Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bye-Bye Blog

After taking the last few weeks off from my blog, I have come to a conclusion.  I need to retire the blog.

I am finding that I have much more creative energy and time if I'm not worried about my next blog post.  I have so little "free" time, I feel like I need to zero in on just a few uses of that time.

I am certainly happy that I started this blog as I was just getting to know the writing community.  It helped me get to know folks quickly.  And I've made some great friends!  The challenge for me now will be to continue to visit all the great blogs I found along the way.  So, thank you all for the welcome, the friendship, the advice, and the support.  I hope I can pay it forward for all of you.

I will still be active on Twitter, so follow me there if you haven't already (@megankbickel).  I'll see you all around cyberspace!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Off the grid

As I expected, keeping up with my on-line world has been very difficult with all my kids home this summer.  So, rather than fight it, I'm going to close up shop for a few weeks.  I'll probably be MIA from here, other blogs and Twitter for at least a week or two (or three or four).

I hope you all have a fantastic mid-summer and enjoy family, friends and good weather.  I'll be soaking up time with my boys, time with extended family, holiday celebrations, and the ability to be outside away from my computer.

Keep writing!  You know I will!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

When it rains, it pours

I have always loved that phrase.  It sums up my life so completely!  When I have one thing to do, it ends up being 20.  But it is also a concept I'm working on in one of my picture books.  It is the idea of piling things on to make them more frantic, energetic, and fun!  When one crazy thing happens, it triggers 20 more. 

It is actually rather difficult to pull off.  I'm having trouble finding that balance between constant action and a jumbled mess.  It is a balancing act that is reflected in my everyday life with three boys.  And like my everyday life, all I can do is try!  : )

Happy writing!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Good Life

These days, I'm reveling in my children being home with me.  We've picked something fun to do each day and kept the sibling squabbles (mostly) under control.  It is bliss.  But, since I'm juggling being a full time stay-at-home-mom to three boys with being a full time employee of my "real" job, my computer time has taken a major hit.  I have a feeling my posting/comments/tweets will be rather sparse this summer.  Any spare time I have, I'm devoting to writing/revising/submitting.

I hope you all can enjoy some serious summer fun too!  Write on!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Special Summer

This morning my boys and I sat at the kitchen table to make a list of everything special we wanted to do this summer.  The obvious answers of "Children's Museum" and "Zoo" made the list quickly, but then something funny happened.  They started listing off restaurants.  The same restaurants we always go to.  Places we've been in the last week or two.

My initial thought was, "that's not very imaginative."  But when I thought about it some more, I realized some things. 

First, anything out of the routine (even something as simple as lunch at McDonald's) is special.  Just taking time to break out of schedule and switch up life a little bit is exciting to a three year old.

Second, they enjoy what we do together, even if it is just having dinner.  They love having the attention my husband and I lavish on them when we are out to eat.  That attention is largely our monitoring of appropriate behavior for a meal out with the general public.  But we are hyper-focused on them, and they lap it up.

Finally, my own reaction to adding fast food joints to the list...YES!  Not cooking is always a vacation-worthy endeavor!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Joplin, Missouri

I spent this morning looking at pictures out of Joplin, MO.  The most deadly tornado in 60+ years hit there on Sunday night.

I spent most of last night in my basement with my husband and three sleeping children as storms swept through Indiana with hurricane force winds and at least three tornado touchdowns (nothing too close to us, thankfully).

Tornadoes are a part of life in the Midwest.  I know the drills, I'm all to familiar with the sound of sirens, my youngest asks me if a "tomato" is coming when we troop down to the basement, I can interpret radar images with the best arm-chair meteorologists, and I have plenty of brush-with-tornado stories.

I once pulled my car over on the side of a highway, jumped onto the floor of my backseat, curled into a ball and rode out five terrifying minutes of hail pelting my car as it rocked back and forth in the winds.  I've huddled in laundry rooms, bathrooms, basements, and inner hallways as storms pass.  I cradled a sleeping baby in my arms in a bathtub with pillows around and on top of us.  I've watched a tree being cut off of my swing set, which was reduced to an inch of metal. 

But I've never seen anything like Joplin, MO.  The swath of complete devastation is heart wrenching.  It is the worst nightmare of anyone who lives in tornado country.  It is entire neighborhood flattened.  It is families ripped apart.  It is the total loss of possessions.  It is the unthinkable loss of family members, friends and neighbors.

Of course, Joplin was not the only town devastated by tornadoes recently.  In fact, the storm that swept through Indiana last night had over 60 tornadoes credited to it by the time it reached our boarders.  But for some reason, Joplin has touched my heart deeply.  Perhaps I can see myself and my town in them. 

So, I'm just putting this one little plea for help out there.  Consider, if you will, donating to the American Red Cross.  And remember to be thankful for all you have today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

And then...

What next?  This is a question I've been struggling with for about a year now.  Before then, I just kind of lived in the moment knowing what was coming next.  All my life I knew the next step.  First grade then second then third and on through college.  By the time I graduated from college I knew I was going to get married.  Before I even got married, I knew I was going to have kids.  So now what?

There are no big life milestones in my immediate future.  I'm entering into a phase of my life where I am not planning for any big changes.  I've got 9 years before my oldest goes off to college (or whatever he chooses to do) and 15 before I'm an "empty nester".  Of course I'll be crazy busy being a wife and mother and doing my day job.  But I feel like I'm missing some big thing I'm supposed to be getting ready for, you know?  Like I'm overlooking some major life event.

Guess I'll just have to make my own event.  Like getting a book published some day...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Freeze!

Okay, Time, you have just got to stop marching on.  Really.  Knock it off.  I need a life "pause" button.

My kids are growing too fast.
I don't have enough time to get all my reading done.
I want more time to write.
Laundry, dishes and dust defy the laws of physics to multiply instantaneously.
My "once a month" commitments seem to pop up on my calendar too quickly.
The school year is ending already!
Every time I turn around it is someone's birthday or my anniversary.

Anyone have a magical time-slowing potion?!?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A couple of critiques

I've been meaning to let you all know about a contest over at the Teaching Author's blog.  In celebration of their 2nd blogiversary, they are giving away a critique.  This is such a great opportunity!  They are all published authors, accomplished teachers and fabulous bloggers.  So run on over there and enter!

And then today I was doing my blog rounds and discovered that author Heather Ayris Burnell is also giving away a picture book critique!  So go enter her contest as well! 

Good feedback is worth its weight in gold!

The Enthusiasm Storm

I have a very hard time weathering the enthusiasm storm.  When I write something, I usually get really excited around draft two or three.  I think my story is fun, exciting, fresh, different, brilliant!  Ready to be published!  Of course, I'm wrong.  But it takes a great amount of will power and patience to not just shuttle that little baby manuscript off to agents and publishers right that very moment!

I have learned that I need to step back.  Let the words rest.  Get my critiques in from my groups.  Revise, revise, polish, revise.  Do my agent/publisher research.  Then revise and polish again.

