Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

Today I once again Get All Grateful on Your A** on Katie DavisBrain Burps About Books podcast. It’s a special segment because it’s all about The Bologna Children’s Book Fair. I talk about specific people I met who inspired gratitude, but also about the overwhelming sense of honor I felt walking the halls and realizing that I am part of this amazing community and industry. The segment is about 10 minutes in, before the main interview, which is AWESOME! Author/Illustrator Maryann Cocca-Leffler talks about taking one of her books to the stage, and about how she sold more than a million copies of two of her books. Fascinating!

I haven’t written much about my experience in Bologna on the blog yet. I’m still writing my articles for SCBWI and CBI, and I don’t want to scoop my own self by publishing on the blog first. However, I would like to share some inspirational quotes with you from some interviews I caught in the Author’s Cafe.

Meeting Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson, Newbery Medal-winning author, Former U.S. National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and Recipient of the 2006 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (+ many others):

  • “I love to write because I can live so many lives.”
  • “The world is full of people with talent, but perseverance is rare. To be a writer, you need talent and perseverance.”
  • She writes for children because, “I have the same questions that children have, and I haven’t been able to answer them.”
  • “I don’t publish anything I don’t love.”
  • It is very humbling to have someone say that your book inspired them to become a writer.”

Sonya Hartnett, Australian author and recipient of the 2008 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

  • “When you write for children, you have to call upon every single ability you have as a writer to write a difficult scene (like war). Never do I have to reach as deep into my abilities to write for adults as I do for children.”
  • “A writer lives many times, and yet doesn’t live at all. I put my entire experience into my writing. I’ve given my life to fiction.” She said in reference to sometimes feeling existential angst with regard to questions such as, ‘Who am I?’, ‘What am I?’

Ryoji Arai, Japanese Illustrator and recipient of the 2005 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

  • “The ending of my stories are also a beginning. I think about that beginning when I write my stories.”
  • “An artist has to find space between the words.”
  • “People ask me, ‘How do you invent stories?’ I answer, ‘Well, how do you play?”
  • “A child equals hope.”

Lin Oliver, U.S. Author and Executive Director of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

  • She became a children’s author because she went into the L.A. Unemployment Office and saw a sign that said, “Children’s Book Writer Wanted.” She went on to say that she “hasn’t seen those words before or since.”
  • “If you write for children, you are going back to your own childhood.”
  • On writing for boys: “They like to laugh or be scared.”
  • If you want to get published, “Read everything in the field. Write and practice your craft until you are good enough to be published.”
  • On why we need to support libraries. “Librarians are people who teach you how to find information.” This is a critical skill for 21st century kids.
  • “It is important that we all come to regard children’s literature as a global enterprise.” That is why SCBWI is now playing an active role in advocating diversity in children’s literature.

Which of these quotes inspires you the most?

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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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One of the things I love most about blogging is the social aspect – receiving comments on my posts and leaving comments on others’.  For the next three weeks, however, I will not be able to read and comment on blogs.  I am leaving on Friday for a two-week business trip to Italy.  This week, all the time I have that is not spent on preparing for the trip will be spent with my family.  Then I’ll be on the ground in Italy, and when I return, the kids will be on Spring Break, so I’ll be catching up with them, recovering from jet-lag, closing out the March 12 x 12 giveaway and launching April’s.  So please don’t be offended if I normally comment on your blogs and you don’t see me for a while.  All will return to normal in April.  I will be checking my blog, however, and will do my best to respond to comments left on my posts.

What am I doing in Italy, besides eating pasta and gelato?  First I’ll be in Florence, working on a yet-to-be-revealed project.  Then I’m off to Bologna for the O’Reilly Tools of Change in Publishing Conference and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.  Some regular features on the blog, such as Tuesday 12 x 12, will continue to run while I am gone, and I have a couple of guest posts in store too.  I might be able to blog here and there, but I can’t promise.  I will, however, post short updates, photos and snippets on my Facebook Author Page if you want to follow along there or follow me on Twitter.

I will be thinking of you while I am here...

And here...

And eating this...

And this!

