Category Archives: Writing

WWW Wednesdays – February 19, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

My bookshelf

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau– What I’m currently reading
For the past couple of months, I’ve been reading several books at once. I usually don’t do that but since I’ve been wanting to read books on writing and business, as well as novels, I’ve figured the mix would allow me to learn about various subjects all at once, rather than being stuck in one genre for a long time.

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau. I’m almost done with this book and I’ll share my thoughts in my next update.

Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul. This book is so simple and so good, I’ll probably purchase my own copy once I’m done with the library version.

Show Me a Story!: Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators by Leonard S. Marcus. A very insightful book so far, in which illustrators share their life stories and explain how they became children’s book illustrators.

Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande. This book was first published in 1934 and I understand every aspiring writer should read it, so we’ll see.

– What I recently finished reading
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. I wish this book didn’t constantly switch between the past and the present, especially since it made the beginning of the story feel a lot slower than it could have been. That being said, I really enjoyed this book. It shows how friendship and love can be affected by war, racism, xenophobia, fear, and pure hatred. 12-year-old Henry and Keiko don’t see their different ethnic backgrounds as a barrier to their friendship, but the rest of the world does, including Henry’s Chinese father, who takes his hatred of Japanese people all the way to his grave, even if it means breaking his son’s heart over and over. This is one of the sweetest love stories (and historical novel) I’ve read in a long time and I highly recommend it.

The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. DiCamillo is a master of storytelling and character development for children and she doesn’t dumb down the difficult issues her characters are facing. In The Tiger Rising, Rob is still suffering from the loss of his mom, while newcomer Sistine is in self-denial about her father’s relationship with her after having an affair and her mom moving way with Sistine. I love how DiCamillo always uses adults as supporting characters, showing how children can find the support they need in the least expected people. This is a very quick read and I recommend it if you’re looking for a great story.

The Shining by Stephen King. King is one of my favorite writers and the master of horror for a good reason. This book is proof that he earned that title early on in his career. What a spooky, chilling, horrifying tale of a hotel taking possession of its guests year after year. I’m not sure what I found scariest: the potential ghosts inside the hotel, the thoughts penetrating the characters’ minds to control them and make them do specific things, the idea of cabin fever, or the moving hedge sculptures in the garden. I usually read at night before going to sleep but this book is a bad choice if you’re tired and need the zzzzz. It may keep you up all night!

Don’t Pigeonhole Me! by Mo Willems. I’m a big fan of Mo Willems as a children’s book author/illustrator so I was glad to find a book that covers the past 20 years of his life and his emergence as an artist. Every year Willems has put together a little sketchbook featuring his doodlings. Some of them are just silly and others were actually the inspiration for a few children’s books. The content of this book is definitely aimed at adults, not his youngest fans. All in all, it reminds all of us that doodling is a great activity we should do more of.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. This is an interesting collection of daily rituals of famous artists, mostly writers and painters. As different as these rituals are, they seem to have the same items in common: these artists found a daily routine that worked for them. They worked at the time of the day or night they felt most productive, whether it was a couple of hours or 10. Some of them relied on drugs to function but most  actually lived pretty normal lives, with little outside entertainment. For many of them, their artistic career came first, often at the expense of their spouses and/or children. You can sense the author did a lot of research to gather a bit of information on so many artists, but he didn’t have much to write since most of the content is copied from other sources, whether personal diaries, letters or magazine articles.

Goals! How To Get Everything You Want by Brian Tracy. If you want to set goals for various areas of your life (career, health, finances and personal), this is a good book to use. Tracy tells you step by step what to do to help you create these goals and how to get them accomplished. Breaking down your goals into smaller steps and working on them every day are just a few pieces of advice you’ll find in this book. Goal setting can be a challenge and this book is inspiring and motivating.

The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield. If you’re looking to bring more focus into your personal, work and financial life, this book can offer a lot of guidance. Full of real life examples for everyday people who managed to turn their lives around, as well as many footnotes from the three authors, this book can be very helpful in identifying the reasons why you may be struggling in some areas of your life. Does this book answer all questions? Probably not, but it’s good enough to get you thinking and going, and hopefully know how to find help for the steps after that. Definitely worth your reading time.

I recently read several books on procrastination and getting things done. Some of them are definitely better than others at helping you identify the specific reasons why you may procrastinate and give you some advice to avoid procrastination. Overall, I think the people at Nike figured it out a long time ago. “Just do it” is the best advice you can follow to get things done, whether you enjoy the activity or not.

The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing by John Perry. This is a funny book on procrastination, written by a philosopher who happens to be a procrastinator. Full of quirky anecdotes and real-life examples, this book won’t tell you how to solve your procrastinating habit, but it will at least help you admit you may have a problem, and point out a few tricks. These include breaking things down the Kaisen way (many small steps), and making a list of everything you need to do and NOT do (e.g. not browse the internet when you’re supposed to be working on something important). It even recommends patting yourself on the back every time you get something crossed off your list, and associating yourself with non-procrastinators to make sure you get the most important things done. Above all, John Perry recommends you don’t let your procrastinating habit get in the way of enjoying life and stressing over deadlines you could easily avoid. In the end, happiness is key.

Time Power: A Proven System for Getting More Done in Less Time Than You Ever Thought Possible by Brian Tracy. A very useful book on how to regain lost time for productivity every day, from identifying and avoiding timewasters, to improving efficiency to creating a schedule and sticking to it. Plan your work and then work your plan is the way to go, so you spend most of your time on the activities that will get you when you want to go. This book includes tips of goal setting, thorough planning and execution. It’s worth spending a few hours reading.

The Procrastinator’s Guide to Getting Things Done by Monica Ramirez Basco. This is a simple little book on identifying which type of procrastinator you are, identify the reasons why you procrastinate and how to change your behavior and avoid procrastination. The identification process is well explained but I think this book doesn’t cover strategic solutions in enough detail. Brian Tracy’s “No Excuses!” book offers a lot more hands-on, practical solutions to procrastination, in my opinion.

The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Neil A. Fiore. A good book on how we can fight procrastination one day at a time by noticing why we procrastinate and when, setting up new habits, finding a schedule that works for us, and measuring accountability. It even has a chapter on relaxing and how to find the flow. I’m not sure that really works for everyone but it could be worth a try for some people.

Procrastination: Why You Do It, What To Do About It by Jane B. Burka. If you’re looking for a book that explains the various psychological reasons for procrastination, this is probably a good choice. Full of theory and relevant examples to help you identify the reason(s) why you may procrastinate, it then goes into a solution to make things happen, including some exercises you can do every week to break the cycle. Examples include time management skills, strict scheduling breaking large tasks into smaller tasks, and finding the times of the day you’re most productive.

The Procrastinator’s Handbook: Mastering the Art of Doing It Now by Rita Emmett. If you’ve never read a book on how to stop procrastinating and how to plan better, this is a good start. If you have read on the subject, this book won’t tell you what you already know. You need to identify all the times you procrastinate and the reason(s) why. Setting goals and planning the steps to reach them will help, as well as declutter your environment. This book includes a lot of concrete examples and quotes to motivate you. I recommend reading Brian Tracy’s book No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline for more thorough and helpful advice on the subject.

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass– What I think I’ll read next 
The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. Four 12-year olds are inviting to a candymaking factory to enter a contest and create the most delicious candy. If this sounds a bit like Roald Dahl’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, it’s meant to be. I can’t wait to read this middle grade story!

My kids’ bookshelf

I’ll skip my kids’ bookshelf this week and will focus on that exclusively in my next WWW Wednesdays post. We’ve read some excellent children’s books recently and I think they deserve their own post.

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30 picture book ideas in 30 days: I did PiBoIdMo and I liked it!

This past November, I finally found the courage (and motivation) to grab the tiger by the tail. I remember that tiger when it used to be a cute kitten a long time ago, when I had thoughts of writing picture books when I was a kid. A few years ago, the kitten grew up to a full-size cat, constantly purring in the back of my head, “do it, do it…”

This past summer, that darn cat turned into a bobcat, constantly bouncing ideas around my brain, challenging me to taking a picture book online class and getting things moving, rather than just talking about them. I ended up creating a 32-page draft (text and illustrations) for my first picture book. These were my draft characters, by the way.

My book characters: a rabbit and a sheep

My book characters: a rabbit and a sheep

By the end of the class, I got busy with other priorities and shelved my book draft. I haven’t looked at it since then, even though it’s reached the editing phase. Yes, it’s quite pathetic, and so the bobcat started to growl more often.

Fast forward to mid-October, when the buzz about PiBoIdMo 2013 started going around the blogosphere. I wanted to participate last year and somehow missed the boat. A few weeks ago, my bobcat grew into an uncontrollable tiger and I knew I had to take the plunge once and for all. So I signed up for the Picture Book Idea Month challenge, wondering how the heck I would come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days.

I’ll admit, it was hard some days. I would look at my notebook and realize I didn’t write anything for a few days, and I wasn’t sure I would add anything. But then an idea would pop up, and then another, and another. I also found a wonderful and supportive community of people just like me at the challenge’s Facebook page. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention that I had wonderful inspiration from my kids (and great support!). Can you guess a lot of my book ideas have a ninja theme?

And then, 30 days later, I got 30 ideas, yeah!

PiBoIdMo winner badge 2013

PiBoIdMo winner badge 2013

Are all of my ideas brilliant? Of course not, but that’s not the point. The point was that I set my mind to doing this challenge and putting myself in a children’ book author’s shoes for 30 days. And you know what, it felt great! So how many good ideas do I have? After flipping through my notebook, I’d say a few. My youngest came up with a non-fiction book idea and a genius title on our drive to school one morning (thanks, buddy!), and I can’t wait to do some further research on it. My kids got so excited about another book idea, they asked me to start writing the book right away! Needless to say, they were very disappointed when I told them I was only coming up with ideas during the month.