Even after all that, I have regretted submitting the occasional manuscript too soon.  The magical "it's ready" is a very elusive thing.  Spotting it is not a skill I've mastered yet.  But I'm making progress.  How about you?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May in Indianapolis

I am a proud and loyal Hoosier (someone who lives in Indiana).  I was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I love it, love it, love it.  I've gone on and on about the awesomeness of my hometown on here before (see here). 

But now, it is May.  May 2011. 

The 100th Anniversary of The Greatest Specticle in Racing...The Indianapolis 500!

This city knows how to celebrate May.  I just tried typing out all the events, but I couldn't.  I can never remember them all and a mere listing does not do them justice.  There are celebrations, parties, athletic events, fashion shows, awards dinners, festivals, autograph sessions, exhibitions, photo ops, a parade, practice sessions, qualifications, and on and on and on.  Anyone who has ever attended the actual race has been astounded by the scale, the traditions, and the whole experience.

So today, for a little writing motivation, I invite you to think of a major event.  Maybe it is something in your personal life.  Perhaps something the whole world remembers.  But pick one, and write.  Sometimes you'll find a smaller story within a huge one that will spark your interest.  I see hundreds of them each May in Indianapolis.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Here's to Health

It has been a long winter.  A winter of sniffling, sneezing, headachy, sore throat, runny nose madness.  In my family, it has also been a winter punctuated by death in the family, the serious illness of friends and children of friends, and even the death of a friend's child.

The old phrase, "at least you have your health" has never meant more to me.  To be healthy (or even moderately so) is a luxury.  It allows us to get on with the other business of living and growing.  Each spring and fall I slip into a fog of allergies.  But this year, even though the pollen counts are through the roof, I simply don't mind as much.  I'm not going to let them stop me from getting out, having fun, and living life.

So my words of encouragement for to today are simply this: Enjoy your health when you have it.  And hug your kids a little tighter today and be thankful for their health too.  If you aren't healthy, or are struggling with the illness/injury of a loved one, hold on.  You aren't alone.  *Hugs*

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Personal Rejection

Last week I got my first really personalized rejection letter.  It was wonderful!  To actually have some real feedback on my work from an industry professional is priceless!  Of course, none of it was stuff I wanted to hear, necessarily, but you have to count all victories in this process.

How do you react to feedback?  At first, I was very defensive.  I would think, "well they just aren't reading it right" or "they obviously don't get it."  Slowly I realized, if my beta readers aren't getting it...what makes me think the rest of the world will?  It is so difficult to take constructive criticism when you are starting out.  I've gotten much better about it as my journey has continued.

Now, I crave feedback.  Even if it is stuff I don't want to hear.  Because I want to get better.  I want to learn how to communicate effectively with my readers both young and old.  I want to write something that an illustrator will love to get their hands on and a publisher can't wait to publish.  I want to spark imagination!  And I can't do that unless I learn.  So bring it on, personal rejection!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sympathy for the Sick Mom

Inspired by my 48 hour knock-out via strep throat last week:

An Acrostic Poem for the Sick Mom

Still trying to correct, clean and manage
Utterly exhausted, sore and hurting
Putting one foot in front of the other
Even while the body objects
Ready for action - just slower, quieter

Manipulating schedules to prevent spreading disease
Offering microwaved meals and lots of TV time
Medicine to the rescue!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Being Picky

As my writing has become more a part of my everyday life (and less a brand-new-super-exciting-new-hobby), I find I'm having to make choices.  Like every other part of my everyday life, I have to balance it along with everything else I do.  As many of you have seen, I have three little boys (8, 5, and 3).  I also have a husband that I LOVE spending time with, a full time job, two schools that I volunteer at, a church that I also volunteer at (and sit on the council), and all of the regular things that go along with home and family. 

Consequently, I'm finding that  I simply can not maintain the level of involvement that I started out with for writing and writing-related activities.  What on earth was taking all my time?  This blog, Twitter, reading and replying on MANY blogs, two critique groups, writing, revising, submitting, live chats, online conferences, and I even did an online webinar.  Whew!

Obviously I'm not going to cut out the writing, revising and submitting.  I would like to maintain this blog and my Twitter account (where I find TONS of useful writing info and news).  I have several blogs that I read religiously and my critique groups are essential.  And the other stuff is helping me learn about writing and improving my writing.  So, what am I cutting out?  Frequency of reading and commenting on blogs.  Some of you may have already noticed me coming around less often.  This doesn't mean I won't be reading - I just may be a week late sometimes.  This doesn't mean I'll go silent.  I just won't comment as much. 

So, don't give up on me or think I'm ignoring you!  Keep up all the awesome work, everyone!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Megan Vs. The Blank Page

Shortly after I started trying to educate myself about writing picture books, I ran into a huge problem.  I couldn't start a story.  I had too much information floating around in my head.  Every time I would start a sentence, I would think of twelve rules I was breaking.  I knew I'd have to go back and fix it, so I just erased it and started again.  And again.  And again.

It was WAY frustrating.

Then I came to the realization that re-writes were part of the process.  I just needed a starting point.  So, the writers block was lifted and I churned out some truly awful first drafts and then started my re-write dance.  I'm averaging about 9 major re-writes per manuscript at this point.  I don't even know how many if you count the little "polish" re-writes too.

But now I'm facing a new problem.  My initial well of ideas is drying up.  It has been almost a full year since I started writing with my head full of story ideas.  For the first time, I'm experiencing an idea drought.  What to do?

Well, I'm still writing.  I'm doing those re-writes, blogging, jotting down snippets and starts.  I'm going back through journals, my PiBiIdMo notebook, and my picture book log book.  I'm trying to look at the world with a writer's mind.  I'm being hyper-observant around kids.

My block will go away at some point.  I'm confident.  I just can't give up, and neither can you!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Who Are You Writing For?

Since I starting this whole "I'm a writer" phase of my life, I've contemplated the above question.  Am I writing for myself?  To give myself an identity, a hobby, an outlet?  To have my moment to connect to the world?  To be a part of a larger writing community and make friends outside my little immediate world?

Or am I doing it for my children?  To leave them a piece of myself to pass down to their children?  To show them it's okay to follow a dream?  To instill a love of reading and writing in them?  To give them a happy and fulfilled mother?

Or for other children?  To share a story?  Touch a life?  Entertain? 

I think the answer is all of the above.  Yes to each question.  I'm doing it for each of those reasons.  Some of them are terribly selfish.  Some of them are hopelessly idealistic.  Realistic and unrealistic.  And I love each and every reason.  They are all me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Going Thoreau - Who's with me?


I going to do it.  I am.  One day I’m going to snap and go all Henry David Thoreau.  I will abandon all my possessions, build a cabin in the woods and have one chair made of tree limbs one pot to cook in and a bed of leaves.  That’s it.