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Today is March 2nd and the good Dr.’s birthday, so of course I had to make a Dr. Seuss selection.  Today is also Read Across America Day, and Teaching Authors has a fantastic post about Dr. Seuss and how to celebrate.  Fox in Socks doesn’t seem to get the same kind of love as Seuss’ other books, but it is definitely one of my favorites just because it is SO FUN to read aloud.

Fox in Socks
Written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Random House, 1965
Suitable for:  Ages 3 and up
Themes/Topics:  Tongue twisters, Rhyme, Humor, Silliness
Opening and brief synopsis: “This Fox is a tricky fox. He’ll try to get your tongue in trouble.” Dr. Seuss gives fair warning to anyone brave enough to read along with the Fox in Socks, who likes to play tongue-twisting games with his friend Mr. Knox.
Activities: Just trying to read it out loud without making any mistakes is a great activity! It would pair well with other tongue twister books.  Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Eric Van Raepenbusch’s fantastic post on his blog, Happy Birthday Author, with amazing ideas for celebrating Seuss in general.
Why I Like This Book: Talk about a book that’s fun to read over and over!  That’s because you can seldom read it perfectly, so it becomes a challenge.  And the rhyme is mesmerizing for kids.
Finally, check out this video of a woman speed reading Fox in Socks.  It is unbelievable!

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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This year, I’m signing up for the anti-resolution revolution.  It is so tempting to start listing all the things one wants to accomplish at the start of a New Year, but in my experience, the process (and thus the result) is flawed.

I believe the reason resolutions often don’t work is because they start from a place of lack, of negativity, of failure.  We think about all the things we weren’t happy with in the previous year and set out to “fix” them in the new one.  Lose weight = I weigh too much.  Save money = I spend too much.  Make more money = I don’t have enough money.  Spend more time with my kids = I’m not doing enough for my kids.  Write more often = I don’t write enough.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you know I am all about self-improvement, especially improvement that puts us on a path to self-actualization.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals, and achieving them is even better.  However, the goals need to be set on a strong foundation.  So I figured, why not start with what I did accomplish this year and set goals from there.  Let’s first celebrate success and then determine how to carry that forward into the New Year, rather than berating ourselves for what did not get done.  Being zen about it, probably everything got done that was supposed to.

Here is my list of what I consider to be my major professional accomplishments this year

  • Completed two picture books.  Both are now on submission.
  • Was accepted into, and completed, the Rocky Mountain SCBWI mentorship program.
  • Drafted a third picture book which is at least halfway to submission-ready
  • Completed PiBoIdMo and ended up with 30+ picture book ideas
  • Sent 20+ queries over the course of the year
  • From those queries, sold one poem and got contracts to write three articles (coming in 2012)
  • Entered a picture book in the MeeGenius Children’s Author Challenge and made it to #16 out of 400+ entries
  • Learned a TON about online marketing and promotion from the contest.
  • Completed four months of group coaching to launch a new project.  I am now about halfway through drafting the business plan for that project (more news on that in 2012)
  • Formed a LLC to support my writing business and other projects I launch
  • Took a two-month course on blogging to build an author platform.  I have now gone from a high of 2000 hits per month on my blog to a high of nearly 6000 per month.
  • Guest posted on several blogs
  • Set up an in-person picture book critique group in Boulder
  • Attended a digital publishing conference and the Rocky Mountain SCBWI regional conference
  • Last, but not least, launched the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge to write 12 picture books in 12 months.  This is, obviously, one of my major goals for the coming year.

In addition to work accomplishments, three other achievements deserve mention.  One is that I ran a personal best in the Bolder Boulder 10K this year and felt great.  The race also happened to take place right after I turned 40, which felt even better.

Second, I planned, from start to finish, and then took a six-week trip to Italy with my family for the summer.  This trip was the fulfillment of a major dream and life-changing in every possible way.  Although my kids are still young, I think it will turn out to be life-changing for them to have had such an experience.

One of the things the trip to Italy inspired me to do is the third achievement I want to mention.  I wrote a Bucket List.  I saw how rewarding it was to realize even one dream, so I thought I would capture as many more as I could in the hopes of realizing them all.  I am trying not be afraid of dreaming big.  So perhaps a motto for 2012 is Dream Big or Go Home.

