February's Inspirational Quote

"One Hour at a Time"
~ Laurie Wallmark.

Dear Laurie,
You might not recall saying this and perhaps I won't remember the specifics but you are our inspiration for the rest of February and maybe even March.

You and I were on the phone and talking about how hard it is to write a novel and as usual I was whining and feeling sorry for my long-a$$ journey. And you told me about how you were working and how busy you were so you wrote your novel one hour at a time. Astounded I said, "You wrote your novel one hour at a time?" And you said, "Yup." And I thought, "Wow... ... ..."

Often times we think we need - or I think I need - huge chunks of time set aside so I can write. Do you do that too? What if we gave ourselves one hour of each day? If it turns into two, well then fine, but if not, at least you still had your One Hour at a Time. So that is the motto of the month, thanks to ours truly, Laurie Wallmark.

We love you, Laurie!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NaNoWriMo Word-0-Meter

Congratulations HCCyWIG NaNoWriMo participants!
You all deserve a big round of applauds!!!!
It's not the end result but what you learned along the way... Well done, Novel Group. I am so proud of all of us!

Anne Ehrhart 53,917

53917 / 50000 words. 108% done!

Christine Duval 38,115

39115 / 50000 words. 78% done!

Felicia Chernesky 50,531

50531 / 50000 words. 101% done!

Lynette Stone 916

916 / 12500 words. 7% done!

Sheri Oshins 14,633

14633 / 50000 words. 29% done!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Commence the Writing Frenzy!

It's that time of year again, NaNoWriMo time. For those of you who do not recall. November is National Novel Writing Month. The makers of NaNo issue a challenge to all novel writers to write 50,000 word in one month. And that time starts... NOW!

Not a novel writer? That's okay. You can use this challenge however you like. Perhaps you want to issue a challenge that you will write 10 new picture books this month or complete two dummies. It can't be an easy challenge or you won't take it seriously and you wont' be stretched beyond your limits. Whatever the challenge you set, it must be BIG. So think BIG...

My novel group is ALL taking on the NaNo challenge. I am so proud of them! How about your small group. Maybe you can all agree to challenge each other to cross some writery finish line by November 30th.

Let us know what your group comes up with...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Today, I was over at Kathy Temean's amazing blog and was touched by inspiration on a day when I really needed a double espresso shot of some. Kathy's the RA for the NJ chapter of SCBWI. We are so lucky, here in NJ, to have her as our fearless leader and awesome cheerleader.

Well, today she was writing about a new book by Jerry and Eileen Spinelli entitled, Today I will. It has inspirational quotes meant to inspire daily writing exercises, ending with a daily promise, Today I will...

I fell in love with the idea of a daily promise.

This made me stop and think. Because so far today, I was wasting it on negative chatter in my head. When I read her blog posting I thought to myself, Now wait a minute! Cut that out! I scolded myself, Would your daily promise be, Today I will beat myself up?

No. Of course it wouldn't. We would never promise ourselves things like that, but I bet there are a few of you out there, like me, who do from time to time, unknowingly, spend the day with the negative voice in your head (No, I am not pschotic). I would even go so far as to say that WE ALL, from time to time, fill our heads with negative chatter and beat ourselves up over things we cannot change - essentially, wasting the day and our time. So, Kathy's blog made me Stop, Drop, and Write my daily promise. (I wonder if you can also write a promise of what you WON'T do).

Here are my promises for today...
  • Today I will write new pages to my WIP.
  • Today I will meditate
  • Today I will find peace and carry it with me
  • And I just have to do a NOT one... Today I will NOT allow negative chatter to fill my head.

Truthfully, you're only supposed to have one Today I Will per day, but once you start... it's like eating potato chips...

What's your daily promise for yourself today?

And while I'm here, I thought I'd remind those of you who might be sleeping under a rock or living in a cave....


I am so excited.