Think of the bliss!  The freedom!  I won’t step on a Lego or a Hot Wheel ever again.  I won’t have my soul crushed by laundry.  I won’t want to crawl in a hole when I see a stack of paper two feet high on my kitchen table.  I won’t have to deal with repair men for broken appliances or plumbers for clogged pipes.  I won’t spend an afternoon cleaning out a closet when all I wanted was a tote bag which is buried under every shoe, hat, and shin guard in the free world.  I won’t make piles of “give-away,” “garage sale,” “attic,” and “trash.”  I won’t buy more stuff to organize the stuff I already have.  I won’t be embarrassed that my children say, “I already have this” at a birthday party or Christmas.  I won’t bump my hip on the corner of a shelf and break 20 things as they cascade to the floor.  I won’t marvel at the quantity of garbage and recycling we produce in a week.  I won’t long for a bigger house because ours feels too crowded.  

As soon as I figure out how to prevent a fit of sneezing and itchy eyes each time I get a whiff of Mother Nature, I’m totally building that cabin in the woods.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I'm back with a weekend recommendation

Hey everybody!  I'm diving back into life online after a lovely hiatus with my family.  It was wonderful to ignore the computer for a full week.  In fact, I'll probably do that periodically through the summer because it really is therapeutic.

I thought I'd jump back in with my weekend recommendation.  And I'm going to recommend a book that would be a great Easter gift or an excellent "Welcome Spring" read.  It is If You're Hoppy by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic.  This is a wonderfully bouncy and cheerful play on the children's song "If you're happy and you know it."  It goes through various animals and how they move and is perfectly fun to read aloud.

I'll be back to my regular postings this week and I'll be making the rounds to everyone else's blogs too, so I'll talk to you all soon! 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Auction Item!

I just got word from Rach that my auction item is slated to go live tomorrow (Friday) in the afternoon.  Mine will be the 5th item of the day.  It will remain open for bids for 72 hours.

I don't want to give away what I've put up for bid, but you can guess it involves picture books!  And I've opened mine up to international bids.  I'll ship it anywhere!

If you haven't been over there already, I suggest you do!  There are awesome things going up every hour for 7 hours each day.  Pop on over to Write Hope and check it out!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Takin' Care of Business

I am officially waving the white flag.  I surrender!  Life and work have become so busy, I think I'm going to have to take a brief blogcation.  I will try to post the occasional snippet, but for the most part I'm going to have to take the next week and a half off.  My "real" job is in the busy season (did you know regulatory filings had a busy season?) and my children are going to be on Spring Break next week.  So, I'm going to have to focus on my physical world at the expense of my virtual one.

I encourage you all to continue watching the Write Hope page as the auctions go live every day this week.  There is one coming up from me at some point!

I'll try to pop in to other blogs as time allows, but please forgive my silence when I'm absent.

I'll make it my goal to be back on my regular posting schedule the week of April 4th.  I appreciate you hanging in there with me!

Megan

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekend (er...Monday) Recommendation

So, I'm a giant slacker.  I read this book last week and was all excited to put it up for my weekend recommendation and then I blinked and it was Monday.  How does that happen?!

Well, if you'll forgive the lateness, I have a great picture book to recommend to you.  It is Clancy & Millie and the Very Fine House by Libby Gleeson and illustrated by Freya Blackwood.  Apparently this book has made it to my library shelf all the way from Australia, and with good reason.  It is an adorable book of friendship and comfort, new places and change.  It is always difficult to pinpoint why something touches your heart, but this book really got me.  I think it is a perfect example of when each and every word and picture are perfectly chosen to create feeling and emotion. 

Track this one down!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Write Hope

Overwhelmed.  That is the general feeling out there when it comes to the tragedy in Japan.  Everytime I'm faced with an image of the devestation, my heart is heavy and my mind is spinning.  How can a people and a nation face disaster of such astounding scale?  Too often in the past few years this has come up.  And we are often faced with the question - how can we help?

Some of my amazing blogger friends have decided to get active about it.  Marieke, Rach and Luna have put together a blog called "Write Hope" and they are going to be putting on an auction to benefit Save the Children's emergency relief fund.

Do me a favor and pop on over there.  They are in the process now of collecting donations and organizing the auction.  If you can contribute in any way, please consider it.  It is a great opportunity to come together as a writing community and put something positive out into the world.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Where are you inspired?

My writing time has been very hard to come by lately.  So, when I get a little bit (even a smidgen - I really love that word) I feel like I need to make the most of it.

95% of the the time I have no choice about where I write.  My children determine it for me.  I write in the living room during a video.  I write in their bedrooms while they play around and over me.  I write in the car waiting to pick them up.  I write during sports practices, during Sunday school, and in doctors office waiting rooms.  But there is a magical 5% of the time when I get to pick where I write.  On the few occasions when all three are in school and I'm not participating in anyone's classroom, it is all up to me!

And I have discovered that I can not write in silence.  It is just too foreign to me and my lifestyle to have quiet.  I find it horribly distracting.  So, my new favorite spot to write is a bagel/coffee shop.  It is sufficiently noisy, I can have a whole table to spread stuff out and - bonus - I can eat a bagel there too!  Yum!  : )

Monday, March 14, 2011

Still Time!

Last week's "My Favorite Picture Book" blogfest was a great success thanks to all you fine people!  I've had a few people join late and a few post over the weekend, so I wanted to just encourage you to keep checking them out.  There are a lot of great stories about fabulous books out there!  I've got quite a list for my next library run!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"My Favorite Picture Book" Blogfest!

The day has come!  The time is now!  My first blogfest is upon us!

I've had a great group of people sign up to bravely blog about their favorite picture book.  Brave, you ask?  Yes, brave.  Because I think it takes a certain amount of self-reflection (which is always kind of scary) to narrow down your favorite anything.  In fact, I admitted to Shannon O'Donnell over at Book Dreaming, that I had not managed to narrow down my choice and I'm the one who thought of this crazy idea!

And here it is Wednesday (as I write) and I'm still debating what to label as my "Favorite."  The picture book that re-ignited my love of picture books when I started writing ("Bridget's Beret")?  The picture books I love reading out loud to my children ("Bear Snores On" and "Llama Llama Red Pajama")?  The picture book that touched my heart as a family member was dying ("City Dog, Country Frog")?  The first picture book I could read all by myself and proudly brought to kindergarten to show off  ("Go, Dog, Go")?

While all of those would be good choices, I decided to go with the picture book that stands out in my mind as my "favorite" when I was a kid.  In fact, when I found out I was pregnant with my first child, one of the first things I did was buy this book on eBay (because it is out of print).  It is "Popcorn", written and illustrated by Frank Asch.  This is probably not one of Mr. Asch's more well known books.  It is one of his bear books like "Milk & Cookies" and "Bread & Honey."  But "Popcorn" captured my imagination as a child.  It combined three of my favorite things as a kid.  Halloween and popcorn and mail! I've referred to the Parents Magazine Press book club before, and this book came in the mail for me one day when I was little.  Instant love!