For your further contemplation, here are a few other posts with an alternate take on New Year’s Resolutions

Lynnette Burrows doesn’t let Mrs. Darkside win.

Hayley Lavik is not going to change anything next year.

Prudence MacLeod is going to read books by live authors.

Emma Burcart is going to be kind – to herself.

Jennifer Lewis Oliver has never made a New Year’s Resolution.

Myndi Shafer does have a short list of resolutions, which she made in the Nick of Time.

What is your stance on New Year’s Resolutions?  Good thing, bad thing or in-between?

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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:





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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I wish I could give you all a chocolate covered doughnut. Heck, I wish I could give myself one!

So. As of today I’ve been blogging for 2 years. Thank you all for putting up with me hanging out with me and making this blog a pure joy to write.  I could write all day about what this blog has meant to me, but I’d rather make it a celebration of YOU – the reader.  So let’s start with a giveaway, shall we?

There are two items up for grabs (get it? The repetition of the “2” theme??).  First is a $25 Amazon gift certificate.  I figure as the holiday season rushes in, everyone could make use of this.  Second is a critique from yours truly – either a picture book manuscript or the first 10 pages of a work in any other genre.  For both I will provide a “big picture” analysis of what is working well in your manuscript and areas that need attention.  I will also provide line by line comments.  You should come away with some concrete steps you can take to improve your work.

So how do you win?  First, you must be a follower of the blog. If you are a new follower, please tell me how you follow – email, RSS, Networked Blogs, etc.  Second (see how we’re still on the “2” theme?), I have asked four questions in this post (Four being 2 x 2).  To enter the contest, you must you leave a comment and answer at least one of the questions.  For each question you answer, you will receive one point.  For those of you who are keeping track, that means you can earn a maximum of four points.  (I know, I know.  You’re all saying to yourselves: “Wow, she can write AND do advanced math!!!).  Please also tell me which of the two items you’d like.  I’d appreciate tweets but unfortunately I’m not going to count them as points this time because it’s Thanksgiving week and I’m trying to keep things simple for both you and me.  You have until next Wednesday, November 23rd to enter.  I’ll announce the winners on Thanksgiving Day! Now that’s something to be thankful for…

Last year, I asked four questions that came from a post entitled, 8 Critical Questions You Should Ask Yourself as a Blogger.  I only got 7 responses, so it didn’t give me much of a sense of what my blog readers really think.  Since my number of followers has grown quite a bit this year (woo hoo!), and the questions are still very relevant and important to me, I figured I’d try again. In order to gear up for the next year of blogging, I’d like to hear more about you and what you would like to see on this blog (and blogs in general).  So here goes:

1.  Are you blogging about your passion?

This is an easy yes for me.  I am passionate about writing, certainly, but I am also passionate about my family, my dog, nature, reading, cooking, traveling, etc.  I try to balance posts about writing and posts about my life.  This year, for example, I chronicled my family’s stay in Italy this summer as well as launching a series for writers – How I Got My Agent.  I enjoy writing about a range of topics and fear I’d get bored (and the blog would suffer) if I limited myself to writing.  BUT, I would like to know if you think the my passion comes through in my blog posts, regardless of the subject du jour.  Should I be putting more personality/passion in the posts or I am I already at risk of revealing TMI?

2.  Do you know your audience?

Some of the sub-questions here ask whether you know what your readers want and don’t want and whether they find your posts useful.  I believe my most active readers/followers are fellow writers, but I also know that I have quite a few non-writer followers who don’t comment as often but read most of the posts.  I try to serve both audiences without being schizophrenic.  So I ask you, if you are a writer, do you still enjoy the more personal posts?   If you are not a writer, do your eyes glaze over when you read the writing posts, or do I manage to make them interesting to you?

3.  Are you building a community?

I think so.  I try to ask thought-provoking questions at the end of most posts to get people excited to engage in a conversation.  I joined the third Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign, participated in a few blogfests and attended Kristen Lamb’s blogging course.  I’m on Twitter and Facebook.  I do giveaways here and there.  Are there other things I could do to “up” the community quotient of the blog?

