Wednesday, November 4, 2015

IWSG: Published Book Review & the Perspective of Karma

Today is IWSG day, a monthly event Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about their insecurities and non-insecurities too. On the first Wednesday of the month, a bunch of us gather on the blogosphere to share and visit one another.

Some fun news. Earlier this year, I submitted a book review to SCBWI Bulletin, the quarterly magazine of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. My book review spotlights Jennifer R. Hubbard's LONER IN THE GARRET: A WRITER'S COMPANION. Shortly after I sent out my review, an editor informed me that my review was accepted and the check was in the mail. I'm giddy to share that my book review appears in the Fall 2015 issue of the SCBWI Bulletin. LONER IN THE GARRET is not a craft book but a book that acknowledges the vast range of emotions writers experience, including our many insecurities….so this is right up IWSG’s alley.

Karma is another topic I want to discuss today. The idealist in me has always wanted to believe if you do good things with clean intentions, you get mostly good things back and if you’re a jerk, you reap what you sow. Sometimes my inner cynic couldn’t help but to notice bad things happening to good people and bad people thriving on their toxic behavior. This is a simplistic statement on my part, as I don’t know every detail of people’s lives and of course, no one’s perfect. Without going into specifics, I still know enough to confidently make this generalization. While a number of stories in my writerly mind come from a hopeful and optimistic place, at other times, they come from a cynical perspective too. I find that some people refuse to acknowledge the grain (or bushel) of truth that can exist in the latter of these narrations. But I hope if I ever pursue the writing of these stories, they will find a welcoming audience that gets it.

What books for writers do you like?
Do you believe in karma? Why or why not?

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Listing Fest/Some Books I Read

Writer Bish Denham is hosting The Listing Fest today. Thanks for organizing, Bish!  From Bish's website: The rules are simple. All you have to do is sign up in the linky thingy below, grab the banner, and make a list. I suggest you keep your list to between 5 and 25 items long. 

Today, I’m listing some books I have read. (When I share these lists, I name only some books I’ve read in a time period, not all.)

1. LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell (Adult-St. Martin's Press) A woman in a strained marriage discovers a magical phone that allows her to have phone conversations with her husband from the past. 

2. LIKE SISTERS ON THE HOMEFRONT by Rita Williams-Garcia (YA-Lodestar) A teen mom, after having an abortion, is sent away from the city to the South to live with her uncle, aunt, and cousin, family she'd never met.

3. A SINGLE SHARD by Linda Sue Park (YA-Clarion) A boy living in 12th century Korea aspires to learn how to craft pottery.

4. WOVEN (YA-Scholastic) A murdered peasant boy teams up with a snobby princess, the only one who can see his ghost, to locate a magic needle. Check out my author interview.   

5. CAN'T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT?: A MEMOIR (Graphic Novel for Adults, Non-Fiction- Bloomsbury USA) With humor and bittersweet nostalgia, a woman struggles to take care of her aging parents before they pass on. 

6. THE CHOKE ARTIST: CONFESSIONS OF A CHRONIC UNDERACHIEVER by David Yoo (Adult, Non-Fiction-Grand Central Publishing) This memoir shares essays detailing a Korean American man's many agonies-from bedroom anxieties to workplace drama to family-related angst. The first book I read by David was GIRLS FOR BREAKFAST, a YA novel. Check out my author interview.

7.  ROLLER GIRL by Victoria Jamieson (Graphic Novel for MG readers- Penguin) A girl sadly observes her best friend befriending her bully and moves on by participating in a roller derby camp.

8. BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson (MG, Non-Fiction- Nancy Paulsen) Told in verse, an African American girl raised as a Jehovah’s Witness shares about her upbringing during the 1960s and 1970s.

9. THE ADVENURES OF BEEKLE: THE UNIMAGINARY FRIENDS by Dan Santat (PB- Little, Brown) An imaginary friend waits to be imagined by a child so he can become real.

10. THE TREE LADY by H. Joseph Hopkins, Illust. by Jill McElmurry (PB, Non-Fiction- Beach Lane) Kate Sessions, a teacher and horticulturalist, helps beautify and add green to San Diego by embarking on a tree planting campaign.

11. THE PEOPLE WE USED TO BE   by Madeline Mora-Summonte (Adult- Amazon) This collection of short stories, both light and dark, offers glimpses of people, young and old, in various journeys.