My genius husband created this phenomenal Excel spreadsheet for me to keep track of my daily words, total words, percentage done, percentage remaining... It does everything but write the story for me. I think I am going to use NaNo for two things - one for my WIP just to get me to the end - so for that I won't do a 50,000 word challenge because I don't need it. AND either for the revision which I already started OR for a brandy-new story... I can't decide. It's like trying on shoes and making yourself buy only one pair. Impossible!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Split Personality

Woe is the artist… We artists struggle with many things –
  • How to make money while pursuing our art?
  • How to ignore the household chores so you can write without guilt?
  • How to ignore distractions like the telephone, long conversations with a good friend, email, blogging, etc. ?
  • Do I exercise now in this spare time or work on my novel?
  • Do I write this in present or past tense, in first or third person?
  • Is my pacing right, my tone, does my voice sound like a 40-year old or a 12-year old?
  • The dog is whining; Do I let him out again, or put him in his crate so he can stop distracting me!

There are A LOT of things that get in our way but did you know that that is because there are two of you?

According to Robert Olen Butler from his book, From Where You Dream; the Process of Writing Fiction, there are two of you; the one you are aware of – the writer-self – and the one you might not be aware of – the nonwriter-self.

The writer-self says, I want to write! The nonwriter-self says, No I don’t. And that is the voice that tells you to do the dishes first, or fold the laundry, or let the dog out, or second-guess your every writer decision, or write this blog article instead of edit pages to send out for submission.

Now that you are aware of this saboteur you can look her right in the eyes and say, “CUT IT OUT! I mean it. I’m serious. I WANT TO WRITE,” and silence her once and for all.

Butler further goes on to say, writing, like all other art forms, must stay a sensual experience. Easier to do for dancers, musician, and artists, but not for writers whose art is words. So how does one create a sensual experience through words? Think of the five ways we experience emotions.

  1. Sensual Reactions - be aware of where in the body the emotion is felt and what specifically is felt - a rise or fall in body temperature, heartbeat, muscle tension, neural changes...
  2. Sensual Response - be aware of how the sensual reactions are shown on the body - posture, gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, and so forth.
  3. Experience Emotion through flashback - most of the times we are unaware of this because we do it so readily, but think about it... when you get upset about something, often times you get flashbacks of other times in the past you also felt like this. Sometimes it is an object that will bring you back to when you felt this way before. For example, you're angry with your mother because she always forgets to call you on your birthday. You have sensual reactions - maybe you get hot, hear a ringing in your ear. You have a sensual response - you stand with arms folded, foot tapping, shooting icy stares at the phone which never rings. And then you have the Emotional flashback as you stare at the phone - She always does this. Remember that time when I was 9. She said we'd go to Farrel's for dinner and the huge 12 scoop sundae. I waited by that damn olive green phone in the kitchen until the sun and moon switched places in the sky. By the time she got home, I was in bed and her breath smelled of wine and cigarettes once again. [this is just an example... my own mother would never do such a thing =] This flash back is key. It is quick, rooted in the present emotion but tells so much about both characters, triggered by an object in the present tying it to the past.
  4. Emotional Flash forward - this is like a flashback but it speaks of the future. It can speak of your characters hopes or fears. Let's take the above example again. Next year I turn 30. Will she forget me again, even then? No! Next year, I am going away on my birthday. Yeah. Just me and Flo. We'll get on that charter bus... no a plane. Yeah, we'll fly out of this one street light town to some tropical heaven where there are no phones and then it won't matter if she forgets because I won't be there to find out. In the flash forward we still learn a lot about our character. We learn about her tiny town, her dreams of leaving it behind, and learn there is a friend she might take with her. But the yearning is still there. She still yearns for her mother to notice her and love her.
  5. Sensual Selectivity - Butler says that at every moment we are accosted by sensual cues but when we experience an emotion we only allow a certain number of sensual cues in. What we see is our deepest emotional inner self. Again back to our example... Ugh rain clouds. Of course! Nothing but me and the lonely grey cloud above that follows me everywhere. Outside there are also flowers in bloom, leafy crowns on the trees, birds splashing in puddles but our MC can only see the lonely grey rain cloud because that cloud reflects her feelings, it's how she sees herself, and so she tunes out all the other sensual details and focuses only on the one that represents her emotions.

