Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lessons from a Ten Pound Ruler

Stella HuntingMy mornings used to be kid-centric. Get up. Get ready. Go to school. Simple, as long as Middle would brush his teeth the first time around, Youngest wouldn’t throw a fit about wearing jackets in forty degree weather and Dear Daughter had her morning coffee. Thankfully Eldest is self-sufficient in college…though now that he’s no longer under my direct care, I often wonder if he’s brushing his teeth, wearing his jacket and eating right at all.

Then along came Stella.

Ten pounds of fluff has changed our morning household. I could describe all the cute things Stella does, but it would be worse than describing how wonderful my kids were when they were the cutest babies in the world. All four of them.

You see, we do that, parents and grandparents. We dote on the little things that only we find adorable while everyone else looks on with glazed eyes and gives us bobble-head affirmations.

But this little dog has a trait I admire. Every morning she rides along when I drop the kids off at school.

Big deal, you might say. And, normally I would agree. However, Stella does this despite hating car rides. She despises them so much she shakes the minute we step into the garage. It is clearly painful for her, yet she is compelled to see her kids off each and every day.

I don’t force her to come. I don’t even ask. I simply get my shoes on when it’s time to go, and she stands by my feet until I pick her up and carry her to the car. She refuses to let us leave without her.

She’s dedicated. She’s determined. She’s courageous. I don’t know where she gets the gumption to put herself through this trauma, but I admire it.

As a writer, as a mom, as a human being, I wouldn’t mind ten pounds of dedication, determination and courage to jumpstart my days.

How about you? What would you like in abundance every day to help you accomplish the things you need to get done?

Curious minds want to know.

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Seemingly Small Changes Can Add Up BIG Time

I’m polishing up a short story for the middle grade anti-bullying anthology (details found in this post here), and just got feedback from a writer friend of mine.

“First person, maybe?”

Yeah, first person, definitely. It took him to point it out, but as soon as I started reworking my 2,500 words, I knew he was dead right. And so I started revising with a vengeance.

Katy I peered into her my lunchbox…

By the time I finished, I must have had a thousand and one changes. It was tedious. And I missed a lot the first time around. I still probably have some third person where it should read first.

This isn’t a simple matter of find/replace. Story telling is too nuanced for that. It requires a reread of every sentence–nay, every word–to keep the style, voice and story cohesive. The change, while seemingly minute, was actually huge.

In writing, there are a thousand and one minute changes that all add up to lots o’ work. It’s called editing. And if you don’t have patience for it, you will never be a writer. Getting that rough draft on paper is the easy part. Polishing it is a challenge worth accepting.

You never know, it could make the difference between seeing your words in print or lining the bottom of the bird cage.

Other things that add up big time:

  • The writer who pointed out my POV mistake? Steven Carmen. His debut novel, Battery Brothers is set to release in March. Steve has been a critique partner of mine on several projects and I value his opinion almost as much as I look forward to holding his baseball novel in my hands.
  • Battery Brothers shares the same publisher as Whispering Minds, a YA novel that Steve also critiqued. Currently, author A.T. O’Connor has teamed up with four other authors for a romantic novel giveaway just in time for Valentine’s Day. Giveaway details here.
  • A.T. O’Connor and I both have short stories published in the Season Series by Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. The last one, Winter’s Regret, is due out any day!
  • Lastly, EBP has invested time and energy into a new anthology for middle grade readers. I alluded to it above and posted on it before, but in case you missed it, I am the acquisitions editor on the project and will be accepting short story submissions (2,500 words or less) for readers 7-11 on bullying to be told in the POV of the bully, the bullied or the bystander. Stories must have a clear resolution and must be emailed to me by February 15. So, what are you waiting for?

Hugs~

Spell Check Cracks Me Up

I love how clean my phone’s auto correct keeps me. In a particularly heated text I wrote how I had ducked up despite working my ads off.

Yeah, I’m not proud of writing those things in the first place, but it got me thinking about how easy it is to misinterpret things in oral conversation.

As a speech coach, I stress articulation, enunciation and pronunciation. Even how we say a word evokes different feelings from our listeners. Throw in a smirk on your face and your hands crossed over you chest and the words “You’re absolutely right” take on a whole new meaning. The spoken language can be tricky in all its nuances.

But so can writing. At least verbally, we can gauge a speaker’s true meaning by body language, facial expressions and vocal inflections. All of these are absent on paper. Which means that writers need to be hyper vigilant about how they present their information.

So, do me a favor, work your ads off and don’t duck up a great story with poor writing. Pay attention to whether your true message comes across to your readers the way you want it to, or whether you need a bit more clarification to make things rock!

