Monday, December 9, 2013

The Dark Night Before Christmas

I am throwing my stocking cap into the ring and entering a writing contest sponsored by the great, Susanna Leonard Hill.

The  The 3rd Annual Holiday Contest!!! asks us to "write a children's story about a Holiday Mishap, mix-up, miscommunication, mistake, or potential disaster" - all in 350 words or less.

I hope that you will enjoy this quiet, sentimental story of a Christmas Eve that is a bit different than usual, inspired by my own family traditions and memories of this special night.

By Cindy Williams Schrauben            
Hannah's heart is flip-flopping.
She can hardly wait!

It's Christmas Eve... the best night of the whole year
and she doesn't want it to change... ever!

At 8:00 sharp, they will plug in the tree and oooh-aaaah at the beautiful colors.

Her sister, Sammy, is making cocoa,

Momma is baking cookies

and Daddy is starting a fire.

Hannah dreams about the grand finale when she will dance and spin in the twinkly lights.

When she thinks her heart might burst with joy, the party countdown begins.

But, everything goes dark before they get to zero.

No power!

Everyone is busy now, because nothing's the same.

Hannah curls up on the floor, because her heart hurts.

Then, she hear it...

"Merry Christmas," they all yell.

Just like every other year,

they open the Christmas Eve box, first.

Everyone is excited, even though they know what's inside....

Christmas music and books,

a new ornament

and cozy new jammies.

Everyone puts them on, because it's the party's required attire.

They hang their stockings,

adorn the tree with special memories,

and place the angel, carefully, on the top.

This year, they drink cold cocoa with hard marshmallows
and eat gooey half-baked cookies.

The girls smile, because they taste pretty good that way.

But, the tree isn't sparkling and there's no music for dancing.

Just in time, Daddy shines a million flashlights on the tree and Momma starts to sing.

This performance will be different, because there are stage lights and live music.

Hannah and Sammy pliƩ and whirl, pirouette and twirl, until they collapse to the floor, because they can't move another inch.

The lights come back on, freezing everyone in their places.

Hannah turns the lights off quickly, because this dark night before Christmas is perfect.

As they snuggle up by the fire for a story, she says, "don't forget to call the power company and schedule a black-out for next year!"

And, every heart feels warm.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Keeping Up With The Jones'

Most of us following Tara Lazar's PiBoIdMo Facebook site and blog, along with the numerous other bloggers tackling the subject, are finding the inspiration invigorating.  There are some folks, however, who would describe the challenge as overwhelming. I have read numerous posts from individuals who are feeling the pressure... pressure of keeping up with Jones', as they say.  To these folks I say... "hold up! Who are you doing this for?" Not me. Not Tara. Not even the members of your critique group. PiBoIdMo is an opportunity to challenge yourself - end of story. 

PiBoIdMo is not about competition, but about inspiring one another. Does it stress you out to read that Jane Author has logged 85 ideas in November when you only have 5? Then, don't read it! Instead, move on to the next post. PiBoIdMo is FULL of ideas for digging deep and pulling those ideas out. The strategies are amazing. I marvel at the diversity of this group - a group that aspires to the same end; further evidence of the fact that we are each a unique being. 

The real beauty lies in our ability to help one another through this process. I had a bit of a lull in my PiBoIdMo journey this weekend. The motivation just wasn't there. Did I panic? Nope... the only one who needs to know is me. Well, and you now, of course. 

Instead, I gave myself permission to lay low. I read - for fun! I watched some movies! Played with the dog (see my inspiration above)! And guess what? The ideas started to flow again... along with my energy and confidence. Knocking myself out because I wasn't kicking butt in PiBoIdMo world wasn't going to help anyone. Yesterday? I had several ideas, one of which turned in to a full-blown first draft and I'm back on track. 

So, remember who you are doing this for. Whether you end up with 30 ideas or 3 - you still have new ideas to roll with, right? And who knows, maybe one of those ideas will be your big break!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Writer, Author.... Delusional Fraud? I Think Not!

I have, along with others like Michelle Benton Senters, been posting questions on the PiBoIdMo site over the past couple of days, picking the brains and souls of other writers. Some are published, some are not, but the responses have been enlightening to say the least. 

