Chicken Soup Tips (The Books, Not the Food)

IMG_6754You know that old saying about March roaring in like a lion?

So, yeah, there’s been some crazy roaring over here, but I did have a moment–with a lot of help from a pair of writing buddies–to share tips on getting your story in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book over at the Muffin. I call it, “How To Get Your Story in a Chicken Soup for the Soul Book.”

Catchy, right? But seriously, Sioux and Linda had some great advice, and why not? They’re experts in this genre of writing. You only need to follow their blogs to get a glimpse into their style and voice (but I’d pick up a couple of their Chicken Soup books if you want to really see how pros do it. Um…write, that is.)

Everybody has a Chicken Soup story in them but not everyone gets their story published. The competition is fierce! But if you keep at it–and especially, if you follow these great tips–you will succeed. And I hope you’ll let me know when you do succeed.

As for me, I’m fixin’ to roar off to our regional SCBWI Conference and a wedding and an authors’ reception and…whew. When’s that March lamb thing supposed to kick in?

A Very Inspiring Blogger? Me? Really? (Aw, Shucks)

blogger award badgeDon’t you just love surprises?

Um…I mean the good ones. Not like the surprises the dog leaves in the middle of the dining room floor.

Anyway, I found a lovely surprise waiting for me yesterday, over at Tina’s Tidbits, a delightful and informative blog from new writer friend, Tina Cho. It was the Very Inspiring Blogger Award(!) and as I’m old and will forget things if I don’t take action immediately I’m humbled to accept this award, here goes:

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award rules are:
• Display the award on your blog
• Link back to the person who nominated you
• State 7 things about yourself
• Nominate 15 bloggers, link to them, and notify them about their nominations.

So, let’s see. Seven things…

1. I work way more productively when I have a ton of things to do.

2. When I have all the time in the world– I procrastinate even more. (By playing online games. But they’re puzzle games so at least I’m staving off dementia, right?)

3. I decided to cut WAY back on Facebook for Lent. (It has not gone well.)

4. I seem to be lacking in depth perception. (Which makes for interesting driving at night.)

5. I’ve had a sign in my office that reads, “What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about?” for five years. (I still laugh whenever I read it. I’m laughing now, actually.)

6. I love tuna fish salad. In fact, I think I’ll have it for lunch today. (And possibly the rest of the week.)

7. Whenever I get annoyed/frustrated/down re:my writing career, I remember how blessed I am to know so many wonderful writers (and now friends!), and I thank the good Lord for leading me where I always belonged.

And though there are hundreds of bloggers who inspire me every day, I think I’ll just choose the three who’re on my mind this day. (Three’s a nice number, right? Okay, fine. I’m also a wee bit lazy. I believe we already covered that–)

Debra Mayhew, whose blog posts somehow make me laugh and then kinda tug at my weary heartstrings.

Lisa Ricard Claro, whose determination and doggedness are fierce. Her writing’s pretty awesome, too.

Sioux Roslawski, whose insights also make me laugh out loud and then think, “Wait a minute…”

Thanks for the award, Tina! You made my day.

Friday’s Fun Find: Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Think Positive for Kids!

2013-10-10 13.05.44Opening a box with books never gets old, but opening this box was especially fun. I couldn’t wait to read the stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Think Positive for Kids!

I knew a couple friends had stories inside, and it’s always fun for me to see a byline I know and read that story. Sioux Roslawski, who often drops in to comment here, had a story called, “Help By the Bagful” which just about had me in tears. Her story reminded me of an old Andy Griffith episode when Opie wouldn’t give his money to a charity fund. He was saving up for something special. Which just goes to prove that generosity doesn’t just happen in make-believe, but also in the hearts of little boys in Sioux’s class.

Writer friend, Beth Davis Cato (I mentioned her latest success last August) also had a story called, “I Pledge Allegiance.” Her 7th grade courage and patriotism was so inspiring, I got choked up all over again.

Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Think Positive for Kids will go on sale at the end of October. For that Fun Friday, I’ll have a book giveaway and tell you about my story. And maybe a few more encouraging stories. Honestly, these are such good stories–and even grown-up kids need to think positive!

