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One of the lovely porticoes

Another crazy fantastic week in Italy – this time Bologna. Learned so much about the children’s book biz, including much ado about apps (more to come soon).  Bologna won me over with its lovely porticoes and outstanding food.  It’s a completely different world in Bologna from Florence, even though it’s only a 35 minute train ride.  If you ever go, make sure you pack your black.  It seems the only two colors people wear there are black and dark wash jeans.  I felt like an Easter egg in my wardrobe.  As a friend said, “Bologna – where black is the new black.”

Quotes on Gratitude

“Joy is not in things, it is in us.” — Joan Borysenko

“There is as much greatness of mind in acknowledging a good turn, as in doing it.” — Seneca

“Love is the true means by which the world is enjoyed: our love to others, and others’ love to us.” — Thomas Traherne

Gratitude list for the week ending March 24

  1. First, I am grateful for my in-laws, my stepmother and my mom for helping my husband hold down the fort while I took this epic trip to Italy.  Thank you!!
  2. Learning enough about apps and ebooks at the ToC Bologna conference to make my head spin.  Cheers to Kat Meyer and the entire O’Reilly team making it all happen.
  3. Meeting Katherine Paterson, author of one of my all-time favorite books – Bridge to Terabithia
  4. SCBWI Bologna dance party!
  5. The folks who put together the SCBWI booth program for the Bologna Book Fair – Kathleen Ahrens, Angela Cerrita, Kirsten Carlson, Bridget Strevens-Marzo, Tioka Tokedira, Chris Cheng, and anyone else I am forgetting.  These guys worked tirelessly to provide great programming, regional showcases, and opportunities for writers and illustrators attending the fair.  Grazie mille!

    The hard-working SCBWI team at the booth celebration

  6. Making wonderful new friends – including all of the above, plus Sarah Towle, Emily Smith Pearce, Danika Dinsmore, Susan Eaddy, Lucy CoatsBarbara McClintock, and Andi Ipaktchi.
  7. Hall after hall after hall of nothing but children’s books – enough said!
  8. Tagliatelle ragu and red wine with Danika and Susan – lovely dinner
  9. The city of Bologna itself, with its seductive porticoes, antiquarian bookshops, black-clad residents spilling into the streets from Enoteche at night, savory food shops and best of all, Gelateria Gianni!
  10. Receiving the best welcome home in history from my kids. The sign was fantastic, but the hugs and kisses even more precious.  How I missed them!

What are you grateful for this week?

The best part of the trip was coming home and knowing I was missed.

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Today I have the sincere pleasure of hosting Marcie Colleen as the Tuesday 12 x 12 author.  Marcie keeps a wonderful blog – The Write Stuff.  I especially love her Wednesday weigh-in series because they always get me thinking about writing from a different angle, especially after reading the comments from all the others.  I also love how Marcie applies lessons from running to writing, as I too am both.  So, please welcome Marcie!

In January 2011 I ran my first race – a 5 miler through Central Park in NYC – as part of my training to run a half marathon a few months later.  I remember clearly standing in my corral waiting for the starting gun feeling like I didn’t quite fit in.  Everyone else around me looked like the “real deal”, wearing cool gear.  I looked like I was wearing a costume. “Hi, I’m Marcie.  I am a dressed as a runner for Halloween wearing various mismatched pieces of workout clothes I found buried in my closet.”   I was sure that someone would stop me and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, you do not belong here.  Please exit the corral.”  But no one said that, so I ran it and crossed the finish line with a big (albeit sweaty and exhausted) smile!

This scenario has proved a wonderful analogy for my writing career.  It has also helped me boil down my adventure into two distinct concepts which I would like to share with you.

1)     Find ways to treat yourself like a writer.  (build confidence and craft)

2)     Find situations where others will treat you like a writer. (build connections and community)

When I first started out, I packed my days with activities that fulfilled the first concept.  Yet, I didn’t quite understand why, despite all of the time spent in front of my laptop researching, reading, and actually writing, something was missing. It was not merely enough that I was “wearing my writer costume”…I needed to get into the corral with all the others in order to fully “run the race”.

When I trained for the NYC Half Marathon it might have been my own two feet that got me across the finish line, but I didn’t do it alone.  I had coaches, mentors, running partners, my amazing boyfriend, family and  friends that were a part of each step I took.  Through  wisdom, encouragement, laughter and cheers they all fueled and fed me.  Just like running that race, life is about community for me.  And what my writing “career” was lacking was community.

