Creative Writing and Journaling

Creative Writing and Journaling

plot

My fourth and fifth grade workshop students worked on getting to know their characters. Figuring out what they love more than anything else and the reason is a huge part of their motivation. Establishing their fear and throwing them into a dangerous situation where that fear is right in their face helps them decide what kind of person their character is. What are their strengths, weaknesses? Brave, strong, scared, helpless?

They are ready to begin their stories if they know the answers to these questions.

middlegradegratitude

My middle grade writers had fun decorating their Grasping Gratitude gift boxes. This special box holds what they are grateful for.

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It’s an endless gift that we can always go back to when life gets too hard.

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When we grasp gratitude, we hold the goodness in life that makes it worth living. We heal from the pain and loss that we feel. We appreciate what we have.

This was their favorite part of the workshop. I hope they continue to grasp the positive.

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The Joy of Launching a New Book

The Joy of Launching a New Book

Tomorrow is my first book event to launch my new book, The Puzzle Quests: Shimmer’s Eggs. It’s been 5 years since my last book came out. It’s amazing how fast the years fly by when you want to get a book finished. 

I started this book 10 years ago before my life drastically changed. Then I wasn’t in the right place to write it. 

Ironically, I wrote two book before getting back to this one. I can’t force a book but three years ago, I was ready. 

I’m excited to share this story with everyone. My whole heart went into writing it, and it brought back so many memories of my boys’ childhood. They are my inspiration. I love the interactions and conversations. 

Always willing to answer questions about my books and writing so leave one in the comments!

All Nuts Welcome!

All Nuts Welcome!

peanuts

Nuts have not been welcome in my house for the last 20 years. Let me clarify–peanuts, almonds, cashews, brazil, macadamia, hazelnut, and walnuts. For the whole time my son, Stephen, has been on this earth, I have not been able to eat any of these nuts. It all began when I had a reaction to candy coated chocolate while baking. Testing showed that I would have a severe anaphylactic reaction to peanuts and almonds, so even the nuts that irritated me were eliminated from my life.

A couple times in the last year, I accidentally consumed nuts. One time it was potato chips cooked in peanut oil and the other was almond flavored crackers (Thank, Colleen:^). I didn’t react with either. Then there was the time when I ate pistachios, which are a drupe, and I realized they had peanut oil. Luke, Stephen, and I were traveling to a soccer game. I was in the passenger seat and Stephen was directly behind me. When I realized what I did, I opened the car window and spit out the pistachios in the rain. The wind and rain blew it all over Stephen! But hey I was all right!

In addition to nuts, I had been positive for dairy, shellfish, tomato (in the spring), melon (in the fall) allergies. As a vegetarian this severely limits me and makes me a tough dinner date. I’m not the person you ask to go out for a pizza.

Finally, I became sick of not knowing and went to an ENT for some testing. Today I got back my shocking results!

milk

Dairy absolutely negative reaction.

nuts

Nuts are a go with the exception of hazelnuts. This means that peanuts are no longer life threatening.

shellfish

Shellfish is on!

I was floored. All these years I haven’t eaten these foods and now I can. I immediately went to the grocery store and bought shrimp. Tonight I made a shrimp and rice fajita bowl. With trepidation and excitement, I tried it.

shrimpdish

Success! My first shrimp dish in years, and three hours later, I feel good!

pizza

What’s next? Anyone want to meet for pizza? All nuts are welcome!

Fall into Writing!

Fall into Writing!

10.4.17kidswritingclass

Fall is here and my latest series of writing classes for all ages have begun! Back to back workshops tonight at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library were filled with creative minds just clamoring to get their ideas across. Sometimes it takes some prodding, but once the flood gates open, there’s no telling what they will come up with.

We talked about how important it is to figure out what a character loves and wishes for the most. Once that happens, then establishing a fear comes next. As a writer we want to place our character in the midst of their fear on their way to getting what they love. That is where the conflict occurs and keeps someone reading.

This creative group came up with some interesting combinations in addition to the usual physical descriptions. Their characters are coming alive!

The second workshop was journaling with middle school students. They were exhausted from a day of school, so sometimes it’s hard to spark their interest. Those who were there wanted to be. They wrote about their day and one girls said her day was boring. But when I asked her about something that interested her during the day, there was an incident. Then everyone remembered something and wrote about how they felt and how it affected them. Sometimes writing it down is all that’s needed, but if the incident caused anxiety or fear, then it might be worth figuring out why, so a change can be made. This is the deeper more therapeutic side of journaling.

falltodo

Then it was time for the creative, fun stuff. They shared some of the activities they like to do in the fall. Then they made their fall pages and marked with bullets everything on their list. Sometimes when it’s right in front of us, we are reminded of our priorities. Otherwise fall is over, and we never spent the time doing what matters, like playing football or baseball with the family or picking out pumpkins.

washitape

Sometimes journaling is just creative fun, and Emily definitely enjoyed the washi tape! So many choices of what you can do in the world of journaling.

What’s Cooking?

What’s Cooking?
george foreman
Trusty George Foreman Grill!

My baby boy just started his junior year in college. Hard to imagine and sometimes difficult to accept. Every chapter in his life holds excitement for what’s to come and sadness for what is no more. He was home for the summer, and I cherished that knowing that at some point he will be completely on his own.

This year he lives off campus and is responsible for all his own food shopping and cooking. I have tried over the years to get him to pay attention to how I cook sauce or meatballs. Every Italian child should at least know how to cook these two dishes. He would watch, but often just waited to test the meatballs and give me the thumbs up of approval.

Oh have life has changed. Now he is on his own far away from home cooking. Luckily he went to the food store often with me, so had an idea of what to buy for basics. But I got the call from the store about what to buy for lunch, what spices should he have on hand, and where does he find chicken breast?