4.  Are you solving your reader’s problems?

Let me be frank.  I can barely solve my own problems, so I doubt if I will be able to solve yours.  If I had all the answers, I’d probably be a multi-published author bringing money in hand over fist right now.  If I had all the answers, my kids would behave perfectly at all times, my cakes would never sag in the middle, I’d weigh about 20 lbs less and my house would be featured in Architectural Digest. In the meantime, I hope that as I flounder, learn, flounder some more, and then learn some more, that my posts about that process are helpful to you too.  It’s not so much “misery loves company” as “company alleviates misery,” so let’s stick together.  Do my posts provide help or inspiration to you, and what do you think would make them more helpful?

Now for some totally useless statistics.  Last year I posted my top five most-visited posts and my top five favorites and thought it would be fun to do it again.  It’s interesting how in both years there was no overlap between the two.

Top Posts (post with greatest number of hits)

  1. 100 Random Things – every day I get at least one “random things to write about” search reference that brings someone to the blog.
  2. Osama bin Laden’s Death – No surprise here.  I got more than 800 hits the day the post went live.  Controversy sells.
  3. How I Got My Agent: Corey Schwartz – Go Corey! Not only is she a terrific writer, but she was the first brave soul to participate in this series.
  4. How to Write a Winning Query
  5. How I Got My Agent: Tara Lazar – Go Tara! Our own PiBoIdMo organizer and another fantastic writer.

Top Five Personal Favorites

  1. On Impermanence
  2. Here Piggy, Piggy
  3. Adam Rex Rocks the House
  4. Yes, I Do Believe in Miracles
  5. The Long and Winding Road

Last, but not least, I have a public service announcement.  Fellow picture book author Susanna Leonard Hill has started a wonderful new Friday feature called, Perfect Picture Book Friday.  In the same vein as Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, folks passionate about picture books will choose one and provide a short synopsis and a note on what they like about the book.  So go visit her to find some amazing picture books.  I will be participating myself starting next Friday.

Whether you comment on this post or not, THANKS FOR READING!  I appreciate each and every one of you.

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Real card available from Tree Free Shop

A couple of weeks ago, I asked for help choosing between two blog posts I’d written in order to revise one of them for submission to a travel-writing anthology.  I was once again amazed at the generosity of this writing community when I got nearly 20 responses.  You all helped me so much, not just by putting forward your opinions about the post, but by motivating me to actually get the piece written and submitted.

You see, it turned out to be more work than I had initially anticipated because I had to take a post that assumed a great deal of knowledge on the part of the reader — that I was traveling in Italy and why, previous hikes I had taken, photographs of the landscape, etc, — and turn it into a piece that someone with no previous knowledge of the blog could understand and appreciate.  I had to add in context, description and motivation.  Because of other commitments (the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference, for example), I had just a few hours of one day to get it ready.

I felt daunted and wanted to quit and wait for the next call for submissions.  But I couldn’t.  Not after so many of you had taken time out of your own busy schedules to help me out.  It was with you all in mind that I forged ahead and submitted just minutes before the deadline closed.  Regardless of what happens with that submission, I am glad I persevered.  Thank you for being the motivation I needed to get the job done!

When I put out the call for help, I promised that I would write a post highlighting your blogs, if you have one, and why I like them.  This is not at all hard to do since you are all so talented. Here you all are, in the order you commented.  Please, readers, check these guys out!  You will be glad you did.

Head Ant: You know any blog that headlines with, “Life is a Picnic” is going to be fun.  Head Ant does posts on books, crafts, parenting, writing, recipes, you name it.  I love how she integrates all of her interests into the blog.

Jenny Sulpizio: I “met” Jenny at this year’s WriteOnCon when we swapped critiques of stories.  She is a talented writer who shares her experience with parenting and life in general on her blog.  Right now I’m loving her “Christmas Countdown” series!

Catherine Johnson, Writer: Catherine, who I’ll forever think of as Kangaroobee, has been a friend and supporter almost from the beginning of this blog.  A fellow children’s book writer and a gifted poet, her posts never fail to make me smile.  She even writes book reviews in poetry!  She is always there with a kind word of encouragement – someone you definitely want in your writing corner.

Nancy Hatch, Spirit Lights the Way: Nancy and I have been following each other for at least a year now, and her posts never fail to make me stop, think, and discover how I can appreciate life a little more.  She is candid, honest, interesting and writes on a multitude of subjects.  She has an active readership and often the best part of reading her posts is going through the comments – the discussion is always lively!

Cathy Mealey: Cathy is fairly new follower, and I don’t think she has a blog.  However, she has very kindly sent me several emails with links to articles on topics she knows I’ll be interested in.  Seldom do people take those kinds of extra steps these days.  She was also the lucky winner of my Colorado Picture Book Writers giveaway!

Joanna Marple, Miss Marple’s Musings: Joanna is a fellow picture book writer and poet, and we share a wanderlust and love of world travel.  I also appreciate how her love of nature and animals finds its way into her writing and her blog posts.  She also does fantastic picture books reviews from a writer’s perspective.

Clara Bowman-Jahn, Clarbojahn’s Blog: Clara is another writer I “met” at WriteOnCon (see why you should attend that conference??).  Clara is also a fellow Writers’ Platform-Building Campaigner and has been doing a much better job keeping up with it than I have – lol!  Her posts are very helpful to writers wherever they are in their journeys.

Bagni di Lucca: I “met” the two ladies who write this blog, Debra and Liz, while I was in Italy.  They encouraged me in my writing about the Italy trip, and I have come to live vicariously through their blog.  I think of them as “off the beaten path,” not just in Italy but everywhere they travel.  They provide the juicy, intimate details of a place – the things you wouldn’t necessarily think of seeing first.  They turn ordinary into extraordinary and the photography is stunning.

Stacy S. Jensen: A fellow Coloradan (although we haven’t met in person yet) and children’s writer, Stacy’s blog and her Facebook page are packed with goodies for writers seeking to improve their craft and make their way along the publishing journey.  Our degrees of separation keep getting smaller, and we are just going to have to meet soon (hint, hint).  She’s led a fascinating life and, like me, places an emphasis on the practice of gratitude in her weekly Thankful Thursday posts.

Sana Johnson Quijada, A Friend to Yourself: Sana’s comment to my “call for help” post was her first, and I am so glad I got to “meet” her and familiarize myself with her blog.  She is a psychiatrist and a writer using her blog in a very important way – teaching us how to be a friend to ourselves by evaluating our thought and behavior patterns to weed out those that are not in service to our well-being.  I dare you to read a few of her posts and not be inspired.

Susanna Leonard Hill: Susanna must be one of the most supportive bloggers of children’s book writers and readers that I know.  It seems every time I leave a comment on a kidlit blog, Susanna has already been there.  She is a multi-published author of many wonderful picture books, including the adorable Punxsutawny Phyllis (niece of Punxsutawny Phil of Groundhog Dog Day fame).  She does pitch contests, giveaways, fun Friday photos and more.

Rebecca Gomez: Rebecca writes poetry and fiction for kids and is also an artist.  She writes very thoughtful posts about the art of writing for children.  Obviously a fellow grammar geek, I love this post of hers on apostrophes.

Julie Farrar, Traveling Through…: Julie Farrar is also a fellow Writers’ Platform-Building Campaigner.  She is a woman, like myself, searching for work and a life with more meaning and passion.  Her posts are beautiful and thought-provoking, and as an added bonus, she lives in Germany and posts gorgeous pictures from there!

Sons of Thunder: This fellow’s blog tagline is, “God, Cuisine, Life, Poetry, Music, Ships, History, Treasures.”  That about covers it. 🙂  Therefore, I think everyone can find something on his blog.  I’d also like to add that he is the most creative commenter EVER.  Seriously, his comments are better than my posts – lol.

Alice: Alice, I have no link to any additional information about you :-(, but thank you for your comment!

Alison Pearce Stevens: Alison is one of my online critique group members.  She writes both fiction and nonfiction picture books and magazine articles.  Her science writing is top-notch and I never fail to learn something when I critique them.  She is also shopping a middle-grade novel which I read, critiqued, and LOVED!  She has laser-sharp instincts, which makes her an excellent critique partner.  My writing is much better because of her insight and honesty.