The real moment came for me when I signed up to participate in PiBoIdMo in November of 2011 which then led to participation in 12 x12 in ’12.  I originally decided to participate in both of these challenges in order to give myself goals to work toward, but what I found was greater than that!  I suddenly gained entry into a family of likeminded picture book writers who provided support, encouragement, and wisdom.  This community shares its ups and downs, its struggles and triumphs.  I found a writer to swap manuscripts with through email who doesn’t even live in the same country as me.  I gained 24 hour access to writers to bounce ideas off of.  My blog quickly gained Followers and became a true place of discussion!  It was clear that this circle of writers from various reaches of the earth were a community in every sense of the word.

I value my friends and colleagues of both PiBoIdMo and 12 x 12 in ’12.  I am proud to be counted among you.  You treat me as a writer and therefore I am able to treat myself like a writer with more confidence.  On the day that I am finally published, it will be my name on that book, but I won’t forget that you have been my coaches, my mentors, my “running partners” who along with my amazing boyfriend, family and friends make every step on this crazy journey a triumph and a joy.

Marcie Colleen is a pre-published Picture Book writer living in Brooklyn, NY.  You can read about her journey on her blog, The Write Routine (http://writeroutine.blogspot.com). Her new Friday Treats segment deals with the two concepts mentioned above and provides ways to bring them into your own writing life.  She loves the challenge of balancing her fulltime job as a nanny with her writing career and various other activities she dabbles in. She will be running the NYC ING Marathon for the first time on November 4, 2012. 

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I can’t remember where I first read about this book, but I do know that I bought it sight unseen based upon an interview with the author (social media works!).  Being a complete sucker for miraculous dog stories with happy endings, I couldn’t resist.  Plus, this is the author’s debut picture book, and I always like to support new authors.

Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic
Written and illustrated by Monica Carnesi
Nancy Paulsen Books, January, 2012
Suitable for:  Ages 3 and up
Themes/Topics:  Animals, Dogs, Survival Stories, Friendship, Helping Others, Rescue, Bravery
Opening and brief synopsis: From the jacket copy: On a cold winter day, a curious dog wanders onto a frozen river.  Suddenly, the ice starts breaking up, and soon the dog is adrift and traveling–the unwilling passenger on a fast-moving sheet of ice.
Activities: This is a brand new book, so there isn’t much out there yet.  The author, however, has an adorable downloadable Baltic paper doll on her website.  I’m sure it would be fun for kids to act out his journey on the ice.
Why I Like This Book: It’s an incredible story of survival, rescue, bravery and friendship.  Oh, and the main character is an adorable dog.  What’s not to love?
For its sheer adorableness, here is a video of the real Baltic, who did end up being adopted by the crew who saved him.

For more books with resources please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books!

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For the record, I did NOT put that much cheese on mine. 🙂

This week I offer one quote from Charles Dickens in honor of his 200th birthday and because it tied so nicely into August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest which I participated in.

Quotes on Gratitude

“Cheerfulness and contentment are great beautifiers and are famous preservers of youthful looks.” -Charles Dickens

“The source of love is deep in us and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring that person joy.”Thich Nhat Hanh

“Be like the sun for grace and mercy. Be like the night to cover others’ faults. Be like running water for generosity. Be like death for rage and anger. Be like the Earth for modesty. Appear as you are. Be as you appear.” — Rumi

Gratitude List for the week ending February 11

  1. My application to the Highlights Foundation Poetry for All Workshop was accepted! So I’ll be heading to Honesdale in May.
  2. In the light of less than a half moon, the stars in Breckenridge are brilliant.
  3. Fresh snow for skiing!
  4. Homemade 3-way Cincinnati chili – YUM!
  5. Another Margareaders meeting, and everyone enjoyed the book I chose – One Thousand White Women.
  6. Julie B.  She knows why.
  7. Meeting with my in-person critique group. Go Boulder Picture Book Writers!
  8. Rocky laying at my feet under the desk while I work
  9. Watching Em have fun selling Girl Scout cookies – AND the fact that the sale is over! (We still have three boxes of Thin Mints left if anyone is interested)
  10. Reading easy readers with Jay. He never tires of it and is getting better and better.  Soon he will read on his own!

What are you grateful for this week? 

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Snow sculpture illuminated by colored spotlights

Much to be grateful for this week!

Quotes on Gratitude

“Happiness is the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot.” — Aristotle

“Deficiency motivation doesn’t work. It will lead to a life-long pursuit of try to fix me. Learn to appreciate what you have and where and who you are.” — Wayne Dyer

“Many times a day I realize how much my own life is built on the labours of my fellowmen, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.” — Albert Einstein

Gratitude list for the week ending February 4

  1. Getting to ski and hang out with great friends, including my bestest girlfriend!
  2. Witnessing more than one beautiful sunrise reflecting on the mountains
  3. Completing my January picture book draft for the 12 x 12 challenge
  4. The incredible community of writers that have come together for the 12 x 12.  They inspire me daily.
  5. Finishing one good book and starting another
  6. Reading THE LAST OF THE REALLY GREAT WHANGDOODLES with the kids
  7. Skype
  8. Writing the last page of a lovely journal (was a gift from the friend above). Great way to end Week 9 of The Artist’s Way.
  9. Snow sculptures in Breckenridge
  10. A long nap on a day I felt under the weather

What are you grateful for this week?

