Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tips for Revising Your Novel

I am nearly completed with my 14th revision of my novel, REDWOOD BLOOD. Yes, I said fourteenth. It's my first novel, so like many of you newbie writers, I made mistakes. Some of them were huge, like my main character was originally a female, then I listened to a few readers and changed her to a male, and then changed her back when my critique group said, "This is a strong female character." 

Smaller mistakes were:

  • forgetting what the characters were wearing, and adding clothes
  • weedy word use
  • using odd tag lines instead of "said"
  • weak verbs
  • cliches 
  • ending a chapter without suspense
  • ending a chapter not with the main character

So as I've revised, I've asked for help. I've asked my target audience to be readers. I've read out loud to my critique group, and I also paid an editor to read my first 4 chapters and give professional advice. All these people have helped me to become a stronger writer, and they've helped to make my first novel powerful.

Below you will find what has helped me the most:

Analysis of each chapter: 

This means you read each chapter as a stand alone and analyze it  for the following. Strengths of the (drama, action, mystery, fantasy, adventure) moments.
  1. Motive of the MC - Protagonist (hero)
  2. Motive of the Antagonist (villain)
  3. Motives of the Secondary characters
  4. Main Point in this chapter
  5. Humor Moments
  6. Dialogue: Who speaks the most in each chapter
  7. Dialogue vs. Description vs. Plot - Which one has the most lines in each chapter
  8. Why do you care about this chapter? Is it necessary to move the story forward?
  9. Could you read this chapter 10 times and still find it interesting?

To begin this analysis you can either print out each chapter and use highlighters, or highlight in word. Be sure to create a key for yourself so you know what each color means. 

During your initial analysis, you may want to check for the following:

Strong Verbs: 

In one of my MFA writing classes we came up with a list of verbs a Dentist, Cook, and Carpenter would use. It was a fun exercise and it helped us to make strong verb choices in our writing.
  • Try to avoid weak verbs like: IS, ARE, WAS, WERE
  • Avoid verbs that explain what is about to happen like: "I began to cry." Instead say, "I cried."
  • Try to avoid verbs with ing endings: "She was laughing." Is much weaker than, "She laughed."

 Be Specific in your Descriptions:

The building was very tall. = boring

The building towered into the sky like Mt. Tam, looming over the rest of the city, and blocking out the warmth of the sun. = you get a better sense of how tall it is.

Especially if you are writing for children, put yourself in their shoes. Objects that adults see every day are very curious or scary to a child, depending on age group. Have fun with your descriptions to create the mood of your plot.

Words to eliminate: Modifiers & Indicators of Time
  • even
  • exactly
  • just
  • so
  • very
  • really
  • that
  • anyway
  • definitely
  • first
  • in a minute
  • suddenly
  • then
  • finally
  • after a while

After you've checked each chapter for all of the above, reread the entire book from cover to cover. Ask yourself:

  • Why do I care?
  • Who am I rooting for?
  • Do I want to keep turning the page?
  • Where would a reader tend to stop?
  • Am I bored? If I'm bored readers will be bored.

Once you've done this final step put your manuscript away for at least a week. Do not talk about it. Do not work on it. Do not jot anything down. Let it rest. Start a new project...and no, not the sequel to it. Work on something completely different. 

After a week, reread. If you are happy, very happy with it, send it out. And good luck!


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Interview with Jason Baudendistel: Amazon Bestselling Author

 I met Jason through a professional writer's page on Facebook. He answered a call for interviews. 

His book interested me because I am new to branding myself, to using the various websites like Facebook, Linkedin, and others.

If someone can break them down and help me to better use them....I say thank you very much! Jason's first book is all about Linkedin, and how to run with it.

Below are the questions I asked him: 

1.    What's the title of the book that put you on the Amazon map as bestseller? 

The Complete idiot’s Guide To Linkedin Marketing

2.    How do you market you work? Facebook? Twitter? Linkedin?

All of them I use Seo and word of mouth as well. Internet Marketing is all about using all the tools available to you.

3.    What about the US Navy has helped you hone your career?

It has taught me self discipline and helped to be a stepping stone to greater things.

