Friday, February 14, 2020

Just a Dog: A Tribute to Chloe the Poodle

Last week we had to say goodbye to our miniature poodle, Chloe, who was part of our family for 16 years. Her health had been declining steadily for the past several months. Then, last Wednesday, she had what we believe to have been a stroke. And last Friday, we made the decision to have her put down. It was a hard decision, and a lot of tears were shed because of it.

And yet, Chloe was just a dog.

Just a dog who greeted everyone with enthusiasm. If you came to our house, you were instantly her new best friend. From her perspective, everyone who came by was there to see her.

Just a dog who had discriminating taste in toys, but not in food.

Just a dog who would trot along beside you when on a walk, until you came to a manhole cover, at which point she would leap as if to avoid a pit of certain doom.

Just a dog who would politely ask for permission before jumping onto the couch, then lie down beside you with her back against your thigh.

Just a dog who would patiently wait to snatch that piece of chicken liver off the kitchen floor until you said, "Okay!"

Just a dog who trained the new puppy we got several years ago better than we did.

Just a dog who would walk up to you when you were busy and lean against your leg as if to remind you that she was there.

Just a dog who would bark protectively whenever Dad roughhoused with the kids.

Just a dog who loved running through an open field, splashing through a stream, and treated every walk like the adventure of a lifetime, even when she was too old to make it more than one block.

Just a dog who curled up on the carpet in the middle of my office whenever I was working just so she could be near me.

Just a dog who, in recent weeks, would wait calmly near the stairs for me to carry her up or down.

Just a dog who merely tolerated being picked up for most of her life, but whose only peaceful moments at the end seemed to be when she was in my arms.

Just a dog who won everyone's hearts.

She will be missed.

Chloe (left) with our other poodle, Gimli.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

20 Writing Tips for 2020

Happy New Year! Are you the kind of person to have a New Year's resolution? Or are you more like me, wanting to avoid the "resolution" cliché, but still wanting to set goals for yourself? Are some of those writing goals? If so, maybe this list of 20 writing tips for 2020 will help you achieve them!

1. Don't let "write what you know" stop you from exploring the unfamiliar. Nobody knows everything about anything.

2. Jot down every idea, even the "bad" ones.

3. Learn how to properly use apostrophes.

4. Participate in writing challenges.

5. Write the stories you want to write, the way you want to write them.

6. Follow writers, editors, and agents online through social media, newsletters, or blogs.

7. Write to write, not to sell, especially when drafting.

8. Get feedback from writers you trust (critique group, critique partners, paid critiques, etc.).

9. Participate in webinars or workshops that will help you develop your skills.

10. Learn the "rules" of writing so that you can learn how to break them effectively.

11. Don't write in rhyme unless you're willing to work harder than you've ever thought possible.

12. Keep track of your submissions!

13. If an idea strikes while you're in the shower, repeat it like a mantra until you have a chance to jot it down.

14. When editing or proofreading, reading your manuscript aloud and in various formats will help you catch errors more easily.

15. Go for walks without looking at your phone.

16. "Real writers write every day" is a lie. Do what works for you, but try to be consistent.

17. Call yourself a writer.

18. Living life is the best way to find ideas.

19. Be supportive of other writers.

20. Give yourself time to pursue other interests.

Monday, December 30, 2019

2019: A Year of Firsts

When I look back on the year 2019 I realize it is full of many firsts for me, both personally and professionally. Most of these firsts are pleasant. All of them, even the ordinary ones, are significant to me. And that is why I would like to share them with you.

2019 was the year...

I had oral surgery (two wisdom teeth). 

This was also the first time I've gone under general anesthesia. Waking up after general anesthesia was a strange experience. Recovering from wisdom tooth extraction as a 40+ year-old was a nightmare, mostly because my anxiety was in overdrive regarding the gaping hole in my mouth. It healed without complications, thankfully.

An agent requested that I revise and resubmit one of my verse novels. 

It didn't work out with that agent, but receiving the revision request and the feedback that resulted from it was encouraging and helpful to me as a verse novelist.

I catered a wedding (sort of) and became a mother in law. 

My daughter's wedding was low budget, and one of the ways we saved money was to prepare most of the food ourselves. It was an evening wedding, so there was no meal, but there was a dessert bar. We ordered a cake and chocolate covered strawberries. And there were mints and nuts, as well as m&ms in the wedding colors. But I also made two kinds of biscotti, dipped pretzel rods, Mexican wedding cookies, arroz con leche, and horchata (regular and dairy free). It was lovely and sweet, in more ways than one.

I led a rhyme webinar through SCBWI.

Don't Tip the Scale: Balancing Story and Rhyme in Picture Book Texts was about how the purpose of rhyme in a picture book text is to support the story, and how to achieve that balance in your own writing. It's a topic I am passionate about as a writer and a reader, and though it was a little nerve-wracking at first, I had a lot of fun presenting and answering participants' questions!

I mourned the loss of someone not related to me.

You may have seen my post about my friend Cap, who passed away in August. I've never been so personally affected by the death of someone outside my family. She was a dear friend, and I miss her a lot.

I mentored an aspiring picture book author through the PBChat Mentorship Program.

This mentorship program was a lot of fun! I got to work with a smart and funny aspiring writer who wrote a darling rhyming picture book about a sneezing racehorse. She worked so hard to polish her manuscript and prepare herself for the rigorous query process, and I'm very proud of her. One of these days I hope to be able to tell you that she got a book deal.

A few other firsts from 2019:

  • I tried Indian food.
  • I made a T-shirt quilt (possibly never again as it was a major pain).
  • Rented a cabin on a river rather than a hotel room when we vacationed in Colorado.
  • Baked conchas (a Mexican sweet bread).
  • Started a manuscript critique service.
  • Moved into my own office.

It's been a good year, and I look forward to discovering what "firsts" 2020 has in store. 

Happy New Year!