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Because I appreciate all of my readers so much, I decided to humiliate Elf myself for your entertainment.  Laugh away!

May you all have a happy, healthy and peaceful holiday – whichever one you celebrate.

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With everyone’s help, I developed the strength of TEN Grinches! Plus two.

Last Sunday, I launched a contest to help promote my entry in the MeeGenius Children’s Author Challenge.  Everyone who entered promoted their hearts out all week.  What’s more, MANY people who did not enter the contest did the same.  What meant the most to me, even more than the votes and promotion assistance, were the comments of support and encouragement I got from people about both the story and my promotion efforts.  At the end of the day, I wanted people to help because they loved the story as much as I did, and I was so heartened by all the feedback I got from you.  I can honestly say that whether I make the final round or not, this has been a tremendous experience.

As I said in my Gratitude Sunday post yesterday, at one point during the week I felt I would explode with gratitude.  In that moment, I decided there would be no “winners” of my contest because everyone would be a winner.  That’s right! Prizes for ALL who participated. After so many people did so much for me, I would have felt stingy and Grinch-like drawing only a few winners from those who entered.

I can still only provide one iPod Shuffle, 2 IndieBound gift cards and 3 picture books, BUT the other prizes will be unlimited, so the pool of entrants vying for the others will be much smaller – hence, a greater chance of winning.

So here’s how this will work.  First, you must have left a comment on my contest post, as that was how I was tracking official entrants (Erik at This Kid Reviews Books, you are the exception because you left a comment about the contest on one of my blog tour posts, so I put you down).  Provided you were officially entered, you simply need to leave a comment letting me know which prize you want.  If you want one of the tangible items, please list your first, second and third choices.  Here is what is available:

  • List of 100+ children’s book agents (the Big Kahuna) = Unlimited (You want it, it’s yours)
  • Critique of a full PB manuscript or first 10 pages of any other genre = Unlimited (You want it, it’s yours)
  • iPod shuffle = 1 available (If more than one  person elects this as a first choice, I will draw a winner from among them)
  • $25 IndieBound gift certificates = 2 available (Same as above)
  • One picture book of your choice = 3 available (Same as above)

In your comment, please state the prize you want and your email address so I can contact you offline about details.  Please note: the agent list will be delivered by December 31st.  I just want to go through it one more time to clean it up and make sure it’s updated.  It is all publicly available information, but things change quickly in the industry, so I’ll double-check the data.  Writing critiques will be turned around by January 15th.  All other prizes will be ordered and shipped this week.

THANK YOU again to everyone, those entered in the contest and those not. I truly appreciate you all!

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I am almost without words to write this post, so overwhelmed by gratitude am I.

Anyone who’s read the blog at all this week knows that I entered a story in the MeeGenius Children’s Author Challenge, A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS.  I started the week at #47 in the rankings (out of 400 entries) with 181 votes.  As of this writing, I was ranked #15 with 479 votes!

I did not gain 298 votes and 32 places in the rankings in the span of 7 days without an enormous amount of help.  In fact, the other night I was driving home and felt so overwhelmed by gratitude, I wondered how I would ever repay the universe (in the form of YOU) for all the good that happened this week.  So, this week’s Gratitude Sunday list will be focused on just a few things among many that gave me cause for gratitude this week.  Many thanks to each and every person who voted for the story, encouraged me with positive feedback and made me believe I could do this.  No matter what the end result of the contest is, I can truly say this has been a phenomenal experience, and one that has made me more certain than ever that I am on the right path.

Quotes on Gratitude

“No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.”  — Alfred North Whitehead

