June 29, 2011

Never Lead With a Dead Dog

I wanted to share a piece from Mom today. Enjoy!!


Angela Beach Silverthorne
Revised, June 2011

Often I write
as if a dead
dog were sitting
beneath my desk.

Trite material,
mundane words,
redundant usage–
writing anything
but what the
guidelines say
and rejection
notices describe
as killers.

I seek to reunite
with the minister
of magic, origins
beyond–feel quill
pushing, pumping
deep within the
mazes of originality.

Often I write of
dying ducks and
flaming cats just
because I can–a
shortcut evoking
emotional responses
on the cheap end
of desperation.

Tomorrow I will
write the master
work on bicycles–
a story so splendid
that you will set
it to music for its
brilliance, eloquence,
puffy pink glow.

June 28, 2011

Tub-Full Tuesdays: Lessons from a Letter

Last time I was home Mom thrust two boxes at me. They were full of old letters and mementos from my childhood. It was time for them to come to my house after years of taking up space in Mom and Dad’s attic.
I found a lot of letters from friends, family, and my boyfriend (later husband). One particular letter was bittersweet. It was from a dear friend in high school. We moved from North Carolina to Kentucky with six weeks left of my junior year of high school. Leaving her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. She suffered from Anorexia, and she passed away not long after high school. I miss her every day.
She gave me this goodbye card just before I moved. We both cried. I remember the moment so well, but I had forgotten the words. The card read, “Goodbyes are never easy, and this one is especially hard−because I’m saying it to you.”
Her words:
Never have I met anyone quite like you! I’m going to miss you so much! I know this really doesn’t have to be goodbye because I know friends like us will always be together and close to each other in thought and by heart.
You mean so much to me, but I know you will find someone special to share yourself with in Kentucky! You are so beautiful that no one could turn you away. Remember everyone is afraid of changes, and I’ll always be here for you if this change becomes even harder to bear!
Remember, don’t work too hard because life is too short to worry your life away. You will do well no matter what in my eyes!
I love you.
With everything she was going through, she was worried about me. She taught me so much about friendship and pain. She used to tell me I was the only one she could talk to, and I struggled to understand why she couldn’t see her own worth.
But her letter filled my tub and reminded me how short life is. We shouldn’t spend it in a constant state of worry or fearing change. And I did find someone very special in Kentucky, my husband of sixteen years. Without the move, we would have never met.
Also, thanks to this letter and the many I found from my mother, I decided to start a new tradition in my house. Now each of my girls has a small mailbox outside their door. I will put a letter in when they need encouragement or just to know I love them. I hope they will save them, and some day they will find it at just the right time.
When was the last time you found words of encouragement from an unexpected place?

June 27, 2011

A Day to Remember Helen Keller

On this day in 1880, Helen Keller was born. At the age of 19 months, due to an unknown illness, Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing. She never let it stop her. She was the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, she published 12 books and numerous articles, and she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She's a shining example of not letting life take you down.

In our novel, Depression Cookies, we used a quote from Helen Keller.

When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.

This quote inspires Krista to look back at her teenage years, "I remembered feeling my life had been full of closed doors and missed opportunities, doors swung shut without even the slightest push."

It's easier to stare at a closed door than to turn around and see the possibilities. Helen Keller could not see or hear the beauty in the world around her, but she knew it was there. She focused on it. Her quote inspires me to walk a new path when it's presented.

In writing, there are many closed doors. Many rejections. The best thing we can do is learn from those. The open doors make us proud, but sometimes we need to learn a lesson from a door slamming shut to truly appreciate an open door standing before us. Other times, we need the strength to close a door, stare at the doors open to us, and choose.

Take a moment today and evaluate your choices. Don't be afraid to turn the handle on a new door.

June 26, 2011

The Influence of Dolly Parton's Writing

Dolly Parton has long been a part of my life. I grew up listening to her, and at one point, my family and I vacationed regularly in Pigeon Forge, TN. Dolly Parton is originally from nearby Sevierville, and the area never misses an opportunity to celebrate their hometown girl. I have fond memories of our visits to Silver Dollar City, an amusement park in the area now known as DollyWood.

I was excited this week to hear she has a new album, Better Day, coming out June 28th. I'm looking forward to hearing the new music and sharing it with my daughters. I'll also introduce them to some old favorites.