I recommend adding this one to your bookshelf dedicated to writer How To's. I am on my second reading now. There were some parts that were not so helpful for me. But the parts that were have changed my writing forever.

Now let’s share. What are ways you tell the nonwriter-self within you to PIPE DOWN and let you write?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekly Summer Writing Goals. Wanna Play???

It's back... Summer Goals. If any of you would like to join in with me to keep each other motivated, inspired, and on-track, please join in in the comments section.

What are Summer Goals? Exactly what it sounds like. Every week you will set your writer's goal for the week. Maybe it's a word count. Maybe a revision. Maybe you need to cut words, etc. Whatever your goal, just state it and then tell us if you were able to accomplish last week's goal, why or why not.

My turn...
Novel Title: OWE
Novel Draft: 1.6
Date: 7-13 -09

What I Accomplished Last Week:
Well, I posted my goals late (via email to fellow Summer Goals Writers) so I knew it was a lot to tackle in a short amount of time and so I am not surprised to admit that I did not reach my goal. I see now though, that my goal will remain my goal probably for many weeks, most likely the rest of July. I did read chapter 12 and saw it was laden with problems and so I began rewriting. I know, I know. I wasn't supposed to do that but it's better now and I feel better about that chapter. I noticed chapter 13 was far too long and so I divided it up into chapter 13 and my now chapter 14. I also really like my new chapter 13. This is where I stopped working due to a very busy and full weekend.

Didn’t reach my goal. BLECH! It was really hard to flex my writing muscles after many months away from my novel. It was slow going at first to get in touch with my writing-self. I felt very low and overwhelmed like I will never, never, ever complete this novel. *whine* When life takes you away from your desired goal and you come back to it after months away, the task feels HUGE and unobtainable. I do feel better now and I know if I just keep at it, I will eventually, sooner or later (hopefully sooner) finish my novel. But it is so hard to get back on track after a long hiatus. It truly is like exercising. (Speaking of… yeah, I should begin doing that again too!) *Sigh*

Once I did get in touch with the writer-part of myself, it felt very good. And even though I shouldn't have been writing new pages (according to last week's goal), it was good to be writing anyway. I feel chapters 12 and 13 are exciting and move the story forward. It felt so good to write again.

Goal for this week:

  • Re-familiarize myself with my outline; add, delete, change accordingly
  • Continue to re-familiarize myself with my story by reading current pages from chapter 14 on
  • Edit as little as possible (if possible)
  • Try to keep chapters to 5 - 6 pages each. Divide chapters where necessary

Friday, July 10, 2009

Children's Book Glossary

Whether a newbie at children's book writing and learning basic terminology or someone more experienced, it always pays to have a handy reference for the many terms in the field we encounter. Have you ever found yourself wondering ... what is back matter? What's the big deal about Bologna? (and no, it doesn't have a first name.) And exactly how is a graphic novel defined?
Wonder no more! Simply refer to Harold Underdown's all-encompassing glossary of publishing terms and jargon from his book "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books." In addition, Underdown's web site, The Purple Crayon, will provide a wealth of information on writing and publishing in this field. There are sections which not only define the different genres, but have entire articles on them, as well as ongoing updates of which editors and agents are moving where, plus a just-revised section on the state of children's publishing in the current economy.
Lots to read and learn ...

Friday, July 3, 2009

NJ SCBWI Events - 2009/2010

I've posted information about our events for the 2009/2010 season. Remember that most of our events sell out, so register early. If you have any questions, give me a holler.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Agent Panel Discussion from the 2009 NJ SCBWI June Conference

Oliver, our newest family member at 8 weeks

If you couldn't attend this year's NJ SCBWI June Conference but would still like to learn about it, go to my blog. I will be posting take-aways, golden nuggets of inspiration, and more from this year's conference.