But I bet they’ll be excited about what’s coming up in January! I’ve decided to sign up for Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 picture book challenge, which involves writing 12 full manuscripts in 12 months, with the option to submit to agents every month. Argh, did I just say that? I’m terrified at the idea of taking this huge plunge but honestly, this is the only way I’ll find enough motivation to dedicate some time and let the children’s book writer inside me finally come out. I write for businesses every day, so this will add a great balance to my life. For way too long, I’ve wished I would turn the ideas I have in my head into picture books, and didn’t. 2014 sounds like a great year for a new adventure.

12x12 picture book challenge

12×12 picture book challenge

Happy Turkey Day!

Just a quick reminder that my 2014 nature photography calendars (choose between five different themes) are available for sale. Look in the side sidebar of my blog for the most up-to-date discount coupon code (usually between 20 and 50% off). All calendars are made to order in the USA so you support the US economy with your purchase, and a self-employed single mom (me!). I also appreciate any referral through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and of course your blog or website.

To make this cute little turkey below, you need a red apple, big and small marshmallows, cranberries, raisins, a gummy worm and toothpicks. This is a fun craft project for the kids for Thanksgiving!

To make this cute little turkey below, you need a red apple, big and small marshmallows, cranberries, raisins, a gummy worm and toothpicks. This is a fun craft project for the kids for Thanksgiving!

I want to wish you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving. My sister is visiting us and she’s going to get a chance to have a real Thanksgiving meal. Well, “real” may not be exact since I do use some of the same ingredients but I change the recipes. I guess you can call it a French-American Thanksgiving meal!

I’m thankful for many things this year, but here are just a few that come to mind:

  • I’m thankful for my health.
  • I’m thankful for my kids. They are my rock and I’m so proud of them and how they’re growing up.
  • I’m thankful for my kids’ teachers, who do such an awesome job every day.
  • I’m thankful for the internet, which has opened up so many opportunities to connect with people from all over the world for work or leisure.
  • I should add I’m thankful for WiFi, especially when it’s free.
  • I’m thankful for the new work clients who gave me their trust this year.
  • I’m thankful for my camera and the great pictures it lets me take.
  • I’m thankful for PiBoIdMo 2013 (Picture Book Idea Month), which gave me the opportunity to come up with so many book ideas in just 30 days. I’m now motivated to start working on a manuscript for several of them in 2014.
  • I’m thankful for books. All sorts of books, for adults and for children, funny books, sad books, books about real stuff, books about made-up stuff…

What are you thankful for this year?

By the way, we have a white board at our house on which I draw a new picture every few days, usually something funny or unexpected. My 5-year old didn’t seem very impressed with my turkey drawing (I found the original online), which was apparently “BORING!”, so he asked if he could add some “color” to the picture. He ended up with a Thanksgiving, Fourth of July (fireworks), Christmas (snowman) and Easter (basket and Easter eggs) picture. I’m not sure what that holiday would be called, but I think it would be… amazing! Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Turkey Day!

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Good Morning!

Today I’m participating in the WordPress weekly photo challenge and this week’s theme is “good morning”. Well, I don’t know how things look like where you live, but it’s a beautiful morning here in San Diego! Sunny and cool when we got up, but it’s warming up quickly. It will be in the 80s most of the afternoon. It can be very hot in September and October (terrible for wildfires), so I’m enjoying this weather.

So what am I doing this morning? I took my home office to my local mom and pop coffee shop to spur my creativity and change my mindset. Here’s my workstation, where everything I need is in front of me, including my cup of tea. With the mandatory spill-proof lid to preserve my laptop and my phone. :-)

Wordpress weekly photo challenge: Good Morning! Working at the coffee shop

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Good Morning! Working at the coffee shop

I wanted to take a picture of the view from the window I’m sitting by but the sunlight is way too bright for my cell phone camera. So you’ll have to trust me when I tell you I’m looking at mostly poplar trees, with their leaves slowly turning to yellow.

So far it’s been a good morning for me. I’ve spent the first two hours working on a writing assignment for a client. Then another half hour sending out emails chasing payment for invoices. And now I’m rewarding my hard time by working on the next photo selections for my 2014 calendars. You can view my calendar themes here and the first calendar photo choices here.

I really enjoy working in this type of environment, as I seem to find “the flow” a lot more often than when I work at home. And they have great background music, so that’s a plus. I’m not the only one who seems to benefit from working in a coffee shop. I heard J.K Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book that way. If you work from home, do you sometimes take your work to a different location for a change? And if you work in an office, do you sometimes work from home or somewhere else to purposely break the routine?