My mother and I have a special relationship, and Dolly Parton's Eagle When She Flies captures my mom beautifully. A sampling:

A kaleidoscope of colors
You can toss her around and round
You can keep her in you vision
But you'll never keep her down
She's a lover, she's a mother
She's a friend and she's a wife
And she's a sparrow when she's broken
But she's an eagle when she flies

Gentle as the sweet magnolia
Strong as steel, her faith and pride
She's an everlasting shoulder
She's the leaning post of life
She hurts deep and when she weeps
She's just as fragile as a child
And she's a sparrow when she's broken
But she's an eagle when she flies

Whenever I hear this song, tears form. It will always remind me of Mom. Dolly Parton is a poet, and I appreciate her writing. Songs can touch us, not just because of the voice singing, but the writer behind the voice. My mother is rarely a sparrow, but when she is, she is still beautiful. But to quote Dolly, "she's an eagle when she flies."

Please visit Dolly Parton's Imagination Library site to find out how she encourages young readers. This program makes reading accessible to preschool children in various communities.

What song reminds you of your mother or other strong woman figure?

June 24, 2011

Friday Feature: My Favorite Thing I Read this Week and Why

This week I received a great email from Michele Scism's Decisive Minds blog. I was introduced to this informative blog when I signed up for the Ultimate Blog Challenge which starts July 1. Michele is the co-host for the blog challenge.

In her email, she listed quotes for keeping you motivated. It came just at the right time for the first week of summer. Every time I sat down to work, my kids whined and moaned. So, I went looking for some quotes outside the ones she provided. Ones that would motivate me.

Here they are:

"Can I be blunt on the subject? If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time - or the tools - to write. Simple as that."
Stephen King

"I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten - happily, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead on after another."
Brenda Ueland

"Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most vaulable."
Francis Bacon

Each quote inspired me to keep on keeping on. Stephen King reminded me that my love of reading is part of writing. At night when I'm drawn to the book on the table, I shouldn't sit staring at the computer instead. Writing makes me happy, and my children make me happy. I can't just sit and stare at a screen hoping for inspirationg. Playing at the park, getting in the pool, and sitting down to play a board game can be inspiring. I just need my trusty notebook nearby when inspiration hits. Bonus points: I'll enjoy my kids in the meantime. This covered both the quotes from Brenda Ueland and Francis Bacon.

I have to remember inspiration cannot be forced nor can it be contained. Enjoy life, and take a moment when enjoyment brings writing prompts. If I've been playing and enjoying my kids when the need to write hits, they'll probably be more understanding than watching their Mom sit at a computer screen hoping for insight.

What motivates you?

June 23, 2011

The Dissection of a Must-Read and a Just-Missed-It

As the second part to yesterday's post about the Five Elements of a Good Read, I want to discuss two Young Adult Novels: Max and Menna by Shauna Kelley and Guardian Spirit by Sarah Martin Byrd. I read and reviewed both books for Rebecca's Reads. (Guardian Spirit will be up within the week).

Both stories center around the world of abuse and how it affects families, such great material for creating a gripping, memorable tale. Plus, both stories have a Native American element as well as a boy and a girl who suffer in abusive homes. But only one story stays with me and has been added to my recommend-to-friends list: Max and Menna.

I know quickly the books that will stay with me. I don't always take the time to dissect why. Sometimes it's just a feeling. But I was intrigued reading these two books so close to each other, especially with such similar themes. Why did I love one and not the other? Don't get me wrong, Guardian Spirit was not a failure. I gave it 4 stars with the tagline, "Just Missed Being Great". I read a lot of books, and I enjoy a lot of books. But it's the rare gem that makes my recommendation list.

I realized Shauna Kelley took more risks, risks that paid off. Max and Menna were not perfect characters, but they were real. I identified with them. And when I finished the book, I stared in disbelief at the last page. It couldn't be over. I couldn't let them go. That's powerful. With Guardian Spirit, I wanted everything to work out and I needed to know the ending, but I won't remember this book a year from now. The characters weren't developed or, quite frankly, interesting enough to stay with me. Again, not a failure. Just not great.

Even more than that, the conflict seemed more real, touchable even, with Kelley's novel. In Guardian Spirit, there was believable conflict, but I didn't flinch or react when she described it.

You see the journey, the lesson learned, the cruelty of fate along with experiencing a range of emotions in Max and Menna. I had a hard time putting it down, because the desire to know was too great. I wanted to yell at the characters, shake them. My emotions were raw, and I was invested. Throughout Guardian Spirit, I kept seeing opportunities for the author to make me care more. In a bad book, I wouldn't have cared at all.

Sometimes, a book that's close to great is more disappointing than a terrible book. A bad book is just that. Bad. It would take too much effort to even get it to mediocre. But a good book is just so darned close, it's sad when it misses the mark.

I commend both authors for their tales. I'm just inspired by Shauna Kelley's effort to hit the great bulls-eye.

Have you ever been frustrated by a book that was almost great?

June 22, 2011

Five Elements of a Good Read

It's summertime. I love seeing all the summer reading lists and the focus on reading. Recently, I read two Young Adult novels with similar themes and characters. One was successful and has been added to my recommend-to-friends list, one was not. It made me curious. What makes a good story?