Tag, I’m It! (Or How Answering Writing Questions Keeps A Writer On Track)

My friend, Vicky Alvear Shecter, author of the wonderful Cleopatra’s Moon and the soon to be released Anubis Speaks, invited me to participate in a Blog Tag wherein I must answer a couple writing-related questions.

And I jumped on that tag. Mostly because I was thinking, wheee! Now I can answer questions and won’t have to think up something scathingly brilliant for my next blog post.

Er…then I perused the questions. And realized that I’d still have to think. But in figuring out answers, I honed in on the focus of my projects! So thanks, Vicky–I needed that!

What are you working on right now?

This year, I’m striving to incorporate a little more balance in my writing. Which means that while I’m working on long-term goals (like book-length manuscripts and sending out queries), I’m also working on short-term goals (like essays or short stories for immediate markets/contests). For September, I’ll submit a short story for the Springfield Writer’s Guild Prose and Poetry Contest and I’m thinking on an idea for Kid’s Ark. I haven’t exactly come up with the idea yet, but the theme, “Store Up” has been staring back at me from my calendar so I’m counting on some kind of osmosis to kick in any day now. And for my manuscript, that means finishing the final revisions of CALLED.

I’d set CALLED aside till this summer because I kept fixing (or mucking up, depending on your perspective) little things without really tackling bigger issues in the story. Now that I know the story I want to tell, I think the edits are going much better. I don’t know that the writing’s better…Anyway, CALLED is the tale of fifteen-year-old, Tish Connery, who has been called to serve, called to help others. It’s just that the particular other who needs her help happens to be a little girl–who died six months ago. And even though Tish is not exactly the Catholic Teen of the Year, she’s pretty sure that a calling like this is against at least one of the commandments. But the spirit is persistent and Tish has always been a Good Samaritan sucker. She figures helping one little ghost can’t really hurt. (P.S. She figured wrong.)

So CALLED is a story of spirits and the spiritual, a coming-of-faith journey within a middle grade mystery/thriller. And it’s kind of funny, but not nearly as funny as it started out.

How does it differ from other works in the genre?

Gosh, I hope CALLED differs in its spirituality. I don’t think a girl with a psychic gift is that unusual in the paranormal genre. But from the start, I wanted Tish to be conflicted about her calling. And for that, I needed her faith to be a bigger part of the story. I thought about Joan of Arc and even Mary, the Mother of God, and how difficult it must’ve been to say yes when God called them to serve in ways so far beyond what they understood. But the bible is full of ordinary people who see and hear extraordinary things. And through a lens of faith, we believe, too. So I began to see that CALLED was a story of faith.

I think, too, I wanted to look at the protagonist differently. In most middle grade or YA stories, girls are kick butt heroines. Tish is more of a “kick you in the shins, then run” sort of heroine.

Why do you write what you do? 

I think for CALLED, I’m writing about questions that have rattled around in my brain since I was ten years old and my mom drove me past the notoriously haunted house in downtown Savannah. Savannah is a city steeped in spirits. But it’s also a city known for its St. Patrick’s Day parade and historic churches. The two have always coexisted, and I wanted to explore that paradox.

But in general, whether I’m writing for children or adults, I’m working out the questions rattling around in my brain. I don’t always realize what I’m trying to work out when I write, so that often, after I’ve finished a poem or a story, I’ll think, “Ooooh. Okay. Now I get it.” Sometimes, the writing of it is cathartic but not so great, and that’s okay, too.

What is the hardest part about writing?

The hardest part of writing is also the easiest to answer. Is the writing good? It doesn’t matter if I’ve received a “Congrats! You’ve won and we think your story is brilliant!” email just that morning. I’ll finish a story that afternoon and the doubts begin. Is this any good? Will anyone want to read it? I should go get a decent job, make money like normal people. 

Pffffft. Writing is easy. Sending your writing out into the world takes courage. (Fortunately, I realize that writing is not life or death and I get over myself.)

Holy cow! See what I mean about answering those questions? I had to think. And now it’s my turn to tag three authors, and I’m going to choose Lisa Ricard Claro and Donna Volkenannt and Sioux Roslawski. I’d love to read their answers to these questions!

So tag, you’re it!