Thursday, June 28, 2012

My First Author Visit

When I decided that I wanted to write children's books, I wasn't aware that there was much else involved besides coming up with an idea, writing the story, sending it off to a publisher, and eventually signing autographs. That simple, right?

OBVIOUSLY I now know that there is so much more to it than that. But I never imagined that I would be invited to a school to share my book. Fortunately, a few weeks ago, that's exactly what happened. And last week, I found myself sitting in front of several students who were all there wanting me to read my book.

My morning started pretty early... I had to drive thirty-five minutes to drop the kids off at Grandpa's house, then drive an additional 1.5hrs up the mountain to the super cute, super secluded, super tiny Big Creek School. I was, in a word, pumped. I was blasting music I do not typically listen to (because, let's face it, I'm NEVER alone in the car!); I'm talkin' some loud mid to late 90s Rap, some fierce Lady Gaga, some superb Sublime, and the best of Beastie Boys. My speakers were blaring, my windows were down, and my self confidence was through the moonroof! It didn't matter that I'd stayed up all night setting up the activity I planned on doing with the kids...


Okay, so 1.5hrs of driving in the windy mountains that I love so much was a looong time. I noticed the caffeine high starting to tame, so I turned on some Fleetwood Mac and The Civil Wars, and calmed my (clearly overcompensated for) nerves.

When I arrived at the school, I found my way to the office and asked where I should be headed. The school was out for the summer, so the halls were very empty. I was there for their summer program! I told the receptionist who I was and why I was there. She looked confused until I said, "I'm the Author." She jumped from her seat, and with a large grin, she hugged me. Yes. Hugged me.

When I got to the classroom, I began to set things up. A friend of mine helped me with the Protheam board (which was SO cool, by the way), and slowly the kids trickled in. They were mostly Preschoolers, but that worked out A-OK for me! I sat myself down in front of the class and had to use my I'm-oh-so-interesting voice (picture a Disney Princess/super sugary mom voice). Low and behold, I began to read.

The kids loved it. They answered questions about their younger/older siblings, about birthday parties they'd been to, and what they thought friends were all about. Then it was off to the activity!

With a GIANT thanks to my savior, Jennifer Young, my activity consisted of handing each child a bag that said "A Best Friend is..." on it, and have them collect various items that represented what friendship is to them. For example, a rock represented "Strength", a BandAid was "Heals hurt feelings", a LifeSaver (candy) was "Helps you when you're stuck", etc. It was incredible to watch these little kids value friendship so much.

Along with the wonderful coloring pages that the amazing Tyler Parker donated, the kids were set! It was over quite quickly, but every child said thank you and that they'd had a lot of fun.
One girl (I believe she was 4 or 5 years old) told me she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Beaming and overjoyed, I asked her, "Why's that?" Her answer sums up the very reason why every writer I know is a writer...
"Because I have a lot of stories in
my head that need to get out."

I had so much fun. First one down... Here's to many, many more!


Special thanks to Big Creek School! I hope to join you again sometime! And a HUGE thanks to Emily Anderson... From day one, you've been supporting me and encouraging me. Thanks for setting this up, and for being an excellent photographer! :)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Ponder... Wednesdays: I've got nothin'.

Every week, I sit and ponder. I cook and ponder. I drive and ponder. And while I do not suggest that last one, I do believe constantly wondering about the way the world works is a positive thing.

Unfortunately, for me this week?

I must admit, my brain has been on overload. We have had crazy things go on here at home, not to mention it's been extremely HOT outside (Bethany and heat do NOT equal friends!).

But as I sat here in the cool early morning hours, my mind went on a tailspin about having "nothing" on... well... my mind. Is that ever a possibility? It might feel like it sometimes. But it made me realize and understand that the reality is-

I have TOO MUCH on my mind.

When we have too much going on, we put pressure on ourselves. We become exhausted. We shut down. And as a writer, that isn't something you can really afford, can you? I mean, we all understand that not a single one of us get the amount of sleep we need. We all stress about something (whether writing related or not). But having too much on your mind ends up leading to the inability to create. We find ourselves looking for relaxing places to retreat to. But for me, after I've visited that relaxing place and I feel like my mind has cleared, everything that was bothering me or that was left unsolved creeeeeeps its way back into my brain, and not only am I overwhelmed- I feel guilty.

So, naturally, I have been sitting here pondering up solutions to this dilemma. "How do I write under SO MUCH FRIGGIN STRESS?????" And it dawned on me...

I just... don't.

Whoa! Pressure off, right? How creative can one actually be if they're forcing themselves to be awesome? I don't think the almighty San Francisco Giants pitcher, Matt Cain, would have been able to have his Perfect Game a couple weeks ago, if he would have said, "You MUST have a perfect game. You MUST be the first in Giants' history!". You think that would have been possible? Nope. Me either. Well, it's no different for we writers. If you've got nothin', don't force it. It'll be terrible anyway!

So my question to you this week:

What do YOU do, when you simply have... Nothing?

