To the Point

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits wrote a great blog post earlier this year. I recently looked up Your Emails are Too Long and my worst fears are true. I am breaking all of the six rules he recommends. Below are his six rules:

Rules for Short, Effective Emails

Ignore these rules at your peril:

  1. Keep it to 5 sentences. No more. I stole this from of course, but I’ve used it for years and it works. I usually try to do fewer than 5.
  2. Figure out your main point. If you think you need more than 5 sentences, you haven’t figured out the key thing you want to say. Take a second to figure it out, and stick to just that.
  3. Ask one thing. Don’t ask 10 questions, just ask one. Or two at the most. You’re much more likely to get an answer quickly.
  4. Edit. If you stretched it to 8 sentences, cut out 3.
  5. Link. If you need to refer to info, include a link to it on the web.
  6. Post it. If the info you need to share isn’t on the web, put it there. Create a long answer or long background document (then edit it to the essential info) and post it online. Use your blog, or one of the many free tools for posting info. Create an FAQ if it’s useful. Link to it in your email.

I used to write emails the way I would speak. Broken sentences, a lot of ellipses, dashes and random thoughts falling out of endless paragraphs that had no point.

Though I don’t do that as much as I used to, I am still guilty of writing way too much to get my point across.

New plan: minimalist email writing. Enough said.

How do you respond to email? Are you effective? How long does it take you to answer you daily emails?




Imagine you have a manuscript that has been in progress for months. Every time you hear the last few paragraph’s read out loud the story falls completely flat. You can feel something is just not working.

Where do you go from here? Dump the whole manuscript and start over? Here are a few great suggestions from my writing group:

1. Write the story from a different character.

2. Write the story from the character at a different age.

3. Write the story from a different point of view (POV). Here is a great link to a blog that talks about POV.

I do know my story with this problem needs to be told. Maybe yours does too. And maybe, just maybe, working through the manuscript in a different way is the solution. I’ll let you know how it goes as soon as I get back to work on that manuscript! Let me know how your manuscript turns out!


More on POV:

More on character development:

Pamela Dowd has a wonderful downloadable character development sheet (actually 8 page) but asks all the right questions about your character. (For children’s book character development you’ll have to pick and choose what to answer)

What Goes Here?

There are certainly a million new and changing tidbits to learn about writing/editing/submitting/publishing children’s books. However, I often find myself staring at the blank screen waiting for some thing, some idea, some what-ever-might-make-an-(might I dare say) awesome blog post to pop into my very crammed noggin. An awesome blog post that not only says something about what I do but how I can help people and…be engaging (not much to ask, huh?).

When I first started this blog, I thought there would be an infinite number of topics I would be able to quickly put into words and post. Well, the ‘quickly put into words’ part is what I should have questioned myself about the first time around. As an unseasoned writer, I am often flustered by how much time I spend creating a simple blog post. The A-HA! moment should have hit me long before I decided I would post once a week (which I have rarely done from the start). But, no. Excited with fervor, pushing ahead no matter how many times my husband warned me. I, again, have been staring at the screen daily for the last week wondering what really belonged on this blog. Useless information is the last thing I want to be writing about, but sometimes reading what I’ve posted in the past can be painfully eye-opening. Life is a learning process. Right?

In the end, I know that this blog belongs here. But maybe, just maybe some other words need to be said. Not just what I learn about writing, but how to manage life: life with kids, a husband that travels, family far away, temporary moves across the country, friends coming and going, homeschooling, and trying to fit writing into all of these.

Writing from my gut is what I promise. Writing that matters. Sometimes silly, sometimes frustrated, sometimes funny (if I’m lucky) sometimes who knows what the heck I’ll come up with. But…

I. Will. Write.

Please continue to write with me. Check out these great blogs:

Kid/children’s literature blogs


All things children’s book writing related and

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Value of Time

A few weekends ago I attended an out-of-town writing festival. The road trip to the event included two lovely ladies from my in-person writing group, great conversation and some good laughs.

Now, I must start by saying that I did enjoy my time at the writing festival. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the class that I attended for two days. It was less than what I expected from this well-known writing event. When I weigh the value of my time spent with what else I could have accomplished, the second option would have been a better choice.

I have learned in the last few years the value of my time. When I take a weekend away from my family, I want to be doing something I feel passionate about and get truckloads out of the experience.

I did my best to make the most of the weekend. I worked on my piece that I took for class, started another story, documented some story ideas for a project I would like to work on long-term and met some great people in the class I took. I gave feedback to the event coordinators and learned my lesson about really doing my research.  I certainly know now, more than ever, the value of my time may not be the same as others.