My most recent posting is from the Agent Panel Q & A Discussion.

Thanks, everyone!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Would You Believe?

PHEW! What a whirlwind March and April were. So, where have I been? Would you believe I was abducted by aliens? No. How about I found myself falling through a mirror to the lost city of Lemuria (Atlantis' twin lost city - a little PJ Hoover's The Emerald Tablet for you). No, you don't buy that either... Hmmm, let's see... OK, I know. I was walking through the woods when I decided to follow this hawk and became terribly lost in an unfamiliar, unfriendly forest. No, that's in my book.
OK, truth be told... I was here all along but under siege of fast and furious freelance writing jobs. Before leaving for Florida, I thought I was going to burst a blood vessel in my temporal lobe! I have NEVER been under so much pressure. But hey, I am not complaining! It's good to be busy and good to have a job at a time like this. So, am I back? Yes. But, it won't be as predictable as I normally am - blogging every week. Instead, I am going to have to blog when the window opens. I think things are becoming more manageable.

In order to better balance my freelance, my speculative novel, and my blog, I am beginning a new bi-monthly feature. I am hoping it will keep us connected, hone our writing skills, and maybe help keep up my blog during this crazy run better than I've been lately.

But, before I go into more detail about this new bloggy venture, I need to spread the linky love to a dear friend, mentor, talented writer and artist, and NJ's own SCBWI Regional Advisor - Kathy Temean. Kathy's just joined the blog-o-sphere and I'd love it if we all give her a warm welcome by visiting her amazing site. Kathy offers a plethora of reliable information. She knows many agents, editors, and publishers. She gives good advice and knows her stuff! So check her out...

So what's my new bloggy column about??? Well, I am combining my two areas of interest, photography and writing. I am going to post a new picture prompt every two weeks, I will put up a picture and ask that you free write about the photo in my comments section. Let's make some rules though... Hmmm, let's see... Actually, it's only 1 rule. It should only take you 5 minutes. There, that's my only rule, for now. Feel free to write poetry, something for children, something for adults, the beginnings of an idea maybe for a novel... whatever comes to your head in five minutes and leave it in the comment section. Feel free to also comment on the off-the-cuff writing samples left there as well.

Let's get started. Here is our first picture...
You have two weeks to submit your five minute stories or beginnings of a story. So, May 14th. Hope you'll play along...
Glad to be back!
Happy Writing,

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Flash Fiction Contest

Our Feb 15th event is just a week away. It is going to be fabulous, if I do say so myself. I am so excited to meet some of our new members and to see some familiar faces.

We have lots of fun games planned and I imagine the library will never have been so loud and raucous.

We are even having a flash fiction contest. Flash Fiction is a short piece of work that is a complete story. It must have a beginning, middle, end, conflict, and resolution. Have you begun working on your piece?

Here are the rules and some questions answered...
  1. Your short fiction piece cannot exceed 250 words, not even by a single word. This INCLUDES the words from the sentence starter, but DOES NOT include the words in your title.
  2. It must contain, a beginning, middle, end, problem, and a resolution
  3. It must begin with these two sentences…
    It wasn't that Harley was afraid. Not exactly
  4. Your story must fit into one of the following categories….
    humor, thriller, fantasy, realistic fiction, or historic fiction.
  5. It can be written for any age range: picture book, chapter book, middle grade novel, tween novel, young adult novel.

You must:

  1. Print and bring two copies. One copy will be read aloud by a volunteer (other than yourself) and one copy will be on display for votes.
  3. On the top of your submission, include your title, word count, intended age range, and genre (but again, no name) For ex.
Clash of Thunder, 250 words, middle grade, horror

There will be two winners per category, a 1st place and 2nd place. All winners will choose from a variety of prizes.