I wanted to look past the obvious (good editing, professional work) and vague (good writer). A good writer manipulates words into poetry. You are compelled to continue reading. Each word draws you further in. Sometimes good writing cannot overcome poor story whereas a great story can often overcome less than spectacular writing.

Picture from PublicDomainImages.net
 Five Elements of a Good Read

1. Memorable Characters: I want the characters to stay with me long after the last page. They need to be flawed. Nobody can relate to perfection. Still, they must have a redeeming quality. It can't be all flaws. The author has to flesh out the characters and make the reader care.

2. Contracting Conflict: Think of it like labor. The conflict should rise, come back a bit, and rise again. You need a break from the tension, but not a complete collapse of conflict. It should ebb and flow and engage the reader.

3. Engaging Emotions: You often hear someone say, "It made me laugh and cry." A reader needs to be emotionally invested in a story. But it can't be all sadness or all terror. Give the reader bits and pieces of different emotions, like life.

4. Compelling Journey: The character, which thanks to #1-#3, we so care about should learn something. There should be a reason for the story. A journey with a destination. You wouldn't tell a joke without the punchline.

5. Lasting Impression: The story and the characters should stay with you. When you are done, there should be a desire to know more. I'm not suggesting all books need sequels, but a reader should want one.

Tomorrow, I am going to compare the two YA novels I mentioned earlier to attempt to answer why one will stay with me and one won't.

What do you think is the most important element of a good story/read?

June 21, 2011

Tub-Full Tuesdays: The Anchor of Friendship

Mom continues our series on what fills our tub and makes us thankful.


My life is filled with an abundance of treasures: my sweetheart, children, grandchildren, extended family, memories, gifts (spiritual and physical), friends, associates, church, my canine friends, and lessons learned.
Recently, a new treasure came into my life that pushed the whole notion of relationship to a new dimension. I never knew you could immediately fall in love with someone. And no, I’m not talking about a new love interest, but falling in love with the spirit within someone, feeling you’ve known that person for an eternity−not understanding why, but completely thrilled to have been blessed with this newfound friend.
My friend, Varonda
Most of us look to our family and friends to love us. So this new experience caused me to ask myself, “How far-reaching is love?” Love is immeasurable, especially with God in control. Still, I don’t usually open myself up to new acquaintances. I’m the one at the back of the room, observing, sizing people up, and deciding who I want to approach. Then all of that changed. I’m in a meeting room area and turn to see this woman who I had just met. Immediately I realize I want to know her and be close to her. As stupid as this may sound, I knew I would love her. No, I’m not off my rocker!
So over the last few months we have become even closer; sharing our lives, which are amazingly similar despite a 25-year gap, and giving one another different perspectives on how to embrace the unpredictable. I thought I had a firm anchor set on how to define who I loved. But I realized I don’t need an anchor to set relationships at all. Maybe I need an open heart and fresh eyes to see past all the preconceived notions I have about people and stand expectant that everyone I meet might be a new best friend to add to my bountiful treasures.
Have you ever met someone you instantly knew would change your life?

June 20, 2011

Tips for Taped Television Interviews

Mom and I are very excited, but terrified, about our first television interview airing on O2 Media's morning talk show "The Balancing Act" on Lifetime Television tomorrow, June 21st, at 7am (ET/PT). Note: 6am Central/Mountain. This is our teaser (will become the show once it airs. And, yes, this is the first time I've ever used an embed code on my blog):

When they first called and asked to interview us, I was terrified. My breathing slowed once I found out it was not live television. Okay, we could do this. One month before the interview we sent in five copies of our book (staff and hosts were all required to read it). Two weeks before, we sent in a synopsis, the main points we wanted to cover, and some images. One week before, we received five questions. Easy, right?

Mom and I had insane weeks leading up to our trip to Florida to tape. We decided to arrive a day early and do a marathon training session. All day Saturday we wrote and rewrote our answers. We had a four minute slot for our interview. There were five questions. We figured the host wouldn't get to all of them, but we wanted to be prepared just in case. We also knew we could do more than one take. Breathe, we constantly told ourselves.

We showed up to the studio prepared. We rehearsed our answers the entire car ride over. Unshakable. Then we met the host. Lovely. She was encouraging, friendly, and above all, made us feel comfortable. "We are just three ladies sitting down to chat," she told us. We had makeup done, microphones put on, and were placed on set. At this point, there was no amount of prescription antiperspirant strong enough for me.

We did the first take in question order until time was called. We survived. No flubs. The crew asked us how many television interviews we had done. Sure, sure, I thought to myself, they are just trying to make us feel better. The host asked us which questions we really wanted to fit in now that we had a sense of the time. We rearranged. Second take and done. Success! I felt even better when we saw the next person tape. After three takes, she left the set momentarily to compose herself.

