Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - May 24th, 2017


That's right, I am still doing Word Count Wednesday... At least for a while, perhaps throughout the summer. It's a good way to keep me accountable.

What Am I Working On?
I spent a long time this month tinkering with variations of MEAN SQUIRRELS. But ultimately I couldn't get into it. You would think it would be an easy piece of silliness, a squirrel version of the hit 2004 comedy by Tina Fey. But I discovered that when the squirrels became mean to others, they basically turned into bullies, and then the merriment (no matter how hard I tried to make it flourish) evaporated.

So I have abandoned that project -- at least until it develops into some other incarnation.

However, I do have some good news. When I was driving home from my final creative writing class, I stumbled upon a hilarious idea for a new picture book. I spent the first two days of summer writing it, and my agent has already given me some notes. So I am planning to revise and resubmit over the weekend.

Also, I began a new middle grade novel (or maybe it's a chapter book, I'm not sure) about time travel. So far, it's been fun to work on. We'll see if the amusement lasts. So far, in 2017, I've noticed that if the porject is fun and easy to work on, I will achieve success. If it gets tough and slow, it ultimately turns to crap and remains unfinished. If that trend contnues, then I might want to cut bait sooner rather than later. (I hope I used that fishing metaphor correctly.)


Word Count: 1800


Monday, May 22, 2017

Planting a Tree


Well, I wasn't as productive yesterday as I was the first three days of summer, but I did write a couple funny scenes this morning and afternoon. I also did some editing and sent off the current version of the manuscript to my writing partner.

Oh, and I dug a hole and planted a tree. That was exhausting. Last December we bought a live Christmas Tree and it's been sitting in a pot outside, goring for the last six months. Cheri and I decided it was time to put him in the yard... Hopefully we didn't wait too long.

Today has been relatively uneventful -- so far. My eldest has a cold. My youngest attended her geometry class (she continues to impress her college professor). Despite her illness, my eldest daughter is currently working on her history homework. These girls are incredible!

My wife is in Washington, visiting family, and celebrating the life of her aunt who passed away last month.

Now that I've hit a Waiting Point with the play, I am trying to decide what project to work on next. Something big or something small?

I'll let you know what I decided as soon as I figure it out myself!








Saturday, May 20, 2017

Back to the Page, and Back to the Stage...


Today is Day Three of Summer Vacation. I still cannot believe it's summer. That school year went by in a snap. And yet, there were times during the autumn when all life seemed to be in Limbo -- when we didn't know what would happen with my wife (due to her Gall Bladder) or my daughter (due to OCD symptoms).

We're going to the Renaissance Fair today, but this morning I've been thinking about the recent past and I've been counting my blessings. There's too many -- and I'm bad at math -- so getting an accurate number is not easy. But there's a LOT of blessings in my life and I am grateful to the Universe.

Speaking of blessings, my writing productivity has returned in full force. As soon as I finished teaching my last class, I had a terrific idea for a new picture book. (The idea literally developed on the commute to work and then finished on the return trip home.) I wrote the manuscript on Day One of Summer. On day two, I finished grading papers and submitted the grades... and I also found time to start working on a new play I am developing with Christopher Flowers.

Hopefully by the end of June we'll finish this new comedy (from the people who brought you CHANGE THE STATION) and then with a little help from friends and financiers we'll launch the new show this fall.

You keep thinking happy thoughts for me; I'll keep thinking happy thoughts for you. Keep your fingers crossed that good things keep happening... (or at least non-tragic things, which in my book is good enough!)


Friday, May 19, 2017

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Class Has Ended... But the Journey Continues...


Creative Writing students, thank you. The semester was personally and professionally joyful.

After teaching Lit and Composition classes for nearly 20 years, this was my first endeavor as a Creative Writing instructor -- and I never imagined I would have so much fun or be so inspired.

I no longer consider you students -- you are now fellow members of the Tribe.