Great article from Forbes about The Price of Time

Make sure you are understanding the value of your time by doing something you are passionate about! Again, one of my favorite blogs about passionate pursuits has recently changed its name but not its mission:

Live Your Legend

Happy writing to all!




Review: Press Here by Herve Tullet

This gallery contains 4 photos.

This past Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised to find a book called Press Here by Herve Tullet on the new shelf at our local library. Hmm. The title caught my attention and the book quickly went into the stack of … Continue reading

Workshop Armor

Two of my critique partners and I will be attending a weekend at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival in July. I am excited, nervous and all together petrified to be sharing a manuscript with fifteen other writers in the Picture Book Revision for Non-Celebrities workshop.

I have two critique groups: one multi-genre, the other is picture book. I am familiar with and know what to expect from each group. Their critique style is consistent and I have learned to respond accordingly when they provide feedback. Now I am about to add an intensive weekend of fifteen people I don’t know and a well published author…SCARY! Then again, is this maybe what I need to help focus and hone my next book that I want to send out to publishers?

Do we all need to change things up on a regular basis to help find new perspective? Will this help move us along the path to change? Offering one’s manuscript to the critique gods can often stir up old memories of manuscripts marked in red from beginning to end. Though this happens to me regularly, I do read the suggested revisions through a few time and decide a lot of the changes are a great idea and others are best left behind.

As a newbie, the critique group process has been essential in helping me develop as a writer. I am interested to find out how other people handle going into a new group of people to share work.

How do you apply armor so you don’t come out a wounded writer?

I enjoyed this Writing Workshop Etiquette blog post by Heather Hummel. Great tips on how to critique, receive critique and what you can take away from a workshop/critique group experience.

NaPiBoWriWee Personal Update Day 7

Woo hoo! Day seven manuscript complete. I made sure I finished early in the day Saturday so I wasn’t fretting about it on Saturday night. The time and energy were worth the seven new manuscripts I have to work from for the next couple of months. My critique groups will share in the fun of providing feedback once I have done some much-needed editing. I definitely will be adding this event to my calendar for next year.

And a fun bonus of participating this week: I won a signed copy of Paula Yoo’s picture book Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story (Lee & Low 2009) in the prize drawing that Paula held yesterday for participants!

If you didn’t get a chance to participate this year, then put this awesome event on your calendar for next year and join me (and all the other crazy people) for National Picture Book Writing Week.

Thanks, Paula! What a great idea!

NaPiBoWriWee Personal Update Day 5 & 6

Day five and six drafts complete. National Picture Book Writing Week (NaPiBoWriWee) is a grueling challenge! Last night I was up late just to finish day five manuscript. Day six went a little smoother, but I’m still not sure about the story having any true substance. When I begin to edit, it will be the true indicator of what to keep and what to junk. Or, what to turn into a completely different story.

Here’s to writing! If you are working hard to complete the week-good luck on day seven manuscript! If this event inspired you to write just one manuscript–congratulations! You are moving forward and that is what life is all about. Step by step you will see progress and results!

Find out more about NaPiBoWriWee at Paula Yoo’s site.

Good luck!

NaPiBoWriWee Personal Update Day 3 & 4

Whew! I can update both days at once! Day three and four manuscript complete. I am  not sure how or why my brain and fingers are working together, but I can say that I have read some great articles on focus at the Reading For Your Success blog to help get through the week.

Also, check out the National Picture Book Writing Week official blog by Paula Yoo. Awesome stuff! Great motivation! Keeps me writing!

Day four guest author on Paula’s blog is none other than Tara Lazar. Tara is the creator of Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo). PiBoIdMo is thirty picture book ideas in thirty days challenge. I did PiBoIdMo in November last year and ended up with two complete manuscripts. Two of my four ideas for the past four days are from doing PiBoIdMo. I like the challenges that both PiBoIdMo and NaPiBoWriWee offer. They may not be for everyone, but they definitely give me a plethera of ideas to work from!

Write, write and write some more! Only three days left for NaPiBoWriWee!


NiPiBoWriWee Personal Update Day 2

Okay. I made it through day two of National Picture Book Writing Week (NaPiBoWriWee). Draft two complete. Fortunately, I had another idea in my head that needed to get on paper. A coherent beginning, middle and end does exist but not sure there is much to work from other than a few lines towards the end. I guess that’s what this process is all about. Get it out and then edit, edit, edit. Feels great to be writing so much.


Today is day three. I am stuck. It’s 2:30pm and I am not sure what I am going to write about. Searching my files, notebooks and all corners of my foggy (sleep deprived) brain…and still nothing. So, a blog post is born and I am back to the creative process to make day three of NaPiBoWriWee a personal success.

check out the official National Picture Book Writing Week blog: