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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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I know I said I wouldn’t be posting Gratitude Sundays until the end of the month, but how could I not after spending a week in Florence?  My gratitude cup runneth over so much it might flood the Arno again. 😉  In celebration of all that is La Dolce Vita, in lieu of quotes on gratitude, this week I offer quotes from some of Italy’s most beloved poets.  And yes, Michelangelo was also a poet.

Quotes from Italian poets

“Remember tonight… For it is the beginning of always.” — Dante Alighieri

“True, we love life, not because we are used to living, but because we are used to loving. There is always some madness in love, but there is also always some reason in madness.” — Francesco Petrarch

“Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all are come.”  — Michelangelo.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.” — Cesare Pavese

Gratitude list for the week ending March 17

  1. A group of young adults singing an impromptu hymn inside the Duomo – Santa Maria della Fiore
  2. Being reunited with pistaccio, bacio and nocciolo gelato!
  3. Prosecco at sunset on the rooftop bar of the Hotel Continentale
  4. Santo Spirito, lit up at night, fully reflected on the black glass water of the Arno
  5. Il Santo Bevitore and Olio & Convivium in Oltrarno, restaurants that provided two of the best meals I have eaten in a long time.
  6. Enoteche (wine bars) where a person can dine and drink alone and not be considered an oddity.
  7. Cafe Giacosa Cavalli – my favorite place for a morning coffee and pastry and for observing the local Florentines.
  8. Cafe Florian chocolates. I ate a few of them as my lunch on the train to Bologna (not kidding)!
  9. Lisa Clifford, an Australian author living in Florence, treated me to a lovely aperativo in Oltrarno.
  10. Walking along the Lungarno toward the Ponte Vecchio, under arches, with ripples of the river reflecting on the walls of the buildings opposite.  It gave the feeling of walking through water.  Beautiful.

What are you grateful for this week?

Reflections of the Ponte Vecchio

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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:

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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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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