Prizes include:
A gift certif. to Wegmans
A gift certif. to Zanya's Day Spa
Bottles of wines
How to books
A candle basket
An illustrators gift basket
And more.

Please do not wrap gifts so winners can see the items in order to make their selection.

Each member can only enter the contest once. Sorry.

If you will be unable to attend, you can still place your flash fiction piece here under the comments sections, but winners and prizes will only be chosen by those who attend. Still, it is a great exercise and I hope you give it a shot!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

2009 Winner of the Tomie DePaola Portfolio Award goes to...

Congratulations to our very own...

Leeza was named the winner of the 2009 Tomie DePaola Portfolio Award at this year's NYC SCBWI Winter Conference. I know Leeza must still be floating in the stratosphere somewhere but she floated down briefly to tell me what winning felt like to her...
After the shock and delight of receiving the award, I think I truly felt like winning was a sign that I was finally on the right track. I've spent the past few years wondering where I could fit in, what my style was, where I was headed, and even if children's books was the right path for me. For the past twelve months though, this has all started to come together and shown me my desires and passions for working in children's literature. I spent many an early day and late night sketching, painting, doodling, researching, networking, crying and illustrating -- and somewhere in that time, everything clicked. To have two such prestigious names in the children's book world -- legendary Tomie dePaola and Penguin Putnam's art director Cecilia Yung -- describe my work as "Fresh" and "Superlative" is the icing on the cake. I cannot express my gratitude enough to them or to everyone who has been a part of my life since I began this wonderful journey. The feeling is simply AWESOME!
I am so very proud of Leeza's growth, determination, and stamina! And I admire her talent and positive disposition in life and art. I feel very lucky to know her, to be her friend, and to know that she is my friend too, and to have her a part of HCCyWIG.

Please join me in congratulating Leeza in this awe inspiring accomplishment!

Always remember, if you stick with it, eventually, you will break in!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Writer's Resolutions 2009

Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a great holiday and maybe even caught up on some needed and well deserved R&R. Of course, you know with a new year comes resolutions. But I am not speaking about resolutions to lose weight or exercise more… Those are important goals too. After all, your health IS important. But I am speaking about my favorite kind of resolutions - Writer's Resolutions of course!

Whether it be to sell a magazine article, finish three dummies in the year, or polish your manuscript, setting goals is the first step to obtaining them. Without setting a goal in writing, it is too easy to forget or forgo. Something magical happens when you put something in writing. We all know this - after all, we're all writers! But when you put something in writing, you automatically become accountable. Don't know where to start? Start small and obtainable.

Feel free to borrow any of these goals if you can't come up with your own…
  1. Make a space that is just for you and your writing. A place where you and only you go to write.
  2. Decide on an amount of time you will try to write each day or each week. For example…. I will write two hours five days a week, rain or shine. Or… I will write ten hours a week.
  3. Some novelists like to work with word count instead of time. So maybe your goal could be… This year I will strive to write 5,000 a week. (Believe me, that goes fast! Take it from a past NaNoWriMo contestant!)
  4. Maybe you've had a novel (harrumph!) you've been working on for quite sometime so your goal is to (once and for all, for crying out loud, G-d willing) finish the (darn!) thing.
  5. Maybe it's to read more books in your sub-genre… This year I will read 20 books in my field.
  6. Maybe it's to test your book to a live audience… This year I will reach out to schools or libraries to see if I can read my books to a classroom and test it out on a live audience.
  7. Or here's my favorite… I will treat my writing like a business and be present each day, ready to work as if my livelihood depends on it.

Whatever your dreams are, turn them into goals. And then watch your goals become reality!

February 15th is going to be a fun day. Don't forget to RSVP by Jan 15. This event will be catered and we will play lots of games and get to know all our new members. Plus, there will be door prizes! If you have not RSVP'd, do it today!

Thanks everyone!

Sheri Happy Writing!