In the story, Sam Bear invites friends over for a Halloween party when his parents go out and asks everyone to bring something for the party.  Everyone turns up in fun costumes and with popcorn.  When they decide to pop all of the popcorn, it fills the entire house.  I'm not sure why, but this appeals to my need for coziness.  Doesn't it sound cozy to be surrounded by popcorn?  All snug like a package being mailed?  No?  Just me?  Anyway, they have to eat their way out of the mess before Mom and Dad get home.  When they get back, Sam is in bed and they've brought him some popcorn for taking good care of the house!

Something I find interesting as an adult, is that this is basically a John Hughes-type plot.  Mom & Dad are out of the house, so a big party is thrown and gets out of control.  Very high school-ish.  Even though I never did this (I wasn't exactly a rebel), when I was small the idea of it delighted me.  There is something very liberating about reading a story where the "kid" does something independent of their parents and basically gets away with it.  The brilliance of this book is that even though Sam's parents don't catch him, he still learns his lesson because he and all of his friends have stomach aches and regret.  And then it is rubbed in when his "treat" is just more popcorn from his unsuspecting parents.  Or did they know all along?  : )

Now go read about other favorite picture books!

Monday, March 7, 2011

WriteOnCon Scheduled!

Please take note of my fun new widget on the sidebar!  It is counting down to one of the most helpful (and super fun) resources I have found for writing.  WriteOnCon!  It is a totally free and completely online writing conference complete with chats, presentations, forums and a huge helping of helpfulness.  So, everyone mark your calendars for August 16-18!  I'll see you all there!

Oh, and here's the link to it!!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Weekend Recommendation

Happy weekend, everybody!  Boy, I was really looking forward to the weekend.  It's been a long week.

I did get myself to the library this week though and that always makes me happy.  I had read everything on the "New Picture Book" shelf, so I went exploring in the general PB stacks.  I picked up a book from Barefoot Books simply because they are a publishing house I've enjoyed on Twitter and I love their overall philosophy (check out their website).  So, I was overjoyed to find a book that I just love.  It was I Took The Moon For A Walk by Carolyn Curtis and illustrated by Alison Jay.  This book is charming and a well-done rhyme (which is very rare, I find).  It would make a great bedtime book and the art is just dreamy.  Check it out!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Inspiration from a lesson...but not

One of the first things you hear when you are setting out to write a picture book is, "Don't try to teach a lesson."  Kids see through it quickly and don't want it.  After all, as picture book writers, we are trying to instill a love of books and kids won't be eager to embrace another source of "do this, not that" in their lives.  I certainly don't read fiction to get a lesson out of it.  And kids aren't any different.

However, I've come to find this advice rather deceiving.  When you pick up just about any picture book, you can derive some lesson from it.  There are lessons about friendship, environmental respect, history, the nature of love, what to expect on the first day of kindergarten, what it means to be a big sister, and on and on and on.  Picture books are little introductions to the world.

So, what gives?  I think I have an idea.  Yesterday I tried to sit down and write a book with a lesson (it was an experiment in writing something for my church).  And it turned out SUPER BORING!  Not a little boring - like sitting around waiting for an oil change.  But mega boring - like listening to someone dictate binary code for hours.  I think the problem lies in the intent.  When I purposfully try to weave a lesson into my writing, it is obvious, forced and preachy.  When I try to tell a fun story, it is a fun story - lesson or not.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Read Across America Inspiration!

Remember when I posted about those amazing young authors who won the MrsP.com "Be A Famous Writer" contest?  No?  Click here.  Yes?  Read on!

Well, in celebration of Read Across America, MrsP.com is making a video of the winning stories available for free download on iTunes today! Mountain Dog, written by Briana Beebe, 8, from Colorado, and Lucky the Bamboo Chopper, by Bill Wang, 12, of Oregon, are read by Mrs. P (TV star Kathy Kinney).  

As a side note, Mrs. P is visiting Bill Wang today at his school to read his story to a school assembly today!  How fun is that?!  And Briana is being honored at her school as a "featured author" today too.

I'm on my way to go download my copy and I hope you'll do the same.  Supporting new authors is a vital part of the writing community, no matter the author's age!  What a fabulous celebration of Read Across America! 

Super-Snooper Blogfest

Here is my entry.  The goal is to convey a character by just describing their possessions or setting.  Since I write picture books, I'm trying to write up something that would help me in developing a child main character.  It is not in a format that I would actual put in a picture book, it is more a character study for myself to frame my writing.  Be sure to check out the other entries today too!

At first glance, the room seemed to be littered with garbage: empty tissue boxes, cardboard paper towel rolls, balled up paper, packing materials, electronic components that had been torn from their casings, torn wrapping paper, hardened Play-Doh, boxes of crackers and cereals whose contents had been eaten long ago.  But if you looked closer, the trash had been modified - cut, colored, attached and propped up into structures.  There was thought and purpose present here.  The tools for these creations were simple - children's safety scissors, rolls and rolls of tape, crayons, a small screwdriver, and "blueprints" drawn crudely on blue construction paper.  Traditional toys like action figures, cars and board games took up a small space in the corner.  The majority of the space was devoted to construction.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Vent

When tempers flare
and strangers stare
You’ll get through it

When outfits clash
and the car is trash
You’ll get through it

When the flu sets in
and you’re snowed in again
You’ll get through it

When bedtime’s a fight
and nothing’s going right
You’ll get through it

When the new toy breaks
and no one eats what you make
You’ll get through it

When the house is a pit
and you just want to sit
You’ll get through it

Find a sympathetic ear
my blog is always open here
We’ll get through it

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I am a writer.

Tuesday night I finally got back to writing.  I hadn't done any writing (other than blog posts) since my Grandmother passed away two weeks ago.  I wasn't avoiding it on purpose.  There was just too much to do, too much to feel, too much to think about, too much to figure out.  I simply did not have the time or energy or creative spark necessary to tackle writing.

But last night I opened up a Word document, gave myself a writing exercise to do, and wrote.  I started and stopped about 10 times.  It was really awful stuff.  It was like I had forgotten how to put words together on paper.  It was stilted and abrupt and disjointed.

Then I had that magical breakthrough.  I'm sure many of you know it.  That wonderful relief when the words start to flow, the ideas click and the easy joy of writing takes over.

And I felt my brain sigh with relief.  Even though my writing had absolutely nothing to do with my Grandmother, my emotions, what I've been dealing with, or anything remotely close to it - it was therapy.  In that moment I wasn't worried about being published or proper comma placement.  I was just able to be me again.  I was in my comfort zone.  I was happy.

That is when I knew...I am a writer.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Puzzling Parenting Surprises

My five year old son is surprising.  He routinely catches me off guard with the things he does and says.  Today was the perfect example.

In the morning we did a jigsaw puzzle that I thought was way too hard for him.  I barely had to help him at all.

While we were playing Monopoly, he had to pay my eight year old rent on a property.  The eight year old started bragging and the five year old replied with, "I don't care, I don't care, I can see your underwear."  Which caused a good five minutes of hysterical laughter from all at the table.

At lunch we had to leave a playground early because the three year old put too much food in his mouth at once and puked (this is a totally normal occurrence).  I was sure the five year old would have fit about having to leave, but he just grabbed his coat and got in the car with no complaint.