In May, we posted a humorous what not to do during a television appearance list. Now, we want to give some practical advice.

Tips for a Taped Television Appearance:

1. Rehearse your answers. If they don't give you a list of questions, ask or offer some of your own. The host appreciated our preparation, and it never hurts to have the host in your corner. Several staff and crew thanked us for our professionalism. Another benefit, rehearsing made us more confident and less nervous.

2. Engage your host. Take our host's advice, you are sitting down to chat. If you aren't talking, look interested in what the host (or the co-interviewee) is saying. Nod and smile. The effort it took to keep a pageant-smile on my face made me focus less on the butterflies in my stomach.

3. It's okay to breathe. I kept worrying I'd forget our scripted answers. Mom reminded me it was okay to take a breath and gather your thoughts. Better to breathe than rush through and crash.

4. Follow directions. There are reasons they ask you to nod and smile while looking to your left. Just do it, no matter how silly it seems. It's their job to make you look good, so they look good. Another important one: they will often give you suggested clothing colors and a list of don'ts. Pay attention. I watched the show for weeks before we taped, and I saw some poor choices.

5. Trust the Team. See #4. Trust the producer, host, and crew. And don't forget the makeup person.  He or she knows television makeup. No matter how much you like to do your own makeup, those lights are different. If you have sensitive skin, bring your products and then trust him/her.

6. Send a thank you note. As soon as I got home, I sent a follow-up email to the producers, the host, and anyone else who helped along the way. I then followed up with written thank you notes. They've already been in contact with us about future dealings, and asked me to forward a thank you note on letterhead to put up in their main lobby.

7. Sell yourself. People will buy your product or service if they buy you as a person. It's four minutes. Be your best self.

Having said all this, we haven't seen our appearance. We will see it tomorrow along with everyone else. It's easy to ask yourself if you should have done three takes, worn something different, smiled bigger. But, in the end, I trusted my team.

We'd love some feedback. If you can't watch in the morning, please set your DVRs or come back and view the link. Then leave some comments below. We can take it!

June 19, 2011

A Day to Celebrate Dads

There's something like a line of gold thread running through a man's words when he talks to his daughter, and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself.

John Gregory Brown

The thread began with the birth of your first daughter, me! Two more followed. Your drive to be a good man increased. You always told us we could be anything we wanted to be. With each encouraging word, a stitch was sewn.

You worked sixty hour weeks and provided for our family. You helped with homework and re-proved Geometry theorems long proven. When I asked what a word meant, you told me to go look in the dictionary. But your advice didn't stop there. You told me to memorize the word above it and below it as well.

My favorite Dad sayings:
* SOL = S**t out of luck
* Katie bar the door = Hold me back
* You might want horns, but you're going to die butt-headed = I told you No, child.
* You've gone from preaching to meddling now = advice is one thing, nagging is another
* If a frog had wings, he wouldn't bump his ass when he jumped = Deal with reality

The first time I heard someone else say SOL, I wanted to ask them if they knew my dad. In my eyes, he invented everything. My pedestal was built high, and he sat upon it. The teenage years came. He pushed us while holding on and creating safety. We disagreed at times, but I knew he loved me. More stitches sewn.

When I met my future husband at eighteen, he was cautious but supportive. Five years later, we married. Dad walked me down the aisle, but never gave me away entirely. The year we got married was my parent's 25th year of marriage. I asked my dad what made a good marriage. He told me compromise, with a caveat. "Compromise does not usually mean 50-50," he said. "Sometimes he'll get 100% of what he wants, sometimes you will. But, in the end, it should all come out right." These words often comfort me. What is the 50-50 to having children? Whether to move or not? Changing careers?

Dad with Jackie in 2000
I made my dad a grandfather the year he turned 50! Still a successful and very busy professional, he always made time for visits. The stress washed away when he held my daughter; he softened like I'd never seen. The cloth surrounded me; so many stitches.

My parents recently celebrated 40 years of marriage, and their support for their children has never lessened. Though we've grown up and had kids of our own, they still ask us to call if we are traveling to let them know we are safe. I am very blessed.

Today, I say Happy Father's Day to my dad. I wouldn't be half the person I am today without your love and support. And, I must say, all those extra words I looked up have come in handy!

Special aside: my dad was the humor. He found ways to lighten up heavy moments and trying times. I credited my gift of humor to him in our Lifetime Television interview, scheduled to air Tuesday, June 21st on their morning talk show, The Balancing Act, at 7am (ET/PT). A link to the teaser: http://www.thebalancingact.com/video/?v=CHS56QHE203174.