He was frustrated, but worked through it. His first meal was a chicken quesadilla. He cut up chicken in a frying pan with some oil, garlic and onion powder and sent me photos to make sure the chicken was cooked. His roommate had some experience and likes to cook, so helped him out. Good news–he didn’t get food poisoning and enjoyed his meal!

Now he’s venturing out and wants something other than chicken. I explained the differences in cuts of meat and the pricing. I also set up a Google file of go to meals he can try. His uncle who loves to cook will be adding some as well.

Everyone has their go to meal back when they were first starting out–besides take-out of course! I’m pretty sure mine was a lot of pasta!

So help my kid out. What was your favorite meal to make when you were off on your own away from your parents’ cooking?

In comments, feel free to send me the recipe or the link. My son will thank you!

It All Starts with a Seed

It All Starts with a Seed

gardenbeans

Creating. It all starts with a seed–whether it’s a garden, an idea, artwork, or a family. This idea came to me as I began my next book and flourished as I was harvesting all the vegetables in my garden.

I thought about what it takes to create anything in life. I always plant my garden during Memorial Day weekend. Over the years, I have figured out what works or doesn’t yield much. We have had to move our tomatoes to a different area so that they get more sun. It has been a learning process. I plant what I know we will enjoy eating. I plant, because I want to eat local and healthy. I also plant, because I love nurturing the tiny seeds and feel joy when they start to sprout. I am hopeful when, despite storms or cold nights, they fight through and eventually grow taller than me. If I give the plants what they need and allow them to flourish, then they prosper.

Wow, doesn’t that sound a lot like raising children?

It’s also how I approach my writing. Everything I create or want to bring forth in this world grows my purpose to provide hope and make the world a better place. These are some steps I take to create or write:

  1. Intention/Purpose: What is my intention for writing this book? Why do I want to write it? What do I want my readers to get from it? I write to soften the harshness of reality and provide hope no matter how dire the circumstances.
  2. Creating from a Positive mindset: Whatever I do, whether it’s cooking a meal, growing my garden, or writing a book, I come from a positive frame of mind. When I’m cooking my sauce, I don’t think about the guy who cut me off on the way home, or the argument I had with someone. I think about my wonderful family who will enjoy my meal. I sprinkle love and happiness into the meal. When I write, I want to spread hope and joy to those reading my books. If I write from a negative or bitter point of view, then I’m releasing that out into the world. Yes, maybe the topics aren’t easy, but my intention is hope and so that is where I create from.
  3. Don’t Overthink: I am excited that my first middle grade novel, The Puzzle Quests: Shimmer’s Eggs will be out in October of this year. Don’t worry! Details are coming! I have jumped right into the second book, because I want to keep the characters’ voices flowing. I worried about where to start the book, but continued from where the first book ended. I didn’t think about what I was writing. I wrote from my character’s feelings. The first five pages sounded grimmer than I wanted, but I knew I was just in the seed planting stage. I had to prepare the soil and see what grew from there. I don’t get bogged down by the need for perfection. I am in the midst of creating and know that I will rewrite those first lines and chapter about 20 times.
  4. Be Nurturing: Being kind to myself and my words when I write goes back to keeping that positive energy flowing. By nurturing my words, I let them grow on their own. I may guide them by writing out a description that may work. Upon editing, it may not sound write anymore, so I prune and snip and add back in until I see the fruit of my nurturing come forth. I come from a place of love and belief in my writing.
  5. Hard Work: Nothing worth creating is easy. It takes dedication, time, and consistency to grow, to build, to flourish. If I left my garden for a week without water or weeding or even picking the vegetables, my garden would suffer. I have to consistently work at it to give it the space and effort it deserves. The same goes with writing. If I write once a week or even once every few days, my writing will dry up and my characters will wilt.
  6. Team Effort: Whoever said that writing is an individual effort, never worked with a team or a group of characters. When I’m in my head, I’m never alone. When I’m in my garden, I am surrounded by life. I have a gang of people just pushing to get me to tell me their story. But the team effort doesn’t stop here. I am fortunate enough to be a part of a Super Cool Writer’s Group! By putting my work out there to fellow supportive writers, my creating has grown in leaps and bounds. I get feedback, but am also held accountable to produce. It’s like a farmer’s co-op. Everyone needs to bring their share of the vegetables. So we make sure we create regularly.

Creating is a part of being human. When we come from a place of love, altruism, and philanthropy, we make the world a better place. When we create from the heart, then we bring forth positive change and benefit from our harvest, no matter what it is.

gardenvegetables

 

Where Fear and Love Collide

Where Fear and Love Collide

Fear, love, fireworks? You may think you know where this post is going, but don’t be too sure. 

Today I taught 15 middle school students about creating characters for a short story. One way to develop a character is to write about yourself. They physically described themselves, wrote about their personalities, skills, favorite foods, etc. 

Then we got to the juicy part. What did they fear and what did they love more than anything. 

Some were:

Not fitting in/ baseball

Getting sick again/playing outside

Ghosts/tennis

Being trapped/acting

Then they created their fictional characters and wrote from where their characters’ fears and love collided. Their stories were quite creative. Like a cellist saving his instrument from a fire, or a baseball player not making the same team as all his friends. Or a video gamer who is afraid of the dark gets sucked into his game and a black hole. 

Describing what they love becomes easier since they have experience with it and creates an emotional connection. Next, the setting can depend on what the character likes to do. If someone is a surfer, then it makes sense to have them live by the beach. 

There can be more than one fear or one love. Just as there are subplots and multiple main characters. Doing the work and developing the character first creates the groundwork for a finished story. 

Then the fireworks of inspiration can begin!