We have talked about inspiration and doubt, goal setting and believing in ourselves. One theme resonates throughout... we are a resilient bunch. What other group of individuals do you know who work tirelessly, only to be told by others that their dream is silly and fruitless? How many people do you know who set themselves up, willingly, for rejection over and over again? What strangers do you know who will, day after day, support you... encourage you.. and share their secrets to success with you - just because they can? The answer to all these questions is the same - writers, aspiring or otherwise. We are an amazing bunch. Because, at least, we believe in each other.

There are days, of course, when I question my fate in this business. I ask, "who am I to think that I can do this? There are so many people with fabulous books, just waiting to be published. Am I good enough?" After all, I only recently admitted to others, even my own family, how serious I am about this goal. I decided, finally, that putting myself out there... making it public... was all about accountability. It is much easier to step back from a goal if no one else knows about it. If you are trying to quit smoking and haven't told anyone, you won't get any strange looks when you light up - makes failure - and giving up - a lot easier. 

According to Merriam-Webster, a writer is: 1) someone whose work is to write books, poems, stories, etc. 2)someone who has written something. I have written something - so, therefore, I am a writer. They say an author is: 1) a person who has written something; especially 2) a person who has written a book or who writes many books. Done that too.

So... I'm shouting it from the rooftops. Call it a bucket list, or a life-long goal... whatever you like... I am, hereby announcing my intention to obtain a literary agent and get a children's book published before the next election. There. Done!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Roll With It

It is day ten of PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month)and we are swimming in ideas. A poll on Tara's FB site started by JackieWellington asked: "How many picture book ideas have you logged thus far?" The answers range from just a few to 30+. Impressive!
PiBoIdMo challenges us to come up with at least one picture book idea/day for the month of November. Some people lament the fact that they have great difficulty coming up with ideas. Others find them pouring in.  For me, this is not a difficult task, ideas seem to attack me from every angle; usually when I least expect it. I have pages and pages of ideas every month of the year. An idea might be as specific as a plot or problem. Others as obscure as a character name, but they are all ideas, just the same. The difficulty, for me, lies in the next steps. Now What?
Which story do I think about next? In what direction will this character take the story? Should I finish the oodles of stories I've already started or roll with one of my new ideas? I am fairly scattered when it comes to writing - I can be distracted sooo easily (look - squirrel!).
I have found that my best strategy is to let the ideas take me and not try to control them. One day, out of the blue an inspiration will hit me and I will go back to a story I started months ago. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I do know that I can't force an idea that just isn't there. My best ideas/strategies seem to come when I'm not trying. I might be in the middle of a story and hit a wall. Instead of trying to plow my way through it I back off. In doing something else... something mindless... the wall sometimes crumbles. It isn't always that easy, but it is far less frustrating for me than chiseling away at the wall with a pick and hammer.
 So, whether you have one fantastic idea (that might turn in to a best-seller) or pages of cryptic words, roll with it and take it where it leads you. And most importantly - have fun!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Community of Beautiful Strangers

PiBoIdMo participants, 12 x 12 groupies, critique group members, Writer's Support 4 You folks, bloggers, editors, agents....... I am amazed every single day at the community of writers that I find myself a part of. After all, I haven't met any of them in person ..... not one..... but they help me every day! There are people in my life, even relatives, even published writers, who have not stepped up in the way these individuals have.

Daily I read messages via the internet from aspiring and published writers alike, sharing their own secrets to success. They WILLINGLY help their competitors.... do you get that? We critique one another's works in an attempt to improve their chances of publication - the very prize that we covet!

We blog and post via FB - sharing the resources that we have discovered. Many spend countless hours organizing online contest and instructional sessions. We remind one another of contests that we are entering ourselves. We share strategies, encourage one another and give constructive criticism.......... all in an attempt to help one another.

We don't get paid for it, there is no proof that it will help us in our own journey to publication and we know that others are too busy to acknowledge our efforts at times, but we venture on. Some would say it has something to do with the "misery loves company" adage, but it is, in my opinion, more about camaraderie and support. We all get discouraged and overwhelmed at times... and there is always someone there to pick us up.

We are cheerleaders and therapists, teachers and event planners. And in the end there is comfort in knowing that there is someone there, day and night, to enable our dysfunctional behavior and tell us that the housework will wait, because it's all about the books!