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.” — Charles Dickens

“A noble person is mindful and thankful for the favors of others.” — Buddha

Gratitude list for the week ending December 17

  1. First on the list is Christine Zandstra, a friend and fellow parent at my kids’ school.  She got one of the first, fairly timid emails I sent out asking people to vote for my story.  She not only praised the book, but suggested that the school and parents get behind it.  She shared the link to my story nearly every day, and was responsible for drawing it to the attention of the school librarian, the principal, and the PTO.  She gave me the confidence that the story really was worth promoting.  I also thank Bina Moser, PTO President, who didn’t hesitate to send a message to parents about the story and ask them to vote when the time drew nigh.
  2. Laura Barnes, fellow children’s author and marketing guru who stepped in to give me some extremely helpful advice on how to promote the story.  I think the results speak for themselves, but even more than her specific tactics, what helped me the most was the fact that she gave me permission to go out and go for it.  I learned more in one week about marketing than I would have in a year were it not for her.
  3. Julie Berghoff and Sheila Gil, two very good friends and fellow Margareaders.  At a party Monday night, they both insisted I was still being too shy and urged me to go out and ask people to share my story within their networks.  They both proceeded to do that the very next day, in the nicest way possible, without even waiting for me to ask.  The very definition of a good friend.
  4. The Gaylord Herald Times, the local paper of my hometown, stepped in on very short notice to write a “hometown girl makes good” story.  Neighbors and childhood friends I hadn’t heard from in years saw the story and voted.  One 82 year-old woman, who doesn’t have a computer, clipped the article from the paper to take with her on her visit to her children so they could vote for her.
  5. Speaking of Gaylord, my high school friends went above and beyond to help.  Posting and re-posting the story.  Cheering me on.  The ties that bind, as they say…
  6. Fellow bloggers and writers Nancy Hatch, Debbie Diesen, and C.B. Wentworth hosted me on very short notice for an impromptu blog tour.  Their readers stepped in and provided both votes and encouragement.  Thank you!
  7. There are too many to name individually, but the folks who entered the contest I posted last Sunday have blogged about the story, promoted it on Facebook, and tweeted it every single day to their followers.  It made a huge difference, and I am so thankful for their support. 🙂
  8. For the past two months, I have participated in a blogging class for writers led by Kristen Lamb based on her best-selling book on the subject – We Are Not Alone.  As a result, the 100 members of WANA 1011 supported me wholeheartedly and helped me spread the word.  A special shout-out to Diane Capri who, like Christine and Laura, told me to just go out and ask people for help and forget about being shy or afraid.  So I did. (I hope you’re not regretting that now Diane! :-))  But to all the members of the WANA team, you have proven that the title of Kristen’s book is true.
  9. My brother Jeff, who has a fierce competitive streak, jumped in on Wednesday to galvanize his extensive network.  I’m pretty sure I had the biggest jump that day, plus the pleasure of two-days worth of texting back and forth about my ranking and how far I had to go to move to the next one.
  10. Last, but most definitely not least, I am immensely grateful for every last person who voted for my story, offered an encouraging word, or shared the link with others.  It turns out it really does take a village, and I am blessed to live in such a generous one.

What are you grateful for this week?

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Today is the final stop on my blog tour to promote my story, A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, which I entered in the MeeGenius Children’s Author Challenge.  I’m honored to be visiting my friend, fellow writer and creative soul, C.B. Wentworth.  This time, the post is more introspective, addressing the importance of “taking a stand” for your writing/art.  Hope to see you over there!  Thanks for all of your support this week as I’ve made the rounds.

P.S. There is still time to enter my contest if you want to help promote! Fun prizes for all.

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At the top of my list for this week’s Gratitude Sunday post is a story that’s too long for a bullet point.  When we were in Italy this summer, on our last night in Camogli, I took the kids to a notebook/paper shop and got them each a little journal.  Last night, when I told Jay it was time for bed he said, “Hang on a minute, I’m writing a book.”  The ‘book’ was his journal, which he had taken to bed with him. “Do you want to read my book?”  Of course I did.

“It’s a book about everything I love,” he said.

Chapter 1:

Mom

Em

Dad

Rocky

Chapter 2:

Family — He then clarified, “That’s the WHOLE family – like all THIRTY of them.”

Chapter 1000:

F A M I L Y !!!!

I told him, honestly, that it was the best book I ever read!

Quotes on Gratitude

“Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.” — Ovid

“Desire, ask, believe, receive.” — Stella Terrill Mann

“A person however learned and qualified in his life’s work in whom gratitude is absent, is devoid of that beauty of character which makes personality fragrant.” — Hazrat Inayat Khan

Gratitude List for the week ending December 3

  1. I am so grateful for EVERYONE who has voted so far for my entry in the MeeGenius Children’s Author contest.  Your support means so much to me, regardless of the outcome.
  2. Finishing PiBoIdMo as a Winner – woo hoo!  Wrap-up post coming soon!
  3. The incredible response to the launch of the 12 x 12 in 2012 Picture Book Writing Challenge. As of this writing, we’re up to 82 participants!!
  4. My homemade lasagna, even though the kids didn’t like it
  5. The gorgeous field I get to walk Rocky in each day.  It’s beautiful in every season (see video above).
  6. Em had her second audition for a new play and thinks she did very well.
  7. Speaking with a long-distance friend on the phone
  8. Despite the hassle it brings, I’m grateful for the snow.  We want a White Christmas AND a great ski season!!
  9. I am trying to be grateful for the fact that I can’t read this week.  I am assuming that I will learn a great deal and the experience will be worthwhile.  I also appreciate the words of support and sympathy from friends. 🙂
  10. Flannel sheets

What are you grateful for this week?

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