Wednesday, February 28, 2007

OOPS! Wednesday Writers Club!

I forgot to post writing news. Check back on the weekend! The Critique Group is coming to my home on Friday!


Yesterday my composer husband had a recording session with several vocalists, including songwriter, director, and producer. The film in process is a romantic comedy—a nation-wide motion picture. The song took most of the morning and afternoon to record. The style was GOSPEL. I write that BIG because WOW the vocalists were SPIRITED. One gentlemen stayed late to record the lead over the top. At dinner Tom told us about his day. He enjoyed working with the gentleman doing the lead. "I wish we could have just let him rip...but the songwriter kept saying, "No--the song goes THIS WAY." Tom said the vocalist had such spirit, it just about moved him to tears. "I felt like I was in heaven!"

So while this was going on, I was up on the roof. In the late afternoon the clouds were so AMAZING that I felt compelled to grab a ladder and my camera and climb up.I wondered what the clients would think about Tom's wife sitting on the roof. Well there was no time to worry about it, because the sky was changing so fast. I climbed up, and carefully crawled up to a comfortable spot near the peak, and watched the show. The beautiful cloud show put on by God himself.

I don't often sit on the roof, but I think I will return soon. It's a great place to gain some perspective...and it feels like a small vacation. Sort of like putting one's head into heaven for a little while.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Daffodils at Night

They always catch my attention at night. All flowers do. Their stems and leaves seem to stretch toward the night sky, and their faces turn slightly upwards as if drinking in the cool moist air. Even the weeds look happy! Go out and look tonight! And don't forget to look at the stars, too!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Dylan's Party

Here is the cake I made for Dylan's 16th birthday. Yes...part of the frosting is missing. My excuses are: (1) The lights under the cupboards are burned out. (2) I didn't wear my glasses. But they did seem to like the cake. And one of the boys had a piece for breakfast.

Three boys light the cake.

Dylan invited five friends to help him celebrate his 16th birthday. All of them are good friends from his elementary school days. Since they were invited to spend the night, I thought they'd arrive with sleeping bags. Instead they stepped across the threshhold laden with rectangular plastic cases of various shapes and sizes. An hour later my living room buzzed with power books, and rock music. Assorted blue fire wire cords zig zagged over the furniture. DVDs (or were they CD's?) were scattered across the floor along with game controllers and assorted shoes.

A little while later, one of the larger plastic cases flew open and Viola! Guns! Air soft guns that shoot tiny plastic bee-bees. Some of the boys doned masks—Darth Vader style and ran outside. (At least they wouldn't be sitting in front of the computers all night.) It was about 10:00 p.m. I quickly called my 85-year-old neighbor Jean.

"If you see anyone running along the wall with a gun, it's okay!" Jean thought the party sounded facinating.

"It's been awhile since I've been around kids."

"You want to come over?" I offered.

"No. That's okay."

We barbecued Carne Asada and wrapped it in tortillas stuffed with lettuce, tomatoe, and onions. At about 10:30 p.m. the boys settled down to watch a movie. It was so quiet, Tom and I climbed into bed, and almost fell asleep.

Until the movie ended. Actually they finally calmed down around 2:00 a.m.

Dylan holds the cake.

Happy Birthday Dylan!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Where Do Writer's Go? Part II

All writers need a retreat once in awhile!

I need to warn you that Writers Conferences have so many interesting classes and workshops, that a writer can get weary. It's okay to skip a class or two, and enjoy some time alone!

The first question to ask yourself when planning to attend a writers conference, is: What do I want to get out of this conference? Do I want to take classes to improve my writing skills? Do I want to have my work critiqued? Do I want to meet other writers? Do I want to connect with editors?