And let's not forget my wonderful husband on Father's Day:

Ed with Jackie and Reagan 2002
I fell in love with him for many reasons: his looks (honesty is my curse!!), his beautiful smile, his calming effect, his kindness, and his loyalty. We met the third day of my freshman year of college, and we never looked back. I wasn't looking for a husband, much less the father of my children. But I know a good thing when I see it.

With Maddie, our baby, 2005
 I first fell for the man, but I fall harder every day because of the father and husband he is. His family comes first. Laid back in most things, I've seen him agonize over decisions involving our family and his precious girls.

I'd like to take credit for picking a great father, but luck was on my side. Girls, especially, learn so much from their fathers. It takes a special man to give girls those gold threads.

My husband has always been hands-on; he changed many a diaper and makes school lunches almost every morning. He rarely misses an event. My girls will someday have their dad-cloth, and I know all too well what comfort it brings.

Thanks to all the dads out there, and Happy Father's Day!

What's your fondest memory with your dad?

June 17, 2011

Friday Feature: My Favorite Thing I Read this Week and Why

Continuing our Friday series, Mom stops by to answer her favorite thing she read this week and why by higlighting Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo.
Since I was a little girl, I have been enamored by heaven . . . and hell. I mean you better know something about each. If I’m planning on a trip, I’m going to do a little research on where I’m going and weigh the advantages and disadvantages. Right? Well, heaven or hell gives me a lot to consider.
Ayn Rand once said, “When I die, I hope to go to Heaven, whatever the Hell that is.” But I am more in tune with Carl Sandburg who stated, “Here is the difference between Dante, Milton, and me. They wrote about hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years.”
Yep, that’s what I’m doing . . . checking out my options. Naturally I’ve looked at all the biblical accounts I can find. By Revelation, you are standing behind the man on the white horse, I promise you. The other venture is way too much tanning for me!
Putting all nonsense aside, there was one event in my life that truly made me want to seek out knowledge about heaven. In September 2007, my grandmother had an out-of-body experience, or that’s what the family calls it now, where she thought she saw the hallway to Heaven’s throne room.
When I visited her at the nursing home one day, my grandmother had the Scarlett O’Hara look of sheer joy on her face. Remember the scene where Rhett takes Scarlett in his arms and carries her up the staircase? Yes, it’s the morning after look. 
She vividly described going to a magnificent place full of colors, some we’ve never seen, and living pictures and chandeliers free-floating up and down the hallway. She became more and more animated as she told each detail of her trip. As her story ended, she grew quiet and distant, confessing she did not want to leave. She claimed she was sent back with a promise that she’d return. And return she did, one week later.
So began my trip planning. I’ve read countless books on accounts of heaven. My latest was Todd Burpo’s book Heaven is for Real. It’s about a three year old boy, Colton, who remembers going to heaven after a brief brush with death. As he begins to share his journey with his parents, who are more than bewildered, events line up with the truth–something happened to Colton during an emergency appendectomy. 
Looking at heaven through the eyes of a young boy's account is fascinating. I don’t want to give the storyline away, but it made me feel good about my decision to take the narrow road. The strangest part was his confirmation on how Jesus looks after seeing Akiane Kramarik’s painting of Christ. Akiane was under 10 years old when she painted “Prince of Peace”.  
Maybe there’s some truth in having child-like faith. "Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Happy Friday! What is the best thing you've read this week?

June 16, 2011

Moment of Reflection: My Oldest Graduates Fifth Grade

I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday. My first child. From the moment the doctor put you in my arms, I loved you. I knew nothing about being a parent, but I knew I would die trying.

Jackie, 3 months

Your sisters soon came to join our little famly. Now we were all on this journey together. We knew we'd make mistakes, but love and community would get us through. Then, I had to send you off to school. You were leaving the nest I created to shield you. I cried the first day the bus came to pick you up. Then you graduated Kindergarten. More tears.

Jackie and her middle sister, Reagan (who seems a bit pouty)

Through all our moves and changes, you continued to grow into a beautiful, young lady. With each passing year, I see you blossom. I don't want to rush a second, but I can't wait to see the adult you become. Yesterday, I cried again when you graduated fifth grade. Wow, I have a middle-schooler. Your poor Mom is a big mess of contradictions right now. I want so much for you, but I also want to cocoon you in the safety of my arms. I am both excited and terrified for you to head to middle school.

Mom and Jackie at her fifth grade promotion ceremony

Know I will be here for you through the good, the bad, and the ugly. For every part of me I give to you, you make a part of me better. I am the woman I am today thanks to loving my children. I am blessed.

Today, take a moment to consider your blessings. Write about them. Even if you are a technical writer or a journalist who only covers sports, always flex your writing muscle by writing outside your comfort zone. You never know what will come of it.

Do you journal or write down your memories?

