Thanks for checking into my blog!

As a "recovering" middle school teacher with a unique outlook on life, I stopped active teaching in 2010 and moved into another career path... writing! Here goes! In addition, I am a travel buff, forever baseball addict, movie fan, music fan, foodie extraordinaire, NCIS devotee, gardener, and more.

Just love writing for kids, travel writing and basic journalism. Pretty unusual, since I taught Home Economics! But there's a story here too - a non-fiction one or more...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Lighting my fire

Rule #20 – Draw inspiration from anything and everything.

     We turned the page on the calendar. It’s now the end of December. November flew by too quickly, but not without some productivity. Ok, so I haven’t really blogged in a while. November was rough for me emotionally with the first year of Hub’s passing under my belt. People keep reminding me to be good to myself, take care of myself. And I’ve been trying to do just that. It’s time to add a few things to the daily mix of stuff to do. To get my head back in the writing game a bit more, so to speak.
      I got a fantastic opportunity to do just that on October 27. My regional SCBWI chapter hosted a local event for authors to kick off PiBoIdMo and NaNoWriMo. We got together in Annapolis and psyched each other up for a 30-day romp through creativity. We practiced some exercises to change a POV of things, people and animals.
     Teacher-brain alert – define the acronyms. Self, you’ve hung out with military and federal workers way too long.
     PiBoIdMo is Picture Book Idea Month. It’s the brain-child of Tara Lazar, blogger of “Writing for Kids while Raising Them” and author of “The Monstore”. The challenge for authors is to come up with an idea a day for the thirty days of November, then spend the next eleven months developing these ideas into picture books. It’s a great chance to raise some of those ideas from the dust pile of my desk (or brain) and play with them. Just what could these ideas become?
     NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. The goal here is to write your novel’s first draft in thirty days. Then you are to spend the next eleven months polishing, editing, and pitching the novel for publication.
     SCBWI is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. This group is a professional organization for writers in the very broad children’s literature field. I say it’s a broad field because it covers everything from “Pat the Bunny” to “Twilight”, fiction and non-fiction, picture books, graphic novels, and some young adult work.
     POV is – here, at least – point of view. In some circles it’s also a privately owned vehicle. But for our purposes, a change in POV means to take our brains for a drive down different roads to see sights from another perspective. For instance, one exercise we did was to pull an item out of a box. We held it for a few minutes and imagined what we could do with it in a story. I pulled out a mustache… then imagined my 5-year old boy character and the people he could become if he put the magic muzzie on his mug or on his dog.
     I found out I have an imagination that maybe shouldn’t be allowed out in public without a chaperone.
     Thanks to Sarah Maynard and Lisa Perez for getting the creative juices flowing. Together they hosted a PiBoIdMo kickoff event at Annapolis Public Library. There were about twenty other children’s authors and illustrators on hand, all trying to get past the holidays and get into inspiration. Some are already published authors. Some of us are not. But we all tried to come up with ideas for picture books or novels for kids that could be morphed into manuscripts or illustrations…. That could morph into published works and money.

Sarah Maynard signing in participants for the Kickoff

Lisa Perez, ready to help NaNoWriMo participants

Lisa and Sarah get the Kickoff under way
     Both writers share their writer inspirations, from Corey Rosen Schwartz to Roald Dahl. We all participated in conversations, when, after a specific time period, we were asked to pull inspiration from what we discussed. It was amazing how many of us took the question “Where are you from?” and let it run wild with ideas.
Participants come up with ideas on the fly
     We also discussed a variety of organizations schemes for this project. Many of us have files, notebooks, notepads, and sketch books. But we were challenged on how accessible are our ideas. Can we reach an idea and let it take hold? Do we even open the file drawer? What gets us started? What do we do when writer’s block sets in? How long is too long to rest a draft? When is enough rewriting enough rewriting? How can we be inspired by the internet? So many questions - and so many different ways to answer those questions!