I will never forget you guys. Not even you, Tumbleweb.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Beauty List


Last November, I wrote a blog post called "The Ugly List" in which I vented about ten crappy things that had recently happened to me and/or my family.

I started to follow up with a grateful "Beauty List" but put it on hold because I stopped listing things at number four... I wanted to get to Ten... I might update this yet again, but allow me to put it out there just so it doesn't get lost in the ether...



The Beauty List

I am sending out thanks and appreciation to the Universe (or whoever's in charge up there). I am grateful that a week has passed without ugly and unfortunate events. I know life will throw other curveballs at me and my loved ones -- but for now I am thankful that life has gotten back to some semblance of normality. How funny that getting back into a routine could feel so blissful.

In my last blog post, I listed Ten Ugly Things that were going on in my world. Allow me now to focus on the positive and reflect upon the Beautiful Things in my life.

#1) Cheri... My wife and my best friend. How wonderful is she?  If I started listing examples I would out-word War and Peace. So let me just say that Cheri makes me a better person. And, perhaps best of all, she gave me these two people:

#2) My daughters... I learn from them everyday, and every moment I strive to deserve their love.

#3) My mom... She just visited our home during the last two weeks (and she was here just when I needed her). My father passed away almost 18 years ago... thank god I still have my mom on the planet. She gives me unwavering support and encouragement.

#4) My whole famdamily... One of the best parts of 2016 happened in the middle of all that ugly stuff I had been blogging about. My four sisters, two of my brothers, and niece and nephew gathered together in Las Vegas to celebrate my Mom's 70th birthday. It was one of the best weekends of my life! We not only watched Beatles LOVE, We reconnected all together for the first since my father's ashes were spread.

Words of Wisdom from Children's Authors


I posted some of these last summer... I think it warrants a repost... especially considering tomorrow is the final day of my Creative Writing class.


"As writers, how do we change the world? One reader at a time." & "Your work is never good enough, no matter how much you've been published." & "Most of the time, writing is banging your head against the wall. That isn't writer's block. That's the process." - Neal Shusterman

"What makes something successful is a very personal thing." - Laurent Linn

"Live your life like you're writing your own book."  - John Parra

"You have to be careful who you share your work with and at what stage" -- Barney Saltzberg

"A successful PB is about invention and knowing what you love and turning it on its head." & "We need to ask a picture book: what if? then what? so what" -- Susan Rich

"A premise is a promise that your manuscript will deliver on." - Carole Boston Weatherford

"The better the character, the worse the trouble, the better the story." - Bruce Coville

"Gorgeous writing doesn't have to be lyrical but must serve the story. Satire and humor can be gorgeous."  -- Tina Wexler

"The envy monster is incredibly destructive to the creative process—and it's difficult to tame. But a high tide lifts all boats." -- Marie Lu

"I consider writing time sacred. I've had to learn to say no to things." -- Marie Lu

""Secrets will draw a reader through a book like nothing else." - Bruce again... 
                           

"Don't be afraid to write crap." -- Marie Lu (but this is also what I tell my students when  they are working on their first draft!)
 
"Get out of your own way. This thing that walked out of your limitations. It's all yours but entirely not yours" - Jon Klassen
 
"Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done..." -Anni Albers

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day - 2017


Whether you are a human mama, 
a bird mama, 
or even a Snort mama, 
have a wonderful Mama's Day!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - May 10th, 2017


Well folks, this is the last required Word Count Wednesday, for my Creative Writing students, that is.

This mean, dear students, that after today, you need never post another blog entry. However, I am hoping you will continue to write (whether on your blogs, journals, or some other medium). Keep connecting with others. Keep sending your stories out into the world. Keep on with the collaboration and the encouragement. And keep in touch.


What Am I Working On?
My chapter book... which I might be condensing into a picture book. (That's right, I'm going back to my comfort zone.)

Word Count: 1500


How Do I Feel About the Process?