In the afternoon, the five year old built a tower out of blocks and wanted a specific block to top it off.  The three year old had the block and would not surrender it.  My eyes about popped out of my head when my *normally* easy-going five year old did this warrior like yell and run at the three year old in an effort to claim the block.

And at dinner I told the eight year old he needed a shower before bed to which he replied, "I love showers."  The five year old came back with, "yeah, showers are like your girlfriend."  Once again, a good five minutes of laughter ensued. 

I often wonder where this kid came from.  He, even more than my other two, surprises me in (mostly) good ways.  He is an ever changing target and he really keeps me on my parenting toes.  It makes life fun and interesting to be surprised by your children.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Weekend Recommendation

Happy Saturday everyone!

For the new folks, this is my mostly regular feature "Weekend Recommendation."  It is purely a I-think-you-might-enjoy-this-book type of thing.  It is not a review of a book and I'm not being compensated in any way to recommend these books.  When I get around to it, I periodically go back and add them into the "Weekend Recommendation" button at the top of the page for easy reference.  That way, if you are ever looking for a gift or standing at the library wondering what to get, you have a ready-made list of fabulous picture books to choose from.

So, on to my recommendation already!  This week I'm suggesting a book that came out in 2008.  It is A Couple of Boys Have The Best Week Ever, written and illustrated by Marla Frazee.  The characterization of the grandparents in this book cracked me up.  To me, it pointed out the need to have great personality shine through in all of your characters (even the secondary ones).  Pick it up and have a laugh!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Inspiration Elsewhere #2 & An Award

One of my favorite blogs (Thing 1 and Thing 2) had a guest post yesterday from Aaron Zenz about where his inspiration came from for his latest picture book.  Great story!  And it looks like a fabulous book!  Click here and check it out!



And I want to thank Heather Hellmann at Pen, Paper, Lots of Coffee for the Stylish Blogger Award!  I'll have to fulfill the requirements of passing it on and sharing 7 things about myself  next week.  But I didn't want to wait any longer to tell her thank you!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"My Favorite Picture Book" Blogfest!!





So, I'm a picture book person.  I not only love writing them, I LOVE reading them.  For many of us, picture books started our love of reading.  They ignited our imaginations, they opened up new worlds both real and not-so-realish, they encouraged, they empowered, they comforted, they became a part of us. 


In celebration of this unique art form that combines two art forms (writing and illustrating), I wanted to host a blogfest!  On Thursday, March 10th - three weeks from today - I challenge you to blog about your favorite picture book.  It can be what your favorite was as a child or what your favorite is as a parent, as a writer, as a teacher.  Tell us about it!  What made (or makes) you love it?  Tell us in two sentences or fifteen paragraphs.  Be creative or plain.  Just celebrate picture books with me!  Sign up in the widget below, grab my sad attempt at a button above, post on March 10th, and enjoy reading all the other posts as well!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Inspiration elsewhere

As part of my inspiration-based blog initiative, I like to find posts about inspiration elsewhere and share.  And one of my new Crusader buddies posted about inspiration today!  So, run on over to Craft Junkie, Kerri, and check it out!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ha! I'm magical!

Okay, I'd been working on that all day and then I posted that last post and they all came back.  I am magical.  You can all tremble in awe at my power now.  I'll wait.

Not Funny!

Okay, when I go to my Blogger dashboard, it says I'm not following anyone and I don't get the little updates at the bottom of my screen.  I am very unamused.  I'm following a bunch of people and I don't want to reconstruct it!  If I've disappeared from your follower list, I'm working on it!!  *punches computer and does traditional bring-back-my-blogs dance*

Monday, February 14, 2011

Kid-joy shines through

Good morning everyone!

After taking a week off for family reasons, I'm back!  I'm sure it will be a few days before I've caught up on everything, but I'll be digging in whenever I have a spare moment.  I miss my online friends!

Many of you probably guessed, I took the time off due to a death in the family.  I don't want to get into it much here, but please know I've appreciated all of your concern, virtual hugs and real prayers.  You all rock and I'm doing fine.  Sad, of course, but also thankful and joyful.

Joyful?  Well, yes.  I have many faith-based reasons to be joyful, but I wanted to talk about the joy that comes from my kids.  As a parent, I think we often become immune to our kid's joy.  We're used to it.  We see it all the time.  And often it manifests itself in annoying behavior (jumping from room to room, giggling loudly when you are on the phone, inability to sit still during dinner) so we overlook it.

But this past week, I payed more attention and drew strength and my own joy from my children's exuberance.  For kids, emotion lives in the moment.  If they are immediately faced with a sad situation, they are sad.  But, they move on quickly.  Funeral home...not fun.  But cookies in the "family" room?  Fun!  Grown-ups standing around talking quietly...not fun.  But rows of chairs to run up and down and count over and over again?  Fun!  A long procession of somber people into a building at a cemetery...not fun...but oldest said, "hey, it's a funeral conga line!"...so, I guess it was fun!

While some of these may seem inappropriate to you, I know the person we were celebrating would have loved it.

And to kids, nothing is inappropriate yet.  We impose those standards on one another as we grow up.  There is nothing wrong with living in the immediate "now."  As parents, we can draw inspiration from our kids joy - no matter what form it takes.  And as writers, we can remember this kind of kid-centric view of the world.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I'll be MIA for a bit

Due to a family issue, I'll be away from the internet until next week.  Please don't think I'm ignoring all you wonderful new Crusaders who are stopping by!  I'll come around to your blogs next week.  I will most likely be silent on Twitter and my critique boards as well, so I didn't want people to worry about me!  Talk with you all soon!

Megan

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

An award!

Last week the delightful Carole Anne Carr gave me the "Life is Good" award.  First, I have to tell you to venture on over to Carole's blog.  Carole is a simply lovely lady.  She is always encouraging, very responsive to her followers, and a full time writer to boot!  I get a lot of smiles from her blog.



The "requirements" of this award are linking to the giver (um, yeah, see above), telling something about myself and passing it on.

So, something about me.  I think I'll address my overly sunny online persona since it is the "Life is Good" award.  I've devoted my blog to trying to lift up spirits and inspire others.  Am I this happy and upbeat in my "real" life?  Well, yes and no.  I try to be this person everyday.  I believe wholeheartedly in the goodness of life and people.  I am blessed a million times over and I try to remember that.  For every bad horrible thing in life, there is an awesome beautiful thing and why not focus on the latter?

I get down.  I have horrible days.  I have awful stuff happen.  I scream at my kids sometimes when I should be patient.  I have pity parties for myself when things don't go my way.  I actually get stress-induced hives when I don't deal with stress in a good way.

But online, I can be the best part of me.  I can be optimistic.  I can be a cheerleader.  I can be helpful and happy and enthusiastic.

It comes down to this.  Shortly after I had my second son I was having a conversation with someone about bringing children into a world where there is so much evil and so many problems.  I said, "the only way the world will get better is if good people raise children to be good people."  The more good we put out into the world, the better.  And that is what I try to do with my writing online and in picture book form.