4.    Ever wanted to give up on any of your ideas? What made you keep going?

My family, My Fiance, and my drive to give them the life they deserve. I grew up on welfare giving up is not an option.

5.    What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?

Not a morning or breakfast

6.    Do you use a professional editor? If so, any recommendations?


7.    What one thing would you tell a newbie entrepreneur when starting on their first idea?

Don’t be afraid to seek a mentor

8.    When you write, do you work by outline, or do you go with the flow?

 I just let ideas flow then put them together

9.    You know a lot about Linkedin, in fact, you have a new book coming out on the site. How can Linkedin help writers? Help any professional?

It was an Amazon Bestseller. It can be part of their branding and lead generation tool kit.

10. What one thing do people usually miss when it comes to branding themselves?

Using all opportunities including networking, social media, and interviews.

11. What do you think about the world of publishing today? Dying dinosaurs or come back kids?

Print is dying, digital is the future

12. Did you hire a coach when you were first starting out in business? 

 Nope completely self taught

13. Describe your books in 5 words. 

Informative, Vital, Inspirational, Educational, Needed J

14. If you had to rank Facebook and Linkedin ­ which one would you put as most influential? 

It depends on who you are targeting, facebook is less business to business while Linkedin is.

15. What hobbies do you have outside work and business?

I love all kinds of music I am a bassist and former local musician, I love sports including the Bulls and Bears.

16. Your degree is in psychology. Do you believe this gives you an advantage to better read people and their profiles?

Psychology plays a huge role in how you market. I am a college dropout however.

17. What one word best describes you? 


18. What's the best part about living in Saint Louis? What's the worst?

I love the atmosphere and everything there is to do.
My main complaint is the allergen count. I have pretty bad allergies.

19. What books are you reading right now?

I love Stephen King but am always reading more on marketing, investing and computers.

20. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Spread the word to job seekers about my book or small business owners. Tell small business owners to check out my site, my products and my blog.

21. Who is your biggest cheerleader?

My Mom

22. What is the best way you relieve stress?

Music, or a nice cold

23. Any book signings coming up? 

Not yet I am open to them though. J

Monday, March 26, 2012

Interview with Kimberly Burnham, PhD and featured author in Pebbles in the Pond, Transforming the World One Person at a Time.

Kimberly Burnham, Phd., is the only author so far to have two interviews running on my blog. Way to go Kimberly! You are an amazing person and wonderful writer. 

Kimberly and I met through a professional Facebook page for writers. Her books interested me and so I reached out to interview her. Her books will not only inspire you, but help you to become the person you know you are inside. 

Below are the questions she answered:

1.    Why were you among the chosen authors to participate in this book?

Last year I got tremendous value out of Christine Kloser's Transformational Author Experience, which was packed with ideas, interviews, and support for writers interested in changing the world

 Christine led this project and asked me, along with 40 or so remarkable authors to take part. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have my chapter included along with Marci Shimoff, Marcelle Charrois, and Ann White. 

I am meeting so many amazing women and men through this project.

2.    What one word would you say to the writer who wants to cause a ripple in his/her community?

Center!   What I mean by that is center yourself. Ground yourself. By fully embodying your inner power, you can act as a fulcrum, a center point around which transformation can occur.

3.      Did you use a collaborative process in your writing?

I wrote my chapter by myself but the experiences I share are from working in a large multi-disciplinary clinic, where I learned so much from my incredible colleagues and clients. In that sense it is a collaboration.

Also in the time between finishing my chapter and the publication of Pebbles in the Pond, I have had a chance to read most of my fellow authors chapters. We posted them on our "secret" Facebook page. The feedback I have received by this group of transformational authors has helped me become a better writer. 

My next book, The Nerve Whisperer, Recover Your Life Through Brain Health, will contribute even more to healing in the world.

4.    Describe this book in 5 words.

Sharing transforms readers joining storyteller.

5.    Describe your chapter in this book in 5 words.

Seeing, understanding, responding creates life.

My Pebbles in the Pond chapter title is The Eyes Observing Your World.

