Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Well, I have been holding a secret. Believe me, this was NOT easy! The only secrets I'm good at keeping are Christmas or birthday secrets. But this one? I think it was worth all the torment!

I can officially announce that my book, WAITING FOR JAMES IN A SEA OF PINK, has been chosen as one of the editorial staff's top ten favorites in the MeeGenius Author Challenge!!!!!

*Jumping up and down, giggling like a school girl*

I am sooooo excited!!!

So when you get the chance, please check out my BOOK (ahhhh!!!!!), and vote! If I win, my Alma Mater Webster Elementary will receive an entire library of eBooks!!! They've fallen on hard times, and could really use your help! Thank you for your support, and for all the love!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

I Won an Award!!!

I love having new friends... Especially when those new friends seem to mirror my goals, loves, and life in general. Within these last few months, I have attained MANY new friends because of the different writing adventures we have been on together. And, today, one of them honored me!

Jennifer Young is someone I have never met in person (we literally live on opposite sides of the country!), but she and I seem to have a lot in common. I love reading her blog, Castles in the Sky and talking back and forth with her on various discussions. Well, today, she gave me the LEIBSTER AWARD!
The Liebster award is an award designed to bring traffic to bloggers with fewer than 200 followers (sheepishly, I am such a blogger :/).

As the lucky recipient of the Liebster award, I get to name five blogs with under 200 followers that I recommend you visit! I will share those with you further down the page. BUT, as a part of this award, I guess I also get to name five random things about myself. So, without further adieu...

5 Random Things about me

1. I cannot tolerate walking around in just socks.

2. I'd take popcorn over chocolate ANY day.

3. I only call them chones, undies, or underwear. The "P" word
grosses me out beyond all reason!

4. I want a pet elephant.

5. I wish I were from an Italian family.

Alrighty, and now to the bloggers who will receive the award from me! Please be sure to check them out, and follow them everywhere they go, er, BLOG! Thanks again, Jennifer. You boosted my spirits!!

 Congrats to you, ladies! Now pass this along!!


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why over writing is like overeating

Just... one... more... BITE!

Come on, we've ALL been there. We eat and eat and eat, until we feel like we're going to explode. We have to delicately lay ourselves down on the couch and unbutton our pants. We've overeaten, but man oh man... It was delicious!

Now, the problem with overeating isn't obvious right away. You might not feel comfortable until you get into some stretchy pants, but mostly, you won't have that Regret Gremlin tap your shoulder until you wake up the next morning. You feel sluggish, greasy, and you know for a fact that you aren't going out for your usual morning jog. Well, I have found that overwriting, is strangely similar.

I am a self-diagnosed over writer. I will write and write and write until I feel like I have said everything I need to say. The problem? It's too much. But, just like overeating, I don't notice it right away. I feel comfortable with the length of my "perfect" story! The dialog sounds exactly the way I imagine my MC would talk; the descriptions of the birds singing are so elaborate, I swear I can hear them just outside my window! But then when I reread my story the next day, that all too familiar tap-tap on my shoulder reminds me that the Regret Gremlin doesn't just work on "foodies".

I know overwriting happens to every writer. And just like we do when we overeat, we need to exercise! We need to "trim the fat", and admit that the problem areas need work.

Need some how-to examples?
  • Find the one word you have used 6,000 times in two paragraphs and take it out!
  • If you're writing a picture book, eliminate the elaborate descriptions if they are not absolutely necessary (aka allow room for your illustrator to work!).
  • Don't go crazy with dialog. Kids say cute things, let's face it. But using it all in your story ends up taking away from your story. Keeping dialog simple- THAT is key!
  • Find a buddy that will be honest with you- someone who won't say, "It sounds great!" when it really doesn't.
  • READ IT OUT LOUD! I can't stress this enough. If you mumble and fumble over your own words, odds are so will everyone else!
  • Much like working out in the gym, you need to go over your story a few times in a week (or more!). Get in a groove with what you've written, and get it perfected and tight.

For picture books, the goal is difficult. Your manuscript needs to be 700 words or less (preferably), with SO MUCH going on from beginning to end. It's easy to write beyond that (there has never been a time where I HAVEN'T done so!). You simply need to remember that if you're going to overwrite, you need to be willing to accept all the work you must to put in to trimming your manuscript down.

With that said, someone pass the hot wings...

I'll workout tomorrow. ;)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Are you an encouraging critic?

When I was in high school, my absolute FAVORITE thing to do in my advanced English class was to write essays. I loved writing about topics given to me by the teacher that were meant to challenge and inspire. I often heard my peers complain, "We have to write a 1500 word WHAT?". I never, ever counted my words to see how much more I had left to write. I loved it!
I know, I'm weird.

However, there was another element to writing essays that I treasured. It didn't happen all that often, but I really looked forward to the times where our teachers would add, "After your first draft is written, you will exchange essays with the person next to you for Peer Review...". Fantastic! That meant someone who was experiencing the same things in life that I was experiencing, who shared the same feelings that I felt, who could easily give me good pointers because they themselves knew ME, would be critiquing my essay. Yes!