So, I'm passing this award to a couple folks I think understand the "Life is Good" philosophy.

Julie at Write Up My Life
Susanna at Susanna Leonard Hill

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I've Joined the Crusade Again!

You may remember last year when I participated in Rachael Harrie's "Writers' Platform Building Crusade."  It was so much fun and so helpful, that I've taken up the banner again for her second crusade!

Rachael had the brilliant idea of getting writers to support each other's blogging efforts.  Last time, 55 writers signed up and we participated in challenges, promoted each other's blogs, visited those blogs, commented on those blogs, and many of us became friends.  I admit I wasn't as good about checking out blogs toward the end of the crusade, but I got a little overwhelmed.  This year Rachael has thought of that and will breaking people into smaller groups (although large group participation is encouraged as well).  But this time, if you want to get to know more picture book writers, you can be in a picture book group.  Or YA writers in a YA group and so on.

But before I get carried away, you have to sign up!  If you are a blogger/writer, consider joining this great "pay it forward" movement.

Click here and check it out!  C'mon!  All the cool kids are doing it.  And me too!  Ha!

(My "Weekend Recommendation" will be back next weekend!)

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Blogfest!

There are many blogfests going around these days.  For those of you who don't know, a blogfest is when people sign up and blog about a specific topic on a set day.  Then people can go down the list and read entries that day.  I've only participated in one so far (I think).  But my friend Alison Stevens has a great one coming up that I signed up for immediately.  It is called the Super-Snooped Blogfest and it will be March 2nd.

This one really caught my eye because I think it is an excellent writing exercise for any genre.  The idea is to write about a character's possessions and setting in order to give the reader insight to the character.  Isn't that great?  What a fun way to explore your character!  And the best part is, I think it will work nicely for any character of any age.  So picture book people, sign up!  MG/YA people, sign up!  Adult writers, sign up!  It will be great fun!

Click here to go to Alison's blog and sign up!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Inspiration from each other

When I started writing I knew to take inspiration from the "little things" and from kids and from the funny things my children say and the look of a sunset and my personal experiences and memories and so on.  I was most shocked to find another vast source of inspiration though.  Other writers.

Now, I'm not talking about plagiarism here.  I'm talking about the wonderfully generous and friendly community of writers and the information they routinely share.  Thanks to blogs and Twitter, I have a vast and ever-expanding network of writer friends.  I read an astonishing number of blogs in a week.  I don't comment on a huge number of them, but I read a lot.  Writers are just so willing to share tidbits about writing, the publishing industry, agents, their own journey, and a million other things.  I also use Twitter pretty regularly.   Twitter lets me chat with many of these blog authors, leads me to other blogs and articles of interest, and gives me a place to vent my random thoughts.

But what do I really get from this glut of information and socialization?  Inspiration.  I'm inspired to keep writing when I know I have this community to support me and ask how I'm coming along.  I find little nuggets that inspire entire stories in a phrase someone uses or a writing exercise someone recommends.  I get loads of inspiration from all my critique buddies who give so generously of their time to comment on my work.  Inspiration abounds in a community made up of creative and persistent people!  If you are looking to find some of these great blogs and great folks, check out my tab at the top of blogs to check out.

And a little plug for one of the people that inspires me...

My good friend, Christie Wild, is having a contest you will want to check out.  She is celebrating her "bloggiversary" with a fantastic giveaway.  She is giving away some critiques!  I can vouch for the fact that she gives very thoughtful, insightful, and helpful (not to mention inspiring) critiques.  You will love to have her input on your manuscript.  So click on over and check it out!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

We interrupt this blog for...ice

I'm shuttering the ol' blog for the next few days due to the ice storm.  We are expecting that we'll probably lose power some time in the next 12 hours, so I'm not taking time to type anything up.  We're hunkering down!  Our power lines are already a foot lower than normal and we haven't had the "bad" part of the storm yet.  So, stay safe everyone, as we will here.  Catch ya on the flip side!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekend Recommendation

I'm going to recommend a classic today.  Usually, as picture book writers, we are told to go see what is current and selling now.  Get a feel for today's market.  This is excellent advice, but it is important to educate yourself on the "classics" as well.  I am woefully uneducated when it comes to picture book classics.  I don't know why.  I've been an avid picture book reader my whole life.  But for some reason, I've just never picked up many "classics."

So, this week I went to the Caldecott section of our children's room at the library.  The very first one I picked up was such a beautiful story, I have to recommend it.  It is The Little House, written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton, copyright 1942.  This book is one of those timeless classics.  I have been a long time fan of her book Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, but I had never even seen this one.  Pick it up!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Rejection Reflection

There are a lot of blog posts and writer-ly sites that address rejection.  It is a prevalent part of the life of a writer-wishing-to-be-published.  And since we all face the rejection demon together, we bolster one another.  We pat backs, we reassure, we encourage, we explain.  Some of us are devastated by rejection.  Others take it in stride.  Most of us fall some where in the middle of that.

So here's my current take on rejection:
In high school I got bitten by the theater bug.  I wanted to act!  I'm a naturally shy and introverted person, so this was a strange thing for me to want, but that didn't stop me.  I bravely auditioned.  The director told me I should take theater class if I really wanted to act.  So I signed up to work props and signed up for class.  Then I auditioned.  I got a three line role!  Yippee!  Then I auditioned.  I ended up working props again.  I took another class.  I auditioned.  I got a slightly bigger role.  I kept taking classes.  I kept auditioning.  I kept getting three line roles or slightly bigger.  For the last show my senior year I auditioned.  I got a three line role that the director was going to write in.  I quit.

I walked away from that show and that director (same guy the whole time) and I got myself a nice big ball of bitter to carry around for years.  I spent my whole high school career getting rejected on some level at something I loved and wanted so badly to do.

In college, theater life got way better.  I was asked to be a theater major (they asked everyone who showed an interest, mind you).  I got great supporting roles.  I got some lead roles.  I had a blast.  But still I carried my bitter ball with me.  A bunch of "I knew I could do this!  Why didn't he see it in high school!" floated around in my head.

As I've started writing and getting rejected, I've had a catharsis.  I was not my high school director's cup of tea.  I simply wasn't.  Who knows why.  If I had other options (directors) available to me, I could have moved on and probably found one who liked my style.  In college I found that director.  She loved me.  Who knows why.

Theater is subjective.  Writing is subjective.  And in writing, we have a million places to present our work and a million stories to tell in order to showcase it.  It is a matter of finding the right match.  The right agent or publisher with the right story at the right time written in the right way.  I'm not in high school anymore with only one person to judge my talent and only one place to try to improve it.  I've got the whole world of publishing available to me and countless classes, conferences, workshops, books and mentors to help me improve.  Rejection is simply a statement of "this isn't the right match."  It is not "you stink," "your ideas are useless," or "just who do you think you are trying to be a writer."  Keep trying, keep growing, keep improving.  You'll find the right match if you do.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Month of Poetry Update

Happy Tuesday!

