze its right paw and say “a posse ad esse,” which Annie later discovered meant “from possibility to reality.” It didn’t make any sense to Annie, but she did it just the same. Anytime she needed a little courage, like when she tried out for the cheerleading squad, she’d squeeze Charlotte’s paw and say “a posse ad esse” and she always felt better.
The doorbell rang. Annie rolled over and looked at the alarm clock. Who’s that at 7 on a Saturday, she thought. Annie whipped back her pink sheet and ran to answer the door. But when she opened it, the porch was empty. She stepped outside to look around.
Still, no one.
That’s when she saw it – a gift wrapped in pink paper and topped with a lime green bow, her favorite colors. It was beside the chipped black rocker her dad loved to sit in and read. Annie took the box inside and put it on the kitchen table.
“What’s that you got?” Will asked.
“It was on the porch, but no one was there.”
Will walked over. “Is there a name on it?”
“Yeah. Mine. But it’s not my birthday or anything. Who would give me a present for no special reason?”
Will picked up the gift and shook it. Whatever was inside slid from one end to the other. “Seems OK to me. Go ahead and open it. Maybe there’s a letter inside telling you who it’s from.”
Will nodded and patted Annie’s head. He couldn’t believe how fast his little girl was growing up. With her curly blond hair and green eyes and long arms and legs, she looked more like her mother every day. God how he missed Charlotte. He dated some over the years, but no one ever came close to his Charlotte. He just couldn’t bring himself to open his heart to anyone else. Maybe someday. But not now. Now was for Annie. He would concentrate on raising Annie to be the young lady her mother always dreamed she would become.
“Mind if I open it upstairs?”
“Want some privacy, huh?”
Will smiled. Yes, his daughter was a typical teen – spending hours in her room, listening to music Will couldn’t stand and needing lots of privacy. It was hard for him to get used to at first. They had spent her childhood doing everything together. But he understood that she was growing up and needed her space. God he wished Charlotte was here. Wished they would have caught the hit and run driver who had hit her. She’d know just want to do. Annie needed a mother, and all she had was him.
Annie carted the box to her room. She wanted to open it in private in case it was sent as a joke from someone at school. It would be just like The Sisters (They weren’t really sisters but the group of popular girls called themselves that.) to pull such a prank. Get Annie all excited about a getting a gift only to open a box with some sort of joke inside. Like a pair of granny pants. They did that once to Petra, Annie’s best friend. Gave her a gift bag in the middle of the cafeteria and when Petra pulled out the granny pants everyone laughed. The Sisters ere mean. And, well, if it were them, she didn’t want her dad to see. He already worried about her enough. Thought she studied too much and needed to have more fun. Annie tried, but it didn’t come easy to her. She felt more comfortable with her nose between the pages of a book. And, besides, the other girls laughed at her when she tried out for cheerleading. She hadn’t told her dad, but after the first practice she didn’t go back. She went to the library instead and read until it was time for him to pick her up. When she didn’t make the team, he told her how proud he was that she had at least tried. She hated lying to her dad. But what she hated even more was disappointing him. Maybe one little lie, the only one she had ever told, wasn’t so bad if she didn’t do it again. Cheerleading wasn’t for her any more than playing basketball or softball was. She hadn’t made those teams either.
Annie sat on the bed. She took off the lime green bow and unwrapped the gift, peeling back the tape at the seams so the pink paper would remain in one piece. That’s how she approached life, carefully and methodically. She wasn’t the type who’d rip into a gift and have a million pieces of paper everywhere. She folded the pink paper and placed it next to the box. She’d find some use for it. Maybe she’d use it to wrap Petra’s present. Her favorite color was pink, too. Annie shook the box again, trying to guess what was inside. Then she opened the lid and her mouth dropped.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Confessions of an Obsessaholic No. 12: Refrigerator

So when I opened the refrigerator to put the ketchup away, what did I find but condiments and dressings and toppings all out of place. Ugh! The mustard was sandwiched between two bottles of salad dressing, the mayo beside the A1, which was beside the strawberry jelly. No. No. No, people. Let’s get this right. The salad dressings all go together, the jellies all go together, the mustard and ketchup and mayo go together, the chocolate syrup and bottles of whipped topping go together. NOT everything just thrown in the side of the refrigerator wherever it fits. So, of course, I take the time to move this and that to their proper place. Just another example of my crazy (but lovable, I hope) self.