I hope to hear from you on this topic. I believe it's helpful for all writers and creatives (as I call them) to share how they pull through the everyday garbage that tries to bombard us, and wind up coming up with something terrific.

Happy writing!!

Oh wait, there's more!
Tomorrow I will be sharing about my first Author/school visit, so please come on back! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I Ponder... Wednesdays: What REALLY inspires you?

I recently Googled "Writer Inspiration", and you know what I got? Over 1.4 million results that included (but was not limited to) images, blog posts, quotes, art, and books.

Should I say that again? 1.4 MILLION!!
Now, some of you might think that that is a neat thing. I agree! How cool! But it got me thinking... Why do we need things to inspire us that are specifically written to inspire us? I'm not sure it's supposed to work that way, is it? Shouldn't we, as writers, already look to the entire world to inspire us?

I think the answer is no... And yes!

Here's what I mean:

I don't go looking for inspiration on my computer. I usually go for a walk, play with my kids, or sit outside one of their bedrooms and quietly listen to their conversations. It does wonders! I love to cuddle by the fire when it's cold outside. I treasure family trips, and the quiet hush that falls over my house when the boys finally drift to sleep. However, I can understand what writer's block truly does to a person. I've been there.


So I can get to the place where reading all the wonderful blogs of other people's ideas on what might inspire me, could work. But, I think I'd end up feeling like I was cheating. Was it really MY inspiration that got that character out of me? Am I being a bit pessimistic and strange? Yeah, I know I am. Especially since I disagree with myself!

We are creative thinkers. No, I am definitely NOT crafty (Seriously. Come back for my post this upcoming Friday, where I'll share pics and talk about my first school visit. You'll see what I mean.), but when it comes to other parts of the creative brain, I do okay. There are others who can create an entire life-sized elephant using some Q-Tips and "easy" directions they found on Pinterest. Creative thinkers have the ability and honor for thinking for themselves. And when they get stuck, they turn to the like-minded friends they might have for help and inspiration. And I love that. It doesn't take much to get us going. It's as simple as seeing a font on someones email. Or the motivation that comes from watching a 3 year-old play Beethoven on the piano, like it was the theme song from Barney. Whatever it is, it helps! And it's insane that there are so many things available.

So, what am I saying? I have no clue... Maybe it's that I am so baffled by our need to be inspired, that we search self-help books instead of walking around in the sunshine. Maybe I am, once again, thrilled to have a community that embraces each of our individual panic attacks when we absolutely cannot think of what to do or say... Or maybe it's both. But, either way, I want to hear from you-

What REALLY inspires you?

And, no, I don't want to hear about which blogs are great (though that sounds like a great idea for another post!) or which quotes rock your socks off... I want to know what it is that gets you, or got you, out of a slump. What is it that cut you to the core, and made your frozen creative juices flowing!

Remember- as "Creatives"- we understand that each project
we're on, starts somewhere...

All it takes is one spark of inspiration.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I Ponder Wednesdays: What do you value in the writing community?

In April I attended my first SCBWI conference. I thought I'd be nervous. I thought I'd feel out of place. But the truth was, I didn't feel either of those things. Overconfidence? Maybe. Inflated ego? Definitely not. I just felt... Comfortable.

When it came time for our first speaker (lucky for us, it was none other than the sensational LIN OLIVER!), I was downright giddy. I'd met up with my pal, Elizabeth Stevens Omlor (yes, that one!), had a delicious pastry, and I was sitting with my incredible critique group. Now all that was needed was for Ms. Oliver to pass all her knowledge onto me- I mean, us. She spoke about very poignant things that are vital to writers, and gave fantastic examples and quotes that will stick with me forever.

However, in the beginning she spoke about how she got into writing, and how she eventually started SCBWI. She mentioned how she'd written letters to some pretty famous writers (one even being THE Dr. Seuss!) asking their advice after she'd gotten a job writing a bunch of children's stories. She had the audience guess how many writers actually got back to her... Want to know? Every. Single. One.

Cue light bulb moment for Bethany.

"We in the writing community are nice. Plain and simple." she said.

I wrote down a bunch of notes, but I don't remember much of her speech after that. And here's why:

I have been in many situations where I felt sub par. I've felt like the underdog. I've worried about fitting in. But I can honestly say, I have never met a children's book writer who has ever treated me with anything but encouragement, honesty, love, and a whole lot of smiles. I can't say that there are too many industries out there today that are like ours. And maybe that is why at my very first conference, I felt so comfortable and at ease. It wasn't overconfidence (I swear!), it was the few hundred people in the room showing me that I had an entire supportive army standing behind me, should I ever need to call on them. And what made me feel the greatest? I was standing behind them.

My question this week is sort of a twofer (two-for? How do we use the slang, here? Hmmm...). And since we are all so nice, please make sure to not name names or get too specific with the second question:

What is it about the writing community
that you value most?
Have you ever encountered a rude writer
that left you discouraged?

As you go today, I'm going to challenge you... Encourage ONE person. Just one, to keep going. Our community is vast, but tight knit as well... But it can't stay that way if we don't continue to hold one another up.