When I started the "Month of Poetry" I had the best intentions.  Well, I've totally failed at actually doing a poem a day.  I think I did the first 10 days and I'll be doing the last 10, but I flaked in the middle there.  Life at work and with family issues just got to be too much and my poetry motivation left me.  I'm happy to have it back though and I thought I'd share a few of my poems, if you promise not to laugh.  Remember this is for practice and (for me) overcoming the fear of poetry.  There are no points for brilliant structure!

Some people wanted to see some of my poems, so I'm posting some of my parent related ones here on parent-motivation day.  Enjoy (I hope)!


Waking up
The morning dawns
As rain’s rhythm sings to me
Rolling over
Finding comfort
In the sweetness of delay
Voices float
To my cocoon
Insistent on attention
Cold floor
Heavy eyes
“Good morning, Mom”
Mom
Mom


Games
Please don’t make me play that game
I’m sick of all this fun

I’m going to hide that gosh darn thing
Does it have to be this one?

We have a closet full of games
Just pick something new

I guess I’ll bite my tongue because
I’m spending time with you


Feed Me
What's for breakfast?
What's for lunch?
We are a hungry, rowdy bunch!

Can I have cookies?
Or candy?  Or junk?
Any plans for healthy food are sunk.

I found a jellybean
and a Cheerio, I think
Into my mouth before you can blink

We are scavengers,
the three Bickel boys
We are like vultures...with much more noise!


Cleaning
Happily I clean the family room
and move on to the next
I cheerfully attack the kitchen
and move on to the next
Contentedly tackle the playroom
and move on to the next
Go back to rest in the family room
all my work has fallen victim to my children
grumpily move on to the next



Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekend Recommendation

Hey there everyone!  I hope you are all having a good weekend.  It's nothing but sick kids and frigid wind chills around these parts, but it is still a nice weekend of family time.  In fact, it was so nice, I nearly forgot to write my weekend recommendation!  This weekend I'm in a mellow slice-of-life kind of mood, so I'm going to recommend Our Corner Grocery Store by Laura Beingessner and illustrated by Joanne Schwartz.  This is a perfectly told day-in-the-life story which is something I just can't do yet.  I love the feel of the book and taking a peek at a world I wouldn't otherwise get to see.  This one was published in 2009, so it isn't a new one, but it is new to me.  Worth a glance!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trilogy Contest

Good contest alert!!  I wanted to direct you to a contest that I think is wonderful for all you writer-types.  Click here to see how Tessa, Rach & Marieke have teamed up to bring you the Trilogy Contest.  I've followed them all for a while (although for some reason I had to re-follow Marieke today?!) and they are awesome ladies with a lot of talent and passion for writing.  I'd say it's worth a gander!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winners!

Well, Alex the cat was much more agreeable to stepping on papers (I threw his mouse toy across the room so he'd run after it and hit papers along the way)!

The grand prize winner is Erica from Erica & Christy! 

The two runner up winners of a pin are Corey Schwartz & Joanna St. James!

Congratulations ladies!  And thank you all for playing!  Winners e-mail me your mailing addresses (mkbickel [at] hotmail [dot] com)!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Just When You Start To Feel Down

I love the way life works.  I love that there are "downs" that make you appreciate the "ups" and people that remind you of the "ups" when it just doesn't seem like they are coming anytime soon.

That has been the very definition of my life the past week or so.  I've been stressed and down about work and my husband has worked tirelessly to remind me of the good things my job affords us.  I've been worried about a family member and then had the good fortune to be with and laugh with my sisters this weekend.  I've been feeling blue about rejections and lack of response on a manuscript and then I had all you lovely people (and a bunch of strangers) propel me to a win on Storybird.com.  I've been wrestling with a severe bad listening epidemic in my children (worse than the normal level of not listening) and had some great moments of laughter and fun with those same monkey children.  One of my cats did something wildly disgusting (I'll spare you) but he also curls up on my lap in the evenings and calms me with his peacefulness.  My car has been in the shop for 7 days, but it means I get more time with my husband as we carpool.

Such is life.  Up and down.  Good and bad.  Frustration and fun.  I hope you all have a week that has more up than down.  And if it doesn't, allow me to be the one to remind you today that good may be just around the next corner.  So, keep your eyes and ears open.  Don't ever let the bad stuff blind you to the good.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Vote!

I'm a semi-finalist in the Storybird.com challenge this weekend!  Please head over there to read the books and vote!  You just need to go to http://www.storybird.com and create an account (if you haven't before - it's free) or sign in.  Then click "Read" in the upper left hand corner of the page.  Scroll about half way down the page and you'll see a row of books labeled "January Challenge: Imagination" and click on the "Vote for this week's finalists" blue button.  Then you can read the stories and maybe decide that mine is the best ("The Most Super Scary Ghost Story Ever").  Then you need to vote!  "Hearting" a story is not the same as voting for it.  You'll know you've actually voted because it will show you the current standings once you submit your vote.

Happy reading and voting!  : )

Friday, January 14, 2011

Inspiration Comes From Young Authors!

Sometimes it is difficult to come up with inspirational ideas for this blog.  Sometimes a big heap of inspiration falls right in my lap.  That is what happened when I found out that MrsP.com was going to be announcing the winners of their second "Be A Famous Writer" contest and they were asking for blogs and websites to announce and celebrate the winners along with them.

I jumped at the chance!

As writers, we are so often faced with a wall of doubt and obstacles to following our dreams.  But these kids can be our inspiration and example.  The came, they wrote, they won!  So, allow me to diverge from my regularly schedule posting and celebrate these awesome authors and tell you a little bit about them and the contest.

The amazing winners of this national contest are:

Briana Beebe, 8, of Centennial, Colorado, won top honors in the 4- to 8-year-old category for “Mountain Dog,” the story of a beloved pet that disappears during a family’s move to a new home.   

and

Bill Wang, 12, from West Linn, Oregon, won in the 9-13 age group for “Lucky the Bamboo Chopper,” the fable of a young panda bear who learns an important life lesson.

Congratulations Briana and Bill!  And in case being a famous writer wasn't enough, these creative and talented kids will also have their stories produced as videos on the website and will feature Mrs. P (TV star Kathy Kinney, who portrays Mrs. P and is one of the creators of the website) and original artwork by award-winning illustrator Robin E. Kaplan.  The videos will be posted on the website (www.MrsP.com) beginning in March.  Each winner will also receive an actual bound copy of the story and illustrations.  

Powell’s Books (www.Powells.com) will provide the Grand Prize winners and eight other finalists with gift certificates to its store. The stories will also be available as a free download bundle from iTunes on March 2nd in celebration of Read Across America Day. 
MrsP.com also announced that it will produce two other stories from the contest as videos for the website: “The Peanut Butter and Jelly Hotdog,” a clever and compassionate look at grade-school bullies; and “Ramona and the Fire,” a twist on “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” fable. 
The judges for this year’s contest included: #1 best-selling author Meg Cabot (“The Princess Diaries”); Jim Davis, creator of Garfield; and Danny Kallis, creator of the Disney Channel's "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" and “The Suite Life on Deck."
Now, dear readers, kids from 26 states entered this contest.  That's a lot of aspiring writers!  So, I suggest we get our pens in high gear and churn out some AMAZING stories if we expect to be able to compete with this upcoming generation.  And it wouldn't hurt to get a few things out there to maybe inspire them right back.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

100th Post Giveaway!