6.    What impact are you having with your blog?

We have a Facebook Fan page for Pebbles in the Pond which is creating lots of excitement around the book. Even better at driving anticipation (Release date May 20, 2012) and comments is the blog at 

Authors like, Marilee A. Snyder-Nieciaks, are sharing how they came to write their chapter, divulging additional details of their experiences and explaining what they have learned through the joys and tragedies of life.

7.    When did you learn the value of seeing?

By the time I was 28, I had caught butterflies in Colombia, photographed lions in Kenya, climbed the Eiffel Tower, and run up and down the escalator of the 1958 World's Fair Atom in Brussels Belgium. I have SEEN a big chunk of the world, despite being born with a genetic condition of the eyes. 

I was diagnosed with keratoconus, a potentially blinding thinning of the cornea in my 20's. That diagnosis set me on a path to heal my own eyes and inspire others with genetic, vision, and nervous system related conditions to expect miracles and set the bar for nervous system healing and functioning higher. I began seeing the world and learning from people different from myself since I was six.

8. What funny story do you have about working on or publishing this book?

It turns out I have a photographic memory for jokes, even though someone pointed out that technically that would be called an audio graphic memory. We don't always understand the meaning of what we are looking at. One way to sleep better is to really see what is around us in our lives while we are awake. This can be a challenge, as this anecdote from Sherlock Holmes illustrates:

            Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson go camping. About three o'clock in the morning, Holmes nudges Watson and says, "Look up. What do you see?"
           Watson replies very specifically, "Millions of points of light."
           "What does this mean?,” asks Holmes.
           At this point, Watson launches into, "Well, if I look at it from an astronomical point of view, I know that each point of light is a star around which planets are revolving. If I look at it from an astrological point of view, I see that Cancer is rising. And further, I can tell from the arrangement of the constellations that we are in the Northern Hemisphere and it is about three o'clock in the morning."
           Holmes’s reply is quick and to the point: “You idiot, somebody stole our tent!"
           Remember, Sherlock Holmes is the one who said, "Looking is not the same as seeing." My job is to help people see.

9. Why do you think people respond to your writing in such a positive way?

There are two myths in our society. One is that our vision can't get better after a disease process or injury. The other is that it is normal for our eyesight to worsen as we age. These are just myths. 

I have proved them wrong for myself and helped clients disprove these myths. I think that inherently, we know that we can improve the way we perceive the world whether it is through our eyes, ears, sense of taste, smell or touch. When someone like myself with academic credentials and personal experiences confirms that this is true, people respond in a positive way.

10. Have you considered writing a children's book on this same subject?

I had not considered writing a children's book, until you asked me the question but I work clinically with children, using Integrative Medicine approaches like acupressure, Integrative Manual Therapy, and Matrix Energetics to function and communicate at a higher level despite a diagnosis of autism, ADD, learning and speech issues, cerebral palsy, seizures, Friederiech's ataxia, Down syndrome, Morquio syndrome, Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, and more.

With your question, I am now considering a book that could be read to children about how remarkable our ability to see, hear, speak and feel are but that the most amazing ability of our bodies is to heal and adapt to our environment. 

I am thinking in terms of something that would be fascinating visually,  accented by the sound and feel of the words around the tongue. The book will also have a component that inspires parents as they read to their children. I want to inspire parents and convey to them, "never give up hope of a remarkable life for yourself and for your children."

11. What are you hobbies outside of your writing and studies?

I scuba dive. The most amazing place is the Blue Hole in the Red Sea off Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. I crossed scuba diving at the Blue Hole off my lifetime to do list just a week before, September 11, 2001. I watched the twin towers burn on a big screen TV in a downtown Tel Aviv Israel hotel room. In the weeks leading up to that tragedy, I considered how to keep myself safe. What I came to is that not doing things out of fear does not keep us safe. Living passionately, doing what we are called or driven to do is what keeps us safe.

12. What is the oddest thing a fan has said to you?

I was recounting some of my experiences to a client the other day and she said, "Wow, really? And you can't make stuff like that up?" I could but I don't. I do best with non-fiction.

 one word best describes you? 


14. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Share Pebbles in the Pond with your friends and family, especially those who could use more hope, inspiration and transformation in their lives. 