June 15, 2011

Give Independent and Small Press Books a Chance

This is an exciting time in publishing. Social media, eReaders, and the Internet have vastly changed the book industry. It's easier than ever for an author to get his/her work published. There are some quality works out there now that might not have seen the light of day ten years ago. For authors and enthusiastic readers like myself, this is a blessing.


But there is a flip side. With fewer barriers and cheaper costs associated with publishing, poorer quality books and ebooks are also being produced. I review for a great website, Rebecca's Reads. Most of the books I review are from independent publishers and small presses. The more I'm exposed to these type of books the more I understand why readers are hesitant to embrace them. I'll admit it, some are just plain awful and poorly edited.

I've been involved in book clubs for more than ten years and am an avid reader. Two things I've learned from book clubs. There's rarely a meeting where everyone loves or hates a book, and there are some bad, poorly edited traditionally published books out there.

Readers shouldn't judge all the indpendently published books by the few bad ones. Remember, every basket of apples has at least one rotten one no matter how great the farmer. And a lot of apples with bruises are sweet and tasty once you cut around the bad spots.

Be open-minded when expanding your reading. My suggestion: go to either the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards list or the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards list and pick some titles. You may find a diamond in the rough and be the first one on your block to herald the next great author. And, yes, you will find Depression Cookies listed as a Finalist in Chick Lit at the Next Generation site, but don't let that sway you too much.

Finally, the Internet and blog world are full of great review sites for these lesser-known books. I've pointed out BooksYALove and Feathered Quill in previous posts, but there are many.

Will you give a lesser-known novel a chance? If not, why?

June 14, 2011

Tub-Full Tuesdays: Community Support and a Request

Writing is my passion, but I'm also a people-person. Rarely do I crave alone time. When I found Blogathon and a blog community, I became more passionate about my posts. People give me energy (okay, and accountability). I'm a better writer when surrounded by my peers.

When I first moved to Maryland, I joined the Maryland Writers' Association looking for a writing community. It's been an excellent resource. In April, I attended their annual conference and met many fascinating and encouraging writers, speakers, agents, and publishers. I wrote furiously during programs, trying not to miss one single piece of advice. The highlights can be found in my blog post, Lessons from the Maryland Writers Conference.

The last program I attended that day featured L.A. Banks (Leslie Esdaile Banks), a NY Times Best-selling Author. She was funny, warm, engaging, and above all, truthful. Her first statement was, "Even if a publisher picks you up, don't quit your day job." She discussed how royalties and contracts really work, how little marketing dollars filter to the unproven or middle-level author, and the economics of making a living as a writer. I hung on her every word.

Yesterday, I found out she is suffering from late stage Adrenal Cancer. I was shocked. She was lively, entertaining, and the picture of health a few months ago. She filled my tub when I needed it in April, and now I hope to return the favor. Check out this site for information on donations to help offset her mounting medical bills.

Also consider dropping her a note of encouragement and support. Sometimes nothing is better than handwritten encouragement to lift someone's spirits and fill their tub.

Cards can be sent to:
Leslie Esdaile
c/o Tina Ryan Wise
PO Box 37189
Philadelphia, PA 19148

I am thankful to all the writers and bloggers who fill my tub and make my writing journey that much sweeter.

June 13, 2011

What the . . . You want me to do what?

It's Mom's turn to post, and I am happy to hand over the reins this Monday morning. I mentioned the difficulty of balance earlier this month with my The Delicate Balancing Act of Life post. Enjoy Mom's take on a similar idea.
There are some things I just won’t do. I took one look at bungee jumping and knew I had too many things left on my bucket list. Trust me, I am never going to eat escargot no matter how much garlic butter you drizzle on it, period. I’m also not going to play chicken; why tear up a perfectly good car. And, I’m never, yes never, going to cliff dive off the Bridge at Seven Pools in Kipahulu. Nope, not for a billion dollars, not that anyone’s offering.
However, I was startled the other day when a friend poised a question that elicited the response, “What the . . . You want me to do what?”
The question: “Can you slow down?”
What in the world did she mean by that? I AM slow. I mean I’m crawling. Well, maybe not today, or yesterday, but tomorrow I will show her a thing or two. Slow down? I’m all about relaxing, sunning−as soon as I clear a few things off my calendar, I’ll be ready to party!
I walked over to check on those party dates, and well . . . that’s the deepest word I can come up with to own up to my crisis. Okay, I admit it, I am a little overbooked. Now it’s only a temporary nuisance that I’ve created, you understand. I told my husband, “We’re retired! We can do what we want to do, anytime we want to do it.”
He said, “Look at the damn calendar.”
He pointed out that of the 72 days of summer (June 21 to my cut-off of August 31), we have 15 days with nothing to do. What does the man want? He has 20% of the summer to plan. He should be a little more humbled by my efficiency.
Alone, I realize I am too busy. Where’s the whole business of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” these days?
Gypsy Rose Lee spouted, “It's hard to face the problem when the problem is in your face.”  But I have to! So I think I will endorse another saying of Gypsy’s, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing slowly . . . very slowly.”
So I implemented a new strategy. I still book things, but I’ll plan on everything taking twice as long. Perfect! From this day forward, I do declare to plan the fun before the maddening pace!
That's all they really want
Some fun
When the working day is done
Girls, they want to have fun
Oh girls just want to have fun!