Believe it or not (I certainly can not), this is my 100th post!

So, in honor of this special occasion, I thought I should do a giveaway.  I have some fabulous items!  First, we have two pocket journals, suitable for notes of brilliance or grocery lists of the mundane.  Next, a metal bookmark with a Thoreau quote, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!".  A hardcover copy of It's a Book by Lane Smith, which was one of my favorite books of the year (a fabulous picture book for grown ups more than for kids).  And finally, one gold-tone pin.  Gold-tone pin?  Yes.  I have recently been given about 5 gazillion gold colored pins by my grandmother.  I don't wear pins.  I don't wear yellow not-really-gold.  So, I'm giving one away.  In fact, I'll give a gold-tone pin to two runners up as well.  If I had endless money for postage, you'd all be getting a gold-tone pin!  Lapels of my readers, beware!

So, to enter, you just have to leave a comment here and be a follower.  If you aren't a follower yet, just click that little "Follow" button over on the right sidebar.  If you want to enter but can't be a follower or leave a comment for some reason, e-mail me and let me know (my e-mail address can be found by clicking the "contact me" button at the top of the page).

Contest ends in one week, at noon on the 19th.  All comments will be printed out, folded up, tossed on my floor and whichever one my cat steps on first...wins!  Same method as my last contest, but I'll be using my other cat (just to keep things fair to the cats).  : )
 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What do you mean school is canceled?

A new-found part of my life is "Megan time."  This is a magical time that occurs when all of my children are in school at the same time and I don't have to be participating in the classroom or going to an appointment or getting into the office or running errands for someone.  It is a precious delicate thing that can be shattered by so many things.  One of the kids is sick.  Two of the kids are sick.  A mom at the preschool is sick and needs a sub.  The teacher at the preschool is sick and needs a sub.  You get the picture.

New problem today though.  Snow.  Preschool canceled.  Boo.

I love my children.  I love spending time with my children.  I really, really do.  But when you have your heart set on two blissful hours of quiet and solitude with the gleaming hope of uninterrupted writing time...well.

Oh well.  I'm sure I'll get some time to myself next week.

Did someone just cough?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Weekend Recommendation

Now that all those pesky falls-on-a-weekend holidays are over, I can get back to my weekend recommendations!

Today's is a book from a few years ago, but I just picked it up in the library this past week.  It is Duck, which was written and illustrated by Randy Cecil.  I thought this book was totally charming and I loved the illustrations.  It is a book that captures a lot of different emotions that a child could be facing and even has good emotional meaning for a parent too.  Check it out!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

When you can't write...read!

I've written before about how you can find inspiration in other books, but I want to expand on that idea today.

When I decided to pursue this whole "I'm gonna write a picture book" business, I very quickly realized that I had no idea how to write a picture book.  I mean, I could write a story.  I could write something kind of funny.  I had some nifty ideas.  I could rhyme non-sensical words in a tongue twisting manner.  But, I couldn't write a picture book.

And here's the kicker...I also didn't have the time, money or resources to get an official education in how to write.  I already made the totally impractical decision to get a degree in religious studies and theater at the tender and ignorant age of 17 and I now I've got kids and a full time job.  So, I was stuck with the reality that if I wanted to learn this stuff, I was going to have to get my butt in gear and create a personalized writing program for myself.

I'll go into the various parts of my self-teaching program as the weeks go on, but the biggest part of the Megan School For Picture Book Education and Chocolate is reading picture books.  And Chocolate (which should be obvious from the name really).

I started reading picture books galore.  I started keeping track of my picture book consumption.  In the last five months of last year, I read 146 picture books.  And that does not count the books I read to my children every night.  That is just the books that I checked out of the library or sat in a bookstore reading for my own "education."  And I think some stuff is starting to sink in!

On my sidebar you can see that I'm going to be keeping track of my book reading for the 100 books in 2011 challenge (click on the "join me" link for more info over there <---).  I'm sure I'll get way over 100, but I thought it would be fun to track on here too.  So, if you would like to join me at the MSFPBEAC (what an awesome acronym!) take Reading Picture Books 101.  You won't regret it!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Need Encouragement?

In light of my new focus on encouragement, inspiration and motivation I want to post links to posts that I find particularly encouraging, inspiring or motivating.  So, for my first recommendation, I'm going to steer you to The Teaching Author's website in general and this entry from Esther Hershenhorn.  Esther is like my author-hero because she is super awesome, super nice and super delightful.  So, go, read and be inspired to write on!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Holiday Hangover

The decorations are down...or in various states of destruction around your house.  The presents have been opened...and are in various states of destruction around your house.  The relatives have been visited, the Christmas lights appreciated, the carols sung (off-key), the traditions dutifully observed.

And now it is back to "regular" life.  Life as we live it most of the time.  BORING!

Do you have a holiday hangover, like me?  It is so hard to be enthusiastic about getting back to school and work routines with the long cold months of winter still creeping into my bones.  I don't wanna!  I don't wanna! *drops into an ape-like slump and lower lip extends in a fierce pout*

But this is supposed to be a post of inspiration!  Where's the inspiration?

For me, I'm going try to find the beauty and fun in the everyday.  Sure, holidays are super-fantastically-fun.  But the everyday of my life can be just as awe-inspiring, emotion-evoking and good-times-creating.  It is certainly not always easy to remember this, but it is true.  I dreamed my whole life of having exactly what I am blessed enough to have at this moment in my life.  So, I resolve to celebrate that reality in some small way everyday.  Whether it is taking 5 seconds at dinner time to smile at my little family gathered around or marveling at my husband or laughing with my kids over (yet another) fart joke or enjoying the softness of my cats fur or absorbing the silence of my house at 3 a.m. or patting myself on the back for the 17th revision of a picture book manuscript.  I'm going to celebrate the small things to get you through the holiday let-down.  Join me, won't you?

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year and Month of Poetry

Happy New Year, everyone!

I hope everybody enjoyed the holiday break.  I sure did!  It was heavenly to just ignore technology for a while.  I may have to do that more often!  : )

I wanted to tell you all about this great exercise I'm participating in this month.  It is Kat Apel's Month of Poetry (MoP).  The goal is to write a poem a day for the month of January.  So, we are already on day three, but if you wanted to join, you still could!  I am doing it to get my creative juices flowing again after the break and to try to curb my fear of poetry a little.  You can choose to share your poems or not on the blog Kat has set up for it.  My oldest son is participating now too!

If you are interested in finding out more, just click here.

I'll be back with my regular posting schedule tomorrow!
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