I had a great day on Sunday. I worked for about five hours straight -- no distractions. In a lot of ways, I spent more time figuring out what not to write, rather than getting a lot of words on the page. That's all part of the process.


Big News:

Since the contracts are signed (and I've even received my advance!) I suppose I can officially announce my latest news:

My agent sold my fifth picture book! It's called Papa Bear's Page Fright. More details soon!


Useful Link:

Ah, I almost forgot, we are talking about query letters today... so this is a useful link with lots of examples:

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Resolution Check-In: May Edition

Woah -- April is gone and we are already four days into the month of May. My creative writing has stalled during these last few weeks -- but I am hoping to crank things up again so that I have a productive summer vacation.

Here's a quick update of my New Year's Resolutions:

1) Take More Photos (at least two pictures a week)

Much to my surprise, I managed to keep up with this goal. I took a total of 60 photos in April. Here are some of my favorites.


The first one is from our visit to the Embry Riddle campus in Daytona Beach, Florida. Here's the band performing in front of the Science Building. (Check out that cool observatory tower!)


I took a lot of snapshots -- most of them were either boring or just odd. But I rather like this image of an amazing collection of these little model planes in a glass case. 

* * * 


The next day... Mackenzie and I visited the campus of Creighton University (located in beautiful Omaha, Nebraska). I met a squirrel. 


While Mack experience dorm life, I wandered around the town and discovered a cool board game cafe called "Spiel-Bound."


Corgi-on-Campus.

* * * 



On holiday, I met the most terrifying Easter Bunny in Palm Springs... or maybe in actuality it was the least terrifying furry in Palm Springs. It's hard to say. But what is for certain, this is the blurriest selfie known to Man.

* * * 


 Here's my favorite photo of the month: Lizzie and Em. 

ACHIEVEMENT: 33% Complete


2) Write / Sell a New Picture Book

As mentioned last month, my agent sold a new picture book!  This month I received the contract in the mail. I signed it off, sent it back, so everything is going well in this category. 

I'll give you more details on this project as soon as I can. 


ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. 


3) Generate Idea for Next Big Project (Complete 25% of it)

Because I paused on the novel and sifted to a chapter book (which I don't think counts as a big project) I haven't made progress this month. Hopefully that will change before June arrives. 

ACHIEVEMENT: 20% Complete. 


4) Work on a Creative Project with my Daughters. 

My lame excuse: we've been caught up in all things college. 

ACHIEVEMENT: Pending...



5) Show my appreciation more often / strengthen relationships and communication

I thought that this would be the easiest one of the bunch. Instead, this has turned into the project which I keep forgetting about -- and when I don't forget about it I just get lazy. I connected with a couple people this month... but not nearly enough to get me back on track to taking this goal a lot more seriously. 

ACHIEVEMENT: 7.5% Complete


6) Lose ten pounds. 

This one is still maintained -- thank goodness. Last January I was at 175 pounds... I went down as low as 158 pounds, and I have since leveled off at 164 pounds. (At least that's what I was this morning... I did eat about a half dozen Candy Cane Joe-Joe's... That's right! I still have boxes of Trader Joe's cookies, left over from Christmas. Jealous? 


ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. 













Word Count Wednesday -- May 3rd, 2017

What Am I Working On?

Still making progress with the chapter book. Haven't written since Friday, but during those three days since my last update, I managed to finished two chapters. (Keep in mind, these are very short chapters.)

Word Count: 1300

How Do I Feel About the Process?
I am going to make this month awesome.

What Am I Reading?
Classic Spider Man comics.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Stuff My Students Write - Vol. #1


Sometimes I tell my students, if you don't know the answer to the quiz, then at least try to amuse me.

Here's what one student turned in instead of a short answer essay...


Being a SpongeBob Squarepants fan, I have to say I loved this. He's not getting any points for the quiz, but I'll cherish this forever.