When I was given an essay to review, I tried my best to be encouraging. Even if I could barely understand what was written, I went ahead and gave them the pointers I felt they'd need to get a better grade. Sometimes, I got great feedback, and sometimes I got none. It didn't matter. I loved it all the same.

There was one time, though, where a very intelligent girl (the Valedictorian-type who went on to get several degrees from several Ivy leagues before her 30th birthday) probably ran her red pen totally dry on one of my essays. She ripped that thing apart, and had nothing good to say in the end. Instead of leaving me encouraged and motivated, she left me feeling self conscious, worthless, and stupid.

I am now a part of a critique group with four other INCREDIBLE women. We meet once a month, usually in places that stay open until 9pm- Panera, Starbucks, Whole Foods, etc. We like to submit our manuscripts to one another the Friday before we meet, so that way we can bring our opinions to the table after each manuscript is read aloud. I just joined the group in the fall of 2011, and let me tell you, I. Was. TERRIFIED. I just knew they were all these snooty, refined, perfect women who had their junk together, and had ALL been published. I came to my first meeting expecting my manuscript to be painted in red... four different times.

Know what I was met with instead? Kindness. Encouragement. Love. And truthfully? I have gotten nothing less with each meeting. They are uplifting. No snootiness, no perfection, and believe me, they'd all be the last to say that they have their junk together! I've learned a lot, and have left each meeting with a different feeling. Once I left feeling like I had finally done it! Once I left feeling confused. Once, I even left discouraged. But I can assure you, it wasn't because of what they said.

Look, no one is going to leave any critique "sesh" feeling like they are the all-time, most awesome, king of all things written. If they were that, they wouldn't need critique groups! But what matters is HOW they are critiqued. That makes a giant difference! Ideas need to be bounced off each other instead of forced onto each other.

Here's what I mean:

Instead of- "Look, this sentence makes ZERO sense. I don't get it. You need to change it."

Try- "I think I understand what you're getting to, but, I wonder if we did it this way if it might work
          better. What do you think?"

What feels better?

We as writers are in a tough spot, no one needs to tell us that. We are faced with a lot of complications ranging from time to write, to tough markets, all the way to not having much support from the people around us (except for those lucky few, maybe). The best thing we can do for ourselves is encourage each other. Yes, we are competition for one another. But I think the moment we see that we're all out for the same cause, will be the moment we can achieve a lot for the children who want/need new, fresh, inspiring stories!

So, I'll ask you, what kind of critic are you?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Lesson from Howie the Fish

Writing... Writing... Writing...

There! I did it. I wrote today. Now I can get over the guilt that this week I haven't put ANY effort into writing. Want to know what I did today? I (barely) got out of bed this morning, I helped my adorable- albeit forgetful- hubby find his work keys (NOT an easy feat!), got him out the door, made the boys oatmeal, and decided to take them to the pet store. WHHYYYY?? Oh, I don't know. In my pure exhaustion I thought picking them up a Betta fish would be a good idea. A distraction, if you will, so maaaybe I could get work done.

We got home and it was time for lunch and naps... But not for me, of course. I was going to devote my quiet time to my manuscript that I'm so excited about. However, I didn't think my almost-3yr old would kick, scream, and cause PURE PANIC in mi casa all because he couldn't sleep with said fishy (ps, "said fishy" has a name. It's Howie...). But he did.

So, I fought with the kid for about an hour and a half, and just as I opened up my computer, my almost-5yr old was up. Urrggg!! But the truth is, there's not much I can do about any of the time I have lost. The mood is gone. I'd rather vent about all of this than write a children's story. Writing for children is the last thing I now want to do.

I've been staring at Howie for a while. We're letting the tap water get to room temperature, and then we'll transition him (in his bag from the store) to the water, and allow that water to adjust. Once it has, he can finally be set "free" in his lager environment. It's a looong process. Does he seem to care? Maybe I should ask him. But his tiny, beautiful body language appears unperturbed. Hmmm... See, I'd be in total panic mode!

I'm thinking there's a lesson in this...

I've been meeting a lot of writers lately. They are either one of two types:
    1. Published. Professional. Knowledgeable. Set in their ways.


    2. BRAND SPANKING NEW. Exhausted. Terrified. Unsure. Doubting that they have any skill.

But you know what the biggest difference is between these two types?
"Duh, Bethany," you say, "Experience!"
And, that might be. But I think the biggest difference is, Patience. Patience gives you the chance to relax. To let your story brew! It allows you, the writer, to be comfortable with who you are as the narrator to a child's imagination.

So, for me today, the guilt of not diving into my manuscript might be overwhelming, but the time I shared at the pet store helping my boys pick out their first fish, was worth it. It gave me patience, actually, because I was able to see the world through their eyes, and see their excitement when they were coming up with the perfect name for it. It took staring at the ever-patient Howie as he waited for his much larger home to become acceptable for his living conditions, for me to realize that good things truly DO come to those who wait.

I'll get back to my manuscript tonight... Or maybe tomorrow. Either way, I now know that patience to creating the perfect story idea, finding the time to jot down your thoughts, or actually writing out your story, is KEY.

After all, if Howie can be so chill, maybe I can be too.