Time to share some inspiration

Items in the hand inspire creative ideas
       That’s when I made up my mind that this was the year. I was going to sign on to the Facebook page and join in the challenge. I found some index cards, thanks to my good buddy. The color coding fit my organizational scheme, too. If I pull out a yellow card, I am developing a character. Blue cards are story lines… and so forth.
What organizational style works for you?
     The crazy thing about this challenge is how successful it was. I have more than 30 ideas now. I got inspired by some unusual things. There was a YouTube video that gave me inspiration on how children feel safe in their environment. There were old character friends that I revisited and punched up their back stories. There was an idea a garden club buddy gave me about light and darkness. My little buddy, David, now has some more wild and wonderful adventures to enjoy. Plus my traveling… where can my beloved coffee mug rest this time?
     Sarah closed the event with a fantastic quote from Roald Dahl’s writings. The participants swapped business cards. We all committed to the month of ideas and seeing it through.
Sarah shares a closing quote
     But… the ideas are only the beginning. What we do with those ideas will be the payoff. We all have each other to help bounce ideas back and forth. We are our own support group. Add chocolate and it becomes a therapy session. We can do this. We know we can. We know we can.
     So now, on the brink of 2014, the commitment is made. Ideas will become manuscripts. Manuscripts will become books. Books will always be timeless and our personal gift to the future.
     Self, make it so.

 All photos are the property of Marge McGugan and may not be reused or copied without written permission.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Help! I've fallen off the face of the earth!

Rule #3 - Experience Everything

Wow! Does time fly!

There has been so much happening, I haven't had a chance to write it all down yet. Since the last post I've done a lot of traveling. I never once thought I'd get tired of packing myself up and taking off for parts unknown. But - believe it or not - I have. It's mid-December and I'm home. I'm tired. I need to get ready for the holidays.

But, I have been sticking to my rules. In the past month or so, I managed to do the PiBoIdMo (more later) and now I have an index card file of ideas, characters, character profiles, and story lines for kids' books. I drove by myself to Ohio. Got a chance to spend some serious q-time with my brother and his family. We found another winery (this should surprise NO one). Massachusetts played host to me for Thanksgiving. Then, it was back to Williamsburg for the Grand Illumination. More on all of this later.

In between all of this, my furnace decided it needed work. One new oil tank later - and a surprise greeting of 43 degrees in the house upon return from Virginia - I am back giving thanks and praise to the gods of central heating. With doors open and weather getting colder, guess which of the animal persuasion decided to bunk in for a while? You guessed right if you guessed mice. There was quite a lot of evidence of Mickey's presence in various areas of the house. Oh Mickey, it's not fine! You're in my house, which blows my mind. No, Mickey! Go, Mickey! Traps, baits, and poisons used - and now I hope he's gone to the Great Cheese Factory in the sky.

Add to this, all the events, meetings, discussions, and paperwork that goes with my church work. Our parish is in the process of consolidating with another local parish. There are deadlines set and they need to be met. I plan to do the best I can with this stuff. The timing stinks on all of these deadlines.

Guess all of this was Karma's way of keeping my mind busy through a rough anniversary. Yes, it's been a year since Hub passed. The professional pundits were right - the first year SUCKS! All the paperwork and decisions that need to be made - it all came crashing down around my head. Now, as I go into year two, I find myself trying to redefine myself as a newly minted single. It's now time to start actually cleaning out Hub's things. It's time to get back to work writing seriously. It's time to take a few more steps toward moving on. Ok, year two REALLY SUCKS!

Now I need to get some things taken care of around the house - like housework. My pet dust bunnies - Kevin, Stuart, Ted, and all their friends - took over parts of the house. I need to sweep them out. Time to finish Christmas shopping, then wrapping. Time to decorate for Christmas. There are some people who still don't know that Hub is gone, so I need to remedy that.

Someone said that sleep was overrated. I will debate that issue, but right now I must buy into it. I really need to organize myself a bit better. Here's hoping it can happen.

I have to make it so... Christmas is coming!

Breathe, Self! Now pay the bills, and get cracking... Where's the coffee?