The power of observations

I think writers are observers. We often see things that others don’t. We pay attention to details that might later be weaved into a narrative or provide inspiration or direction in our writing. Here’s one example of an observation I made yesterday and where it led me in thought. Do you have an observation you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it.
The “family” pew where I sit has scratch marks on the back made by my late father-in-law’s suspenders. He sat in this spot for decades and the marks are a lasting reminder. When I think about the scratch marks, I think of the marks we leave in life – some good, some bad. It reminds me to live life thoughtfully because we never know when we might leave a mark that might be harmful. We are powerful in that way, whether we realize it or not, and need to be careful not to abuse that power. How many times have we left marks that have hurt people? I once had a teacher who said something to me that I will never forget. Many years have passed since, and the words still sting. That’s the power of the marks we leave behind. Like the pew, the scratch is always there. We might be able to sand it and apply new stain, but it remains underneath. It’s what we do with the marks in our life that count. Use them to make us better and stronger and wiser.
And that’s where the observation yesterday led me. Now your turn.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Opening the box

By the way, I'm opening the box (see earlier posts) today so we'll see where that takes me. I always know how I'm going to start a story and where I think I'll end up. But the middle? Well, not so much. I'm not a plotter when it comes to writing. That probably will surprise a lot of people given my obsessive nature. But when it comes to writing, I love the discovery, seeing where my characters will take me and what they will do and how they will overcome whatever conflict they face. It's like riding a roller coaster for the first time and not knowing exactly where the twists and turns are. It's like so much fun. It's exhilarating in a way that nothing else is. So what about you? Are you a plotter or a fly-by-a-seater like me? And why does whatever way you write work for you? Love to hear from fellow writers.

Catching Fire

Finally got my copy of Catching Fire and am so excited to read. For those of you who have read it, what to you think? Please share.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Opening The Box

I’ve been thinking about my box story (see earlier post) trying to figure out which way I want to go. The problem I’m having is that there are so many choices. I’m hoping my characters will talk to me. They usually do if I sit still enough to listen. I have to admit that this whole box idea occurred to me and then I was a bit crushed when I read about an upcoming movie, titled (guess what?) The Box. I mean, I had no idea there was a movie by the same working title of my newest middle grade (maybe I should change it). How does that happen? You have an idea for a story and you’re on your merry way and then you realize that there is a book or a movie or whatever with the same idea. Well, not quite the same. I mean, what’s in my box is totally different then what’s in their box. And my box will be delivered to a middle-schooler and send him/her on quite an adventure. Anyway writers, Does this ever happen to you?

P.S. I tried to shelve the box story but it keeps wanting to be opened. It’s hard for me to resist and then I figured, why even try. Go along for the ride and see where it takes you. What do you think?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Confessions of an Obsessaholic No. 11: Check-out

So I went to the grocery store, parking right next to the cart return rack (see Confessions of an Obsessaholic No. 5) like I usually do. I snake through the store tossing this and that into the cart, ending up with far more than I had planned buying (no big surprise there). I finally get to check-out and I load the groceries onto the belt, organizing the items.
Frozen and cold food together.
Cans together.
Boxes together.
Vegetables together.
Bread and rolls together.
Paper goods together.
And, to be honest, it looked pretty – all neat and lined up and separated with barcodes, if possible, visible at first glance.
“I wish everyone was as organized as you,” the cashier said. “It makes it so much easier. Some people, they just dump everything on and then they get mad if something gets squished.”
Oh yeah, I’m thinkin’. Finally found someone who appreciates my obsessive self. And, like, that was way cool.
So are you a dumper-on-topper or an arranger like me?

Take that, Rejection

I am so over you, Rejection. You can’t get to me like that anymore. I won't let you squash my hopes and dreams. (Slams door) So there! (Back to writing).

How do you handle rejection? Do share.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The box

It started like an ordinary day, sunshine sneaking through the cracks in the blinds and spilling into the bedroom and the whiff of bacon snaking through the quiet house.
It started like an ordinary day, but it was anything but ordinary.
And it all started with a box.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Turning back time

If I could turn back time, I’d:
Pray more
Smile more
Hug more
Love more
Enjoy more
Relax more
Travel more
Laugh more
Write more
Read more
Learn more
Exercise more
Sing more
See more
Feel more
Hear more
If I could turn back time, I’d:
Reject less
Worry less
Hurry less
Work less
Cry less
Hurt less
How about you?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What are sisters?