My story and all of the stories shine a light on the path to healing, thriving and doing great things in this life. Sharing my message with others helps me share my story of hope and supports the reader in the knowledge that none of us are alone. Each of us have women and men who can guide us, people who are just ahead of us on this amazing journey we call life, and people who are yearning to lend a helping hand.

15. What does it mean to be The Nerve Whisperer?

Most people have seen the Robert Redford movie the Horse Whisperer or know Cesar Millan as the Dog Whisperer, but what are they doing?

They are using voice, hand signals and body language to elicit better behavior, a higher level of connection and function from the animals. I work with individuals and focus on the effect of my words, touch, and what I draw attention to as a way to increase your nervous system function. 

I enable children and adults with a wide variety diagnoses, such as Parkinson's, macular degeneration, cerebral palsy, lazy eye, fibromyalgia and more to walk more comfortably, have more balance in their movement and life, understand their world with clarity and respond in a way that increases their connection and joy. I set the bar higher on what we each should expect from ourselves and our potential to heal and enjoy life.  

Learn how to improve your own vision with Kimberly Burnham, The Nerve Whisperer at http://www.Kimberly

Thank You,
Kimberly Burnham, PhD The Nerve Whisperer
Author of Our Fractal Nature, a Journey of Self-Discovery and Connection and featured author in Pearls of Wisdom, 30Inspirational Ideas to Live Your Best Life, Now! and Pebbles in the Pond, Transforming the World One Person at a Time. 
See your world in a new way with Pebbles in the Pond, Transforming the World One Person at a Time. We are each a pebble in the pond, causing ripples whenever we grow, move or change.......

In PEBBLES IN THE POND, Kimberly Burnham shares the pages with New York Times bestselling authors Christine Kloser, Marci Shimoff, Robert Allen along with Marcelle Charrois, Denise Wade and today’s brightest stars in transformational leadership, offers transformative ideas from their own life story and the waves each has surfed. With this book the ripples of transform are extended to YOU.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Interview with Una Tiers, author of Judge vs Nuts

I met Una on a facebook site for professional writers. The title of her book caught my eye and so I wondered if she would like to be interviewed. 

Una is a talented writer. She also spent many hours in court. She knows the system inside and out. Her book comes from her experiences with judges, juries, and nuts.  

Una is also a promotion Queen. She's using facebook, twitter, and email to get the word out. She's one to watch!

Below are the questions I asked her:

1.  Where did the title come from?  

I searched the internet for books in print and wanted something that worked with the theme and conveyed the spirit of the light hearted nature of my book.

2.  Describe your book in five words. 

Humorous,  Mystery,  Pithy,  Educational and Self-effacing

3.  What are you reading right now?

I just started Boyd Lemon’s book, It’s about his marriages.  The book is well written from the heart.    

4.  Who is Harry Mark Petrakis?

Mr. Petrakis writes books and stories about the Greek immigrants and Chicago with amazing and sustaining passion.  When he writes about a field of flowers you inhale to smell them again.  He is the ultimate storyteller with his kick the can story.  Years back I took his class at the Chicago Public Library and I attend his book signings whenever I can.

5.  Do you like writing query letters? 

No, as weird as I am they were painful.  The best rejection letter was encouraging me to keep writing and keep working at selling the book.  If I could find it, I would write a thank you note.  Pitching in person is a much better alternative.    

6.  Are any of the scenes in your book exact copies of reality in the courts? 

Sadly we are constrained by confidentiality rules.  However, every client, lawyer and judge has an impact on my imagination.    Some of what happens defies imagination.    

7.  What do you think about e-publishing?

This is the wave and authors need to utilize it.  Although I read paper books, my kindle, just 3 days old, has over 200 books.   The only downside is when the prices hold the market hostage for name brand authors.  In time that will change as the readers see the opportunities.

8.  How are you promoting your book?

While it’s still a learning process, I use facebook, linkedin and recently Good Reads to identify readers and share ideas with authors.  My book trailer is on you tube, my amazon author page and  

I guest blog, send press releases, use bookmarks and business cards, place announcements on online newspapers and ask for reviews.  I talk to people when I see them with an eReader and ask how they select the books.  I shameless leave my bookmarks here and there and some friends pass them out for me. 

9.  Who would be the best audience for your book?

Readers of cozies, legal buffs, anyone who ever had a raw deal in court, people who like to laugh and my friends.  

The word humorcide is the best description, if this makes you laugh, I hope you will give me a try.

10.  Do you use an editor/agent?

No agent, Judge vs Nuts was edited as part of the publishing contract.    

11. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Do I ever love this particular question!  LOL  If your readers want to learn a little more, e-mail me and I will send out samples. 

Right now Judge vs Nuts is on all the eBook stores.  If you do purchase the book, please let me know what you liked, and didn’t.  

Reviews on Amazon, and clicking the “like” button there is supposed to help the book ranking.  Who knows if a good comment will end up in the next book?

You are all welcome to join me on the social media groups. 

12.  What is your current project?

Judge vs Lake Michigan is in a rough draft.  I’m a little smarter now and think it moves faster and continues to develop the characters, like Fiona Gavelle.    

13.  What is your favorite thing about libraries?

I have two library cards, for Chicago and for Evanston, Illinois. The number of libraries I have access to is amazing.  Every library has a personality and little nooks and crannies where you can sit and read or daydream.  

Every library has a set of good vibes; they even chase you out kindly at closing time.  

When I was returning books to our branch library, I was bragging about my magnificent book review from Barbara D’Amato.  The librarian checking in books overheard and handed me Barbara’s new book, Other Eyes.  You can’t get that in a lot of places.
Thank you for your kind invitation Angie and your thoughtful questions.

Your readers can visit my website at:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Conquering Fear

Today was the first time I stood as teacher in a yoga class. I got to talk to the students, do some moves, and help guide them into deeper poses. It was awesome. But before I ever stepped through those yoga studio doors, fear gripped my entire me.

Why? Why? Why? I know the poses. I know the flow. Yet, my mind told me lies. It said, "You're not ready!" It said, "You're going to look stupid." It said, "They are going to know you are new!" So I got scared, and practically chickened out. 

It's the same with my writing. I've been writing for almost 9 years now. I know the rules. I know when to break them. I know my writing is good....dare I say great when it comes to dialogue. I know I've got a point of view. I know I can do it....and lies tell me, "Don't send that out!" "It's not ready to be read!" "You're going to look stupid!"

Yuck! Why do I...we tell ourselves such horrible untruths about ourselves? It seems that fear keeps most of us from doing what we were meant to do in this world, at this time. I mean, how many times have you told yourself you couldn't? How many times did you beat yourself up this week alone? How many lies have you told yourself about yourself?

We are the hardest judges on ourselves. So much so that we become frozen, afraid to move forward. We are afraid to try something new. We are afraid to show our bellies to the world. 

What do I do now? How do I get over the fear and live my life to my fullest potential? And why would I want to?

Reason to do:

  • to challenge myself - to see if I can
  • to show who I am - my true north - my real inner light
  • to share with others 
  • to inspire others to show who they are - to be who they were meant to be
  • to enjoy my life
  • to learn something new
  • to fall and get back up
  • to be proud of my accomplishments
  • to be proud of those around me

How did I get over my fear? How did I walk through those yoga doors today?

What worked in yoga:
  • I took classes on how to be a yoga teacher
  • I told myself "I am a yoga teacher!"
  • I told others "I am a yoga teacher" - even before I ever stood up in front of the class
  • I asked my yoga teacher to help me - to let me come to her class and teach
  • I scheduled a day - I had to show up
  • I breathed
  • I studied the poses again
  • I got off the mat and helped others be better in their poses
  • I found my voice

The same will apply this year to my writing.

What will work in writing:
  • I will tell myself that my work is ready
  • I will say I am an author!
  • I will tell everyone I know that I have a book finished
  • I will ask for help - I will ask if my friends know agents, publishers, etc...
  • I will schedule time to write that darn query letter
  • I will show up at my scheduled time
  • I will study other query letters
  • I will email them out
  • I will show the world my voice!

My challenge to you is to find your voice! I challenge you to find your passion. To set yourself goals, and live up to them. And I want to hear from you. What did you accomplish? What fear did you overcome? And how did you do it?

What to do:
  • Make a list of your passions in life: do you like to garden? play football? Write? Yoga? Bike? Swim? Read?
  • What type of life would you like to live? 
  • What types of jobs could you do to incorporate your passions?
  • Who do you know that could help you?
  • What one first step can you take right now?
  • Then tape a picture of your dream on your computer, fridge, or inside your car.
  • Keep your goals insight and chip away little by little each day.
We are all the same - you and me. We all have fears and dreams. If we work together as a community, I believe we can defeat our fears and accomplish our biggest dreams! I believe in you. Do you believe in you? 


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Interview with Crystalee Calderwood: Author of Angeline Jellybean

I met Crystalee at Chatham University years ago. She came into class with her beautiful bright red hair and a very happy grin.

We were both in the MFA program for children's writing.  I even remember this manuscript as she worked on it during our critique sessions. It is so cool to see it in print!!

Crystalee has an infectious positive personality. Kids love her as do fellow writers. She is honest and very helpful with critique. Look for her next book, a YA novel, to be on shelves soon!

You go girl!  

Below are the questions I asked her.

1.    Do you have an agent? If yes, how did you go about getting one? If no, are you querying?
     I don't have an agent at this time. I do have my eye on a couple that could benefit me in the future,  but right now I'm working on making some of my dozens of manuscripts presentable enough to actually query an agent!
2.    Angeline Jellybean is your first children's book. Are you working on more PB's or have you switched to MG/YA?
     I have written, but not published, many more picture books. However, for the time being I have switched to MG/YA. The process of writing a novel is much longer for me. However, I love being able to explore big issues in depth. Almost no topic is out of the question when it comes to young adult novels, and I feel like I can ultimately be successful in the genre.
3.    What are you reading right now?

    I just finished The Fault of Our Stars by John Green. Total tear-jerker. I'm currently reading Hunger Games. I resisted it for awhile, but I'm glad I picked it up, because I'm really enjoying it.

4.    Are you using your MFA to teach or are you writing full time?
     Neither. Life didn't work out as I had planned on that front. I am, however, getting certified to teach secondary English in Pennsylvania. I am currently working with middle school and high school students, and my ultimate dream is to someday teach creative writing to teens, whether is be at a private school or through some sort of Writer-in-Residence program.
5.    Would you recommend to newbie writers to go after their MFA?
     I would recommend that hard-working, somewhat experienced writers go after their MFA, but only after doing their research on what programs are the best fit for them. 

If I hadn't gone after my MFA, I may never have started writing for children and teens. But you need to know what the costs of such programs are as well as what you hope to gain from a program. 

Go in with the goal of becoming a stronger writer, or networking with others, but don't have unrealistic expectations about your future in publishing or teaching afterwards.
6. Are you a member of SCBWI? If so, how has it helped you?
    Yes! SCBWI is great for helping children's writers network with other writer and find publication resources. I use the online message boards to keep up with the publishing world and seek advice from other writers. It can be especially helpful if you live some place where children's writers are scarce.
7. Are you a member of other writer's groups or associations? If yes, why?
   I just started a local group in Pittsburgh for Young Adult writers. I set it up because I was having a hard time finding a critique group who understood what its like to write for teens. 

This group of women is amazing. I'm talking real YA novel readers, not just folks who think they know what teens want to read. We've only been together for a couple of weeks, but its already began to rejuvenate my passion for writing.

8. How do you promote your book? Facebook? Twitter? Book signings?
Angeline Jellybean was mostly promoted through my author page on Facebook, Twitter and guest spots on the blogs of other writers I know. 

When you publish with a small press, as I did, promotion is what you make of it. It's difficult to get book signings or readings beyond the local level.
9. What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?
These days, I wake up at 5am in order to make it to the school where I work by 7. I usually eat a banana and a breakfast bar of some sort, or eat it on the way.
10. What do you think of the publishing world today? Dying dinosaurs or come back stars?
The publishing world isn't dying, but it's definitely changing. I'm not sure what I think of the whole ebook publishing movement. I still prefer the feel of a book in my hand over a Nook.
11. What one word best describes you?


