Friday, October 30, 2015

Day #266: Only 99 Days Left! (Challenge Update!)

Well, I haven't created a blog entry for every single day, in fact, October has been a slacker month, but I have managed to continually think about my $20,000 goal.

At the beginning of this personal challenge to increase my income and pay off those pesky credit cards, I had originally imagined that I would be creating or building something to sell online, or perhaps get into buying and selling things on Ebay or Etsy. Those ideas quickly devolved into failed attempts followed by inaction... However, I did redouble my efforts to write some good stories for my agent to sell, so I've made progress in that arena.

I don't know if I'll be able to complete the goal, but I've managed to get nearly halfway there. During the last couple weeks some more royalty checks have come trickling in. I earned $40 for a new article for Pioneer Drama Service. I also received a royalty check from Brooklyn Plays -- most of which goes into the checking account -- but $34 goes toward my goal.

Here are the updated challenge total results:

Last Week: $9,683.70

Updated Challenge Total: $9757.70

Day #265: Happy Halloween!!!

I've always loved Halloween... (What kid doesn't love wearing costumes and getting free candy?)

But for over a decade now, this holiday means even more to me because it's the birthday of my second child, Emily.

She's fourteen years old today! But here's a photograph of when she was my little pumpkin...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Day #264: The Joy of Half Baked Ideas

So I've been waiting for the next BRIGHT IDEA to hit me... As I may have mentioned before, writing a picture book is not as easy as you would think. When I first started writing them, I thought to myself, "I could write one a day! After all, they are only 500 to 1500 words. How hard could it be to come up with a dozen each month."

Turns out, it's really hard... For me at least. That is to say, it's not hard to generate a lame picture book, and sometimes it's easy to come up with a mediocre picture book, but writing a GREAT PICTURE BOOK is the opposite of easy.

When I do stumble upon a bright idea, I have to let it settle in my brain for a while. The story idea marinates in my mind. That's what happened with my dinosaur book. I developed an early draft in 2013... I knew that I like the beginning and the end, but the middle was all mushy and messed up. The form wasn't right (at the time the only character who spoke was the bellhop). The draft was half-baked. So I let it cook for a while... And I was never sure that I was ever going to revisit the idea. But about six months later, while attending Eugene Yelchin's lecture at the 2014 SCBWI conference, he said something that made everything click. I suddenly realized the right form, the right structure for the story, and then all of the missing elements soon appeared. The writing process from that point was easy... But only after all of those months of head scratching and paper crumpling.

So, I keep track of my half-baked ideas... Today, I made a list to organize the half-bakers. I thought I just had a few floating around, it turns out I have a total of ten... And, as if by magic, the tenth half baked idea on the list started to rise... It's now fully baked, and it's ready for me to devour. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Day #263: Enjoying the Calm Before the Storm

This week has felt so good because I dug myself out from the avalanche of essays. The respite will not last forever. This coming Tuesday, I'll receive a bunch of World Lit essays, and by November 11th I'll be wading through a ton of Poetry and Argument essays. But for now I have spare time, and I've been making the most of it... Spending time with my family, and spending time in
Duck Town, both lovely places to be. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Day #262: Original Artwork!

Cheri and I purchased an original painting by our friend (and Canyon Theatre Guide superstar) John Alexopoulos.

It's his re-imagining of Disney's
Haunted Mansion -- one of the rides Cheri once worked on, way back in our Disneyland days.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Day #261: A New Spielberg Movie!

It feels so good to be alive in the Age of Spielberg. In just a matter of days, a new film by the world's greatest director will be in theaters, and I plan to watch it opening night.

It's called
Bridge of Spies. So far, all I know about it is that it stars Tom Hanks, and that it deals with the U2 fiasco (the airplane, not the band!) And that's a part of history I don't know very much about, so I'm excited to watch and learn. (I know -- learning about the past by watching movies isn't the best way to educate oneself -- but it's entertaining!) 

Update: I didn't watch Bridge of Spies on opening night, because I decided to wait for the rest of my family. (Wasn't that hospitable of me?) In short, it's a great film... for some reason it feels like a really good companion piece to Catch Me If You Can. 

If you haven't seen Tom Hank and Jimmy Fallon performing scenes written by elementary school children, then please, by all means, check this out... 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Day #246 - #260: A Serious Lapse in Blog Posts

Strange, in my last blog post -- two weeks ago -- I reported very good news. So, one would think that it would rejuvenate my efforts and that I would easily post at least one blog a day.

However, that has not been the case. Although I am beyond excited to report that my fourth picture books, MR. COMPLAIN TAKES THE TRAIN, has been sold that doesn't mean I get to quit my day job...

And this time of year my day job is pretty darn busy. I've had stacks and stacks of essays to grade... so pretty much my routine has been to wake up, drive to work, teach class, attend various meetings, drive home, dine with the family, transport the girls to karate (or academic activities), grade papers, go to sleep.

During the last three weekends, it's pretty much been a combination of quality time with the family interrupted by a bunch of midterms.

So, that's it -- my lame excuse for why I haven't been blogging on a daily basis. The good news is that I finally waded through a wave of essays, and there won't be any more papers to grade until November 10th... so I've got about two weeks in which my schedule won't be as hectic.

Here's what I've been working on this weekend:

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Day #245: Challenge Total Update - Big News!!!

Contracts have not been signed yet, nor have checks been sent... But I am going to unofficially announce that I have gained some serious ground on my one-year goal to generate an extra $20,000 of additional income.

I cannot divulge all of the details at this time, but I can say that my agent sold my fourth picture book. That's right... Picture Book #4!!!

That means that I've sold the following...

  • "Why Do I Have to Make My Bed? Or, a History of Messy Rooms" (2011 - Tricycle / Random House)
  • "Around the World in a Bathtub" (2016? - Charlesbridge)
  • "There's a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor" (2016? or 2017? - Candlewick)
  • Mystery Book #4 (Title and info to be disclosed at a later date)

Because my agent procured a generous advance from the publishing house, I am able to bump up my challenge total more than tenfold. Are you ready?

The new challenge total is: $9,683.70

Hooray! Here's to setting goals...

Of course, I'm a little less than halfway there... and I've got about 100 days left. Can I do it?

Day #244: "Sleeping Beauty and the Beast" - Behind the Scenes

Normally my plays are performed and produced by middle schools and high school drama departments. Often this results in a low budget production, mainly because we don't spend enough money funding the arts in public education! (Okay, I'll get off my soap box now.)

Every so often, a community or regional theater will select one of my plays. This is always exciting because these groups typically have a little more funds and I'm always anxious to see what they'll create.

About five years ago, the San Carlos Children's Theatre put on a production of my comedy, "Sleeping Beauty and the Beast." They didn't film the show (that's against copyright laws) but they did film a lot of behind the scenes material. The result is a glimpse at a lot of young performers having a great time....

Whether it's regional, professional, community, or educational... I am honored when any group chooses one of my plays. It's great and humbling knowing that at any given moment, someone is working on one of my plays.