Sisters are:
Secret keepers
Hand holders
Memory keepers
Confidence builders
But most of all, sisters are friends, the kind who love you no matter what.
I’ve been blessed to have four sisters, and I love each one with all my heart. Each one is different and yet amazing in their own way. This post is in memory of my oldest sister, Wendy Lee Aughenbaugh, who mothered and loved her four younger sisters and taught them that there is no greater gift than the gift of love. I miss you terribly, Wendy, but I hear you in my head each day encouraging me to love with everything I have and live life to its fullest.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Confessions of an obsessaholic No. 10: Curtains and basket liners

I love Longaberger baskets. I’ve even coordinated basket liners with curtains in particular rooms. For example, I have Longaberger Lilac Rose curtains in my dining room and the baskets in this room have coordinating liners. Ditto for the Fruit Medley curtains and basket liners in the kitchen, the Orchard Park Plaid curtains and basket liners in the family room and the Traditional Red curtains and basket liners in the living room. Just another example of my crazy self. I could be a poster child for the company!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Remember summer when we were young

• covered in red juice from eating cherry snowballs
• crying at church camp because we were so homesick
• staying awake all night because we were excited to go on vacation and then too tired to enjoy the beginning of it
• sitting in the cherry tree stuffing our mouths full of fruit
• capturing fireflies on a muggy August night
• waterlogged from spending the day at the pool
• decorating our bikes for the parade at the park
• holding penny carnivals in the backyard
• selling lemonade from our homemade stand in front of the house
• battling with water balloons
• traipsing through the creek in our bare feet and slipping on slimy rocks
• picking up fallen apples and getting stung by bees
• playing hide-and-seek and foxes and hounds and kick the can
• sleeping out in the tent in the backyard
• telling ghost stories and doing dares

Oh, to be young again. The summer of our youth was a wondrous time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Confessions of an obsessaholic No. 9: Dish detergents and handsoaps

How weird is this? My kitchen curtains are red and green and purple and blue. Sounds garish, but they are really pretty.

Anyway, I like to buy dish detergent and hand soap that complement the curtains. For example, from Palmolive’s Spring Sensations Collection (which I like best) I buy Fresh Green Apple (a green), Lavender and Ylang Ylang (a purple) or Crisp Cucumber Melon (a red).

I pair these Palmolive dish detergents with Dial Complete Pump Foaming Soaps, either Fresh Pear (a green) or Cool Plum (a purple) or Cranberry (a red). Now I don’t pair two reds and two greens and two purples, I mix and match. So I might pair the green dish detergent with the cranberry hand soap or the purple dish detergent with a green hand soap.

I’m sure no one even notices this quirky thing, but it’s makes my obsessive self happy. How many of you coordinate this sort of thing?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Excerpt from High Street Gang/Locket

Elizabeth was still on the computer when I walked up to her with a white jewelry box.

“Get lost," she said.

"But I thought you might like to see what I found."

She looked up. "You found a necklace? Let me see it. Let me see it.”

I took off the lid and wiggled my finger.

Elizabeth screamed so loud I thought the neighbors would call 911.

"Mmm. Road kill," I said, licking the blood off my finger.

"You pig! You pig! You're so gross!" She ran to the bathroom and I could hear her throwing up.

My plan worked perfectly. Elizabeth really thought that it was someone's finger I had found along the road. But it was just my finger smothered in ketchup. I had cut holes in the bottom of the jewelry box and cotton liner, poked my finger through the holes and rested it on the cotton liner.

"What's wrong, Elizabeth?" Mom yelled, running up the basement steps.

Uh-oh. Time to bolt.

"It's Mags. She found a finger on the road and has it in a jewelry box. There's blood all over it."

"Margaret Mary," Mom called.

I came downstairs all cleaned up.

"What's this about a finger in a box?"

"Don’t know what she’s talking about. I think Lizzy's reading too many horror novels.”

Elizabeth glared at me. "I saw it. It was in a necklace box."

I looked at Mom, shrugged my shoulders and shook my head.

"Maybe Mags is right," Mom said. "Maybe you are reading too many horror novels. I’m not sure what’s up with you two, but it’s over. Dinner’s ready.”

I followed Elizabeth to the table.

"I'll get you back," she whispered. "You never know what can happen in a cemetery at night."

"Yeah," I said. "There are lots of dead fingers there, Lizzy. Maybe a few of them will grab you."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Confessions of an obsessaholic No. 8: Lists

I’m a list person. I love making to-do lists then crossing off items as I accomplish them. For example, a typical to-do list might look something like this:

Drop Kakita at groomers

Target (Vanilla latte?)

Grocery store

Pick up Kakita





Of course, this list contains items that would have individual lists, like a list of items I’m buying at Target or the grocery store. And, here’s a confession: Sometimes when something isn’t on the list and I accomplish it, I put it on just so I can cross it off.

I won’t even try to explain the list on my desk at work, which changes constantly as reporters file stories, I edit and return for revisions, they make changes and file again, I edit again – just describing this process makes me dizzy. But, trust me, it works. The notations on my list tell me what stage a particular story is in.

Are you a list maker or do you keep it all in your head?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I wish summer could stay forever

I wish summer could stay forever, wrapping me in its warmth and kissing me with rays of sunshine.

I wish summer could stay forever, fireflies flickering in the night and the moon standing guard in the starry sky.

I wish summer could stay forever, tomatoes dangling from twisty vines and sweet corn hiding in coats of green.

I wish summer could stay forever, children’s laughter spilling through open windows and the ice-cream truck bell singing as it snakes through the neighborhood.

I wish summer could stay forever, sun-drenched clothes bobbing on clotheslines and steaks sizzling over white coals.

I wish summer could stay forever, green grass tickling bare toes and butterfly bushes dressed in vibrant hues.

I wish summer could stay forever, but it can’t.

Fall will prepare a colorful feast for our eyes then Old Man Winter will yawn and stretch his snowy arms. Spring will escort nature’s reawakening, but it’s summer, ah summer, that I love most.

I wish it could stay forever.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Confessions of an obsessaholic No. 7: File folders

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I love organizing things. I’m in love with manila folders. Oh how they bring me joy. I fill them with all sorts of things – like store receipts and school newsletters and birthday cards and toy instructions and report cards and millions and millions of other items flat enough to fit. If it can go into a manila folder, it does.

When it comes to organizing my work e-mail, I have tons of folders under the save tab. I have a folder for every person I work with (and some that I don’t but frequently e-mail). One for each project I’m working on or for each group I’m involved with. Some folders have sub folders. For example, I have a letters folder under which can be found a good letter folder and a bad letter folder. When I get a letter from a reader praising me for something (which rarely happens), I put it in the good letter folder. When I get a letter blasting me for something that only a complete idiot would do (like eliminate a particular Sunday comic) I put that in my bad letter folder. And, some folders that have sub folders that have sub folders. Try to figure that one out. Just my normal crazy self.

Excerpt from "The Brain Invaders'

But that’s me, Alex. Always trying to save the world, or at least those people I care about. And, lately, it seems like more and more of the people I care about are changing. They’re different. Not completely human. I know it sounds weird but I swear it’s the truth.

First Mrs. McGee. Then my sister’s old piano teacher and my minister.

They look like humans.

They walk and talk like humans.

But they aren’t completely human – and now I know why.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Some of my writing tweets

  • Writing is like peeling an orange. You pick away at the shell until you get to the delicious fruit inside. And then enjoy it.
  • Writing that inspires us is like getting candy as a kid - a delightful treat:)
  • I'm in love with writing, but sometimes I swear it hates me. Doesn't want to cooperate. Can be stubborn and downright nasty. Listen up, U!
  • Writing is the key that unlocks the stories battling in our brains to get out.
  • Writing is our medicine. It makes us feel better.
  • Writing is like eating dessert -- you can never get enough of it.
  • Writing sweetens our day and makes life so much richer.
  • Writing is a mental massage that soothes our soul in ways nothing else ever could.
  • Writing is as natural and essential as breathing.

Now your turn. Writing is...

Excerpt from High Street Gang/Haunted Barn

My friends took off for the food stand and I started doodling on the score pad. That's when my sister, Elizabeth, showed up.

"What's up, punk," she said, pulling the tablet out of my hand.

"Get lost.”

"When did you learn shorthand?"

"I didn't."

"Well, this is shorthand. I should know. I taught myself from one of Mom’s old text books just for fun.”

"Well, if it's shorthand, what does it say, smarty?"

"You'll find Anna in West Side Nursing Home. Hurry. Time is running out.”

"That scribble says all that?"

I grabbed the tablet to look at it. Still looked like scribble to me.

"Who's Anna?" she asked.

"I don't know."

“Then why’d you write it?”

“I didn’t. Well, at least I didn’t know that I did.”

"You’re really weird. And I suppose you’re going to tell me that you also didn’t know you wrote West Side Nursing Home. Where’s that, anyway? Never heard of it."

"Me, neither."

"Then why'd you write it?"

"I told you I didn't write it. I mean I didn't know that I did. I was just doodling."

"How can you write in shorthand and not even know it? Give me a break, dweeb."

Confessions of an obsessaholic No. 6: A place for everything

My brother-in-law Frank drives me crazy (As if I’m not crazy enough!). So he comes to my house and has fun moving things and swapping things and hiding things and messing up things because he knows that after he leaves I will spend hours putting everything back where it belongs. For example, he’ll swap the basket on the fireplace mantel with the one on the end table or he’ll move the rag doll perched on my quilt rack to the back of the sofa. He drives me insane – ON PURPOSE. He knows that I like everything in its place, and he gets his laughs at my expense. I’m like so glad when he leaves. I love him dearly, just don’t like the way he screws with my head. But he does wash and wax and clean the inside of my car for free, so I guess we’re even.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Excerpt from "Grandma's Last Dance"

Grandma insisted on a funeral service for King David. She turned a small, white jewelry box into a tiny casket complete with a purple velvet lining. Then she made a grave marker out of a piece of wood. “Here lies King David. May he rest in peace,” it said.

Maddie came to the funeral service, too. Grandma had asked her to read from the Bible and Grandma sang “Jesus Love Me.” Then Grandma talked about how much she loved watching King David swim around his bowl and what a beautiful fish he was and how he made Ella so happy. Then Maddie talked about how King David was the best fish she had ever met and how happy she was to have had the opportunity to know him.

Then Ella took King David’s casket and placed it in the hole Grandma had dug in the backyard underneath the cherry tree. It was a beautiful ceremony, and Grandma told Ella she could get a new goldfish if she wanted. But Ella didn’t want another fish. She wanted King David.

Confessions of an obsessaholic No. 5: Grocery cart

When I go to the supermarket I strategically park near the cart return. Why? you ask. (Or maybe you’re secretly hoping that I will just go away.) It’s about being efficient. I park near the rack so I don’t have too far to walk after loading the groceries into my car. I’ve thought a great deal about this (like 2 seconds) and it makes complete sense to me.

My husband, on the other hand, parks about 200 miles away. “You say you need to get more exercise,” he says. “Well, here you go.” I tell him that trekking hundreds of miles to the store door from the wilderness of the parking lot (making sure that I don’t step on sticky gum or yellow lines or pebbles big enough to twist my ankle) doesn’t count. Running seven miles uphill (winks) counts. He just looks at me and shakes his head and I’m like, well, you married me you fool. Now you have to put up with my crazy self. LOL

Friday, August 14, 2009

Learn to have the generosity of children

There was once a little boy who collected plastic tree frogs.

He loved to play with the colorful creatures.

He had blue ones

and red ones

and yellow ones.

Spotted ones

and striped ones.

Each week, he saved his 50-cent allowance to buy a new one for his growing menagerie.

One week, he earned a dollar helping a neighbor rake leaves — enough for two tree frogs.

Imagine that.

The little boy was so happy he could hardly wait until it was Friday and time to do the weekly grocery shopping. You see, the tree frogs lived in a bubble-gum machine at the supermarket.

Each day, he’d ask his mother if that was the day they were going to the store.

And each day, for five days straight, his mother said no. But on the sixth day she said yes.

Tree frog day had finally arrived, and the little boy jumped and smiled and laughed.

Life was good.

On their way to the store, however, he and his mother stopped at the pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions. The little boy saw a can on the counter. There was a picture of a little girl on the sign that was attached. He asked his mother about the little girl, and she explained that the money collected in the can was used to help children with disabilities.

The little boy stuffed his chubby hand into his jeans pocket and pulled out his crumpled dollar. He looked at the picture of George Washington on the dollar bill and then at the picture of the little girl on the sign. He turned the dollar over and studied the back of it.

“Time to go,” his mother said, tugging his arm.

They walked a few steps, and the little boy stopped.

They walked a few more steps, and he stopped again.