What books have you read lately?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG: Parental Supervision

Today is IWSG day, a monthly event Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about their insecurities and other things. On the first Wednesday of the month, a bunch of us gather on the blogosphere to share...First, I just want to thank some of you for the nice comments from my last post. Things are better now. Encountering negativity happens to the best of us. I am moving on....Now onto my post…

Recently, we introduced our children to Charles Schulz’s Peanuts cartoons. Although I loved the Peanuts comics as a child (as well as Garfield and Calvin & Hobbes), it actually has been years since I watched the Peanuts cartoons or holiday specials. I have vague recollections of Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, the gang enjoying toast and popcorn for Thanksgiving, and Charlie Brown getting a scrawny little Christmas tree…Recently, I was watching excerpts from a Peanuts cartoon with my son and I was reminded of how much more edgy vintage cartoons were compared to some of the sterile children’s cartoons today.

In a moment of parental insecurity, the one where I worry about whether my child would let something negative on TV rub off on them, I began commenting on the morality of the scenes. That’s awful that Charlie Brown missed the football and see… she made him hit his head! It’s not nice to call someone a “blockhead.” Ignoring my comments, my son continued to laugh at what he thought was funny.

Here’s the irony: Sometimes I get annoyed when I observe a parent criticizing the morality of what goes on in a kidlit/YA story. But here I was, doing pretty much that with a cartoon, and one I’d loved as a child at that. So I stopped talking and let my son watch the cartoon in peace.

On another day after that, I worked at my desk as my son watched another Peanuts cartoon by himself. In the middle of the episode, he called to me: “I heard someone say ‘stupid!’ They’re not supposed to say that. It’s a bad word.”

“Yes, it is a bad word,” I called back. “Glad you’re paying attention!”

I was pleased that my son was able to derive his opinion about what was right and wrong about a character’s behavior without my constant interjections. 

That said, parental supervision isn’t a bad thing. Not at all. I think it’s perfectly fine to have conversations with our children about anything in a TV show, movie, song, or book that we feel should be addressed. But I feel we should also give our children space to figure some stuff out on their own too.

What do you think is the right amount of parental supervision children should have regarding their exposure to TV, movies, music, or books? Which cartoons or comics did you enjoy as a child?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Explaining Myself with a Book Review

Drum roll please! The winner of WOVEN by David Powers King and Michael Jensen is S.P. Bowers! Congratulations, Sara! I will connect you and David with each other. Thanks again to David and Michael for offering their wonderful book. You’re both awesome! Now onto my post…

Last night, I wrote a long post about some things I’ve been dealing with, and it regards a topic that has made me feel very beaten down these past few weeks ever since the school year began. I read my post to my husband and asked if it was a good idea for me to publish it. My husband said I probably shouldn’t publicly share this, at least not yet. He pointed out that he doesn’t want me to get hurt even more than I have been just in case someone from that environment I’m alluding to finds my blog and twists my words and my intentions. My husband is a wise person, and I respect his advice.

(Update: When I first posted here, I shared a book review reflecting some of the stuff going on with me. That was my way of talking about it without really talking about it. But I have since decided to remove it.) 

Have you ever really wanted to post about something on social media but decided not to? (Update:) Have you ever taken down something you posted, like what I just did?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Author Interview with David Powers King & Book Giveaway

Years ago, David Powers King and I first connected through some writers bloghop. Since then, David scored a sweet publishing deal for WOVEN (Scholastic), a YA novel he wrote with co-author Michael Jensen. The story is about a peasant boy named Nels who is murdered. Only the snobby Princess Tyra can see his ghost. To save Nels, the two embark on an adventure to locate a magic needle. I particularly enjoyed the mystical ideas presented here about sewing, including the suggestion that we’re all threads being worked on by self-weaving looms creating various big picture tapestries.   

David and Michael generously offered to give away a book with this interview. So if you’re interested in receiving WOVEN, please follow my blog if you aren’t doing so already AND leave a comment on this post by the end of Wednesday, Sept. 16. The winner will be announced here on Thursday, Sept. 17.

Here’s David’s interview:

Tell me where you were born and raised.  What did you study in college? Did this subject influence your writing?
I was born in Burbank, California. Being near so many movie studios gave me mad respect for stories, and so I decided to give writing a shot when I was young. After studying behavioral science in college, I had plenty of tools for creating dynamic and engaging characters. Michael also lived in California for a time, but lived in Utah most of his life. He has a good eye for great stories, studied musical theater and has written a few musicals. 

How did you come up with the plot and world building behind WOVEN?
The story originated with a dream that Michael had over a decade ago, about a princess and a ghost in search of a magic needle. Shortly after Michael and I became friends and he told me about this concept, I fell in love with it right away. We had to make a story about this! So when thinking of a setting that would accommodate a princess and a magic system involving a needle, we built up a sewing-based magic system in a medieval setting. The more we brainstormed, the more natural everything fell into place. We’re very pleased with it.

I really liked the character Jilia. Her spunk and her attentiveness to Nels’s mother during a difficult time made her stand out. I wonder if there might be potential for a spin-off story featuring her, or if there’s any possibility of a romance between her and Nels in a different story, say a pre-WOVEN story?Jilia is one of our favorite characters as well, and her personality is, in large part, based on a cousin of mine. We’ve discussed the possibility of writing companion novels rather than direct sequels, which can give us room to write Jilia (and other characters) their own story in the WOVEN world. Our options are open at this point.

What's your advice for authors who want to collaborate to write a book? Collaborating on a book can be an enriching experience that helps strengthen your writing. So long as you are both committed to the goal and the story. Know early on what each other’s role is going to be. Stick to it. And be there for your collaborator when life strikes. A collaboration is not a “you” or “me” thing. It’s an “us” thing.

What authors/books did you like when you were a kid? 
So many to choose from! I would say my biggest writing influences and inspiration has come from the works of Lois Lowry, R.L. Stein, Orson Scott Card, Michael Crichton, James Dashner and Shannon Hale. Michael’s are Elizabeth George Spear’s CALICO CAPTIVE and THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C.S. Lewis, CRICKET IN TIME by George Seldon and KIDNAPPED by Robert Lewis Stevenson.

What are you working on now? Any future projects we should look out for? 
In addition to drafting a sequel/companion novel to WOVEN with Michael, I currently have a YA zombie novel on submission, and we both have many more individual story ideas that can't wait to leap onto the page. For more updates, feel free to check our website at or my blog at

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

IWSG: Last Month's Ups and Downs

Today is IWSG day, a monthly event Alex Cavanaugh started. On the first Wednesday of the month, writers are invited to reveal their insecurities. Sometimes on this day we just fill the blogosphere in on what we’ve been up to. 

Yesterday, I was blitzed by dozens and dozens of writers. A big thanks to author DL Hammons, founder of Blog Blitz, a program where a writer gets selected to be surprised with visits from other writers. This week, DL selected me as the lucky writer. Thanks to everyone who had stopped by my blog! August had its ups and downs, and receiving a collective hug from other writers was quite comforting. 
Let’s start with the ups: Our family visited Kauai for a few days with friends, and it was an AWESOME trip...And recently, my son started at a new preschool and my daughter started first grade. Both seem to be adjusting well.

Now, a down: Shortly after we returned to California, a speeding car crashed into our minivan on the freeway. Thankfully, my husband and I were okay and our children weren’t in the vehicle when this happened. But it was still a scary experience. At the time, the driver of the speeding car admitted he was in a rush to get somewhere and he apologized for damaging our minivan. But later, he did a 180 with insurance and lied about what happened. As of now, we're still trying to sort things out with insurance. Argh!
And more downs: It just seems that in the last couple of weeks, more frustrating stuff have been piling up on me. All I’ll say is that I can do the right thing, and sometimes people would still let me down.

These downs have been distracting me from my writing. But I’m hopeful that September will bring better things, and that I can finally finish up my novel-in-progress.  

How are you doing?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

IWSG: #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter

Today is IWSG day, a monthly event Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about their insecurities and other things. On the first Wednesday of the month, a bunch of us gather on the blogosphere to share...I'm not here to discuss an insecurity today. Instead, I want to acknowledge that sometimes writers get understandably annoyed with stuff people say to them. On Twitter, I recently found #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter. 

A couple of my favorites came from writers I follow on Twitter, Medeia Sharif and Mark Koopmans:

Medeia and Mark, if you're visiting here, I want you to know I hear you! =)  *Fist pump*  (And Mark, that's such a cute picture you posted!) 

Although I didn't participate in the hashtag fest, I could certainly think of a number of things people have said to me that caused my eyes to roll internally, such as...Since you got that rejection, why are you still writing? Yes, someone actually said that to me.

Can you add to the list #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter?