Monday, January 30, 2012

SCBWI Nuggets

     This weekend I attended the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators conference in New York.  It was fantastic on many levels.  There was a "blog team" following all the events, and you can re-live the conference through their posts at

     I was delighted to find this morning that when I sat down to write my basic impressions of the conference, it came out as a haiku:

Fantastic City
Inspiring Keynote Speakers
Read, Critique, Revise

Some other juicy nuggets from the weekend~

Timing is everything
Write to touch a heart, soul, or funny bone
Write the story only you can write
Have a HOOK
Readers go where the tension is
Every supporting character should have their own rich inner life
Everything you do informs your work

Two fellow conference attendees, headed home to write!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Headline points to writing career

     I often see my life in headlines.  For example, this morning it was:  MOTHER'S HEAD EXPLODES WHEN CHILD'S FAKE CRYING GOES ON TOO LONG.
     Often, the headlines I read in my head relate to my little daily anxieties and neuroses, such as things involving premature death, fiery crashes, and cruel irony (think, MOTHER PLUNGES TO DEATH WHILE CLIMBING UP STEEP PRECIPICE TO GET PERFECT CHRISTMAS PICTURE OF KIDS).
    These headlines often pop into my head unexpectedly, and they are always welcome.  For one, they often help me realize when I'm being nutty and can put a positive spin on my real worries by making me laugh.  They have also helped guide me in what is important in my life.  In the example above, I would have stopped climbing and thought, the quality of the picture is not what matters - friends want to hear from you at the holidays, that's it.
     When I began seeing and hearing headlines related to a writing career, I first brushed them aside as grandiose and self-centered.  (After all, they were headlines such as FIRST BOOK PUBLISHED SELLS MILLIONS, and the like).  Then they began to pop into my head, over and over, and took a more realistic bent:  WOMAN FINDS SANITY IN WRITING, and SIMPLE STORY BRINGS JOY TO CHILDREN.
     I also began to see me quoted in interviews, saying things like, "I wasn't sure I could do this, but I'm glad I tried.  Look where it has taken me!"
    In this case, the headlines have guided me to a little writing nook, where the morning sun comes in, and where I am happy to go each day and peck away, playing with words and stories and hearing the headline:  WOMAN FOLLOWS HER DREAM, ONE SMALL STORY AT A TIME.

What is your HEADLINE today?

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Post Office Blues

The lights are dim
Your countenance gray
to match your shirt, the floor, the day
No smile cracks your lips
No how are you quips;
The automated teller
is the nicer feller.
Where will I go
when Saturdays fail?
Off to a place
where they smile in my face

Friday, January 20, 2012

Taking Playful Writing Seriously

     One of my top priorities this year is to take my writing seriously, even though most of it is playful in nature and meant to entertain the "under 5" set!  However, writing for children is indeed a serious business (some call it a "bunny eat bunny" world).  I've been educating myself about this business for a little over a year now, and am very excited about my upcoming trip to NYC for the "Lucky 13th Annual Winter Conference" of the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).  This is a really fantastic organization that seems to be all about helping one another succeed, giving some question to the idea of bunnies eating their own kind.
     Although I have been to a regional conference (the New England chapter of SCBWI has an annual Spring  conference), this will be my first "national" spin.  What better place than New York, I'm thinking, to find out all I can about the publishing world.  The conference will be chock full of agents, editors, and marketing specialists.  One of the keynote speakers I'll be interested to listen to and possibly meet is Regina Brooks (Serendipity Literary Agency), who has written a book about writing and marketing your memoir.  I'll also have my eyes and ears peeled to meet and greet (or, be excited just to be in the same room with!) some fantastic authors and illustrators, including Sophie Blackall (Big Red Lollipop and Ivy and Bean) and Jane Yolen (How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, among many others...).
    Besides two days of intensive learning, I'm also looking forward to two additional fun events, a "KidLit drink night" on Friday 1/27 at 8:00 PM at the Public House (41st and Lexington), and a Saturday night Gala, for which the dress is "smart casual."  I've heard that in the past, at the Summer SCBWI conference in LA, the dress for the Gala was pajamas.  Now that's my kind of Gala!  Maybe we'll get New York to follow suit one year.
   Between now and the conference, I'll be hunkered down, following one of my favorite pieces of writing advice (from Lin Oliver, a keynote presenter at the 2011 NESCBWI Spring Conference and one of the founders of SCBWI):
     Do The Work.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Guilty Pleasures

     Like many moms, my guilty pleasures are quite tame.  Going to the grocery store alone.  Taking a shower without a kid coming in to ask me a question.  Drinking my whole cup of coffee in the morning without having to reheat it. (Truly, if I had known at 20 what would excite me at 40, I would have been really depressed!).
     But lately, the dreams have been expanding.  Not only do I want to go to the grocery store alone, I don't want to feel rushed while I'm there.  I'd like to take that shower,  and have a hot cup of coffee.  And fulfilling these little dreams has led to the expansion of much greater ones.  As my kids are spending more time in the "asset column" of our family register, I find my mind free to wander towards - (sharp intake of breath) what I want to do!
     With following my passion to write in mind, I have decided that 2012 is the Year of Nancy.  I announced this to my husband and our close friends one evening during our weekly Friday happy hour, a little at-home pub we call "Freaky Friday."
     "How will that be different from last year?" asked my friend, a fellow mom who is supposed to be on my team.
     "Well," I answered, "I'll mostly do the same things I did last year, but without the guilt."
     "Good luck with that," she said.
    So far, things are off to a good start.  I've always allowed myself a fairly steady stream of "continuous small treats" but I'm trying now to enjoy them guilt-free.  Besides that, and most importantly, I'm making time to write, to read, and to really pay attention to me.  A few times, the guilt monster has come calling (you've been gone for 2 hours now, you should get home; you should get up from the computer and organize a game for the kids...).  Each time, I've consciously asked myself if what I am feeling is the real, important guilt that shows you are a human, or the made-up kind that is fueled by motherhood and anxiety.  I've been able to summarily dismiss about 10 episodes of guilt, and it's only January 17th!
     My husband, a wonderful and supportive partner, is wary of the Year of Nancy.  As I jetted off to the gym Saturday morning leaving him to french toast duty, he had just one question:
     "But where did the guilt go?"

What would you do today if you knew you could do it guilt free?

Sunday, January 15, 2012


     Hello!  This blog is designed as a place to let my inner writer come out to play.  I hope that along the way, I can share some interesting and useful ideas and make you laugh a time or two.  I am a teacher-turned speech/language pathologist-turned mom-turned professor-turned writer.  With each turn, I've kept a piece of the last iteration of myself, having quite liked most of the steps along the way.  However, also with each turn, my younger self, a person who likes to sit on her bed with a blank journal and write stories, kept tapping me on the shoulder.
     Now it is time to let that self have some fun - and so I have created a place for the "writer me" to play with my words.  Please join me here from time-to-time as I offer small snippets of stories, poems to please you, and thoughts that might help bring some joy to your day.  I hope to amuse you with musings on being pre-published in the world of children's literature, being a fun-loving (and sometimes neurotic) mom who is married to a surgeon, being an out-of-my-comfort zone professor, and other topics that want to come out to play!
     Please feel free to stop by when you need a laugh, a lift, or to offer me a publishing contract.
See you on the next page,