Happy writing~

Readers Are Like Phone Companies

I recently got a new phone, as my old one wasn’t functioning as well as it should–not to mention, I hated it from the start–but had to stick with it because…well, two-year contract and all.

Anyway, I love my new phone as much as I hated my old one. Sticking with it for the duration of my contract will be a pleasure, whereas my last one was a pain right from the get go.

Kind of reminds me of books…

Back in the day, I read anything and everything–always finishing what I started. Always. I was easily amused and had a lot more down time with which to fill with words.

Alas, my time is shorter now, as is my patience. Books, unlike cell phones, do not have restrictive contracts. If a reader hates the first chapter, first page, first line, he doesn’t have to keep reading. He can discard the old and buy a new one without paying a penalty fee.

As I’ve gotten older and my down time shorter, I have resorted to this method myself. In fact, I recently read–and loved–the first novel in a trilogy that everyone was raving about. Seconds after finishing the first one, I picked up the second. The writing had slipped and the characterization was a mere shell of what it had been in the debut. Yet, the storyline was enough to hold me to the end.

However, by the end, I was so exasperated I wanted to send both books and a crabby note to the author voicing my disappointment that the second book was a bridge book between the first and final in the trilogy–and a poorly done one at that. I didn’t, and I won’t. But, I didn’t purchase the last book.

My time is short, and I certainly didn’t sign a trilogy contract with the publisher. I didn’t have to stick with the story just because I had started it.

And this is what terrifies me about being an author. It’s what should terrify us all. Our readers do not have to stick with our writing. Rather than them having a contract with our book, we have a contract with them. As authors, it is our job to deliver a good story, page after page. It is our duty to fulfill the promise that engaged our readers in the first place.

Our readers are Verizon and T-Mobile and AT&T. They hold the contract. We, the writers, are bound by their expectations for the duration of our books. If we break this contract, the penalty fee we pay is in lost readership.

So, dear readers, what types of things make you break your contract with an author?

Curious minds want to know.

Call For Submissions: antibullying anthology for middle graders

As everyone knows, bullying is a topic near and dear to my heart. Nobody deserves to be broken down and beaten up–physically or emotionally–by another person. Nobody. Ever.

And yet, we let it happen with great regularity. Even our anti-bully programs have been proven ineffective for many reasons: namely, that we are targeting our audience after their behavior patterns are set. Seldom do kids start bullying for the first time in middle school or high school. More often, these children have been exhibiting poor social skills (ie a propensity to bullying others) from their earliest school years.

Knowing all this, it is my pleasure to announce that I am heading up a middle grade anthology on bullying for Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. EBP is taking an active role in the anti-bullying movement and creating a collection of short stories that will delight young readers while empowering them to be stronger advocates for healthy relationships.

Studies show that targeting children before the age of ten and teaching them how  to positively interact with each other before their behavior patterns  are set is the biggest deterrent for future bullying. So, yay to EBP for recognizing this need and pulling together an anthology specifically with an eye to helping our youngsters grow socially.

Submissions can be told from the point of view of the bully, the victim or the bystander and must be suitable for middle grade (MG) readers between the ages of 7 and 12. All stories should have a clear resolution that will help readers better understand the impact of bullying and/or help give them appropriate tools to deal with potential bullying situations in their lives. The maximum word count for stories is 2,500.
  • Submissions can be sent to my email address ( catwoods.writer@gmail.com ) with MG Anthology in the subject line.
  • Submissions are due February 15, with a projected publication date of May 5.
  • EBP will not be able to pay for a story, but they will send authors a gratis copy of the final anthology.
  • So, spread the word, send me your stories and help ease the pain of bullying.
Cat~

National Novel Writing Month Begins

If you see my children panhandling on the street, please feed them and send them home. If they appear dirty and disoriented it’s because I’m ignoring them. Why? Because once again, I have challenged myself to write 50,000 plus words during the next thirty days.

Funny, since I’m not even sure what I’ll be writing about and NaNoWriMo started nearly twelve hours ago. As (if) my muse moves me, I’ll keep you posted.

Have you ever done anything so ridiculously challenging? How’d it turn out? Any tips for succeeding in the face of the near impossible?

Curious minds want to know.

Going on a School Visit…and I’m not afaid.

Can I just say that I LOVE reading to kids?

Good, because I just said it. Tomorrow I get to read one of my short stories and help a high school-led anti-bully group talk about the impact of bullying.

I love speaking, I love kids and I love proactive teens who want to help make a better world for the upcoming generation.

Thanks, Lexi for seeing the need in our community and founding BRAVE. Thanks, Mrs. Anderson for taking on the BRAVE project so it could expand to more classrooms and more grades. And lastly, thanks to the peer helpers who take the time to spread the word about Building Relationships Against Violence Everywhere.

Now get ready fourth graders, cuz here I come.