Lynnette Benton: Lynnette writes not one, but two creative writing blogs, including Polish and Publish: Tools and Tactics for Creative Writers.  An accomplished writer and creative writing instructor, she shares her wisdom and street smarts with all of us.

Hannah Holt, Lightbulb Books: Hannah is the only person on this list I’ve met in person – at last year’s Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference.  She didn’t make it this year because she had twins early in 2011 and they’ve kept her pretty busy these days. 🙂 Her website is fun and quirky, and one of her picture book manuscripts won a Letter of Merit from the Barbara Karlin Grant Committee this year!

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Patrick Ross of The Artist’s Road.  On the same day I was wavering about submitting the piece, I read a on his blog, The Artist’s Road, entitled, Do You Suffer from “Not Quite” Paralysis?  Give it a read if perfectionism has ever gotten in the way of just getting something done and sent out.

I love the fact that connections made on social media networks turn into real friendships, and that asking for help in this venue is the norm rather than the exception.  Thank you all, once again!

When was the last time you asked for, and received, help in a way that touched you?

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I’ve decided to take one of my blog posts about Italy, work on it a bit more, and submit it to an anthology of women’s travel writing.  The deadline is next week, so I need to move quickly and I could really use your help.  After looking through the posts, I’ve chosen my two favorites.  Some of you may have read these before, but I would be so grateful if, whether you’ve read them or not, you could take a look and tell me which one you prefer and, if possible, why.  That will help me determine which one has the most resonance. Please put your responses in the comments.  Thanks!!!

For everyone who responds, I plan to write a blog post that will include a blurb about your blog (if you blog) and what I like about it.  If you don’t blog, I’d be happy to give you assistance in some other way – contact me offline and we can work it out.

So here are the posts.

Cinque Terre Hike

Here Piggy, Piggy

A Thousand Thanks!!

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Passing through the Faraglioni

It is a profound spiritual truth that the only thing permanent in this world is impermanence.  Such a simple thing to grasp intellectually, but so hard to accept emotionally. I am not the first person to feel this way.  Buddha himself said that suffering arises not from the fact of impermanence, but from our attempts to cling to that which is transient. Pre-Socrates, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c.540 – c.475 BC) said, “Everything flows and nothing abides, everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.”

This is on my mind today because exactly one month ago, on July 31st, we flew home from Italy.  I knew, of course, that the trip to Italy would end, as all things do.  I live in a beautiful place and I’m glad to be home, so it’s too strong to say that I wish I were still in Italy.  However, I admit to sometimes finding myself filled with longing for the sound of the sea outside my window in Camogli, the ululation of the language, which sounds like love itself.  I crave the food, the aroma, the architecture and even the chaos.

Of course, nature is the best teacher of impermanence, and this struck me many times in Italy,

The Blue Grotto

steeped as it is in history.  Off the island of Capri, for example, stand the Faraglioni – limestone rock formations shaped by wind and sea.  Limestone being very soft, it is likely that a person steering their boat through those rocks in 100 years will not see the same rock formations I did.  In 1000 years, the Faraglioni might be blown to dust.  How fortunate that I could enjoy them as they are today.  The Blue Grotto, formerly the private swimming pool of the Emperor Tiberius, may cave in on itself one day.  But I was there, if only for a moment.

Then of course there is VesuviusPompeii, an ancient time-capsule, tells a terrifying story of impermanence.  Yet millions of people still live along and beneath the slopes of Vesuvius, despite the wisps of sulfur gas that rise from the crater as the volcano percolates.  Change will surely

The mouth of Vesuvius

come again for that land.  But as Jay said, “I’m sure glad it didn’t erupt while we were there!”  Me too.

One good thing about change is that what changes you stays with you.  So I carry Italy with me here at home.  The country and the experiences I had there have become a part of who I am.  The experience shapes my present and will no doubt shape my future.  I came home filled with inspiration and ideas that I am now executing.  I am continuing my Italian lessons.  And I will go back and forge new memories based on more impermanent experiences.

The other day I was reading Rumi, as I am prone to do sometimes of an evening.  I rather like his take on what to do about impermanence:

“Come on sweetheart
let’s adore one another
before there is no more
of you and me”

Do you ever find yourself longing for the past?  What do you do to stay anchored in the present?

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