12. Do you like jellybeans? Favorite taste? Color?
I always loved the red ones.

. What other websites have helped you to become a better writer?
I have been a member of for about 10 years. is a good place for beginning writers to get their work out into the world to receive critiques.

 I would recommend that writers use online resources, especially if they live in an area where critique groups are rare.
14. Please tell us more about Beginning with Books.

Beginning with Books was a non-profit here in Pittsburgh that brought quality children's books into low income areas of the city. I served with BWB as a member of Literacy*AmeriCorps and participated in their Storymobile

Ultimately, BWB also helped me gain an interest in writing for children. I credit that year for helping me become the writer I am today. Unfortunately, BWB was closed due to lack of funding a few years ago. I like to give trainings on choosing quality children's books to other AmeriCorps members as a way to carry on BWB's mission.
15. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?
My young adult novel The Famous Rose People of Briarwood has made it to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, so your good vibes would be appreciated in hopes it gets to round two!
16. Do you tend to write in a female or male voice? Why?

    Female. I've never felt comfortable writing in a male voice, especially the teen male voice. 

It amazes me that I'm so hooked on John Green's new novel, his first from the female point of view.  I know what it's like to be a teenage girl, but I don't know what its like to be a teenage boy. I'm afraid I would mess up the stupid little details like what sports teams are cool or what brand of clothes they wear.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Yoga & Writing

I was in Hawaii for 10 days, learning how to be a yoga teacher. The training was not what I expected. I'd been on yoga retreats before and so I had something in mind, but I was completely wrong. It took me three whole days to let go of my expectations and to truly enjoy myself and learn.

Writing is a lot like this for me too. I have these ideas in my head of what a character is like, how the plot will turn, where the ending will end. So when the characters start to make their own decisions, I tend to try to rein them in, make them listen to me, to comply with my expectations. 

I fight my ideas because they came to me in a flash as one way, one thing and when they change I freeze, becoming rigid. But after going through yoga training, and letting go of how I thought it should be, I became a better person and a better teacher. I vow to do the same with my writing. 

Many times writers have an awesome idea. They create a plan and execute it well, but the book flops or does not become the huge life-changing experience it could have been for the reader if the author would have only breathed and let go.

I believe with a few yoga poses, some meditation, and a leap of faith, you too can trust your inner you and your characters will soar. 

Here's what you might want to do:

  • before you start writing today: Sit at your computer. Close your eyes. Place your hands in your lap or in prayer position at your chest's center. Breathe, 5 longs breaths in, 5 long breaths out. Repeat 3 times. As your mind wonders, let it go, but pull it back after each thought. Concentrate on your breathing. 

  • Open your eyes slowly to adjust to the light around you. Breath. Rise and take a full bend toward your feet. Touch your feet if you can, even grabbing your big toes or tips of shoes. Pull gently to stretch out your back and legs. Breath 5 times out and 5 times in.

  • Stretch your hands up high toward the sky or ceiling. Reach up, way up. Breath 5 times in and 5 times out. 

Now sit back at your desk and write. Write away on a blank page. Let your fingers flow and your ideas leap from deep within you onto the screen. Go! Don't stop. Go for as long as you feel good about it. You might write about what you're working on. You might come up with a whole new idea. Just let the ideas fall from you like poop from a sea gull. Let it be messy! Do not worry about spelling, punctuation, capital letters. 

When you are done start the project you were working on. Do not reread what you just wrote. Set it aside. Come back to it later, after you've hit your writing goals for the day. 

This exercise is also great for breaks. It gets your blood flowing from top to bottom and stills your mind. It grounds you and lets the creativity flow. 

An extra you can add is a small wish or prayer. Before you begin your meditative breathing, dedicate your stillness to something. You can say in your mind, "I dedicate this time to my writing." Or "I dedicate this time to my focus." Or whatever you want to concentrate on that day.

Yoga has helped me with body injuries, relaxation, and now creativity. I hope you'll give it a try. And if you like this simple exercise, you'll love taking a yoga class! I hope you go. Be a yes!!