Writing is a lonely past time, and sometimes we need to pry ourselves off the computer and get out and meet other writers. If this is your goal, choose a one day conference. It’s a lot of fun to meet new friends and talk about, subjects like…”How do you carve out time to write?” and to actually have someone understand what your talking about when you complain, “I’m having trouble with my transitions”. My favorite conference for this mood, is “Spring Writers Day” put on by Orange County Christian Writers Fellowship OCCWF They have some great workshops and they always invite an editor or two.

Note: My conference experience has mainly been Christian Writer’s conferences.

If you want a longer and more intense conference experience, try Mount Hermon (California) or Glorieta in Santa Fe (New Mexico) or SandyCove (Maryland) These larger conferences last several days. If you liked going to camp as a kid you’ll love the experience! You get to bunk with other writers, eat, drink, laugh, cry, and even sing. Yes, we sing in the evenings at Mt. Hermon.

These larger conferences can be quite intense, as you usually sign up for a specific group of classes in the morning (fiction writing, writing for children, etc.) Then in the afternoon you choose from an array of electives. In the late afternoon you meet in small groups with different publishers, and are allowed to ask them about what their needs are. You are also able to submit your work to editors for their feedback.

Yes, there are many great opportunities out there. Sharon Elliott, who is in my critique group, hosts a seminar on how to write, and actually complete that book you’ve always dreamed about. How do you organize and get this book done? Check out Authorize Me

And a good writer always welcomes adventure. One never fails to have at least one or two exciting things happen at these gatherings. Like the night I decided to play hooky from the evening session, and hiked back to the cabin for some rest and relaxation. Later, I stepped outside for a moment to look at the stars and locked myself out. I’ll never forget hiking back to the conference area, in my P.J.’s, to ask for help.

Happy Writing!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Motorcycles in Mammoth

Here we are in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Mammoth. We pulled the bikes to the side of the dirt road for a quick picture. Actually, it took a few minutes to line up the bikes!

This picture was taken a couple of years ago, but it is one of my favorites. Cody is the son on the left and Dylan is on the right.

More motorcycle pictures will be coming!

I'm Back

I’m wondering if this will be a post that I will delete tomorrow.
I have disorganized brain syndrome today.

I traveled about 50 miles toward the coast.
And 50 miles back.
At top speed (husband driving)
Three round trips.

Was it a marriage seminar?
But we might need one of those soon.
—just a joke.

It was on the topic of finance/investment.
A great seminar.

The Condition of the House:

Desk is cluttered with handouts from seminar.
Need to call neglected friends.
Dylan needs Head and Shoulders Shampoo
Tom needs Diet Coke
Cody needs a lot of things.
I need some exercise.
After 16 hours of sitting.

On My Mind:

Get food in the house
Gear up for work tomorrow
Deal with finances
It’s Dylan’s 16th birthday party!

I’m sure that will give me something to write about!

Friday, February 16, 2007

I'm Gone

The composer and I are going to another seminar. We'll be gone all day tomorrow and Sunday. After more seminars for awhile! I really should tell you about these seminars...but its way too long to write about...and I'm not sure who would be interested. I'll tell you a little bit next time.

So that's it. I'm just stopping in to say hello. One good thing about this is that I'm spending a lot of time with my husband. One bad thing is that I get nervous driving the freeways with him. I have to keep reminding him not to go 80. He thinks I'm way too nervous.

I've got too go. I've got to gather all my papers, put the wet clothes in the dryer, say goodnight to my son (Dylan).

Oh yes, Cody got over the flu. So now it's time to hit the streets looking for another job. The registration expired on his car, and the car now has 3 flat tires, because of slow leaks. We had it towed to our house. He now is riding his bike temporarily, He just told me today that his landlady said that she does not allow bikes on the premises. ?! Corey said that she told him—that it made her place look too junky. Corey was willing to put the bike behind the garage, but she doesn't want it there. So he is now parking it in his room, without her knowledge. Oh dear. Oh well, I won't worry about it.

Take care, dear friends, and I'll be back sometime soon.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Where Do Writers Go?

Where do writer's go? Many have crossed this bridge to sharpen their a redwood forest.