Do you need to schedule some fun?

June 12, 2011

Summer Reading and a Day to Remember Anne Frank

My children are wonderful readers, but they've been influenced by a fantasy-driven publishing industry. I'm not necessarily complaining. The main objective is for them to read, and I want them to love books like I do. Still, from time to time, I suggest they read some classics.

We still haven't finished school here on the East coast, so I'm in denial that summer is a week away. I was thrilled to see my fellow blogger, Kate, put up a summer reading list this week at her Teaching What is Good blog site. Take a minute to check out her list and inspirational blog.
Image used from http://www.politics-prose.com/
Politics & Prose is a local Washington, DC bookstore

One of the books she recommended was Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I remember reading this book as a young woman. It stirred up questions. Could I have been so brave in the same situation? Could I even be that brave in my own life? It's definitely a book I will give my upcoming sixth grader this summer.

I've spent a good amount of time this week looking for blog post inspiration. I love when I see someone comment on Donut Day or National ice cream month, so I found a special days calendar. Guess what today, June 12th, is? Sure enough it's the birthday of Anne Frank (born in 1929). I can be a bit dense about "signs" but Kate's post and then this. Aha! Inspiration.

For those curious about Anne Frank's incredible life, check out http://www.annefrank.org/ for more information.

I'm still searching for YA classics for summer reading in my house... any suggestions? I'll take adult suggestions, too.

June 10, 2011

Friday Feature: My Favorite Thing I Read this Week and Why

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof shit detector.  This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it. 
Ernest Hemingway, interview in Paris Review, Spring 1958

In search of ideas for blog posts, I scoured the internet for interesting quotes on writing. My thought: when struggling for a post, insert a quote. If inspired, a post would follow. If not, I would post the quote and ask for readers to comment. Simple.

This Hemingway quote jumped out at me. I'm a shit detector in life; I don't always call people out on their shit, but I usually sense it. Too often, I excuse it. I am a softy for people's stories. If their story explains their shit, I can let is slide. (My mom is NOT going to like how often I used shit in one paragraph).

Then, thanks to two wonderful books I've read in the past year, the quote took on a whole new meaning. The Help and The Art of Racing in the Rain are great books, but they will stay with me due to the shit scenes in them. I refuse to be a spoiler, so I won't detail the scenes. Suffice it to say, characters you come to love in both books get vindication with shit.

Originally, my favorite thing I read this week and why was going to be a link to my review of The Art of Racing in the Rain at my Mom in Love with Fiction blog. A great book and my favorite reading of the week, but the Hemingway quote brought it all together.

All of this to say, I guess I'm a good shit detector in writing, life and reading!

Are you ever surprised what element of a story stays with you?

June 9, 2011

Tia the Tame Tiger and Angela the Angel Present Depression Cookies

I've started to think of marketing books like cereal. When I walk down the cereal aisle, there are way too many colorful boxes jumping out at me. So what do I do? I am a marketer's dream. Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam, Cap'n Crunch, Lucky the Leprachaun, and the Trix rabbit all call to me. Sure, when I found out my daughter had allergies, I had to look more carefully. But, for the most part, I go with the mascots. I only stray from this when a friend highly recommends something to me.
Image from http://www.theimaginaryworld.com/

How does this relate to books? Walking through the bookstore is information overload. I'm sure a vast majority of the books there would be a good read, but I don't have the money or the time. I have to pick. Usually I do this based on my friends' and book club recommendations, but sometimes I stray from that because I've seen an interesting article or interview on an author.

Branding. My mother and I are the "faces" of our brand, Depression Cookies. We can't even rely on the occasional impulse buy in a bookstore, because we aren't prominently featured in the big chains. We need people to think we are interesting enough to buy our book. Selling yourself is hard. Mom and I are passionate about our book, but it goes beyond that. People want to see you, genuine and willing to share.

I recently attended my first book festival. I love people, and can talk all day (well, when I have a voice). Much to my husband's dismay, I am enamored with people's stories, motivations, and passions. When Haley Tanner stopped by my booth with her mother, I was enchanted. They were so sweet together and loved chatting about the mother-daughter bond. I glanced up to see Haley wearing a "Featured Author" name tag. When I asked her about it, she said she was there to talk about her book. Her mom then, as moms do, beamed with pride and told me a bit more.