“Wait,” he said.

He sprinted to the counter and stuffed the dollar in the can. Even though he wanted the tree frogs and had waited all week to get them, he wanted to help the little girl and her friends more.

I wonder, sometimes, what would happen if we were more like this child. If we opened our hearts to others without expecting something in return. What good we could do if every person who read this column threw a dollar in a pot.

Imagine that.


This is a true story about my son Zach. It’s one of the proudest moments of my life, and it’s one I will never forget.

The little boy is now a man. As he goes out into the world, I hope and pray that he never forgets the tree frogs and how good it feels to give.

First published in the York Daily Record/Sunday News Feb. 25, 2007

Inspired picture book: One Frog, Two Frogs, Three Frogs, Four

From "High Street Gang and Locket of Doom"

Excerpt from middle-grade novel

"But I’m scared,” A.J. said. “I don't mind walking through the cemetery when it’s light outside, but at midnight? Walking on top of all those dead people when it's dark gives me the creeps."

I wasn't crazy about the idea either. I mean, standing in the middle of a cemetery at midnight isn't my idea of fun. But I, Margaret Mary O'Malley, never back down from a dare. A.J.'s older brother, Tom, had dared our group, the High Street Gang, to walk through the cemetery at midnight.

"What’s there to be afraid of? Everyone’s dead. It’s not like they’re going to claw their way out of their coffins and grab you and pull you into their grave and we’ll never see you again. Besides, we can't chicken out. We'll never hear the end of it. And I really want to see if the statue cries."

"What statue?"

"The one in the middle of the cemetery. You know the one. The lady. It's the only statue in the entire cemetery. It cries."

Celebrating the strands that bind us together

I was sitting in a crowded theater watching “Spider-Man 3” with my sons when Spidey creator Stan Lee appeared in a scene with Peter Parker.

“You know, I guess one person can make a difference,” he tells Peter.

I love when movies provide moments I can discuss later with my kids. And I knew Lee’s line was just the sticky stuff I needed to capture their attention. It was a good opportunity to chat about the difference each one of us can make. And the visual of a web showing how we are all interconnected wasn’t bad either. I had it all figured out by the time we got to the car.

The kids saw it coming. They’re used to me weaving cinematic moments into our drive-home discussions. But I just couldn’t help sharing some moments in my life when one person had made a difference.

Sometimes the moments have been simple - like a smile and a few kind words from the clerk who rings up my morning coffee on a day I’m feeling blue. And sometimes the moments have been more life changing, like the moment my first son was born, and I realized that the incredible gift I had been given would change my life forever.

One of the real beauties in this world, I think, is the intricate web created when one person does something nice for someone else, like Charlotte does for her beloved Wilbur in “Charlotte’s Web.” Usually, the person has no idea how far-reaching the web they started has become, nor do they realize the number of people caught in its magic.

I have two such webs I’d like to share.

I remember arriving at Emig Funeral Home in Dover in March 1997 for my brother-in-law’s viewing and director Dan Cupp telling us that an anonymous donor had paid the entire funeral bill. What a difference that person made in all of our lives that day.

There were tears. And more tears. Not just because of the financial burden that was lifted from my sister, Wendy, who was very ill (she died less than a month later), but because of what it taught us about human compassion.

Each one of us was touched by this incredible act of kindness. It showed us there is good in the world and to give and not expect anything in return is an awesome thing.

One person.

One moment.

One web.

But many touched by its magic.

Iremember the time I came home on a cold winter’s night to find a pile of presents at my door for a needy child I had been buying Christmas gifts for. The generous soul didn’t want me to know he had left them (he’ll tell you not every Santa wears red), but it wasn’t hard to figure out.
My brother-in-law Frank has one of the biggest, warmest, most loving hearts around, and if you tell him a child needs something, he’s the first one to the store buying it. In this case, the child wanted some hockey equipment. And Frank, an avid hockey fan, knew just what to get.

One person.

One moment.

One web.

But many touched by its magic.

Parents. Spouses. Siblings. Friends. Teachers. Neighbors. You get the idea. All of us can and do make differences every day. We may not see the entire web our single action spins, but the masterpiece is there and its beauty felt in each connecting strand.

Be Charlotte-esque. Help weave the webs of the world. They make it stronger and better for all of us to live in.

One person can make a difference.

First published in the York Daily Record/Sunday News May 27, 2007