Writer's go to conferences! (When they can afford them.) One of the most exciting conferences is the Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference near San Jose, California. Both beginning and professional writers come to hone their skills and make connections with editors, under the guidance of professional writers. Three women from our Writer's Critique group will be attending this spring. The dates are March 30th through April 3. The conference always spans Palm Sunday weekend. Several hundred writers will attend, many of them from out of state.

I attended last year. In the background, is the dining hall. The food is great! I especially enjoyed not cooking for 5 days!

Here is a picture of us at our cabin. I roomed with 2 women from my critique group, and two new friends, one from California and one from Canada!

More about conferences next week!

This has to be a lean post. Life is sweeping me away.

Actually my husband is sweeping me away. We're going to a seminar near the coast. We have to leave before the traffic gets thick. Although it's not the dream Valentine date, I'm looking forward to being together for the afternoon and evening. We are so busy in our lives, we don't spend time together like we should. Have a Happy Valentines Day!

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Hang on! This post is not about a rectangular building called church. But it’s about the amazing way God works in the lives of our loved ones, even when we’re not aware of it.

Tom and I are in the “lifestyles” class at church. There are about 20 of us from about 45 to 65 years of age. It’s a great class for prayer support and discussing the scriptures and how they apply to our lives. While we are there, Dylan meets with fellow high school students. Afterwards, a few hundred people break from their smaller groups and attend our main church service.

Tom and Dylan usually skip the larger event and come home, and I often stay. But today I came home—because I felt restless. Last night Cody called from his place—still fighting fever and the shakes. So I brought him some things to drink…I walked up the driveway in the dark. I had never been inside his place before. He rents a room in a small house that has been renovated into 3 or 4 bedrooms, one shared bath and a shared kitchen. (No living room). There are other male tenants of multiple ages—all older than Cody.

The property manager is a very strict middle-aged woman who likes everything extremely neat. There are signs everywhere with instructions like “Do not leave water drops in the sink or around the sink.” and “Wash and put away your dishes—if they are left out, they’ll be removed.” “Don’t leave the heat on or you’ll be charged for it.” “Only put magazines in this trash can—no other trash!” She comes by everyday to inspect the kitchen, bath, and yard.

It was 6:30 p.m. and dark when I walked down the driveway, stepped over the “no trespassing” chain, walked under the property manager’s video surveillance camera and turned the handle on the back door. It was open. I stepped into the kitchen. I saw Corey’s bedroom door was partially ajar and he was sitting in a chair with his head in his hands.

His room looked like a hurricane had swept through it. A storm of empty soda cans, food wrappers, clothing and papers. I showed him the juice and medicine, and put a few things in the refrigerator. I asked if he wanted to come home for a night. He said he wasn’t sure. We decided I would call and check on him later. Before leaving, I managed to scoop some of the trash into a shopping bag. As I walked down the driveway I saw several trash cans. As I was wondering which can to throw the trash into, a pleasant looking African American man came up the driveway.
“Hi, I’m Cody’s mom,” I said. “Do you know where I can throw this trash?”
He grinned widely. “You’re Cody’s mom? I’ve been praying for Cody!”
“You have?”
“Yes, I’m a pastor.”
He showed me where to put the trash and we talked for a few minutes.
He also mentioned that he gave Cody a book..something to do with people skills.

As I drove home, I had a feeling of wonder in my heart. There are so many things we do not know. God is working behind the scenes, even when we don’t see him. It gave me hope.

Also, when I mentioned to my Lifestyles class, this morning, about how unreasonable Cody’s property manager was. One woman piped up, “Sometimes when our kids have to deal with unreasonable people, it helps them to better deal with reasonable people.”

How true!

Have a wonderful Sunday! It’s beautiful here…it rained all night, and it’s showering on and off today. Dylan and I went jogging together under a white, grey and blue sky.

This is my city. It's titled: Look Up!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Sweet Stress

This has been quite a day. It started off with a trip to my 19-year-old son’s place at 7:00 a.m. A few days ago his car got a flat tire and another tire had a slow leak. He managed to park it in front of his place and its been sitting there to the dismay of his “landlady” who is very strict about how the place looks. Then he became sick with the flu. After a couple days of being sick, he became even more sick. So he called me. He could barely talk.

So I went up to get him, but when I got there he told me that the “landlady” had informed him that if he didn’t move his car today, she would have it impounded. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail, but the car had to be towed, and another thing that happened was…Cody locked his car keys in his room, along with his house keys. In all the excitement I forgot to call into work to tell them why I didn’t show up to teach 5th grade spelling.

So now Cody is here, and spending the night. His car, with 2 flat tires is here too. He’s feeling a little better already and it’s rather nice to have the whole family together under our roof, even if it is under these circumstances.

Have a nice night.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Submitting to a Publisher

Jasper says "keep writing".
Jasper was our beloved family dog who lived with us for 14 years.

Welcome to Writing Club!

Today’s topic is: Query Letters. I hope the post is helpful to you!

Starting next Wednesday, there will be a change. Instead of “informational” posts, I’m just going to share with you about my own personal writing experiences…and I may include those of my writing friends. We can all learn form each other! I’m also planning to include a picture of where writers like to go in the Spring.

Okay…Class…It’s time for this weeks lesson:

How do you present your article to a magazine? Most of the time magazines want a “query letter”.

Family Circle says, “Query letters should be concise and to the point.”
Here is an example of how a query letter might look:

Family Circle
1200 Sky Drive
New York, NY 10765

Subject: “Shining a Light on Halloween
First Rights: (This means the article has not been published by anyone else)*
Word Count: 1200

Dear Family Circle,

(Grab their attention right away! They may only have time to read two lines!)
Have you ever wondered how Halloween came about? Why do we wear masks and allow our children to roam the streets in search of candy? In the article, “Shining a Light on Halloween” readers will not only learn about the history of this fascinating holiday, but will benefit from tips on how to keep their children safe—and having fun—both at the same time!

(Now add a sentence or two about yourself. If possible, add some credentials for writing the article) I enjoy researching and writing about the history of our holidays…and thinking of creative ways to convey the information to my students. I’m a special education teacher for grades K thru 6th.

Thank you for considering my piece.

(Again…keep the Query Letter short! Magazine publishers receive thousands of queries and they read through the stack quickly! Grab them on the first line!)


Louisa May Alcott

Not all magazines require query letters. Some of the smaller magazines don’t mind if you send in your complete manuscript for consideration. Read the publisher’s Writer’s Guidelines in order to find out how to submit. If you submit the wrong way, you may be rejected.

Other Notes on Submitting Articles

Be sure to check if the publisher wants you to email your submission or do they prefer you send it via snail mail.

Whether or not you send your manuscript by email or traditional mail, always include a cover letter. It helps to introduce yourself and your manuscript. But again, KEEP IT SHORT AND EXCITING. The query letter example above could also serve as a cover letter.

Here are some terms you should know:

*First Rights: The editor buys the right to publish your piece for the first time.
(as opposed to Reprint Rights)

Reprint Rights: Selling the right to reprint an article that has already been published.

Can you submit to more than one publisher at the same time? Check the Writer’s Guidelines. Many magazines (usually the larger ones) want to have an exclusive look at your article. They do not want you submitting to other publishers at the same time. Their guidelines will say, “no simultaneous submissions”. However, many magazines don’t mind and their guidelines will say, “accepts simultaneous submissions”.

Don’t let all these rules intimidate you. (I also would like to add that there are many ways and many styles of doing query letters). The most important thing is to give the publisher the vital information about your article—and capture their interest. If you grab their attention…you’ll hear from them.