The very next week I was going through some magazines and newspapers sitting around our house and picked up the USA Today. Sure enough, there was Haley listed under the "New Voices" section. I started following her on Twitter, looked up her website, and ordered her book (haven't received it yet). Would I have stopped to read the "New Voices" bit if I hadn't met her? Even if I did, would it have stuck? But because I met her and she glowed, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of her book, Vaclav & Lena.

This experience taught me a lot about branding. You have to put yourself out there. I think a blog and participating in social media sites are a good start, but nothing takes the place of personal interaction. The best part of attending festivals, conferences, book clubs, and local events is socializing. Not only is it an opportunity to learn, it's an opportunity to give. And market.

Have you ever met someone (online or in person) who impressed you so much you went home and googled them to find out more?

June 8, 2011

Why a Daughter Needs a Mom: Reasons Three through Five

As part of our continuing series, we examine Gregory E. Lang's Why a Daughter Needs a Mom: 100 Reasons. If you missed the beginning of our series, please check out Reason One and Reason Two. There are few things in life as special as the mother-daughter bond, and Lang's book does a fine job illustrating this in 100 Reasons (he also wrote Why a Son Needs a Mom: 100 Reasons).

Reasons Three through Five:

To assure her that she always has a place to come home to.

Because no one understands girls like a mom.

To remind her that in faith there is fellowship.

There's no place like home, as Dorothy so eloquently said in The Wizard of Oz, and my mom and dad made sure home was a place of love. Because we moved so much, it was a constantly changing structure but the love always remained. And as much as my dad loves us, there are some subjects a daughter feels more comfortable discussing with her mom. I've recently experienced this as my 5th grade daughter viewed the Family Life video at school. We've had several open discussions. She loves her father dearly, but she wanted him nowhere near us as we talked about menstruation, body parts, etc (and he, full of love as well, was okay being left out).

There's a moment in Depression Cookies where Krista feels lost. Her mom, Abby, has been gone for awhile helping her own mother heal after the death of her husband/Abby's dad. Krista says it all, "Our house without Mom was incomplete−a structure of wood and plaster without a heart. There was no warmth or joy; we just went through the motions. With each passing day, the air became more dense and stale. Dad tried his jokes, and we would gurgle out a pathetic attempt at laughter, but we needed Mom back. Pure and simple."

My parents weren't raised as church-goers and found religion together. They wanted to gift us with faith, and I now pass this gift to my daughters. This faith, as well as our faith in each other, is a tremendous source of fellowship.

Just yesterday a mother asked how many kids I have. Three girls, I replied. She then said, "I'm sorry." I was confused, and told her not to be because I love my girls. "They are so much harder than boys," she said. I thought for a second, and said simply, "And worth every second."

My family at Great Wolf Lodge this winter

June 7, 2011

New Weekly Feature: Tub-full Tuesdays

My recent experience with Michelle Rafter’s Blogathon taught me many things I wanted to incorporate into my blog. Some of those features are taking longer than others. One was to have theme days. We already discuss our favorite thing we read during the week on Fridays. But I was inspired by fellow blogger Lisa Carter of Intralingo to add another: Tub-full Tuesdays. She does a great post weekly called Thankful Thursdays, and I’ve always enjoyed reading it.

My daughter’s Kindergarten teacher told her students they have buckets. When you do nice things or someone does something nice to you, it fills your bucket. But mean/sad things empty your bucket. Looking for T words (I’m all about alliteration), Tub-full reminded me of a bucket.
Now if this isn't a Tub-full, I don't know what is
(and please don't tell my preteen this picture is up!)
As evidenced by yesterday’s post about balance, too often I don’t remember to take time to be thankful for all my blessings. Mom agreed. So keep any eye out for our posts every Tuesday about things that fill our tub. It might be as simple as a quote that lifted our spirits, a picture of an event, or a short post.
This week, I wanted to say again how thankful I am to Michelle Rafter of Blogathon for taking time out of her busy schedule to round up 200+ blogs and pass on her wisdom. In addition to learning, I met a wonderful group of bloggers who inspire me every day to keep at it and post interesting and meaningful material. Leading up to Blogathon, my tub was leaking. I wasn’t sure if having a blog was worth it. Now my blog tub is overflowing!

I have to also mention my baby sister (she hates when I call her that!), Dana Newbrough, aka our Blog Designer and Webmaster. She is awesome. Check out our blog's brand new look. All Dana. She takes the crazy rantings of how I see our blog in my head and turns them into reality (okay, a lot of it is from her own head). I am blessed (and she works for extra diaper coupons and the occasional Target giftcard!).

What has filled your tub this week?