Recently I sent a query email letter to a magazine. A few days later I received an email back. I was so excited to see the email sitting in my box. Wow! I thought. That’s the fastest response I’ve ever gotten. I clicked on the big bold letters. The message read , “If you’d like the editor to respond, please include your address.” I can’t believe I forgot to type my address on the query letter!

And that ends Writing Club for today!
(They are still considering the article…and I’m waiting with bated breath.)

See you next week! Feel free to leave a note if you have any questions or comments!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Camellias and Good Things

Yesterday at 9:00 p.m. I received a phone call. It was Jean, my eighty-something- year-old neighbor. She said my refrigerator door was open. Now those of you who read my January post "Flying Oranges" will remember Jean. I trotted into the kitchen and sure enough, the door was wide open and no one was in sight. I had no idea Jean could see our refrigerator from her back porch...but good thing she can!

It seems like the men in this house are going through a stage where they don't want to close anything. They leave the cupboards open, the cookies open, the dresser drawers open and sometimes even the bathroom door open. (while occupied)

Back to the subject of Jean. Here is a shot of her Camellia bush. Our whole city is blooming with Camellias!

This evening, while I was making dinner, I had the sudden urge to go outside before it became completely dark. I turned the sauteing onions to low and headed toward our back yard. I stood for a few minutes in the last glow of light. A pink stripe threaded along the western sky. I thanked God for the day. I tried to remember some good things that happened today. Just little things here and there. Like the smiles on my first grade students' faces as they made Valentine cards for their moms.

Another nice thing is my husband. He keeps interrupting me and asking me to come out and hear what he is writing. He's a composer and is working on some music for a DVD. It's kind of classical/olympic music. It's beautiful.

So if this post is a little disjointed I'll blame it on him. Have a great evening. Don't go to bed at night without thinking of some good things about the day---no matter how small!

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Cody Lost His New Job

On the 4th day of Cody's new job he sold a motorcycle! We were proud of him. On the fifth day (today) he called in sick. He was sick. But he should have gone in sick. Because his boss fired him. I will mention that he was out for one afternoon because he had to go to court. Sigh. I do suppose that asking off twice in 4 days might not be the right thing for a one's first week on the job.

I'm still in shock. I had such high hopes.

Friday, February 2, 2007

My Secret Son

I have a secret son. Not many people know about him. He lives in Mexico and he is 5 years old. I “adopted” him through an organization called Compassion International. For a small monthly fee on my part, Javier is provided with food, clothing, and school. He is also learning that he is not alone in the world. There is a God who loves him. And so do I.

I had such a hectic week. Finally things slowed down tonight. I decided to relax for a little while and do something enjoyable…like read a blog or two. But as I slid into my chair and rolled up to my desk, I noticed the corner of a letter buried under some papers. I pulled out the contents and discovered it was a note from my "adopted" son. It had been sitting on my desk for three weeks. The letter was from Javier's teacher. (Javier is still learning to write.) She said that Javier wanted me to know that he liked school and had two cats.

Now even though Javier is adorable, I still wanted to read and relax. But something in my heart said, “Some things are more important than YOU." It takes a long time for our letters to reach one another, and if I don’t write for awhile, Javier has to wait about 6 months to get a letter. So I spent the evening with Javier. Just as I finished jotting down the last few words, Dylan walked by and said, “I’m going to bed…will you come in and say goodnight?”

So I gathered up my letter and Javier’s teacher’s letter and brought them in to Dylan’s room. I shared what I was doing and Dylan listened. (I haven’t been very good at including my son’s in this project). Dylan was interested in some of the Spanish sentences, because he is studying Spanish in school. When Dylan finished looking at the letters, he slipped under his covers. Then he prayed a little prayer and asked God to be with Javier.

I guess I spent the evening doing the right thing. Sometimes making a small choice (to think about someone else instead of my own problems) can bring an unexpected blessing. Now, as I write these words my heart is peaceful. Dylan is asleep. And far away in Mexico, Javier sleeps… surrounded by a little prayer.